Meet Alex Brown. A Partner in Deals Strategy, Alex helps industrial products and services companies develop growth strategies to deliver top-tier shareholder returns. He has been a consultant for over 20 years, and has also led a startup and ran strategy and corporate development for a public company. A busy travel schedule and the stress of strategy work has resulted in Alex having remarkably few interests outside of work, although he does enjoy food and wine and spending time with his wife and two young children.
Alex’s father was a career Army officer, so he moved around a lot during his youth. “We lived on three different continents and moved 12 times before I went off to college. That, coupled with traveling each week, probably explains why I like being home so much. It’s an interesting dynamic with my wife, who grew up in Brazil and Peru and loves to travel. My favorite destination is my living room couch.”
Alex’s greatest joy comes from his wife and two young children. “I got married later than most. Frankly, I wasn’t sure it would happen for me. But I met Nina at a street festival in Chicago and I knew immediately she was the one. She, however, was not convinced. My charms are apparently not readily apparent. We had a boy and a girl in pretty quick succession and it has been absolutely fantastic. My family provides compass and purpose for me, especially when times get tough, as they always do in work and in life.”
Alex and Nina love food. “We’re always in the kitchen cooking or eating and drinking wine. I’m not afraid to admit that I watch a lot of cooking shows. We will have cook-offs with specific ingredients; I lose more than I win but I always think I’ve won. The kids are getting into it a bit as well, which is fun. We plan trips with a strong eye on local cuisine and interesting restaurants.”
One of Alex’s main roles is mentoring his team. “Early in my career I just focused on doing stuff — volume of output. Over the years I’ve learned that the difficult bit, and the thing that adds the most value to clients, is focused thinking. With my team, I emphasize the progression of thinking. With first order thinking, you take in and analyze information and produce output. Most people are good at that. With second order thinking, you take that output and figure out what it means. With third order thinking, you figure out how that information fits into a broader narrative. We focus on getting the teams through the first and second order thinking so we can spend most of our time on third order thinking: telling a story and creating calls to action, which is what clients really want and need.”
Being a growth strategist for industrial firms, Alex helps companies find ways to grow profitably, often through acquisitions. “Industrial firms have new challenges, including digital disruption and slower secular growth. For most, organic investment by itself isn’t sufficient, either to support required growth or to build required capabilities to compete. They have to do deals, but bad deals outnumber good deals. Through our work, we help our clients focus on doing deals that leverage specific capabilities that enable them to win in attractive markets. Often, this means focusing on fewer markets and a narrower range of products and services. That focus enables the pace that is so critical to winning today. As the old adage goes, even an average plan executed well today is worth more than a great plan next week.”