Joy Schoffler is founder of Distinctive Edge Partners, a global public relations and marketing agency focused on helping clients build and maximize value, improve operations, and turn risks and threats into opportunities. 

Russ Prince: What is your mission?
Joy Schoffler: I am a business builder with a passion for helping innovators thrive. I have spent my career helping innovators build, scale, and exit their companies. There is nothing I find more rewarding than helping visionary leaders—who in some cases are literally changing the world—tell their story, scale their organizations, and prepare for exit so they can do it again. I love my work! 

I started my career in the commercial real estate investment space and in the U.S. Army Reserves as a Finance Officer. I had zero background in communications; however, I saw communications and marketing as a tool to find and close deals, raise capital, and scale operations. Finding unique ways to utilize these tools helped the investment firm I worked with experience rapid growth. We raised tens of millions in capital, increased assets under management, and even made the Inc. list of fastest growing companies in the U.S. a few times. 

Seeing the power strategic communications and marketing had to build and scale businesses, I launched my first PR firm, Leverage PR. There I worked with innovative brands across fintech, legal tech, cybersecurity, AI, blockchain and health tech in addition to helping global foreign economic ministries and SXSW. I built a strong team of marketing and communication professionals—helping our clients achieve exceptional success. After running the firm for seven years, I sold it and went back into the investment space.

While working within private equity and investing across different sectors, I saw the financial impact good communications and marketing had on valuation and the discount companies received for doing a poor job, time and time again. I found myself constantly thinking about what the companies needed to do to drive growth and increase value. Needless to say, it did not take me long to launch a new agency.  

Prince: Please explain your latest initiative at Distinctive Edge Partners: ExitReady. 
Schoffler: Distinctive Edge Partners is comprised of award-winning marketing and communications professionals. In building my team for this agency, my focus was on bringing together the highest caliber team members I could find. My team is comprised of marketing and communications executives who cannot only deliver exceptional work products, but who are experts in building strategy as well. Our team is fluent in the languages of finance, innovation, operations, legal, corporate development, strategy, culture and regulatory affairs. We have launched innovative new technologies and have managed financial, corporate and crisis communications for Fortune 500 global public companies. We have run communications and team integration efforts for billions in M&A transactions and developed global marketing and communications programs leading to major revenue growth. 

Having served on both the buy and sell side of transactions, we understand a great deal about buy-side psychology and drivers. Buy-side teams must make the investment case. They are looking to mitigate risk and poke holes in the deal just as much as they are looking to unlock latent value. 

2021 saw the biggest M&A boom in history with over $5 trillion deals completed. KPMG’s business leaders survey is predicting 2022 will bring even more M&A activity and a rise in valuations. Many operators and lead-investors I speak with want to exit while valuation is high, before we see a market down-turn, but they are worried about leaving money on the table by selling too soon. 

In addition to being a full-service communications and digital marketing agency, one of our core offerings is a service called ExitReady. 

ExitReady provides operators and investors with clear guidance to unlock value ahead of an exit—so they don’t leave money on the table. 

While accounting and investment banking teams are hard at work increasing value from a financial perspective, we help organizations enhance their valuation by identifying areas, which will appeal most to buyers and ensure those elements of their business are visible and memorable to those who matter most. 

Few people would list their homes without first conducting an inspection, repairing broken items and making updates to highlight the positive aspects of the property—increasing the home's overall appeal to buyers. Yet countless business owners leave money on the table during corporate exits due to a lack of preparation. 

We help sell-side teams showcase non-financial value. We highlight the company’s success in the marketplace, identify and mitigate reputation risks, and enhance employee engagement. We find hidden opportunities to boost marketing key performance indicators and shine a light on aspects of a company’s intellectual property, data and innovation—painting a picture of value while offering solutions to mitigate risk. All these factors can make a significant difference in the valuation of a company. 

We look at five key areas to maximize value:
Brand analysis and recommendations: Strong brands command a higher valuation. We conduct a brand analysis providing clear and detailed recommendations to enhance a brand’s value proposition and help them stand out from the crowd. 

Digital and traditional marketing analysis and recommendations: Our marketing audits help organizations identify areas of hidden value, which can have significant impacts on revenue and valuation. We optimize current activities and uncover new strategies to increase the effectiveness of current marketing spend. 

Messaging and content strategy review and analysis: Full and fair valuation requires a clear, compelling investment case articulated consistently to the right audience at the right time. Messaging to maximize value in an acquisition or an IPO is quite different from typical selling messages for prospects, customers, or “features and business benefits” for press and analysts. We understand the issues and speak the right language to maximize perception of value with key decision makers.

Media and analyst strategy development: Positive articles and inclusion in analyst reports pack a powerful punch when preparing a business for sale. We work with clients to develop a media strategy going beyond brand awareness and leverage media to build a digital history of third-party validation, which is targeted to enhance appeal to prospective buyers while generating traffic and connections that enhance overall value. 

“White hat/black hat review:” We take a buyer’s approach to analyzing the client company’s communications and marketing strategy. We then provide a “punch list” of things a potential buyer is likely to ask/request in due diligence from a comms/culture/marketing/reputation standpoint to ensure that, when potential buyers start screening for sellers and evaluating them, the client company has the upper hand.

We then equip clients with a:
• Gap Assessment: a comprehensive seller report providing analysis and actionable recommendations to increase valuation while identifying and mitigating non-financial risks. 

• Strategic Roadmap: an actionable tactical road map based on the recommendations provided. Organizations can choose to implement key areas or include this powerful guide as part of their presentation to prospective buyers to highlight latent potential. 

When the strategy integration roadmap is complete, we can pass it off for our clients to execute, or our team will jump in and provide support to enhance value—ensuring sellers maximize value for themselves and their investors.

Prince: What do you see as the future for Distinctive Edge and similar initiatives?
Schoffler: At the time of this interview, we have been in one of the longest bull markets in history—with valuations at an all-time high. Yet, inevitably, what goes up must come down. 

ExitReady is a core product offering of Distinctive Edge; however, we are a full-service firm. This means we are focused on helping innovative brands at all phases of the business cycle. We serve as partners helping clients achieve business objectives through ongoing communications and marketing strategies as their agency of record. We work with international companies launching U.S. market initiatives—helping them effectively communicate with and market to U.S. customers, expand market share and make valuable connections. We serve companies going through transitions ranging from product launches and executive transitions to crisis and issue management. 

Looking forward, the Distinctive Edge Partners’ mission is to continue to support those working to build, protect and advance civilization—to articulate the value they provide, make game-changing connections, drive growth and protect their brands. 

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