After leaving his position as chief financial officer of Citigroup, Gary Crittenden joined HGGC, LLC, a prominent private equity firm in 2009. Late last year, Gary Crittenden’s firm sold controlling stake in Power Holdings to Kelso & Company for $380 million.
Power Holdings has two subsidiaries based in Alabama and Louisiana through which it provides construction and maintenance services for electric utilities. In addition to these subsidiaries, the company acquired four more businesses in between 2011 and 2013 to expand its reach throughout the Southeast. Power Holdings achieved quick success as utility companies began outsourcing work that they previously would have completed themselves.
Prior to the sale of Power Holdings, Gary Crittenden’s firm sold another holding, Sunquest Information Systems, to Roper Industries, Inc., for $1.4 billion. In 2011, HGGC sold Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc., an oilfield services company, to NANA Development Corporation. All of these sales came from investments made out of HGGC’s 2009 fund of $1.1 billion. As of the time of sale of Power Holdings, the firm had invested 80 percent of the its first fund.
An increasingly important component of call and contact center business intelligence, speech analytics is the practice of closely examining recorded customer calls in order to gain data and insights. Even in today’s increasingly digital society, one-on-one phone conversations still make up a significant majority of the interactions between companies and customers. When analyzed and studied properly, these recorded interactions can prove to be an invaluable source of information.
Not so long ago, it was cost-prohibitive for most companies to record their customer calls, and the content of those calls had to be assessed manually. Today, recording customer telephone interactions is both an easy and an essential practice for businesses, which means that more customer information is available than ever before if the appropriate tools are used to access it. Enter speech analytics.
Speech analytics uses specialized technology to process, mine, and analyze audio data. Speech analytics software can detect emotion or stress levels in a customer’s voice, identify particular keywords or phrases that are used often, and calculate the proportion of speech to non-speech time. The technology used in speech analytics falls into three main categories: phonetics-based, text to speech, or grammar-based. Each of these methods of analysis can offer particular advantages depending on a company’s distinct needs and operational practices.
The benefits of speech analytics are easy to identify. The most common reason why many companies begin using the technology is to help improve their customers’ experience—speech analytics can help companies with all aspects of customer-agent interaction, from pinpointing the needs and expectations of one individual to responding quickly and effectively to widespread problems. Speech analytics can also be used to monitor and coach call center agents in real time, to find opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling, to reduce customer attrition by better addressing underlying problems, and to decrease operating expenses. For a large enterprise like iQor, whose contact center agents handle over 20 million customer interactions monthly, speech analytics is a vital business practice.
For Utah-based companies that have lacked the resources to exhibit at international trade shows, there is still time to apply for extra support. The World Trade Center Utah recently reported that STEP program funds are still available for Utah small businesses seeking to offset travel and exhibition costs for international events.
Authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act, which was passed in 2010, the State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP) is a pilot export and trade initiative overseen by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Designed with the goals of supporting small businesses entering the export market for the first time, and adding value to those businesses already exporting, STEP is funded by a combination of federal grants and matching state funds. To date, the program has awarded approximately $30 million to projects in over 50 states and territories.
Utah’s participation in the STEP program is managed by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). With its share of STEP funding, Utah aims to support both new-to-market and new-to-export companies by organizing research and outreach activities, including the translation of websites and other marketing materials into Spanish and Chinese. The state also plans to help small businesses obtain trade opportunities in Canada, Europe, Asia, and Latin America through participation in international trade missions, especially those arranged by the U.S. Commercial Service.
On a practical level, this means that qualifying Utah-based small businesses can apply for STEP awards of up to $2,250 to help enable them to exhibit at international events. Businesses must provide a 25% award cash match of up to $750, and must be attending an event that occurs before March 31, 2014. Most expenses are eligible for reimbursement under the award, including trade show exhibitor fees and booth rental fees, shipping costs for exhibit materials and equipment, interpretation services, airfare, and per diems.
Gary Crittenden joined HGGC, LLC, as its chairman and managing partner in 2009, after working as the chief financial officer of Citigroup. HGGC remains one of the nation’s leading middle market private equity firms. Recently, Gary Crittenden’s firm announced that its portfolio company Hollander Home Fashions, LLC, would acquire Louisville Bedding Company. The joined companies will operate under the name Hollander Sleep Products, LLC. Hollander acquired only the Louisville Bedding basic bedding retail business; Louisville Bedding will continue to operate a contract bedding business. Many Louisville Bedding employees, however, will become members of the Hollander team. Home Textiles Today magazine hailed the new entity as the largest utility bedding pure play supplier in North America, and the third largest in the entire industry.
The acquisition represents an important transaction for Gary Crittenden’s firm, Hollander, and the bedding industry as a whole. With the acquisition, Hollander has obtained a number of new manufacturing facilities that will drastically increase its output and widen its distribution network, positioning the company for further expansion.
Part of Gary Crittenden’s work as managing partner and chairman of HGGC, LLC, involves overseeing the firm’s portfolio businesses. In addition to serving on the boards of several companies in which HGGC has invested, Gary Crittenden chairs the advisory board of the Strategic Advantage Fund at Sandbox industries.
While Sandbox began as a startup foundry, the company has since opened investment funds with several different foci. One of them, the Sandbox Venture Fund, raised $18.8 million from limited partners. The fund was initiated as a support vehicle for some of the companies started in Sandbox’s foundry, but it has begun to make targeted investments in early-stage external firms as well.
The Sandbox Venture Fund concentrates on investing in good people and good ideas rather than in a specific industry. This philosophy shows in the interesting mix of its portfolio companies, such as Alltuition and Lab42, which are digitally focused firms in the college preparation and market research industries, respectively, and Marbles: The Brain Store, a retailer of puzzles and games.