On a recent 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guests Ron Krudo (RK), president and managing partner at Equiturn Business Solutions, and Joshua Orlinsky (JO), CEO and managing partner at Equiturn Business
YS: Tell me a little bit about establishing Equiturn Business Solutions. You are partners running this big company. There’s got to be a backstory.
Ron Krudo: Josh and I went on a road trip together to Los Angeles, and on that trip, we talked about what Josh was doing, what I was doing, and what I was hoping to do in my future. We realized that there was an opportunity to help more people, if we just restructured the consulting space and gave it a little bit of our perspective, the way that we would want to address it – focusing on the individuals and the companies that we really care about in that small to middle market.
So, we really brought that idea together and collaborated. It came from each of us jumping ship from very successful, great opportunities in the work that we were doing, but we decided to take a risk and went all in.
Joshua Orlinsky: Before this, I was up in DC, doing mergers and acquisition advisory work. And ultimately, it was always about the dollar – at least in my setting in my company, where I was. It was always about making money, and it kind of felt to me like the actual business owner was kind of left in the secondary position. I figured that there had to be a way within a business model that you can obviously make money, but you can also help the person. That should be what our work is supposed to be in general: to take businesses that maybe have something special but have some bumps in the road and really push them forward.
YS: So, let’s just kind of scope this out. A company comes to you and then you take them from here to there, from X to Y. What does that look like?
Joshua Orlinsky: So, we do two different types. We do work with startups, but not like a startup that’s like, “I want to start a gas station in the middle of Miami.” It’s a startup with a proprietary idea or technology, because everything we do is based around growth management consulting. We also work with what’s called small middle market businesses. We try not to do anything less than $5 million in revenue. We will work with businesses that are above a million, with very specific parameters. But we try to go no less than $5 million, all the way up to about $100 million in revenue per year.
Ron Krudo: We’ve worked with individuals that are sole business owners that are getting their concept off the ground, or they’ve already been established and they’re independent. And we’ve seen way more opportunity when there’s a team behind them but not the full infrastructure. What we’ve noticed is that you may have 1-5 other employees operating the business, but you’re an individual dealing with all the different hats that come with actually owning and operating that business. And that’s where we find our best opportunity, because they tend to know growth is needed. They want growth, but have so much on their shoulders, they can’t do it on their own. And so, we decided: how can we build a unique consulting agency that’s focused on growth but takes that weight off their shoulders? Josh can step in as a CFO and accounting specialist with his finance team, and I can come in with operations and marketing with my specialists.
YS: What’s the length of time that you come in? Is it for a quarter? A year?
Ron Krudo: It’s pretty long actually. We see ourselves as being a part of the team. And so, when we go in, it’s not like your typical consultant where you’re hiring them, and everybody knows and sees them as a consultant. We come in as a part of the family and a part of the team. A lot of the times they don’t see a future without us being involved. And that’s when we start looking at other opportunities to work together. But we are long-term. Now, we do have projects where people come to us and say things like, “Listen, I just want to reach this benchmark of acquiring a business.” Those projects we’ll take on, but the real success we’ve seen are with people like an “AJ,” who we’ve worked with for a number of years. He started with us with a for-profit entity, but we homed in on his passion for non- profit. We helped him really establish that and now his whole company is different, but it’s what he always wanted. And we’re so involved that we go to board meetings on a regular basis.
YS: You guys have very different backgrounds and skill sets. Can you share some of the strategies that you felt were successful when partnering up to establish Equiturn?
Ron Krudo: We talk to business owners almost every day that partner with someone, and unfortunately it doesn’t work out. Three to five years down the line, something happens. We’ve been doing this for a number of years now, and I think what helped us get to where we are today is the fact that while we were friends, we weren’t the best of friends. We knew that we had a business in mind and that’s what brought us together. Also, there was a lot of trust. We both left six figure jobs, our wives had babies, we had our houses that were buying, there was a lot going on in our lives. And we decided to jump ship and trust the other person. I think what made it comforting, for me, at least, was the fact that he did bring another side that I couldn’t offer. He was a yin to a yang. And that’s something a lot of people make the mistake of. You may be in line with the person you’re looking to start a business with. But if you bring similar attributes to the business, you will end up butting heads. You will end up addressing things the same way.
