If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that change comes at us quickly, without warning, and occasionally from where we least expect. Industry disruptions, global supply chain shifts, changes in consumer tastes and demand, and even global pandemics can derail a lifetime of careful planning when it’s time to transfer a business.

That’s why at SDR, we’ve never allowed ourselves to fall into any one narrow channel of focus. There’s an old saying: when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. While we are proud of the expertise and relationships individual team members have developed in specific industries, we are mindful as a complete team to monitor a broader environment of business opportunities. In every industry, the next buyer may emerge from what appeared to be an unrelated industry. The next disruption may offer new opportunities.

“Industry Experts” Versus Industry Awareness

Some investment banking institutions tout experience in a single industry. “Industry expertise,” it’s called. They may speak of long-standing relationships with potential partners. They may hint that their contact list is deep and dotted with recognizable names. And that may have worked for them and their long-term clients in the past. But does it work for the new client? What happens when things are no longer done “the way we’ve always done it?” What happens when market forces are disrupted – whether that’s by technology, a dramatic shift in fiscal policy, or a virus? We feel strongly that a team focused only on the past may not have the agility – and scope – to pivot to opportunities emerging in the now and in the future.

Industry Awareness is the term – and the practice – we embrace. It’s a daily reminder of our duty to explore every avenue for our clients, not just the traditional routes, as our team members talk to each other across channels and look for the avenues others may be missing. In 2019, when working with traffic management service companies, the easiest solution might have been to see the business in a traditional sense, a “business service.” Governments need traffic signals, and they hire a contractor to install them. But through a broader lens, we saw a global trend in the industry toward machine learning, a focus on traffic efficiency using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. Traffic management has evolved from an installation industry into the technology services sector. Not all high-tech ventures are in Silicon Valley. The tech of the future is there in your local downtown intersection.

A Global Shift

This is far more than domestic disruption; on the global scale we are seeing partnerships that don’t fall into traditional silos. Ten years ago, it would have been hard for an “expert” in food distribution to imagine an international bank interested in people delivering meals by bicycle in Colombia. But there it was, in 2019, Japan’s SoftBank Group poured $1 billion into Bogota-based Rappi meal delivery service.

The pace of change isn’t slowing. A 2019 report prepared by the McKinsey Global Institute for the World Economic Forum in Davos pulled no punches, noting in bold letters, “the disruption is intensifying,” “the pace of technological progress is accelerating,” and “the gulf between those embracing change and those falling behind is growing.” Even McKinsey couldn’t have guessed the gut punch 2020 would deliver.

Working Today. Working for Tomorrow.

Industry Awareness: It’s key to seeing what’s right in front of you and understanding what may be around the corner. As we know, it’s rarely the car you see that leads to an accident. It’s the one you never saw coming. At SDR, we spend hours exploring, listening and asking questions. We challenge ourselves to see the whole picture. We encourage our clients to think about “what if” and “why not” rather than laying out traditional rules and expectations. We don’t always know what we don’t know, but we’re committed to learning what that is. That’s a process that never ends. It would be easier to rest on our contact list and do things the way they’ve always been done or to call ourselves “industry experts” in certain narrow, confined fields. But by being Industry Aware, we know we can do better.