My Valsoft Story: Kent Howard – VP & Managing Director
How Valsoft expanded its hospitality presence following its first-ever acquisition
When InnQuest was acquired by Valsoft in 2016, the first ever acquisition by the company, Kent Howard was working as the Director of Sales. Since then, he has moved up the ranks to become President and Managing Director of InnQuest, Hudson, Cascade and Dockmaster.
In the early 2000s, InnQuest was a software product used by 3500 hotels around the world—but it was time for expansion. Those behind the scenes wanted to know what could be done to make the company grow.
“How could we do better?” they thought.
This is where we came in. You may be asking, how can an acquisition benefit the acquired company? Valsoft’s acquisition of InnQuest led to growth not only for Valsoft, but for its employees as well.
In order for the company to remain relevant, it needed innovative ideas and strategic guidance. Using Valsoft’s capital allocation strategy, best practices, and the right playbook, InnQuest achieved organic growth of 32% over the first two years following the acquisition.
Kent is here today to talk about his career development since joining Valsoft. He will also talk about how his portfolio and the vertical software companies under his management have grown significantly since then.
Q1: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
My name’s Kent Howard, and I’m a portfolio manager for Aspire, which is the operating entity for all the businesses that Valsoft has purchased. I manage the strategic initiatives, so setting strategy for the business, trying to make sure the businesses are profitable and hitting the numbers at our businesses.
Q2: Can you walk us through your background prior to joining Valsoft?
I was a hospitality professional. When I came out of college, I immediately went to work in a hotel business and just fell in love with the hotel business. And I probably have done just about everything you could think of in a hotel. As I got further in my career, it just became, in that environment, you never had holidays off, you always work weekends, and I started striving for something to be in the space but still have a more normal life.
And that’s how I found InnQuest Software and came to work. I’m still in the hospitality space, dealing with software for hotels, but I was working Monday through Friday, nine to five. So, it was perfect.
Q3: What was the transition like for the business, moving from a single owner to a corporation?
InnQuest was a very successful company. We grew, I think when you have a single owner, they all have different goals, and they get very comfortable in what the business is doing. It’s performing well, it’s making good money. I’m happy, I’m fine. And it’s kind of, that permeates down into the staff of the business. When we met Sam and Steph, they were the ones who came and did the actual acquisition. They took us to dinner that night. And I remember Sam telling me, he goes, “I’m gonna take your business, and I’m gonna double it in five years.” And we were all like, “Okay, Sam.” He’s just trying to impress us and buy the business, right? It took almost exactly five years. And I submitted a budget this year that was double the sales.
That kind of thing can happen to your business. It is pretty incredible that when you’ve got an organization that’s got a lot of experience, and they know the playbook, they know how to find the efficiencies in your business, grow it, make sure you’ve got good pricing power, and we’ve been very successful.
Q4: Since Valsoft made the acquisition, how has your career developed?
The immediate thing that I thought about was growth potential for the business, but also personally, right? At InnQuest, at that time, you were in a ceiling. There was nowhere else to go because the owners were operators. So, when Valsoft came in the picture immediately, it was like, “Yes, we’re gonna grow the business.” But now I’ve got an opportunity to take the next step and the next level with my career. So, I went from being a VP at InnQuest and then president of InnQuest. Then I started getting a portfolio. For me, the next step is really not to move beyond a portfolio manager but to grow your portfolio.
Q5: Could you describe your portfolio?
The best way to describe my portfolio is that it’s evolved as Valsoft has evolved, and we want them to be very vertical centric. And what ended up happening is, early on, we made acquisitions in hospitality that were in completely different geographies. And so, what that’s done is it allowed us to move into different verticals within our portfolios. What we’ve been able to do at the portfolio level, here we have a hospitality product dedicated to independent hotels and resorts in the marina management solution. But the tech stack here is newer. So, we were able to leverage the tech stack on the cloud solution in our hospitality space. And we learned that from one of our other portfolios in the car rental space. We took a similar approach. From a business object’s perspective, its similar businesses, but there are some subtle differences. And so, we were able to leverage that technology, the existing technology to build a new product.
Q6: What advice would you give to employees who are about to join Valsoft through acquisition?
I would say get ready. You’re gonna have the ability to grow your business, grow your career. When I mean get ready, it’s because it’s a meritocracy. You’ve got to be a high performer. And if you’re a high performer and you want to grow your career, it’s almost a limitless ceiling. There is no ceiling. What I would tell them is, we’re not looking to acquire a business, fix it up a little bit, and sell it.
We’re not gonna flip it. Valsoft is a new home for your business. We also want to operate the business to your wishes. How do you want to exit the business? What are you looking for your key employees? What do you see happening with your client base? Those are really big factors when we’re looking at purchasing a business. And then when we first do, how we operate them for the first 90, 120 days.
I think it’s a great place to move your legacy. Send it to Valsoft!
Connect with our M&A team
Our M&A experts at Valsoft are happy to talk with you if you’re considering selling your business. You can connect with them on LinkedIn: