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A Leader's Perspective - Rob Selwah

A Leader's Perspective with Group Leader Rob Selwah

The "Group Leader" role at Vertus Group is the main point of contact between Vertus Group and the independently run businesses we own. Group Leaders act as a sort of business "coach" to our portfolio companies. They offer guidance, share best practices, and help give businesses fresh opportunities to grow. 

Group Leader Rob Selwah joins us to discuss his career journey with Vertus Group, the relationship he has built the businesses he oversees, and how being a part of Vertus Group can benefit vertical market software companies. As an experienced IT professional with over 20 years in Software Development, his insights help our portfolio businesses thrive. 

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Tell us about your background. 

Prior to becoming a Group Leader at Vertus Group, I started my career as a software developer many moons ago. I built up over the years in Canada and then I moved to Vermont in 2007 where I joined Springer-Miller Systems as a Director of Software Development. I moved up the ranks there to eventually become the President of Springer-Miller Systems in 2016. I ran Springer-Miller for six years and then moved into the Group Leader role in September of 2022. 


What interested you about the Group Leader role? 

When I got promoted to President of Springer-Miller we had three product lines - property management systems, spa, and point of sale - and I really separated those as three business units and PNLs underneath them. My goal was to groom future leaders to run them as almost independent businesses. Once that was in place and I felt that they had a good handle on all of the day-to-day stuff and I was very much at arm's length, I spoke with my boss and said, "hey, I'm up for the next challenge. What might that be beyond Springer-Miller?"

That's when the opportunity came to become a Group Leader. 


Give us a brief overview of the Group Leader function. 

The day-to-day of being a Group Leader is never the same twice. It's a combination of coach, player-coach, and sometimes player to use that analogy.

The first company I began overseeing as a Group Leader was Lean Industries. At that time, I was very much a coach, teaching them the Vertus Group way and terminology. Our terminology, financial or otherwise, is a large portion of the integration and it's how we look and measure business performance. I also started learning more about their business and identifying where some challenges or opportunities are. It's about turning good companies into great companies. 


What is challenging about your role? 

One of the challenges for me when I got promoted to Group Leader was that I went from running Springer-Miller in the hospitality space, which was new to me when I joined, to Lean Industries which is in the FinTech space. I had no experience with FinTech except for a little bit of experience with credit card payments through my time in the hospitality industry. I thought I knew a fair amount when in reality I knew nothing about payment disputes. 

So, I needed to sit down and learn about the business, the clients, the industry, and even the terminology. There were a lot of acronyms I had to learn within the first six months all while teaching them Vertus Group acronyms. And then I needed to figure out what dials to turn on the business and how fast to turn them to improve the areas that need to be improved and keep the strength areas as strengths. 


What is rewarding about your role? 

Some of the biggest rewards I see are seeing good companies become great and also seeing people grow and coming to understand that they are not unique in their challenges. One of the great things about the Vertus Group is if a company has a challenge, most likely another company within our portfolio has had and solved that challenge before. The opportunity is really getting them networked with other business unit leaders or department heads that have faced similar problems to help them overcome the challenges. 


Describe your leadership style. 

I am a detail-orientated guy and that bodes well at Vertus Group, Vertus Group loves a lot of details. I give people a heads up that not only is Vertus Group very focused on details and "what gets measured, gets managed," but I have the exact same mindset and have for years. I was a huge Salesforce advocate at Springer-Miller. I brought it in and created hundreds of dashboards and I could really start to see the pulse of the business, each department, or even the clients within a few clicks.  

I am going to ask you a lot of questions. They are not judgmental; it's educating me to understand your business better. And I'm also going to challenge you and say, "Why? Why are you doing this?" Not because what you are doing is wrong, but because it helps me understand why something was done a certain way. With my experience and exposure to the hundreds of companies within Jonas Software (Vertus Group's parent organization), I'll look at your business and say, "have you thought of this? What if we stopped doing this and started doing this?" 

I'm a very approachable person and tend to be very interpersonal. I like to understand people not only from a business perspective but also from a personal perspective. I have way too many hobbies and I like to share that with many people at the organizations I work with. I like getting that relationship built with the employees and the leadership, so they understand that I'm a human being. 

When I have challenges or failures, I share that with them. If I make a wrong decision I will say "hey that's my bad, I made the mistake." I find it makes me more approachable because it means people tend less to hide their mistakes out of fear of being judged. We're all human. We're not going to be perfect. Let's learn from our mistakes and learn how we move forward. 


What benefits can joining Vertus Group give Business Owners?

First and foremost, with Vertus Group, you are not alone. As an independent operator, which is typically the majority of companies we acquire, they are on their own. If they have challenges, they often don't have someone to reach out to for help. At Vertus, we have internal education conferences where we bring hundreds of leaders together multiple times a year and talk through challenges, best practices, and how we've solved things. That is unique compared to an independent operator that's been on their own. They are good at working around their problems, but don't often solve the problem. 

Independent businesses are also often focused on what's in front of them like making enough sales to make payroll. There's often not someone from the outside saying, "have you thought about this?" or "hey we've done this differently in our organization, maybe try this or go talk to these guys because they have the expertise." 


What does the integration process look like for a company joining Vertus Group? 

We like to call it a playbook. That sounds very cookie-cutter but it's the farthest thing from it. While we have a series of standards, it's about translating what the business does and how they do it, to our terminology and processes. The biggest challenge is educating them on our terminology and saying, "when you say this, we say this and now we need you to start saying this." It's really changing the mindset of because something was done a certain way before, doesn't mean that it needs to continue to be done that way. If something is not working, we will change it. 


What advice do you have for a company that is navigating a sale process? 

We go through something called diligence. We ask for a lot of data. We are a data-driven company. Be prepared to spend a lot of time creating data that you either don't have or you have but it is in someone's head, because we will ask for a lot. That's a commonality that I've heard from every acquisition I've been involved with, and I've been involved with three from an integration side. 

It helps the business. Even if Vertus Group doesn't acquire the business, it exposes things to them they really hadn't spent time looking at before because they are running the day-to-day operations. They hadn't taken a step back to look at all the data and measure it.


What excites you about Vertus Group's future? 

I love the rebranding*. I speak on behalf of the Lean Industries organization because it was the first company outside the club & hospitality verticals. It kind of felt like "Club & Hospitality, and other," so the rebrand to Vertus Group was very exciting and well received. It's widened our net and opened the possibilities of growing different verticals. We're open to any business out there that makes sense for our portfolio.

*Vertus Group began as Jonas Software's Club & Hospitality portfolio. As the portfolio started to expand to more verticals outside Club & Hospitality, it was officially rebranded to Vertus Group in December 2023. 


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