Why UX is the Secret Weapon Private Equity Firms Need

Ward Andrews
By Ward Andrews
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You're an executive-level strategist and manager. You have a savvy business mind. Private equity firms come to you first when they buy a business because you know how to quickly fix problems and create lasting value.

Your ability to drive that value is dependent on the playbooks you’ve developed over the years.

We’re willing to bet there’s one playbook you're missing - a UX playbook.

Why? Because it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that great UX is only for digital products. If your private equity firm doesn’t have a SaaS product in its portfolio, it may be missing out on a secret weapon.

That’s because, if you hadn’t noticed, we live in a digital world. Your employees use digital products to get their jobs done. The efficiency of your business processes and your company’s ability to analyze business data all rely on UX.

Whether you’re making medical devices, outfitting the government with military equipment, or making random widgets that most of the world couldn’t name, there is some part of your business that UX and design thinking can improve.

We know this is a tough sell. You rely on your tried and true playbooks for a reason. They have a proven track record of delivering solid returns for your investors.

But hear us out. We have a three-point pitch for why you need to consider adding a UX playbook.

It could become your new secret weapon.

Pitch Point 1: Your In-House UX Team (If You Have One) Can’t Get the Job Done Alone

No matter how good the team you inherited is, they can’t move as fast as a UX team that has a proven playbook of moves that work. For starters, if they knew how to solve the problem, they likely would have done it by now.

Private equity firms invest in companies to optimize and turn them around. Those optimizations need to be permanent, not get stuck on as a band-aid to fundamental problems.

The trick is finding ways to do that while not getting caught in the weeds. You want to spend your time dealing with strategy. You need to know that your business isn't rotting away on the inside from poor processes and systems.

Clean strong processes and design thinking methods can change the culture of your business from within.

In the same way your bosses and investors hired you for your experience, you want to hire third-party partners who have proven experience across a wide variety of contexts.

Your job is to allocate capital. The job of a UX team like Drawbackwards is to use its brain trust to muck around in the details and infuse value into the lifeblood of the company.

There isn’t a UX problem we haven’t seen at this point and we know how to solve them - ask some of our previous clients.

Even if you do have UX expertise on your team, writers, designers, and developers can get stagnant when working on the same products or problems over and over. It helps to have a team bring an outside perspective on the same problems your team has been wrestling with for years.

If you happen to have invested in a really broken business, the potential opportunity provided by a third-party UX expert is even greater. You’re going to have to make some investments to fix it no matter what. Those investments will cost you, whether in cash or in lost profits.

Why not bring in somebody who already knows how to fix those problems? A team like that can get your cash flowing quicker so the investment pays for itself.

There are more designing, writing, and development jobs than there are designers, writers, and developers in the world right now. Do you want to be out there looking for them when you need to be optimizing your user experience?

A team that’s ready to hit the ground running will infuse value throughout the organization and generate returns while building stamina and resiliency into your team at a fundamental level.

Pitch Point 2: A Strong Design Philosophy Will Drive Real Business ROI

You likely have a variety of playbooks that you’ve been running for years because they have a proven track record of delivering value.

Most of those playbooks come from industry associations that know how to package and communicate the value of their services.

This is where UX design firms are at a disadvantage. We haven’t done a good job as an industry of communicating the ROI of UX, despite the fact that research shows every 1 dollar invested in UX returns 100 dollars to the business.

Even more difficult is helping businesses not focused on UX understand how it can help them.

Unless you’re a VC fund doing tech-related work and building consumer-facing products, you likely don’t have anything related to UX in your top five playbooks.

Why would you? The easy assumption is that UX can’t drive value in a business that revolves around creating widgets and selling them to manufacturers.

Folks in consumer businesses can easily see the value of building and enhancing user and customer experience.

After all, it makes sense that reduced customer churn and increased customer engagement lead to higher conversions, retention, and loyalty, all of which in turn drive willingness to pay, price uplift, lifetime customer value, and revenue. Those are all familiar parts of a UX playbook for digital products and consumer services and goods.

The truth is, a solid design philosophy has applications well beyond customer-facing UX and UI.

Whether it’s optimizing the implementation of your internal digital tools or using design thinking to enhance your business processes, a solid design philosophy can drive true long-lasting value and mitigate risk.

A good design philosophy goes directly against the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Businesses of all types are bogged down by too many processes and tools that aren’t broken but could be a whole lot better.

Pitch Point 3: A UX Package Allows You to Plug and Play Process Improvements

Good design is like the grease in a high-performing engine. It helps everything move faster and smoother. If you’re ranking the top five things that will drive value in the company in the next five years, there’s a good chance that design thinking and a solid design philosophy could accelerate all five of them.

This is especially true if you get started early. Strong design culture takes time to build and permeate through the organization. Injecting it into your business in year 1 will give it time to mature over the next four years. By the time you've reached your 5-year horizon, you'll be able to point to a tangible culture change.

The question is not always “Where is UX most valuable and needed?” The question is, “Where is a strong design philosophy that drives efficiency and process improvement not needed?”

The most control you can have over a business is the quality of the people (and third-party partners) you hire and the systems and processes you build. There is not a private equity firm out there that doesn’t want process improvement. But there are many that don’t understand how UX and design thinking can drive that improvement.

If you want to increase your rate of revenue per inside salesperson, or increase sales productivity, or get faster turnarounds in your service capability to increase win rates, design thinking can give you a competitive edge to help you grow.

If you want to find efficiencies in your B2B business, or get better business information at your fingertips through more useful data visualizations, charts, and graphs, or deploy real-time metrics and data tracking with clickable access to underlying process features, then UX design thinking can help.

Plug and play UX packages can help you easily automate processes that will help scale your business without adding headcount as you grow.

Good UX is essential to helping your team get more done in less time. You want their brainpower and expertise put into value-add strategies and improvements not on mundane tasks that the system can manage for them.

Many companies struggle to connect their mission, vision, and values to their internal processes and culture.

Many companies haven’t taken the time to connect their customer journey (consumer or not) with their employee processes and tools.

Many companies have never completed a single service blueprint, much less connected the many random one-off blueprints scattered across the business.

Most companies will look at UX and stick it in with a marketing rebrand effort, wash their hands and call it a day.

Those companies are missing an opportunity to uncover the gold sitting inside their own businesses.

What does UX have to do with a Tier 1 or 2 supply chain business? Potentially a lot when you think of it less as UX and more as a design philosophy.

Explore How to Get More Value out of Your Investments

You have plenty of high-level management consultants and other third-party service providers to call upon when trying to optimize a business in a five-year timeframe.

We believe Drawbackwards has a role to play in your toolbox. But we know it might take some convincing.

Let’s start a conversation, do a free audit, and show you how we can help infuse value into your investment quickly and permanently.