SurePoint, a company that provides practice management, financial and client relationship products for mid-sized law firms, today announced the appointment of a new CEO, Eric Thurston, a veteran business-transformation leader with more than two decades of experience scaling and leading high-growth software and services companies across several verticals, including legal.
Venture investor Mike Suchsland, a veteran of the legal technology industry and the former president of Thomson Reuters’ legal business, had been serving as interim CEO since October after the departure of Tom Obermaier, who had been CEO since 2018. Suchsland, who has served on SurePoint’s board since 2018, will now become chair of the board.
Based in Austin, Tex., Thurston most recently served as president and CEO of TCP Software, a workforce management solution provider. During his tenure, TCP doubled its revenue, acquired five companies, launched numerous products, including a suite of integrated workforce management features, and garnered prestigious awards.
Prior to TCP, Thurston was CEO of Personify, a provider of technology solutions to associations and nonprofit organizations helping them better engage their members and maximize revenue. From 2011 to 2013, he was president of Mitratech, a technology provider for corporate legal departments. In 2019, Ernst & Young named Thurston a finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year award in Central Texas.
Either Growing or Dying
At SurePoint, Thurston told me in an interview Friday, his focus will be on taking the company to its next stage of professionalism, customer service and growth.
“There are phases in a company just like in anything,” he said. “SurePoint is at that stage of evaluating how does it do a better job of meeting the needs of its customers and how does it continue to grow. I tell people you’re either growing or dying.”
That will include continuing to develop the next-generation of SurePoint’s Legal Management System (LMS), building on SurePoint’s acquisition last year of acquired Coyote Analytics, a company that provides practice management, financial management and business intelligence software for law firms.
At the time of that acquisition, SurePoint had said that users of both LMS and Coyote would begin to see the best of each system rolled into the other, with both products continuing to exist, but each building on the strengths of the other.
“We can build a great company, have a great culture, and we can provide an off ramp for the current investors and on ramp for the next ones,” he said. “We’re going to run the business looking at what we need to do for our customers in the industry and just keep going.”
Does that mean that creating that off ramp will be one of his goals? In 2021, the private investment firm Aquiline Capital Partners acquired a majority ownership stake in SurePoint.
It is not, he said. “My marching orders are to come in and to run the company in a great way, and where there’s areas to improve, let’s fix those, and certainly let’s not break things that are working well.”
Opportunity for Growth
Thurston, who had relatively brief experience working in the legal industry through his time at Mitratech, said he is looking forward to returning to the legal vertical.
“What I like about this market is you can get your arms around it — it’s big enough that there’s good opportunity for us to grow, but it’s also not so big and so open ended that you’re trying to figure out which verticals you want to serve, what’s your go to market. We can come at this market very crisply, very concisely, and be a great provider to the market and meet our growth objectives.”
He was attracted to SurePoint, in particular, by its established brand reputation and its mid-market focus. “It’s a good brand, with good recognition in the marketplace.”
Mid-sized U.S. firms will remain SurePoint’s focus as the company seeks to further refine its products and bring in new customers, Thurston said. “The plan right now is mostly organic growth.”
He said the company will also look at additional acquisitions, building on its acquisitions last year of Coyote and, before that, of ContactEase client relations management software.
As he steps into the job starting today, Thurston said his immediate goal for at least the next 90 days is to learn, both from customers and employees. He will be starting customers calls this week and plans to spend at least a week a month for the next four months traveling to meet with customers.
“I need to hear the voice of the customers. What are they happy with? What are they frustrated with?”
Similarly, he plans to meet with as many employees as he can and learn as much as he can from them about the business. That will be a challenge, he admits, because the company continues to operate remotely, but he wants to focus on building a strong company culture even with employees working virtually.
I asked Thurston whether he is concerned about stepping into this job at a time when the economy is in crisis.
“CEOs have been dealing with one crisis after another for the last 10 or 15 years, and you have to learn to roll with it and not overreact to it,” he said.
“We’ve got a business to run. If we take care of what’s in front of us, servicing our customers, doing a great job, we’ll be fine.”