PRACTICE AREAS:

This section provides a bit of discussion on a few specific areas of depth where we feel we add strong value to our clients. They are not exhaustive, but we have tried to include enough discussion and detail to assist clients as they think through the situations they face. We often work outside of these themes, and encourage clients to reach out freely to inquire about how we can assist them in understanding, facing, and solving, their most important problems. 

 

The Practice Areas discussed here include:

 

1. Strategy & Implementation

2. Investment Due Diligence

3. Entrepreneurial Ventures & Startups

4. Real Estate Development

5. Government Interface & Advocacy

6. Non Profit & Community Transformation

7. Business Analysis & Intelligence

 

 

 

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Strategy & Implementation

Strategy is created in four general phases: discovery, diagnosis, design, and implementation. While one of the most difficult of all capabilities to master, it is only when a company can develop and implement a strategy that they become formidable in their market. The right to win in a marketplace is earned.

 

Depending on the source consulted, between 75% and 90% of all entrepreneurial ventures fail within their first few years. While a few companies accidentally succeed, the vast majority of companies that achieve success had a plan for using their (limited) resources to create superior value relative to their rivals.

 

When you have a good strategy, you begin to: 

 

1. Do the right things.

 

When you add implementation with strategy, you:

 

2. Do the right things, right. 

 

When you add operational effectiveness to excellent strategy and implementation, you: 

 

3. Do the right things right: in the right sequence, in the right markets, and to great effect. 

 

While the explanation is somewhat simple, the practice itself is immensely difficult. It requires great rigor in assessing the structural and social factors that affect a company or project, and then designing responses that the entire organization and align to in their daily work. And yet there is no more single critical effort for company leadership to undertake. It is, literally, the foundation of their potential success. Effort is rewarded, though, and the results matter deeply. The process of developing and implementing a focused strategy can be profoundly transformative for an organization and its leadership. 

 

Universal Operations maintains key alliance partners for our strategy development. Some of the industry's best minds--who have worked with companies on all levels and across most industries--are our preferred partners. We lead the strategy creation process for sociopolitical projects, organizational planning processes, entrepreneurial ventures, leadership groups, board/director work, and social campaigns.

 

Every strategy package we create for clients is different. We follow our propiatary processes and frameworks, but the outcome is unique to every client. Our strategy work is the HEART of our business. Every case receives the same intese focus, system deconstruction, discovery process, and competative analysis. We do not cut corners, no matter how big or small the project. We are kingmakers for all our clients. It is our passion. 

Entrepreneurial Ventures & Startups

Entrepreneurial management and leadership have been part of the practice of strategy from its inception in the 1960's. For this reason, we place our work with entrepreneurial firms and ventures at the top of our priorities. 

Entrepreneurship (and intrapreneurship) are not just for young companies, but are methodologies for engaging all innovative processes inside of companies regardless of their size. The same processes that we used to launch a new oil and vinegar shop are the same processes, fundamentally, that we use to launch new medical technology ventures and the ecosystems that support them. 

 

Startup processes face a unique set of challenges. They need powerful allies who understand the best practices in the field. Somewhere between 75%  to 90% of new ventures fail. Achieving success is very difficult, but there are specific things that successful ventures have in common, and one great strength of entrepreneurial ventures is that they can be constructed properly from the ground up--a rare opportunity that is, unfortunately, ignored by most.

 

For entrepreneurs, strategy is even more critical than for their peers in established projects. There are no successful "corporate silos" to hide the losses from other areas. And no matter how good your operations are (and we believe in being unyielding in our pursuit of operational excellence), efficient operations cannot protect you from the most dangerous things of all: doing the wrong things. It does not matter how excellently or efficiently you do the wrong things--you must get on track or you will join the well-traveled road of those who were forced to close up shop on their dreams.

 

We offer a full portfolio of services for entrepreneurial companies in most industries. With us, you can: 

 

  • Attain superior capital compliance, build targeted investor packages, and provide a high level of service to shareholders

  • Successfully navigate and negotiate through dangerous "founder's dilemma" issues

  • Understand and negotiate term sheets with private equity, angel, and venture capital investors

  • Analyze and construct a formidible value creation processes for your company

  • Focus all resources toward rapid learning and value creation

  • Discover and  reduce risks intelligently, and in ways that can be communicated to shareholders and stakeholders

  • Develop powerful presentations for stakeholders

  • Develop a full market strategy, brand identity, and operational agendas that are designed--with ruthless focus--to help you win in the markets you choose to compete in 

  • Save enormous amounts of money by intelligently engaging your branding, marketing, and sales activities

  • Make your venture "socially mature" in the ways you utilize social media and social media tools--including full training for all stakeholders in the organization

  • Achieve predictability over costs at every level of your operations

  • And much more....

Government Interface & Advocacy

Every industry is affected by administrative forces. This can take the form of regulation, policy, or direct governmental control. Changes in these forces can destroy capital sources (or create new ones), dramatically alter risks, increase costs, affect suppliers, create legal challenges, and this is just the beginning. Most companies have little awareness of these forces, and as a result, have no ability to respond to changes even when it becomes important.

 

We help clients close that knowledge gap in ways that can create value across their operations. Ignoring these forces can have catastrophic results, but integrating these activities into your operations can create powerful resilience compared to competitors. 

 

Governmental stakeholders are driven by administrative behaviors--not entrepreneurial behaviors--which means that they move slowly. Long periods of inertia are followed by periods of sudden and violent change. Building relationships in these circles takes time and attention, but is always valuable for an organization to do over time. 

 

Some examples of our government interface work include:

 

  • Assist clients with their strategic planning for government, political, or community interactions

  • Analyze and deconstruct the social systems and stakeholder overlays for projects--color in the "invisible hand" that has influence over outcomes

  • Uncover unethical governmental systems and behaviors and find ways to practically resolve them

  • Monitor the policy and regulatory changes that can present greater risks or opportunities

  • Develop clear implementation plans for navigating regulatory processes

  • Obtain favorable regulatory rulings or governmental actions

  • Provide you with expert representation in key meetings with public officials and community events

  • Negotiate your top priorities and interests with public decision makers

  • Develop case by case government relations dialogue for you and your project

  • Lobby/advocate for your particular priorities and interests before government entities, elected and appointed officials and staff, and ancillary political bodies (utilities, infrastructure committees, etc)

  • Conduct informal surveys of stakeholders and public officials concerning your project

  • Work closely with your public affairs, legal, and design teams to maximize successful outcomes

  • Participate in your land use entitlement team to integrate governmental relations strategies

  • Ensure that your project or cause is given the most effective presentation in the current political and jurisdictional arenas

  • Act as your liaison to elected officials and government agencies

  • Lead your team throughout the execution of your governmental and community relations plan

  • Maintain an active presence with public officials and meaningful stakeholders on your behalf

Business Analysis & Intelligence

Research, analysis, and intelligence gathering are an historical foundation of strategy creation. Companies must understand their costs and the impacts of their decisions within the broader fabric of their work. They must understand how their processes work, what their competition is capable of doing in response to their actions, and possess meaningful understanding of the behavioral and economic factors at play in their marketplace. Operational effectiveness is driven by the ability to gain insight from activities and their outcomes. 

 

Our goal in assisting companies in their analysis and intelligence capacity is to gain INSIGHT into the factors that affect a situation. Every client has a case that needs to be solved, and the data and insights are the facts of the case. But data alone can be daunting--and until it is synthesized into insight--can be a distraction. From insights come results. Closing this gap doesn't need to be tiring, confusing, or expensive for a company. We can work with you to develop a plan to figure out what you need to know, how it can be acquired, and how it can be put to use. 

 

Some examples of our analysis and intelligence work include:

 

  • Assist both public and private entities in acquiring key knowledge of competitors and opponents

  • Create full costing reports at all levels of the value delivery process

  • Implement full data collection and reporting systems within companies of all sizes

  • Full business analysis, at every level, for early stage and established companies

  • Provide corporate and government entities with discrete investigation, surveillance, and research capabilities to allow them to more efficiently protect their assets from fraud, manipulation, and loss

  • Establish countermeasures against corporate espionage and intellectual property theft (more than 40 percent of US businesses have reported intellectual property loss)

  • Work with response teams to mitigate negative public opinion and press coverage during strikes and labor disputes, including crucial pre-strike preparations and community dialogue

  • Conduct third party evaluations and due diligence for real estate development opportunities, real estate acquisitions, corporate acquisitions, corporate market expansion, government initiatives, and economic development initiatives

  • Provide training for both corporate and government agencies on the use of certain physical and electronic countermeasures used to mitigate information theft--many businesses and public entities have little to no knowledge of how often their projects, programs, and initiatives are undermined by inadequate information security 

  • Assist media sources in conducting covert research projects for white papers, articles, exposés, and publications

Investment Due Diligence

Investors are under enormous pressure in our current markets. Capital is volatile, risks are numerous, and it seems that every project and company needs funding. 

 

Add in the increasing presence of sociopoltiical forces to the marketplace, and it makes for dangerous waters. And yet, for smart investors, there are always immense opportunties. 

 

The heart of our investor services revolve around what we call our strategic due diligence. We survey the industry, environment, and stakeholders across the potential investment's ecosystem, from suppliers to consumers. Applying great economic rigor, we develop a type of investment thesis: how can the investment be made more valuable over the investment timeline, and how will the investors get their money out? Where are the red flags that deserve great attention? How will the exit be made, and what factors could impact the exit that deserve to be watched closely over time? 

 

These insights are used to develop a performace architecture for the opportunity. What is the taxonomy of risk? What is the plan for maximizing the performance of the investment? What factors affect costs and how can they be minimized?

 

For the companies themselves, we assist in ensuring their projects have superior capital compliance and build investment packages for their specific market of potential investors. All parthership options are researched and explored, including within nonprofit sectors. 

 

Some examples of our investor services include:

 

  • Assisted small investment groups, bankers, private equity funds, and venture capital funds in assessing opportunties and risks

  • Raised millions of dollars in operating capital for development projects

  • Packaged more than $4 billion in alternative financing packages

  • Developed concept and due diligence for EB5 investment funds across 3 global regions

  • Oversaw the vetting of real estate proformas and corporate business plans

  • Identified key assumptions in the investment pitch for investors, and formed creative programs to test the assumptions prior to capital placement

  • Assisted in developing PPM and various investor documents

  • Acted as a third party representative between companies and investors to assist in analysis and discovery processes for both sides

  • Developed, negotiated, and consulted on term sheets for capital placement 

  • Provided oversight for investors after capital placement to ensure company image and reputation are properly maintained

  • Assisted in developing and implementing private equity "workouts" for newly acquired companies

  • Educated founders about the myriad control issues that come with investment capital--"founder's dilemma" issues and their resolutions

  • And much more...

Real Estate Development

There is immense value in real estate, and smart investors know this. In fact, plays in real estate seem to be capturing the attention and imagination of investors over most other asset classes, according to our interviews. 

 

But the challenging dynamics of this market mean that players have never been more cautious. Capital is volatile. Investors can be irrational. Government agencies are only increasing their regulatory pressures over developers, and pressure is building to make communities more diverse, energy efficient, and expertly designed. Gains in social media and connectivity mean that the public is as big a contributor to the built environment as they have ever been--meaning that approvals processes are becoming longer, more adversarial, and more expensive. Managing costs and cleverly leveraging opportunities is more critical than ever before.

