From Therma Holdings to Legence: The Power of Brand
When Therma joined the Blackstone portfolio in 2020, the company struggled to succinctly describe what it did. To start, Therma wasn’t just one company, but a conglomerate of many local and regional service providers. Its offerings also varied widely. If you tried to sum it all up, it was a mouthful: a family of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, controls and automation, fabrication, engineering, design-build, installation, and advisory companies.
“It wasn’t necessarily compelling, and it certainly didn’t resonate to a broad audience,” says Jeff Sprau, CEO of Therma Holdings, of the company’s messaging. “Everything from the name of the company to how we talked about ourselves was purely functional.”
Therma needed a brand transformation—not only to clearly articulate what it did, but to help solve the tangible business problems that resulted from this lack of clarity. Therma’s customers often didn’t know that their local provider was related to the parent company, and Therma’s employees were siloed from one another across the many different sub-brands.
“We needed a change, and I knew I needed a guide throughout the process,” says Sprau. “That’s where Jonny came in.”
Jonny Bauer, Managing Director in Blackstone’s Portfolio Operations group leading Brand Strategy and Transformation, joined the firm after a decades-long career in the advertising industry. At Blackstone, he has built a team with similar experience, who are using their years of experience to help our portfolio companies consider how brand informs everything they do, from innovation and acquisition strategy through to communications experience.
Species, Purpose and Advantage
To begin a brand transformation, Bauer advises companies to “take a trip to the SPA” and consider their Species, Purpose and Advantage.
- Species: What kind of company is it, categorically? (The “What”)
- Purpose: What meaningful change is the company trying to create in the world? (The “Why”)
- Advantages: Does the company have all that it needs in place to deliver on its purpose? (The “How”)
“The purpose of the Brand Strategy team is simple: how can we use brand to add more value to our portfolio?” Bauer says.
To create value, brand thinking must start at the highest levels of a company and inform all downstream decision-making. Bauer’s team first seeks alignment with portfolio company leadership on foundations, from the company’s core purpose to how the product or service is categorized. By shifting categories, Bauer’s team can widen the market for a company, translate it into a higher-valuation category or even create an entirely new category, as with Therma.
“For Therma, we needed to create a brand that reflected not only what the company did, but why it did it. Therma had a track record of bringing innovative energy efficiency strategies to buildings. At its heart, Therma was not a mechanical HVAC installation and engineering company, but a transformer in the sustainability space,” says Bauer.
Therma is now known as Legence, an Energy Transition AcceleratorTM fostering the future by championing building efficiency today. Legence works with mission-critical and high performance facilities—healthcare, schools, data centers, biopharma, high tech manufacturing, commercial real estate, and government buildings—to reduce carbon emissions, implement renewables, lower utility costs through increased efficiency, enhance system operation and improve the wellbeing of occupants, all towards building a stronger company.
Legence’s downstream brand elements inclusive of name, brand identity, employee engagement, PR and communications are all aligned with the company’s core purpose: maximizing the efficiency consumption of buildings to reach desired sustainability outcomes. To help accomplish this, Bauer’s team brings in some of the world’s top creative agencies like Collins and Code and Theory, among others. “If everything about a company is aligned to its core purpose, you can see its value at every single touchpoint,” says Bauer.
Sprau is already seeing the impacts of this purpose-driven approach, from winning top talent to expanding the business.
“Our individual companies are doing great things but being a part of Legence allows us to expand our impact,” says Sprau. “To be able to connect all our different brands with a purpose, a meaning and a strategy is exactly what we needed. The benefits, enthusiasm, and momentum we’re already experiencing are tremendous.”
“A brand transformation can simplify a lot of moving parts and complex ideas into one single thing that a consumer or an industry can easily grasp,” says Bauer. “Legence is just one example of why this approach is such a big value-creator.”
About Blackstone Portfolio Operations
Blackstone’s portfolio operations team leverages our scale and expertise to help strengthen and grow our portfolio companies. The team’s capabilities range from enterprise technology and data science to leadership and talent.