Mike Cavanaugh joined 3Points as our business development consultant in early 2017, and we are so grateful for the support he’s given us and the new opportunities we’ve been able to pursue as a result of his many connections in the Chicago tech scene. (Plus, he’s just an all-around great guy.) But the 3Points hat is just one of several that Mike wears — he consults for multiple other companies, and he recently launched a new project as well. Mike started FinTech Ranger, a tech consulting firm, last year, and has already helped a number of new companies grow and attract capital. We spoke to Mike about the company, his approach, and more.
Tell us about FinTech Ranger: what does it do, who does it serve, etc.?
FinTech Ranger is a business consulting practice that helps companies grow. We can and have worked with companies in every vertical, but we add the most value in the FinTech industry, where we have a wealth of experience and a large network. Chicago boasts a number of the most successful FinTech startups in the country, as well as some of the most established financial technology institutions in the world. Between the major derivatives exchanges — and the tech ecosystem that has built up around said exchanges — and the world class buy-side proprietary trading firms, there is a FinTech proving ground that starts on Route 66 here on Jackson and LaSalle!
I have never met a business owner who doesn’t want to grow their company, but not everyone is ready to pull the trigger. There’s a difference between a CEO who says he or she want to grow and a CEO who actually goes for it. The companies that hire consultants to help them grow have made up their minds that the time is now. We are here to help companies grow when they’re ready to do so.
Each company is different, so we have a process to identify where growth is bottlenecking — we ask a lot of questions, we research and analyze other companies that are having success, and we begin offering up solutions. From there, we stay on board to monitor activity and help where we can with strategy execution. We call our services the “3Cs”: Coaching, Capital Raising, and Customer Acquisition.
What was your impetus for starting the company?
I spent a good amount of my professional career making mistakes that, in retrospect, I could have avoided. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I would only ask for help (which I thought was a nasty four-letter word) when I actually needed HELP in a reactionary sense. It’s great when a business owner says, “I don’t know what I don’t know,” and proactively seeks the help and assistance they need to grow their company. In short, I guess I want to help business owners avoid some of the mistakes I made, and at the same time benefit from some of my successes.
What led you to feel that now is the time in your career to branch out and start your own business?
I have very entrepreneurial DNA and have co-founded two succesul enterprises, RCM Wealth Advisors and the SBAC. I have worked in companies led by other people, and it has never lasted longer than a year or two. I need to have a higher level of input into a company’s strategy and long-term direction than is afforded to the average employee, because I put the company first, and I want to help drive as much success to the enterprise as possible. I don’t feel I can do that looking through the glass into the C-Suite — as a consultant, I am brought in to help the CEOs who are building for the future, and the level of input I’m able to give is much higher.
Is there much competition out there in this area? How does FTR differ from its peer organizations?
There is a ton of competition. It is integrity and authenticity that differentiate between the best companies and those that are in it just to make a paycheck. There are things you can do to help spur or catalyze growth, but there is no substitute for working really hard to produce something awesome. If you want to be the best at something, it’s pretty easy: wake up before everyone else, work your ass off more than anyone else, and go to bed later than anyone else. You can work smart and hard at the same time.
For us specifically, knowing what is important in the FinTech world is a key differentiator. Learning which technology is useful and what a company will spend money on is a discovery process that can take a long time and cost valuable resources. Being able to identify a use case for a service or a product in the FinTech ecosystem is half of the battle. Leveraging our network of CEOs and decision-makers in the industry is a valuable resource that cannot be overlooked.
How does your background working in an advising role to various Chicago companies inform your decision making as Managing Partner at FTR?
In an interesting twist of fate, I find myself needing to “eat my own cooking.” I have to take the exact same advice that I am doling out to the companies I work with. There is something about sitting in the founder/CEO chair that heightens your awareness of the short- and long-term health of the company and compels you to safeguard it as much as possible. People need to understand that things will go wrong at some point and your investors, employees, and customers need to know you are going to weather the storm. How you act and which actions you take when things aren’t going like a Fortune Magazine cover story are what differentiate you from the other players in the space.
How has former 3Points analyst Chris Crisanti been of help to you in establishing FTR?
Chris is great. He is helping both on the administrative side of things as well as with the fun operational stuff that comes along with a new company, all while adding a great deal of analytical support. He is always thinking, which allows him to inspire others to think and be on their toes at all times. His comedic timing is pretty good, too!
What are some of the goals you have in the coming months?
We want to keep expanding the Ranger Network, continue to add value to existing clients, acquire new clients, and, eventually, establish a FinTech Accelerator.