Monthly Archives: July 2010

Commit Fully to Vertical Integration – Or Don’t Do It


How many companies are investing BIG BUCKS in marketing campaigns to convince you and me that they are THE “place to start”, “one stop shop”, “top experts of our industry”?  Their marketing campaigns work. We contact them and give them a try…only to be disappointed.  They may have a core service or product that is fairly good, but the customer support stinks.  They may have a fairly good needs assessment process, but the second project doesn’t go anywhere near as well as the first one.

BEFORE you invest in making a huge brand promise to attract new customers, it pays to make sure you won’t be bleeding profitability from dissatisfied customers, reduced referrals, etc.

There certainly have been some mistakes made within the computer hardware and software industries over recent years, but corporations like Microsoft and IBM have taught us that vertical integration often starts with a strong licensing or certification program.  What would your company need to do to have tough tests? Strong contracts? Barriers to entry? A prestige certification program?  I know some executives who think they can simply acquire smaller companies to avoid the hassle of implementing a rigorous certification program.  But why would you want to invest money in a company that can’t deliver on your public promises?

Vertical integration strategies often involve a combination of organic growth and acquisitions.  Some of the best acquisitions increase the number of customers for one product/service line and represent an increase in qualified prospects for other products/services. The organic growth in vertically integrated companies is often focused on developing highly skilled managers who deliver on the company’s promise.

Successful vertical integration also involves an excellent needs assessment process.  Before you invest in an expensive marketing campaign to promise “one stop shop”, “everything you need”, etc. ask yourself if the needs assessment processes before service is provided, during a project, and following a project are equally elegant.  Many companies have a great initial process to tailor the first project only to leave the customer feeling taken for granted during service delivery and ignored after a project has been completed.  We all know that isn’t conducive to the creation of legacy accounts of a fully integrated company.

License/Certify.  Acquire customers and products.  Build skills and processes from within.  Excel at 3 kinds of needs assessments.  Then commit to a strong brand promise and marketing campaign for your vertically integrated company.

The Demise of Arrogance

There may be one wonderful side effect of recent world events.  People don’t seem to have “situational permission” to be so arrogant!

Think about it.  Can anyone honestly say that s/he knows exactly how much debt the United States can handle? How can a person really prevent getting cancer? When and how will the Gulf of Mexico fully recover from the BP oil disaster? Can New Jersey’s pervasive culture of corruption and power brokers ever really change? How should the WAR in Afghanistan be handled from here forward? When/how will unemployment levels recover? How can thousands of years of unrest in the Middle East truly change? What about the Taliban? Make your own list.

I attended a convention of a professional association this week and noticed that the audience didn’t tolerate arrogance very well. When a speaker inferred “There is no reason you can’t…” conference attendees looked down, began fiddling with their Blackberries, and stopped listening to the speaker.  That is all it took. When a speaker bragged about how their business has been growing this year, the skeptical audience stopped listening. Maybe they “should have” been more motivated to hear what the speaker was doing differently to experience success, but they shut down. A dose of humility might have helped credibility and reception.

Somehow, the convention made me recall an experience I had a few years ago at a previous conference of this same association. A friend of mine had invited me to join her for lunch.  She wanted to introduce me to her daughter, her son-in-law, and her new grandchild. The young couple was so taken with themselves that I just wanted the lunch to be over as quickly as possible.  They were incredibly disrespectful of their mother, had no interest in who I am or what I do, did not make eye contact, and acted like they were the only people in the world who had smart children, meaningful jobs, and advanced education.

That lunch was in early 2008. Their careers were related to huge financial institutions. Most of us do not wish for bad things to happen to other people, but I do wonder. Wouldn’t the world be a little better if these young people got a needed wakeup call and gained some humility?

Stewardship of the Greater Community as a Growth Strategy

Will Morey Sr. had a small construction business in the 1950s and took a chance to start building properties for him and not just others.  He was one of the visionaries who could see that the Wildwoods (NJ) had great potential.  Dozens (or is it hundreds?) of L-shaped motels with swimming pools were built back then and Wildwood became a unique destination.  Hawaiian. Circus. Music. Caribbean. You name the theme.  A Wildwood motel had it. The Doo-Wop Era was good to Wildwood.

Will Morey’s sons (Will Jr. and Jack) have also had vision.  Like most resort areas, things changed for the Wildwoods.  At one point, so many young people visited the island that safety became a concern. The casinos of Atlantic City brought increased competition for adult visitors.  The attention spans of younger people shortened.  Family vacations at the Jersey shore now compete against video games, iPhones, and computers. The Morey’s have had to find ways to stay ahead of trends, ensure security, and help the leaders of the 5 towns on the barrier island work together for the greater good.

Early on, the skeptics laughed at the Morey’s when they proposed ideas like huge concert events or intertwined water slides and roller coasters on the beach. Receptivity improved as the Morey’s ideas panned out, and lots of people made money when they worked together. Residents were more trusting by the time a new convention center was proposed for the Wildwoods.  Inevitably, some people resented the Morey family as they became more successful.  But today, when leaders of the 5 towns debate significant decisions (like the pros and cons of height limits for new condo construction), one of the first questions raised is “What do the Morey’s think?”   Will Morey Jr. and his brother Jack would be the first to say that they haven’t always done everything right, but they know that they have consistently tried to keep the best interest of the entire Wildwood Island in mind.

Today, the Morey’s own and operate the 3 state-of-the-art amusement piers along the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey.  They also own and manage four hotels in the Wildwoods, and as developers, they built 500 townhouses to establish beautiful Sea Point Village in the Diamond Beach area of the Wildwoods.

Give it some thought.  Do you have the greater good of an extended community in your mind as you consider ideas that could drive profitable growth for your business?  Do you have the Morey’s patience and perseverance? Are you willing to admit when you are wrong? Are you utilizing skills to make other people look good and not just yourself?

Log on to or to listen to my June 29, 2010 interview with Will Morey Jr.

Growth Strategy Tip


Thank you for conducting a most dynamic seminar [for] our members meeting. Growth and change are critical issues in our industry. Your enthusiastic, participative style was very well received.

Steven Cunningham (retired), President/CEO

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