Craig Dickens: CEO, JD Merit



JD Merit is a boutique investment bank that provides its clients strategic merger and acquisition guidance, corporate finance solutions, and value enhancement services. Whether arranging a business sale, negotiating a merger or acquisition, raising capital, or pursuing strategic ventures, JD Merit focuses on helping its clients win. Still, the bank’s CEO, Craig Dickens, believed he needed a particular kind of assistance.

“I’ve got plenty of business and finance experience, but I don’t have much experience in scaling a professional services firm,” said Craig.

It was a sea change for Craig when he realized he needed to understand the dynamics of operating a professional service business. Being the CEO, he knew it was essential to have the complete picture.

“The management team and I wanted to ensure that we understood the key to unlocking knowledge relating to scaling the business,” said Craig. “We’re strong believers in not reinventing the wheel. We wanted to learn from a peer community that would embrace us.”


Craig’s very intentional search for such a peer community led him to Greg Alexander’s book titled The Boutique: How to Start, Scale, and Sell a Professional Services Firm. After reading the book and listening to a few of Collective 54’s podcasts, he knew he had found his tribe. Craig, along with the bank’s Chief Operating Officer and its Chief Strategy Officer, joined the mastermind community.

“It was important to me that the entire management team was a part of Collective 54,” said Craig. “That way, we all get into the depth and breadth of the ecosystem, so each person works to learn every aspect of the business and agree on our direction for the future.”

the professional services mastermind community

Collective 54 is the first mastermind community for boutique professional services firms. The community aims to help members make more money, work fewer hours, and get to a bigger sale faster. This is done through peer-to-peer mentoring, expertise sharing, and specialized programming built to help founders and owners grow, scale, and sell their firms.

One crucial element of Collective 54 is that all members operate professional services firms, regardless of their industry. Those members talk among themselves and help each other learn.

“There are ideas that come out of those conversations that I would’ve never thought of. I wouldn’t come at an issue from a marketer’s or an IT consultant’s perspective,” said Craig. “Having real conversations with different peers makes a leader a more well-rounded executive. That leader must hear from the voices of others who have solved the same problems. And in Collective 54, those voices are located throughout the world.”

For Craig, having access to a proven playbook and learning a common language with his peers helped him and his management team execute thoughtful plans contributing to the business’s overall growth and success.

collective 54 business impact


“We undertook a change in how we structure our business,” said Craig. “It was helpful to get feedback from the Leadership Board as well as a one-on-one with founder Greg Alexander as to how we should manage that change.”

tangible value

Craig is active and receiving great value from his Leadership Board, a private sub-group of ten members. He’s also advised other Collective 54 members on how to improve their businesses. “There’s a commonality in language and viewpoint relative to how
professional services should be run and managed, and we are benefitting from that language,” he said.

clarity & alignment

“Collective 54 has given the management team clarity and alignment,” said Craig. “We’ve taken the group’s Boutique Framework and turned it into a scorecard that will help us continually improve performance. Now, we are more effective managers as we grow.”

Craig Dreiling: Founder and CEO, Solutions-101

Solutions-101 experiences a seven-figure breakout win after joining collective 54

processes but no capacity

Solutions-101 uses proprietary software to assist dental practices with
repositioning their insurance reimbursements to increase profits and retain patients. Although helping clients grow their revenue is one of his specialties, the firm’s founder, Craig Dreiling, struggled to do the same himself.

Craig’s growth strategy was to first focus on sales, then delivering services followed by client management. When he completed the cycle, he started at the beginning with sales again. He realized this cycle wouldn’t get his business where he wanted it to go.

“Sure, we were growing, but we hit a ceiling, and the problems we faced
were self-inflicted,” said Craig. “Not only did I not have the right processes in place, but I also didn’t invest in the right people to break through that ceiling. Consequently, we just didn’t have the capacity for significant growth. I could only do so much.”


To solve his capacity issues, Craig intended to either increase prices or grow the number of clients the firm serves at one time. However, Craig noted that “it’s a real struggle doing either or both if you don’t understand how to
manage toward those objectives.”

