We invest in exceptional people to create exceptional companies. Since 2001, Alpine has believed that inspiring growth in people is the most sound way to build growth and revenue. We start within our own offices, and share our learnings with our portfolio companies. Here are some of our favorite stories about heroes being unleashed.
Professional basketball, wealth management at BNY Mellon, and a Harvard MBA may feel like unrelated paths, but for Marcus Bradley, these experiences were stepping stones on the way to his current CEO role. He joined TEAM Services Group as director of strategy three years ago, and today he’s CEO of St. Paul, Minnesota-based Hmong Home Health Care LLC, one of the largest licensed home care agencies in TEAM’s portfolio. Marcus opens up about lessons on the journey to CEO, the essential balance of building relationships and tactical business strategy, and the importance of soaking up every moment—big or small.
Alpine is a middle market private equity firm focused on software and services businesses up to $500m of EV. We closed our seventh fund at $1 billion in November 2019. Our CEO-in-Residence (CIR) model allows proven operators to step into leadership roles within our portfolio while our CEO-in-Training (CIT) program has helped more than 25 recently graduated MBAs from the world’s top business schools accelerate into the CEO chair.
How did you discover Alpine? Have you always known you wanted to operate companies?
Before business school, I worked at the multi-national BNY Mellon in Los Angeles. I enjoyed the client-focused and team-driven work but started to feel like a smaller organization would be a better fit. I wanted to be closer to the actual decision makers and I wanted to make an impact.
For me, business school was a way to learn, broaden my network, and pursue a new career path. I didn’t want to feel like a cog in a big conglomerate wheel any longer. I wanted ownership, leadership, and impact, and I wanted it sooner rather than later.
Luckily, I met Matt Moore at an Alpine CEO-in-Training info session on the Harvard campus. The program sounded unlike other opportunities I had seen or heard about. My conversations with existing CITS confirmed the truth of the program’s objective—namely, the opportunity to have a high impact role with the support of a private equity firm and the potential to become CEO in a short amount of time.
Tell us about your first 90 days at Alpine’s TEAM Services Group?
I joined as director of strategy. TEAM had another CIT at that time, the amazing Rachel Green who is CEO of RMS (the largest company within the TEAM platform). It was awesome to have a peer that had already walked the path from CIT to CEO that I could look up to and try to emulate. We became good friends and close colleagues.
When I first joined TEAM, only two other people were focused on managing the full platform, Josh Greenberg, the CEO, and Cullen Knights, the CFO/COO. There was a lot of work to go around and not enough people to do it.
I stepped in as a ‘third player’ at TEAM’s overall platform management level—sitting in on both in-house and on-site meetings, working on the deal team, helping lead diligence, company onboarding, market research, and customer interviews. The CIT program promises direct and immediate involvement and I literally sat alongside the folks running our organization from the start.
The CIT program promises direct and immediate involvement and I literally sat alongside the folks running our organization from the start.
How have those early lessons helped you in your new role as CEO of Hmong Home Health Care?
Understanding M&A strategy, one of the pillars of our business, was the first skillset I built at TEAM. Early on I was assigned to help spearhead an add-on acquisition, PASCO, which we successfully closed. After only a few weeks on the job, I remember being called on to fly out to Denver to have dinner with the owners in order to build our relationship and align on the vision for the partnership. No one else from our team could make it. I focused on showing up with enthusiasm, listening carefully, and proving that I had done my homework on the business. The dinner affirmed the importance of mixing both tactical business strategy and relationship building in M&A. After we closed, I lived on-site in Denver for two weeks and helped integrate PASCO into the TEAM fold. Having such hands-on experience with PASCO taught me so much about all stages of the deal—from sourcing to diligence to close and onboarding and integration.
I worked directly with the managing teams of TEAM’s portfolio companies, most of which had similar business models to HHHC. I learned the drivers of success and profitability, how to onboard clients and start services efficiently, and the best practices for client retention. Through daily interactions and monthly management meetings, I witnessed firsthand how other leaders ran their businesses, achieved their goals, and set priorities. I also learned tangible skills that have been directly transferable to my current role.
Beyond learning from each brand leader, I also learned the nuances of running a large and complex platform by observing TEAM leadership up close. Josh, Cullen, and I met often to discuss everything in the TEAM ecosystem: what was going well, what wasn’t going well, what to look out for, etc. I learned not just what they thought about the business but how they thought about the businesses. And I wasn’t just a bystander—Josh and Cullen encouraged me to contribute my own thoughts from the start, whether it was my opinion on a particular situation or on broader business strategy. Every experience and new skill contributed to my ability and confidence, which has led me to where I am today.
Beyond the numbers, how did you help make the HHHC deal a success?
Relationship-building is so important. The only reason I’m a CEO today is because of a very solid relationship with the HHHC owners and the banker who represented them during the partnership process. Our deal unfolded right in the height of COVID-19, which presented some real challenges that could have easily ended our process. Instead, the strong, trusting relationships that I’d developed with the HHHC folks meant we made it through to close, and the opportunity to step into my new role became a reality.
What challenges have you faced so far? How did Alpine support you along the way?
My biggest challenge was working in a cross-functional role that was sometimes a bit undefined. As director of strategy I had breadth of responsibility, rather than depth in a narrow or specific function. It was challenging to try to add real value across many different areas of the business. But the exposure and access I had to our CEO Josh helped me succeed. He was always available as a thought partner and mentor, and was truly invested in my success. He pushed me to utilize my strengths and work on my weaknesses. He embodies the business tactician and people first leader I want to become. Cullen, Rachel, and other leaders across TEAM also helped me learn and grow, and I feel lucky to have been supported by such smart and caring colleagues.
In the end, my experience at TEAM was exactly what I needed. My wide-ranging responsibilities allowed me to dip my toes into every function and I got a broad view of the business, an essential experience for a prospective CEO.
You’re now the CEO of a brand that services over 600 clients and employs over 800 caregivers, what advice would you give to aspiring CEOs?
Early in your career, prioritize the people you work with, the experience you’ll get, and opportunities for true learning and mentorship. My experience at TEAM was priceless; I had wide-ranging responsibilities, a panoramic vision of the business, access to the inner workings of the company at large and each specific brand, and fantastic guidance and support. If I came to Alpine with preconceived ideas about the titles or roles I needed to become CEO I may have missed out on those opportunities. Quality—what you are actually doing and learning—should take precedence, and staying committed to this value will serve you well at the end of the day.
Secondly, listen. At TEAM and HHHC, I’m surrounded by people with vastly different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and skill sets. I always try to be as sponge-like as possible and to soak up the knowledge around me. Regardless of where you work or your role, you can always learn something. Try not to approach scenarios with a sure answer in mind. Listen and learn from those around you, it will make you a better and more thoughtful manager, and will lead to better decisions and ultimately better outcomes for your business.