Empowering the Next Generation of Leaders in Software Companies

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Rob Smalling

Rob Smalling

Growth Partner

May 03, 2019
Thought Leadership

At the growth phase in which we invest, every company is at an inflection point. Across the organization, processes need to be scaled and professionalized without losing the culture and authenticity that has made them unique and successful.


At Frontier, we maintain an experienced team of operating professionals — Frontier Growth Partners (“FGP”) — who offer collaborative leadership, guidance, and consultative insight that seeks to provide real value for our portfolio companies as they grow.

Our latest FGP offering was a training opportunity that was prompted by a request from Susanne Bowen, CEO of Vibe HCM. She took over as CEO at a time of great internal change at Vibe HCM, a fast-growing SaaS-based company, and wanted to offer training to employees who were recently promoted into their first managerial roles.

“While they were very ready, and the right people for us to select (for manager roles), we needed to give them some help in developing their skills to lead,” Bowen recalls. “And we were not in a position to have a training department. We could have cobbled something together, but it would have been, in my opinion, really insufficient to get us off to an effective start and to empower these new leaders to do what we needed them to do.”

Bowen reached out to Frontier for training support — but what she got back was a program that took her idea to a whole new level. A simple “Management 101” session turned into a 1.5-day training that looked so compelling to her that she doubled the class sizes to include employees who were already in manager roles.

It was a deep dive into the participants’ communication styles and emotional intelligence (measured through a mix of self-rating and professional assessments). The workshop then built on those assessments, encouraging participants to tap into their deeper self-awareness and recognize the skills needed to provide effective feedback and coaching to their employees. The final part of the program gave participants a chance to practice their new skills on each other, in small-group settings and one-on-one coaching meetings.

“Companies that grow out of early stage investment typically don’t spend time or money on professional development,” Bowen says.

She describes the group’s unique opportunity to grow as a team and practice their new skills with one another in a safe space for learning as magical. “Many of these team members had never met one another,” Bowen says. “And they were stepping into new roles and they had an opportunity to come together with a shared challenge that was about how they could work together and take the company forward.”

The time spent together “completely changed the dialogue about the company’s shared goal and challenge, about how to lead their teams forward,” Bowen adds.

That feeling was contagious, even for team members who had been dubious going in. “I had some that were the classic cynic — ‘This will be a waste of time’ — and they were stunned,” Bowen says. “I received several thank yous, people saying that no employer had ever invested in them professionally as we did. And we believe that will pay significant dividends in terms of their engagement, loyalty, and commitment.


Impressed by the results of the Vibe effort, Frontier is rolling out the training offering to all its portfolio companies. “Foundations in Leadership” is available to all managers and executives at Frontier portfolio companies. The program offers an “open enrollment” version of this course twice annually in Charlotte and can also bring it onsite to groups at a portfolio company.

Another example of an FGP offering is hosting webinar workshops for HR professionals across the Frontier portfolio. The Q1 2019 workshop covered:

  • An in-depth whitepaper that gives an overview of the essential role HR plays in successfully executing portfolio company acquisitions (complete with HR-focused templates for an acquisition-related Legal and Compliance Checklist and Communications Plan);
  • Insights into the centrality of employee engagement in today’s workplace; and
  • A group discussion of best practices and trends in opening satellite offices and offering remote work options.

"Building and maintaining a strong and cohesive leadership team while a company scales rapidly is one of the biggest challenges in all of our businesses. I love having the opportunity to jump in with our portfolio companies and help them navigate all the changes and opportunities that growth brings." Steve Sellers, Head of Growth Partners

With input from our portfolio company leaders about their areas of need and opportunity, we look forward to developing additional training modules and support systems that help our companies realize their fullest potential.

If you’d like to know more about how Frontier’s approach is differentiated from other private equity firms and how our team can help drive growth at your business, we’d love to have a conversation. Connect with us here.

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