Monthly Archives: August 2010

When a CEO Decides It Is Time to Hire a President


Do you really know your CUSTOMERS’, VENDORS’, or DISTRIBUTORS’ brightest leaders?

Three years ago, when his company was generating over $80 Mil of gross annual revenue, Steve McDonnell could tell that he needed to make a change in his schedule, his role, and his life.  He was the founder and sole owner of Applegate Farms, an industry leader in the natural and organic meat industry. But where should he look? He had seen so many peers get into trouble when they brought in traditional “company Presidents.”

Steve found his President in Applegate Farms’ primary distribution channel. At the time, Linda Boardman was the Private Label Brand Manager for WHOLE FOOD MARKETS.

For a long time, Steve and I would talk candidly about how to improve business results,” said Boardman during a recent interview on THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™ radio show. “He and I would exchange ideas about expanded channels, improved packaging, and more efficient procedures,” said Boardman. “Why not? We both believe in organic products plus improvements would be beneficial for both businesses.”

Applegate Farms has continued to grow rapidly since Boardman became President. In three years’ time, they have surpassed the $100 Mil/year level.  They have improved systems, an expanded executive team, new products and channels, and they have made excellent progress at the board of director level.

McDonnell and Boardman are an example of successful succession based on:

  • mutual respect, earned trust, and consistency of values
  • a commitment to blending organizational cultures and developing people
  • frequent interaction and open communication
  • articulated goals and systems to support accountability
  • celebrating progress and expanding recognition/credit/accolades

To hear specific examples and advice gleaned from Boardman’s journey from channel partner to President, log onto for the August 17, 2010 broadcast of “When a CEO is Ready to Hire a President.”

Executives of Midsized Companies: Where Do You Look for Answers to Your Biggest Questions?

As executives of midsized privately held companies ($20 – 200 Mil), most of YOU are too busy to travel to conferences, attend seminars, or go back for another advanced degree.  Our research says that most of you are sitting over your laptops on ottomans in your family rooms looking online for answers to pressing business questions. It’s usually late at night (typically between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am) after “the spouse and the kids have gone to bed” while you do your “last round of email” for the day or review “yet another spread sheet.”

You wonder if your current Controller has what it takes to become a CFO.  Even more of you have known how to be a President but wonder if you have what it takes to become a real CEO…and more importantly you wonder if it will be worth the work involved to make that transformation.

Often, you are considering approaching venture capital firms or private equity groups but are concerned about the loss of control associated with representatives from outside investment groups sitting on your board of directors.  Most of you know that you don’t really have a functioning board of directors .

In the past, you may have emphasized a few growth strategies like specialization, strategic alliances, improved quality or service, or geographic expansion.  You find yourself wondering about franchising, acquisitions, initial public offering, ESOPs, real joint ventures, or channel control. You have come far enough to recognize that just because a few small acquisitions fell into your lap doesn’t mean that you are now experts in screening opportunities, negotiating deals, and executing complex mergers.

Nowadays, many of you are wondering if it’s time to consider a dramatic change in your business model.

You are too busy to spend very much time posting/checking Twitter, Facebook, or participating in dozens of Linked In groups, etc.  We all do it to improve our SEO, right?

I am motivated to reach YOU, the people who lead midsized companies.  It’s important that we find ways to help midsized companies continue to grow. The huge corporations have access to resources.   Some are even perceived to be “too big to fail” and receive government bail outs.  Small companies also get their share of attention, services, and information. Plus, micro-sized businesses are exempted from many regulations and mandates.

So often, the leader of a midsized company is expected to “tough it out” on your own.  So you sit at night in your family room hovering over a laptop looking online for answers to important business questions.  I have been hosting my weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer online radio program The Growth Strategist™ for almost 6 years now. We reach 200,000 of you each week. I speak. I write articles. I blog. I tweet. I am LinkedIn.

If there is another place you need me to be to serve as a resource for you to keep growing your midsized business, tell me where that is. I would welcome hearing from you.

It Is Not a Good Sign If You Resist Even Considering Franchising

I fess up.  It took me a few years, but I finally noticed that the majority of business owners are scared of franchising.  That is an amazing fact when you consider the high success rate of franchises.

The reluctance could be entrepreneurs’ classic aversion to attorneys and accountants.  To turn your business into a franchise…yep…you’ll need the assistance of a CPA and a franchise attorney, but that is for your protection.  And even though their fees seem high at first, the amount of money that a good franchise attorney saves you in time, law suits, and mistakes turns their fee into a moot point.

The reluctance could be entrepreneurs’ classic aversion to committing to standard operating procedures (SOPs).  Yep…if you turn your business into a franchise, you’ll need clear procedures and a training program.  Even though most entrepreneurs don’t enjoy writing SOP manuals, fortunately there are great people available who would welcome the opportunity to have that job, especially during a slow economy. If your business is going to grow beyond an “incorporated career”, it will need talent within the operations area.

The reluctance could be entrepreneurs’ classic aversion to obtaining assistance in marketing. Yep…if you turn your business into a franchise, you’ll need insistent, consistent, persistent marketing.  But don’t we all need that if we want to grow our companies?

The reluctance could be entrepreneurs’ classic aversion to committing to the consistent generation of net profit. Yep…if you turn your business into a franchise, you’ll need to have a profitable business model.  Why else would someone want to follow you?

The reluctance could be entrepreneurs’ classic aversion to having people around them who may have more experience, may ask tough questions, want to hold the business accountable, have ideas and loyal customers, and deserve to be acknowledged (and not just the lead entrepreneur).  Yep…if you turn your business into a franchise, you’ll need to excel at attracting and retaining top talent, brag about them more than yourself, and be excited about growing people. But isn’t that what business growth always requires?

Franchising isn’t for everyone.  I get that.  But I can’t help but wonder if you wouldn’t even consider the option of franchising (or at least licensing), do you really want to grow your business?  Think about it.  With franchising, someone pays you to do things your way! What a concept!

Clay M. Bullers

It has been my pleasure to use the services of Ambler Organizational Consultants, Inc. on two occasions thus far (and will again).

Aldonna Ambler has given presentations to both our company employees and to a rather independent group of franchise owners. She is very organized, concise and does a quality presentation. Our groups have rated her the best ever of all the various speakers we have employed.

Aside from feeling good about the presentation, our people have put into practice many of the points Ms. Ambler suggested to them.

Clay M. Bullers, Regional Director
H&R Block, Inc.
Cherry Hill, NJ

Ray Smith

I recently organized a sales meeting for our group at the Seaview Country Club in Absecon, NJ. As part of our agenda, I arranged a guest speaker and I would like to recommend her…

Aldonna Ambler is owner and president of a management consulting firm in Cherry Hill specializing in organizational analysis, business strategy and planning, and change management. Her presentation to us was Staying Motivated and Organized In Your Sales Efforts; other presentations include Success Factors, Responding to Customer Needs, and Selling Professional Services.

Among her impressive list of clients are Certainteed Corporation, Eastman Kodak Research Labs, and GAF Corporation; and now, the Chilton Company.

She received excellent reviews from our group. She is a bright, dynamic speaker and “psyched” our sales force for the 1987 selling season.

I recommend her both personally and professionally.

Ray Smith
Chilton, a Branch of the ABC Publishing Companies

Pause Before Acquiring Smaller Firms

With so many companies owned by baby boomers, it can be tempting to grow through acquisition.  Especially if your company operates in a highly competitive market, why not eliminate your competition by buying them out? Pause first before you do that.

Take the example of internet marketing. Internet marketing companies seem to be on a buying (acquisition) frenzy these days. It’s a busy, busy space with thousands (or is it millions?) of competitors.  In too many cases, the acquirers hadn’t made basic strategic decisions and their companies are really hectic with too little growth in net profits.

Imagine that your internet marketing company has decided to become the one-stop shop for one (or two complementary) industry. Whether it’s hosting services, website design, search engine optimization, social media campaigns, or online audio and video broadcasts, you want to be the “go to” player for that industry.

You have opportunities to acquire a few smaller web hosting companies that happen serve a few up-and-coming clients within your industry space, and you also have a friend who can bring a few video production houses to the acquisition table.  It’s tempting to move ahead with the acquisitions, right?

Remember that your major strategies are vertical integration and industry specialization.  Even if some great talent comes with the acquisitions of the smaller firms, serving a diverse customer base would distract your firm from its focus on the one industry.

Maybe you should consider an asset purchase instead of an acquisition. The owners of the web hosting and video production companies are open to selling their firms for a reason.  They could have IRS leans, tired employees, old technology, or slow response times.

Better yet, consider stepping up your investment in your own sales force.  Which competitors are serving the key industry clients you want? Where do those competitors fall short? Why would your vertical integration (soup-to-nuts/one-stop shop) approach be more effective? Easier? Faster?

Who are the star account executives serving your target industry?  Are they stuck working for Presidents/CEOs who have taken a conservative, lay low, wait and see approach during this economy? What could you do to attract those star performers to help drive profitable growth of your vertically integrated industry specialized firm?

Growth Strategy Tip


I am so grateful to have worked with Aldonna. Her guidance helped our company build a practical plan. We’re still growing and still using the tools she taught us!

Jodi Ferrer
The Perfect Promotion

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