Managing director at STS Capital Partners
John Ratliff joined the team in 2012, bringing his own personal experience in founding a very successful entrepreneurial business, leading a series of strategic acquisitions, and ultimately selling to a strategic buyer with the help of STS Capital Partners. John is currently leading a number of deals in a variety of industry sectors.
John founded Appletree Answers in 1995 in his two-bedroom apartment in Wilmington, Del., as a traditional telephone answering service. He grew the company through a series of acquisitions to 24 US- based locations and 650 employees when it was sold to strategic buyer in June, 2012.
Passionate about strategy, John used the methodologies of the Rockefeller Habits to reduce turnover at the company from the industry average of 110% to around 18% in the four years between 2008 and 2012. One key initiative was the company’s Dream On initiative, a “Make-A-Wish-Foundation” style program for employees in need.
Appletree’s high retention rate allowed the company to manage its exponential growth while driving tremendous EBITDA and revenue gains. In one sign of its employees’ enthusiasm, the company won the We ♥ Our Workplace Video Contest, run by the prestigious Great Place to Work Institute. Ultimately it was Appletree’s focus on employee engagement that drove its valuation on exit.
John is now CEO of GazellesPRO, the inner circle of Gazelles companies, as well as managing director of STS Capital Partners. He is also active in Virgin Unite, Richard Branson’s charitable foundation focused on improving the employee experience. In that capacity, he is involved with its initiative on people and innovation.
He now speaks frequently with companies of all sizes to diagnose problems in their employee retention and morale and to drive improvements. He also brings expertise in using a business’s operating system to leverage the effectiveness of the management team.
John has a BSBA in Marketing and Finance from the University of Delaware. He lives in Wilmington, Delaware with his wife Lynne and their three young children. In his free time, he flies his TBM 850 single-engine turbo prop plane.