Maximizing Value for GROWTH COMPANIEs

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Why align5?

At align5™, we are focused on building meaningful relationships with our clients and working with them to maximize value through their business.
We are highly selective in our engagement process and we choose to work with only those entrepreneurs who are aligned with our Core Values and are driven by a well-articulated vision for where they can take their company. By doing so, we ensure a high level of dedication to our clients and the outcomes we seek to achieve together.


align5 advises entrepreneurs and family enterprises on their path to maximize value in connection with the sale of their most prized asset. We are unlike any other investment banking firm, in that we combine our unique experience as entrepreneurs and advisors outside of investment banking with our rigorous sell-side process that is designed to maximize value in every transaction. Our results speak for themselves.


align5 isn’t a traditional consulting firm.  Rather, its partners have deep operational expertise as well as many years of experience advising companies on a range of mission-critical business issues.  As a result, our engagements are focused more on actionable coaching than on the delivery of empty advice, which is often the earmark of a typical consulting project.


Our first Core Value is to Honor the Entrepreneur, and we are passionate about serving entrepreneurs at each step along the Entrepreneurial Company Lifecycle. We frequently share our thoughts, best practices and insights here.

ABOUT align5

align5 was founded in 2015 to serve growth company entrepreneurs at all stages along the Entrepreneurial Life-Cycle. Our name is a reflection of our belief that simplicity is much better than complexity, and we work with values-driven growth companies to align around no more than 5 key initiatives or priorities at any given time as a way to ensure focus and execution. Our advisory platform is built on this bedrock belief, and we help entrepreneurs and their companies stay focused on the most important things as they strive to accomplish their goals – whether that is through our Investment Banking or Coaching services. We leverage our world-class systems and processes to ensure that every client experience is remarkable, and we’ve delivered the results to prove it. Please watch this Video to learn more about us.

At align5, we are highly-selective in our engagement process and we choose to work only with growth-oriented entrepreneurs and teams that share our values.  We work with companies at various stages along the Entrepreneurial Company Lifecycle™, and we bring focus and a commitment to simplicity over complexity to every engagement.

Meet Our Team


Managing Director

John Ratliff is a co-founder and partner of align5 and is responsible for leading all of the firm’s strategic initiatives. Prior to founding align5, John was the President and CEO of Appletree Answers, a telephone answering service company he started in 1995 from his two-bedroom apartment in Wilmington, Delaware. John grew the company organically and through a series of acquisitions, growing the company to 24 US- based locations and 650 employees before it was sold to a strategic buyer in June 2012.

John is passionate about strategy, company culture and employee engagement. Along those lines, John leveraged the methodologies of the “Rockefeller Habits” to implement several strategic initiatives at Appletree (such as the Dream On program), which resulted in industry low turnover of about 18%, when compared to an industry average of 110%. John credits the implementation of these strategic initiatives with the tremendous growth in revenue and EBITDA over a roughly 4-year period, which ultimately led to the successful sale of the company.

In addition to his role with align5, John also currently serves as the CEO of GazellesPRO, the inner circle of Gazelles companies. John is also active in Virgin Unite, a charitable foundation created by Sir Richard Branson that is focused on improving the employee experience. In that capacity, John is involved with the foundation’s initiative on people and innovation.

John is a highly sought-after speaker to entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes on topics such as company culture, employee engagement, business strategy and acquisitions. John also brings expertise in designing and implementing business operating processes and systems to maximize the effectiveness of a company’s 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, John flies his TBM 850 single-engine turbo prop plane.

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Chad Williams

Managing Director

Chad Williams is a co-founder and partner of align5 and is responsible for leading the company’s business development, as well as content development and delivery.

Prior to founding align5, Chad practiced law for nearly 15 years, with a specialization in business law and mergers and acquisitions. Chad was a partner with Saul Ewing LLP, an AMLaw 200 law firm based in Philadelphia, PA, where he was a leader in the Business and Finance Department, chairman of both the Private Equity and Venture Capital practice group and the Family Enterprise Practice Group, and served as the partner in charge of new attorney recruiting and development, among other management responsibilities.

In addition to his legal practice, Chad was also part of the founding team of CorVant, a software development firm that develops industry specific cloud-based software solutions for small to mid-sized businesses. Chad also has business interests in, and serves as an advisor to, several high-growth technology companies.

Chad received his B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College, his J.D., cum laude, from Widener University School of Law, where he was a Widener Scholar and Editor-In-Chief of the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law, and completed course work in the graduate tax program at the Villanova University School of Law. Chad lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania with his wife Cara and their four children. In his free time, Chad indulges his passion for coaching football and lacrosse and enjoys outdoor adventure (hiking, climbing and sailing) with his family.

View Chad’s Linkedin profile here.

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Kevin O’Connor

VP Coaching and Consulting

Kevin leads the align5 Coaching Practice as the Vice President of Strategic Coaching and Consulting. Kevin was a leadership team member and Chief Operating Officer with Appletree Answers from 2006-2012 where he helped lead the company through unprecedented revenue growth of over 200% and implemented a world class culture, reducing voluntary turnover in a call center organization from over 100% to under 20%. During his tenure, the organization won the Why We Love Our Workplace Award from the Great Places to Work Institute and was named as a Best Place to Work in Delaware twice.