 

These are challenges that we love. They represent the type of broad industry shifts that we have anticipated and are excited about. Good projects, that are sound at all levels, will thrive. Bad projects will face insurmountable challenges. The stakes are high, but so are the spoils for excellent practitioners and investors

 

At Universal Operations, we live for long, hard entitlement battles. We get excited at the thought of educating stakeholders and community groups and earning their support. And we consider it an honor to help transform development entities into strong, lean, and resilient community contributors. 

 

We have a portfolio of processes and products that can add value to real estate development projects in all phases. 

 

Some examples of our development work include:

 

  • Effectively work with (or as) your entitlement team for mixed use, commercial, or residential real estate projects.

  • Develop a full sociopolitical and market strategy for the project in order to drive superior performance in the government and community processes and creating strong value in product development and positioning

  • Act as a liaison between design teams, land planners, engineering teams, land use officials, and company boards to ensure the project has the greatest chance of success

  • Build your planning and design team from the ground up with some of the most innovative and successful contributors in the industry today--our firm has access to some of the most talented designers in the field

  • Manage and organize your company's administrative structures and governance boards--even a great project cannot survive poor organizational structures 

  • Develop investor information materials and project proformas, ensuring capital compliance at all levels

  • Earn the support and cooperation of adjacent land owners and community stakeholders to ensure minimum obstacles to entitlement and zoning

  • Act as a third party mediator between oppositional community interests in order to facilitate beneficial outcomes

  • Assist in the sourcing and acquisition of large development capital sources

  • And much more...

 

Non Profit & Community Transformation

Social forces are growing in their reach and importance. Organizations can no longer simply deliver their brand to the market: the social and political world will define their brand for them. Political campaigns have fierce competition for mindshare. Community groups are realizing their ability to influence sociopolitical outcomes and are mobilizing in new and creative ways. 

In addition, Non-profit organizations (NPOs) are bing recognized more and more as influential community partners--but these organizations have unique needs for resources, political alliance building, and influence development within their communities. 

 

Building strategic alliances and coalitions in these realms can build powerful competitive advantages that drive innovation and effectiveness. NPO, political, and community transformation work carries a unique portfolio of risks that deserve unique attention by directors. 

 

Some examples of our NPO and community work include:

 

  • Create and Implement local community outreach programs to support your project and to educate the public about it's merits 

  • Create detailed stakeholder maps for all of the entities that have influence over your objectives

  • Organize and implement vital grassroots campaign programs for political or community benefit

  • Organize and implement guerilla-marketing campaigns

  • Put together presentations and deliver them to key organizations, neighborhood associations, community stakeholders, opposition groups, and adjacent property owners while utilizing some of the most effective and creative methods in the industry for earning community support 

  • Organize and execute public education campaigns and moderated community roundtable discussions to ensure that projects are not delayed due to educational deficits

  • Create expert workgroups to address contentious community issues before they delay or even destroy excellent projects and causes

  • Conduct early political due diligence to help forecast your timelines, likelihood of favorable outcomes, and evaluate all obstacles to political approval prior to your meaningful investment in a project or cause

  • Prepare research files on the political players that have influence over your outcomes

  • Undertake detailed analysis of the political and governmental landscape in order to more specifically target initial project tasks

  • Create a detailed government relations plan specifically designed for your project's needs and interests 

  • Provide political candidates and campaigns with key strategic consulting services from national to local elections and for all position types (Senators to City Council Members)

  • Assist candidates in assembling the best campaign staff available and providing those staff with expert campaign training 

  • Provide lobbying support at national, state, and local levels

  • Conduct research packages on demographics, voter numbers, public opinions, and opponents 

  • Participate in candidate and incumbent debate, opposition, and recall efforts

  • Provide leadership and organization for infrastructure campaigns, bond issues, and other special ballot issues

  • Provide private research and speech writing for candidates and elected officials

  • Assist elected officials with public education for special elections and projects

  • Facilitate all types of political outcomes

  • And much more…