Craig continued, “There are a lot of groups on LinkedIn and Facebook that say they can help members better manage their business, but it’s nearly impossible to know the expertise of the group’s leadership—they may just be out to make money. You have to take them at their word that what they and the group’s members share will work.”

His situation left Craig open to solutions. When one of his neighbors shared Collective 54 founder Greg Alexander’s book titled The Boutique: How to Start, Scale, and Sell a Professional Services Firm, Craig immediately purchased and read it. That led him to become a member of Collective 54, a community specifically geared toward professional services firms.


Collective 54 is a curated mastermind community for professional services
firms. With members who talk among themselves and help each other learn,
the community aims to help them make more money, work fewer hours, and get to a bigger exit faster. This is accomplished through peer-to-peer mentoring, expertise sharing, and specialized programming built to help founders and owners grow, scale, and sell their firms.

“After joining Collective 54, I immediately got a reality check,” said Craig. “I found it difficult to explain to the people in my group what my company does. When I tried, I received lots of questions. That was a pivotal moment for me. I realized then my team had to get hyper-focused on our company’s messaging so that we can improve as a team and raise the caliber of our clients.”

Struggling with creating a clear value proposition and targeting the ideal client profile are common themes among Collective 54 members.
Fortunately, members struggling with these issues have the opportunity to learn from other members who have solved the same problems.

Even though Craig is the first to admit that he hasn’t taken full advantage of what Collective 54 offers, he said the community is more of an asset than expected.

“I’m still a member after two years because the organization is constantly evolving,” said Craig. “Every interaction either challenges or validates my thinking on a topic. I benefit greatly from the knowledge and experience of the organization’s members.”

collective 54 business impact

leveled up project size

“After joining Collective 54 and realizing how to do what we do, things shifted quickly,” said Craig. “We signed a seven-digit contract worth more than we’ve ever earned in a year.”

increased revenue

“We didn’t change the fundamentals of what we do—we just streamlined operations and changed how we presented ourselves to our clients,” said Craig. “By doing that and staffing appropriately, we drastically increased revenue by changing our pricing model.”

improved quality of life

“Owning your own business isn’t always glamorous—it’s a lot of work that creates lots of stress,” said Craig. “Collective 54 gives me a cheat sheet to operating my business successfully so that I can improve my quality of life.”

Adriaan Bouten: Founder and CEO, Digital Prism Advisors

How Adriaan Bouten found his tribe in Collecitve 54 and grew his professional services firm

You don't know what you don't know

Adriaan Bouten is the founder and CEO of Digital Prism Advisors (dPrism), a boutique consulting firm that helps executives unlock hidden potential in today’s digital ecosystem. dPrism works with enterprise organizations to identify and execute digital growth opportunities through sound cohesive strategy, effective technology selection, and digital process improvement.

Founded in 2014, dPrism has grown into a successful firm with clients that generate a few hundred million in revenue to a few billion in revenue. “We know how to serve our clients very well,” said Adriaan. “However, our biggest challenge is getting more clients.”

In addition to the continual need to attract new clients, Adriaan had contracting and invoicing issues he needed to be resolved. He also wanted to expand dPrism’s sales and marketing capabilities. But with so many tasks on his plate, he wasn’t sure where to start.

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” said Adriaan.

what makes collective 54 unique

When Collective 54 reached out to Adriaan, he took a long look at the organization. “The first thing I noticed was that I already knew a few of its members,” said Adriaan. “That made me even more comfortable becoming a member myself.”

Collective 54 is the first mastermind community for boutique
professional services firms. The community is focused on helping members make more, work less, and get to a bigger exit faster. This is done through peer-to-peer mentoring, expertise sharing, and specialized programming built to help founders and owners grow, scale, and sell their firms.

“Over the years, I’ve been a member of various CEO ‘peer group’
organizations,” said Adriaan. “The problem with those groups was that my issues weren’t the same as the issues the other CEOs were dealing with.

“In Collective 54, even though we’re all working in different specialties, we’re all boutique consulting firms. From public relations firms to human resources consulting firms, our core issues are the same.”