After graduating cum laude from Jefferson University with a BS in Human Resource Management, Kevin began his career at MBNA America and held various management positions in the Fraud and Credit areas, becoming an Assistant Vice President prior to joining Appletree. After Appletree Answers was acquired, he remained with the acquiring company and served as Vice President of Human Resources for North America, overseeing HR employee relations processes for over 11,000 team members in a publicly-traded company for the US and Canada. In his career, Kevin has extensive experience in leading successful teams to implement high-engaging cultures and his led over 30 successful acquisition implementations in both public and private organizations.

Kevin lives in North Coventry, Pennsylvania with his wife and two sons. He enjoys coaching youth baseball and basketball and spending time with his family down the shore in the summer. Kevin is also a passionate and die hard Philadelphia sports fan, including the Big 5 of college basketball.

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Denise Richmond

Chief Financial Officer

Denise Richmond is a co-founder and partner of align5 and leads the company’s finance, analysis and operations. Prior to founding align5, Denise was the Chief Financial Officer of Appletree Answers, an industry-leading telephone answering service founded by John Ratliff in 1995.

Denise began her career in public accounting, as a certified public accountant with Coopers & Lybrand and has held various positions in finance and accounting throughout her career. Denise received her B.S. in Business Administration, with a concentration in accounting, from The George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., and she is a Certified Public Accountant. Denise lives in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, with her daughter.

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Pat Taggart

President at align5 films

Pat Taggart leads align5 films, our video storytelling division. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Pat believes that every company has a unique story to tell and doing so via video is the most impactful way to attract and retain customers and employees that perfectly fit a brand.

Focusing on people and doing so with creative simplicity has been Pat’s formula for nearly two decades of work with companies in all stages of growth and maturity.

It’s all about the story.

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Emily Ratliff

Human Resources Coaching and Consulting

Emily provides specialized coaching and consulting in all aspects of Human Resources, company culture initiatives and the Dream On Program for align5. Prior to joining align5, Emily was the Director of Employee Experiences (also known as HR) at Appletree Answers from 2004-2012.

During her tenure, Appletree Answers experienced exceptional growth and a revamped company culture that led to a significant decrease in employee turnover. Appletree Answer’s signature Dream On Program was also launched during this time which made significant impacts on the culture and employee loyalty and dedication.

The organization won the Why We Love Our Workplace Award from the Great Place to Work Institute and was named as a Best Place to Work in Delaware twice.

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The align5 team, led by Chad Williams and John Ratliff, brings a unique perspective and approach to the merger and acquisition process.  Blending decades of experience on both the buy and sell side, align5 works with growth company entrepreneurs and family enterprises to maximize value through acquisitions – both identifying and integrating companies as part of a strategic growth strategy, as well as ultimately finding the optimal acquisition partner when the time comes to sell.

Unlike other investment banking firms that have inherent conflicts due to competing interests within their firms, align5 works exclusively with entrepreneur-led, private companies in connection with strategic acquisitions (buy side) and strategic exits (sell side).  Our focus and lack of conflict allows us to “swing for the fences” and ensure that we are entirely aligned with our clients’ interests.

Many advisory firms take an industry-specific approach, which tends to result in preconceived notions about likely buyers and valuation, and unfortunately means that entrepreneurs leave money on the table.  Instead, at align5 we leverage our deep experience as entrepreneurs and advisors to work with creative, growth oriented entrepreneurs and owners in a variety of industries – from technology to B2B/B2C services and beyond.  Our results tell the story – by focusing on unique, quality companies, we consistently deliver results that are well above industry norms.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Chad Williams at

For examples of some of our recently closed transactions, please click here.


Through its proprietary strategic coaching methodology, align5 works with entrepreneurs to move their company from one stage of the Entrepreneurial Company Lifecycle to the next, with the end goal of maximizing the business asset or leading the company to a successful exit.  Whether through our multi-day strategic planning sessions, or our longer-term strategic coaching engagements, the entrepreneurs and companies that work with align5 can expect to execute strategies focused on topics such as:

• Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0)
• Building a Unique Company Culture
• Developing Genuine Employee Engagement Strategies
• Implementing Critical Operating Processes and Systems
• Executing a Buy-Side Acquisition Strategy
• Growth Company Finance
• Outsourced CFO Services
• Preparing to Exit
• The Entrepreneurial Lawyer (coming soon!)


Meet Our Coaches


Our Core Values guide us in everything we do:

  1. Honor the Entrepreneur
  2. Real. Crystal Clear. Transparent.
  3. It’s All About Experiences
  4. Always Value First
  5. Simplicity > Complexity

Please contact Chad Williams to learn more about the importance of identifying and living by your company’s Core Values.


John Ratliff is a highly-sought after speaker on topics ranging from Company Culture and Employee Engagement to Growth Strategies. Check out the video of John leading a group of growth entrepreneurs through a strategic session on aligning toward different value propositions.

Chad Williams is a well-regarded speaker on topics such as Preparing a Company for Exit, Strategic M&A, Corporate Finance and Succession Planning for Family Enterprises.  Chad has spoken before large audiences, including organizations focused on private equity and venture capital, large family businesses and family offices, and in-house counsel.

Click here to request information about availability and speaker fees for John and Chad


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    Address: 2 W Market St.
    West Chester, PA 19382

    Phone: (484) 473-8400