YS: Let’s get to the core of what Equiturn is known for: growth management consulting. Perhaps you can unpack that.
Joshua Orlinsky: There’s many different types of consulting. There’s HR consulting, financial consulting, etc. We focus strictly on growing businesses. We take what they’re doing, and we find the positives and weed out the negatives from it. Ultimately, we develop customized strategies for individual businesses, and then we execute with them alongside those strategies. I think that that’s a lot of what makes us different as a business in the consulting field. We sit with the business owner, understand what they’re doing and how they’re doing it intimately, then we develop a strategy for however long: two years, three years, five years.
Ron Krudo: When we take that meeting, they tend to be so against the wall, because they’re working their business every single day. When you’re intricately looking at all the operations and all the finances every day, it gets hard to implement or see that growth strategy.
A lot of people ask, “Why would I hire an outside firm when I’ve been doing this for 20 years? And I’m doing just fine?” Well, it’s for that outside perspective. You bring in someone to look from that outside perspective and analyze the things you look at every day.
For example, we had a partner of ours, a trophy company, who’ve been doing a great job for many years. But there was one thing they missed. They missed that digital transformation. They didn’t end up creating that online presence that’s so important now. So, we identified that, and we’ve worked with them to build that digital transformation. They have a live website now, brining in almost $30-40,000 a month through their online presence. And now we’re looking at other things. We’re looking at the efficiencies with the manufacturing, how they’re tracking their financials. Things that are so important to their business but weren’t seen because they were in it every day.
YS: How do you develop that trust factor where they’re really open to your ideas?
Ron Krudo: I think what made us unique when we started was that we didn’t just give you a strategy and hand it to you. Strategies are free in our book – I can give you all the ideas under the sun – but execution is key. And what I’ve seen with all of our partners is they truly value the amount of hands-on work that we do with them. We’re all about giving you the strategy, then executing it. We’ll take a financial performance and turn it into accounting. We’ll take a financial performance and turn it into accounting. We’ll take a go-to-market strategy and turn it into digital marketing. The minute they see us, we’re helping them inventory, calling their staff, taking team meetings, showing up when no one else would show up. Because we don’t care about billable hour; we care about the impact and success of their business. And I’ve seen that firsthand really be the success for us. I mean, some of our partners are like family members that came to my son’s bris.
YS: What specific advice can you give that an executive or entrepreneur should be thinking about as they move on with their day-to-day work?
Joshua Orlinsky: Try to take a step back, breathe, try to see what you’re doing from a little bit of a bird’s eye view at some points. Don’t always be deep into the grind, because you and your business are gonna get lost in there. Eventually, you’re just going to keep doing the same thing over and over, as opposed to just taking a step back and realizing, “What am I doing? What can I improve on? What can I capitalize on?”
From the finance side, I feel like there are business owners that are financially-minded and those that are just not financially-minded. In my experience, sometimes, the numbers get lost. It’s more about the sale or getting that next big win, but you kind of forget about what the numbers are telling you. Because those financial statements are not there for tax reasons. They are there for you to look at them as much as you possibly can to make better investment decisions. I don’t mean investing in the stock market. I mean investing in yourself, in your business, your success. I really think that gets lost sometimes.
Ron Krudo: In life, you have to take risks, including in business. You have to embrace the others, whether it’s on your team or outside people you bring in. At the end of the day, it is a calculated process that you need to follow. And why I say that is, your team is going to probably be coming to you with ideas, but you’re gonna be scared to listen or you’re gonna push them off to the side. You’re not going to believe that they have the ability or expertise to do what you do every day. It’s the same thing with consultants. You are sometimes nervous to say that they can bring value to the table, because they’re not there every day. But they really can, and you need to be open and embrace that. You took a huge risk when you started your business, and you need to continue to take risks. That’s what business is about. Now, take the time to be calculated, but take the risks because that’s where you gain reward.