As a member of Collective 54, Adriaan quickly learned that the group offers far-reaching benefits that flow from unmatched peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Based on his experience, Adriaan decided to have both dPrism’s president and COO join Collective 54.

“The reason I wanted my president and COO to join was that I don’t have the bandwidth, or the responsibility, to deploy everything I’m learning in Collective 54,” said Adriaan. “Now, they learn alongside me and we have group debriefs after each session to make our learnings more actionable.”

Adriaan has made many valuable connections with other Collective 54 members, which have led to one-on-one conversations that helped him address specific business issues. He’s also become a client of a couple of members who are helping him better manage his firm.

“My firm is in a better place than it would’ve been if I hadn’t joined Collective 54,” said Adriaan. “I continue to be a member not just because I’m always learning new things, but also because I’ve built relationships with other members whom I respect and who respect me.”

membership has its benefits

expanded sales and marketing capabilities

An important business impact has been Adriaan’s ability to expand dPrism’s sales and marketing capabilities. “Through Collective 54, I’ve gotten excellent checklists and tools to help us create new business opportunities,” said Adriaan.

actionable learnings

“One of Collective 54’s strong benefits is that what
we learn during sessions is immediately actionable,” said
Adriaan. “That helps us make better business decisions.”

better cash flow position

“I learned about best practices regarding our invoicing and
contracting issues,” said Adriaan. “Now I know what really works with this deceptively straightforward issue. Today, we are in a much better cash position after changing the way we do things.”

Julian Lumpkin: Founder and CEO, SuccessKit

how a relevant peer group makes a bigger impact

searching for best practices

Julian Lumpkin had ambitious plans for growing SuccessKit, a
professional services firm that produces case studies, video testimonials, and custom content for B2B-focused companies. As the founder and CEO, Julian wanted help and support in running his business.

“Because we create content in a complex and competitive sector, it’s critical that I operate the business according to relevant best practices,” said Julian. “Over the years, I’ve learned that creating content demands a specific set of skills, and running a content creation business requires quite a different set of skills—skills that must be learned.”

Prior to launching SuccessKit, Julian worked primarily for technology companies. As such, he knew how to run a software as a service (SaaS) company, but not a professional services firm, and so he wasn’t confident that he could properly grow SuccessKit.

“Even after several years operating SuccessKit, I still struggled to find useful best practices that pointed me in the right direction,” said Julian. “The information I was digesting from the Internet and LinkedIn was mostly related to running technology companies or other types of businesses.”

A passively managed LinkedIn group would not have met Julian’s needs, and other professional networks would only have given him information irrelevant to his type of business. Julian’s goal was to find a community of professional services leaders to discuss the issues he faced daily.

collective 54: THe Pro Serv mastermind group

Collective 54 is the first mastermind group designed for boutique professional services firms. The community’s objective is to empower its members to earn more while working less. This is accomplished through peer-to-peer mentoring, expertise sharing, and specialized programming developed to help founders and owners grow, scale, and sell their firms.

“As far as I know, Collective 54 is the only fully managed network for professional services firms,” said Julian. “Sure, there are some groups out there for professional services firms, but no one is actively running them for the benefit of its members. Meanwhile, Collective 54’s founder has been in my shoes, and he has a full-time team dedicated to making one-on-one connections and helping me get the information I need.”

Once Julian understood what Collective 54 offered, he realized he found the perfect network to meet his needs.

“Interacting with knowledgeable peers has been one of the best
outcomes from being a member of Collective 54,” said Julian. “When I have a question, I can send a direct message to another member and get a response. It’s like I have instant, actionable information at my fingertips.”

collective 54 business impact

saved money

“Thanks to Collective 54 members, I avoided hiring the wrong automation vendor and found a much better option that saved me money,” said Julian.

increased productivity

Julian noted that “because the other members of Collective 54 provide the kind of support I was looking for, I’m much more productive by spending my time and attention on the right actions
targeted at growing my business.”

saved time

“Based on what I’ve learned from Collective 54, I’ve directly saved my own time and energy by focusing on the things that help me achieve my goals,” said Julian.