April 24, 2024
Education Guru

Photo: Julio Aguilar

Tampa-based Strategos, under Adam Giery's leadership, is an education management consultancy with offices in Florida, Arkansas, Idaho, Maryland, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C.

NextGen

Education Guru

Adam Giery's national consulting firm arms companies with data and insight they need to succeed in the education market and other sectors.

Nancy Dahlberg | 2/14/2024

The Entrepreneur
Adam Giery, 37

Managing Partner
Strategos Group, Tampa

Education was calling for Adam Giery. His mother was a teacher — he always dreamed of following in her footsteps — and he was inspired by his own teachers. “I'm a product of an American public education system that just wouldn't expect less from me,” Giery explains. “My teachers were there for me, my teachers set a very high bar and when given the choice to pursue a profession, ‘teacher’ felt like the answer.”

Giery majored in education at the University of Central Florida and loved teaching 8th-graders American history at Central Florida’s Lawton Chiles Middle School, but upon graduating with that classroom experience and the university’s highest honors in 2008, he couldn’t find a teaching position in the midst of the Great Recession. Still wanting to create impact in education, Giery returned to UCF for his master’s degree and helped lead projects such as creating a 24-hour study hub for students and opening the university's first on-campus food pantry. At age 23, Giery served as UCF’s second Gubernatorial Fellow, which brought him to the State Department of Education in Tallahassee under Gov. Charlie Crist, where he worked on a program to help remove barriers for adults who never completed their degree to go back to college.

With the master’s degree and fellowship behind him, Giery spent nearly 18 months as a special assistant to Gov. Rick Scott and then joined the Florida Chamber as a policy director, where he became immersed in the connection between the economy and STEM-focused education. That two-year experience advocating for education policy initiatives and modernizing the Chamber’s legislative agenda inspired him to join Strategos Group.

Today, Tampa-based Strategos, under Giery’s leadership, is an education management consultancy with offices in Florida, Arkansas, Idaho, Maryland, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C.

Its partners — which include former state education commissioners, legislators, White House appointees, school district superintendents and business leaders — advise Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, startups, philanthropy and private equity firms on education policy and business development. “Our mission is crystal clear: We help students thrive in living, which is health care, and learning, which is education, and we built a portfolio of organizations that we believe represents the best in class for the market. That’s what I do every day,” Giery says.

When Giery joined Strategos nine years ago, this consultancy was in its infancy, full of “scrappy entrepreneurs,” and as a young man eager to learn, that startup culture was an intriguing value proposition. “I would say I got a functional MBA during the early days of Strategos.” Giery ascended quickly and in 2018, when he was 32, became managing partner at a time when Strategos was in dire need of an organizational evolution.

Since 2018, Giery has grown Strategos into a national player with five multi-million-dollar business units.

“In our early days, we recognized that many of our clients came to us with a fuzzy view of their market. We built an entire practice, through market intelligence and strategy, to help our clients create a crystal-clear roadmap of how they grow,” Giery says. Strategos developed a dataset for every school district in America, and today, data is the backbone of all its offerings and business units: “We take the guessing out of business decisions for companies,” he says.

One of the world's largest technology companies utilized Strategos' expertise and proprietary data to test a hypothesis about their solution, Giery says. An education company in the midst of a nine-figure exit engaged Strategos to serve as a third-party validator to their future acquirers, resulting in a successful deal closing. A growing number of investors seeking exposure to the multi-trillion-dollar education market are also consulting with Strategos regarding organizations to acquire.

Strategos has attracted talent such as: Addison Davis, formerly Hillsborough’s superintendent of schools; Vance Aloupis, previously a Florida legislator who chaired the House’s early learning subcommittee; and former Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key.

The team is now 20 professionals, including nine partners. Strategos’ clients include some of the country’s largest education companies supporting millions of students as well as emerging companies identifying future market needs, Giery says. Current and former clients include Apple, Google and Discovery Education, as well as South Florida-based ClassWallet.

It wasn’t always a smooth ride. Amid client cancellations during the pandemic, Strategos lost the equivalent of a year's worth of billings in a month. Still, he says the company never had layoffs or furloughs and never took a PPP loan. “We just committed ourselves to changing our business model. Coming out of COVID, we were growing by 50% a year,” Giery says.

Now, Strategos is developing a new venture based in Tampa that pairs proprietary market intelligence with investment and mergers and acquisitions capabilities within Strategos’ education domain expertise, Giery says. With that, he believes Strategos could be the only business of its kind that can grow, scale and support a client throughout the end-to-end life cycle of a business.

“While I'm no longer a teacher, I still feel that pull to be impacting children, to be impacting educators. The American educator needs to be celebrated and supported, and I hope our work in a small way does that.”

TEACHER IMPACT: "The patience of an individual who arrives each day ready to impart knowledge to our youth is special. Teaching is a passion profession, and educators are as valuable as any economic investment in a community. Teachers are seeding the future success of our state."

BUILDING CULTURE: “We've developed a culture at the business, we call it laboratory culture. We expect our team to be experimenting — that’s where great ideas and innovations happen, not the corner office. The welcome letter on someone's first day explicitly says I expect you to be making mistakes, just not the same mistakes twice.”

COMMUNITY PURSUITS

Coming out of the pandemic, Giery jumped into highly creative community-focused pursuits. He launched a Tampa event for TedX, an international community that organizes TED-style events to elevate locally driven ideas. “I spoke to people that I probably never would have met, and I engaged in the community in a different way.” He also hosts a podcast, Capital Class, to share candid stories about leaders and their journeys, especially their challenges. “It's about being nimble, flexible. It's understanding that people are your business and having the mental dexterity to push yourself into uncomfortable places to grow,” Giery says. He also invests in early-stage companies as part of Florida Funders, the state’s most active venture capital firm.

Tags: Education, Feature, NextGen

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