Finance Monthly

James Tetherton

Award Winner

James Tetherton

GRAPH Strategy

Interview with James Tetherton

James, you have accumulated a wealth of experience and skills during your career. What is it about GRAPH Strategy that motivates you to continue your work in strategy consulting, and why is this area of business exciting to you?

Whether it's helping our clients to make acquisitions, develop new business models, or exploit new value opportunities, the work we do is always fast-paced and incredibly interesting. I've always relished investigating new businesses and tackling difficult questions. That's really what's kept me in the business of strategy consulting for the last 20 years.

We work with private equity investors and founders of businesses, all of whom are brilliant and passionate about what they do. Our team at GRAPH is also an immensely capable and driven group of individuals, who have chosen to work for a fast-growing boutique firm; we all share a vision of how we can grow and create value and impact together.

So, if I were to sum up what drives me forward - and what really is the ethos of GRAPH - it is the idea that we are constantly doing great work, with great people, for great clients.

What is your leadership approach and what core values inspire this? How do you successfully share responsibilities with colleagues in order to manage the business and for employees to have a secure management?

As a leader, I think I'm fairly hands-on in some aspects, and good at delegating in others.

I still really enjoy the day-to-day work of consulting, so I like working alongside my team and being as involved and accessible to clients as possible.

A key thing I've learnt in my career is that you can't succeed unless you surround yourself with really great people. At GRAPH, we go out of our way to hire the very best. In addition to direct referrals from existing team members, we also have good relationships with top universities in the US and UK to bring in fresh talent.

Once you've got great people on your team, I think that leadership becomes focused on creating an environment in which those people feel enabled - where they can thrive and have maximum impact. Less hierarchy means that team members can take on responsibility early in their career and feel a sense of ownership in the team's successes.

The other big thing I spend time thinking about is how we maintain our culture. How can we make sure that GRAPH is a firm that people feel is the very best place to build a career in consulting?

There's also the challenge of how to balance time spent working in the business versus on the business - it's a challenge that I think every business leader will recognise. One of the investments we've recently made to address this challenge is creating a new Chief of Staff role in the UK office, to help ensure we're heading in the right direction and that our key operations are positioned for success as we continue to scale.

What is the philosophy behind the GRAPH Blueprintâ„¢? and how has this methodology become a part of GRAPH? What makes this an effective delivery model?

Fundamentally, our work involves helping clients make difficult decisions under tight time pressures.

To be able to consistently deliver excellent outcomes, you need a repeatable process that doesn't leave room for error. This is the idea behind the GRAPH Blueprintâ„¢, our 5-stage delivery model. Our best practices provide more valuable data and analysis, more creative and constructive ideas, and avoid risky shortcuts and costly rework.

Beyond the GRAPH Blueprintâ„¢, there are a range of tools, such as our Diligence Matters toolkit and GRAPH Papers article series, that we've developed over the years to share best practices with our team and our clients to ensure we collaborate more effectively.

Can you share your process of investigation? How have you refined this procedure to allow for greater success?

The process of investigation starts with a very clear definition of the questions we're trying to address: what is the investment thesis, and what are the key issues we have been brought in to tackle?

We've found that initial precision regarding scope allows you then to spend time effectively on digging into the critical issues, rather than becoming overly broad and generic as you try to 'boil the ocean'.

Sourcing is another area we pay a lot of attention to. We try to bring in as many sources as we can to fuel our insights. A lot of that is quantitative, namely, open-source and proprietary management data. But I think a big differentiator for GRAPH is our strong belief in the value of qualitative insights, particularly 'voice of customer'.

We often deal with niche sectors where there's not a lot of publicly available historical data. Having deep interviews with a representative range of key stakeholders and current decision makers lets us get 'under the skin' of the business. It enables us to get a view on how the sector is going to perform in the future, who the likely winners will be, and what value creation and differentiation opportunities the business has.

At what stage of need do clients usually come to you for professional guidance?

We're lucky to have the chance to work with clients across all stages of the economy, from first-time founders seeking initial capital, all the way to large-cap funds who are investing in world-leading businesses.

We often meet businesses that are taking on external investment for the first time and work with them through the commercial due diligence process. As a people-led business, GRAPH has a strong entrepreneurial culture that particularly suits our work with founder-led businesses.

Post-investment, we might then help the business map out their growth strategy, whether it's through organic options like launching new products or refining their pricing strategy, or the inorganic route through bolt-on acquisitions.

Then in a few years, at exit, we might support the business with sell-side diligence as they take on investment from a larger PE fund.

Can you tell us about some of the successes you have seen at GRAPH, particularly in terms of your client relationships?

For us, a big measure of success is the length of relationship that we can build with our clients. We're grateful to have clients that we've worked with since we set up the business and that we're still working with 7 years later. We don't take those partnerships for granted.

Our success is underpinned by us consistently taking a long-term view in the way we operate and making sure that we're always doing the very best possible work, and finding new ways to add value in those client relationships.

Obviously, the other thing that powers our growth is continually winning new clients. It's particularly fulfilling when those clients come to us through referrals and introductions from people we know, which is a testament to the quality of the work and the value we deliver.

What are the biggest challenges facing private equity firms and global corporations in today's business climate? Where do you see the industry heading, what changes do you expect to see, and how do you plan on making sure GRAPH stays current and competitive in the industry?

Everyone knows that the deal environment has changed significantly over the last 18 months. Compared to 2021 and early 2022, private equity firms are operating in a market characterised by higher interest rates and lower growth.

Going into 2024, private equity will continue to face challenges from a range of factors, such as macroeconomic volatility and stricter regulations. With the new market conditions, there's been a 'back to basics' shift in PE, with a stronger focus on business fundamentals and value creation opportunities. Despite the challenges it faces, PE is still incredibly vibrant, exciting, and growing, and its importance in the overall economy and its contribution to growth shouldn't be underestimated.

As market complexity increases, commercial due diligence becomes more crucial in guiding investment decisions and ensuring sustainable growth. We've seen more clients come to us with a desire to do early-stage work, ahead of the transaction process, to help them build a unique investment case and value creation strategy. We've also seen an increase in demand for commercial due diligence to support bolt-on acquisitions as that has become a more popular lever for value creation.

The best CDD work will offer an adaptable, creative, and forward-thinking approach. The skills, insights, and relationships offered by boutique consultancies like GRAPH will prove invaluable in navigating the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the evolving market. GRAPH's ongoing success, even in the face of the market turbulence that characterised 2023, is a testament to the strength of our boutique offering and the merits of the long-term approach we take to running the business.

Finally, what does winning this award mean for you personally and for GRAPH too? What else can we expect to see from GRAPH in the future as you continue to grow and succeed?

We're delighted! It's been an incredibly rewarding journey as an entrepreneur to grow GRAPH internationally by building a great team and a network of strong client relationships. This award is an incredible recognition of the success and impact we're having in the market.

We've started 2024 with a very strong team, exceptionally robust pipeline, and a great market reputation, backed by a high referral rate among clients and increasing industry recognition such as this award.

Within the business, we're incredibly excited about the future - we've got a clear view of our path to 2030 and, with every passing day, we're actively working to make that plan a reality.

Connect with James Tetherton & GRAPH Strategy

Contact Us

Universal Media Ltd, PO Box 17858 B779QG
01543 255537
cross-circlechevron-right-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram