Monthly Archives: June 2012

[video post] Traits Shared by Presidents of Growing Midsized Businesses

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Traits Shared by Presidents of Growing Midsized Businesses

Interviewing leaders of privately held midsized companies for my syndicated show, The GROWTH STRATEGIST® is great fun.   I admit it. 2012 is my 8th year doing the weekly show so the archives at The Growth Strategist Show now has well over 300 broadcasts.  These are people who haven’t let recession, politics, and naysayers slow them down. Many of my guests run companies that are on the published lists of fastest growing businesses. I guess it’s not surprising that many also appear on the lists of the best places to work.  It’s a heck of a lot more rewarding to work for a company that embraces new technology, focuses on customer needs and preferences more than the owners’ and at least tries to innovate.  The best guests seem to share those traits.

Take Ben Bauman, the CEO of BOLT EXPRESS.  He’s a serial entrepreneur and apparently he is addicted to challenges. BOLT EXPRESS is like the “Mission Impossible” team of the transportation industry. You can almost hear the theme music playing in the background as he speaks. The more mission critical the assignment is the better they like it.  BOLT upgraded its tracking technology to dramatically expedite border crossings. When a manufacturing plant is at risk or a shut down if a key component or replacement equipment doesn’t arrive SOON, they call on BOLT EXPRESS, and, of course, it’s Ben Bauman’s company that provides daily payroll.

And then there is DIALOGUE MARKETING.  I interviewed both Alejandro Vargas and Peter Schmitt from that company.  Can you imagine how Peter felt when he left his lucrative investment banking job on Wall Street in August 2001 to buy a call center business?  His first days in his new job featured sobbing employees when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers. Alejandro knows what it feels like to be the new CEO of a business that had recently dropped from $5Mil/yr to $3 Mil/yr.  They both understand how to reposition a low price traditional vendor into a real strategic partner providing premium services. Both Vargas and Schmitt have concluded that their use of a balanced scorecard system and their continued commitment to innovation have helped drive the growth of their now $40 Mil/yr company.

Or take Julie Halstrop, the Managing Partner of the TELESTO GROUP.  She and her partners lifted their company from “sub” status to “prime” in record time.  She credits their dedication to consistent follow through and honesty for their rapid growth.  US Dept of Defense relies on the TELESTO Group for their multi location SAP installation, training, and upgrades. Not every IT/CRM business gets that chance.

There are always those times when business leaders become reflective and wonder if they/we are doing the right thing. People like Bauman, Vargas, Schmitt and Halstrop seem to focus on attracting bright team members, embracing new technologies, and always looking for new ways to WOW customers.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.    

[video post] AND Instead of OR

AND Instead of OR

Relatives on my father’s side of the family have long been in the shipping business. They not only build huge ships, they also transport people and goods.  Today the RICKMERS family owned business is a major transporter of goods between Europe and CHINA. The RICKMERS Group provides maritime assets, management services and logistics.

As you can undoubtedly imagine, the family stories that have been passed down through the generations are fascinating, including stories about how they made the transition from wind to engine propelled during the industrial revolution. Somehow I can picture the artisans who crafted the wood, created the sails, and carefully placed the three massive masts on the schooners. Think about how different those people would be from engine mechanics, the folks who shoveled coal, and sheet metal workers.

The RICKMERS family had earned a great reputation based on crafting beautiful sturdy wooden ships.  That is what paid the bills, attracted employees, and kept customers coming back. Should they actually turn their backs on the business they loved and understood to take a chance on something so strange? The leaders of the enterprise wondered how quickly metal would replace wood and engines would replace cloth sails, and they cared deeply about their extended family of employees.  Could the artisans who worked in fine wood accept the changes and learn new skills? Would the company need separate workgroups with younger people applying the new technologies and the more experienced employees doing what they knew how to do?  But if they did that, wouldn’t their loyal employees be left behind at some point? Would trying to build both types of ships hedge their bets or be too expensive to sustain?

To this day, my relatives remain convinced that the decision to combine approaches helped the RICKMERS enterprise and the extended family to survive two horrific world wars…despite the fact that they were/are based in northern Germany.  Employees who had been forced to disperse when Hitler took over transportation companies returned to work together after WWII.  They are convinced that the family’s commitment to lifelong learning and mutual respect across generations has made a huge difference in their long term resilience.

So often we think that today’s technology driven changes in businesses are unique to today’s generation(s).  The scenario sounds the same to me.  I can’t help but wonder if more companies could value experience AND new technologies while embracing lifelong learning AND respect across generations? 

Do we really need to treat so many people like they are expendable?

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.    

[video post] The High Cost of Unethical Vendors

The High Cost of Unethical Vendors

Recent market research conducted for two clients in completely different industries revealed that being ethical people was one of their greatest differentiators. As much as we are glad that our clients are ethical people, it seems sad that being ethical is a unique selling proposition (USP) these days.

Some industries are burdened with bad reputations that may have been earned a long time ago.  Our construction industry clients know all of the jokes and the stories about pay to play plus they still occasionally have to address a prospective customer’s assumption that they use wire-taps to learn competitors’ prices.

Would you have expected that ethics would be a compelling differentiator in international payroll processing?  Accuracy and full disclosure is expected from accountants handling payroll…right? A recent survey of 500 (titles) conducted by Secor Relocation and the Forum for Expatriate Management surfaced that less than 20% of the responding mobility professionals fully trust the accuracy of the payroll numbers being done for their expatriates.

It’s a mobility industry-wide dynamic that can easily cost any single company millions of dollars every year while also putting the organization at significant compliance risk,” shares David Leboff President of Expaticore Services LLC.  “Incredibly, the effort to raise the visibility and magnitude of the costs and risks to appropriate levels of an organization is typically underwhelming.  And no fix can be initiated without the backing of those with the authority to do so.  Some of the responsibility for this shielding can be placed on accountable internal resources who may not have the budget or horsepower to fix on their own.  But it also rests squarely on those advisors who are concerned that raising the issue may tar them with some responsibility, or even liability if they are paid and profiting as part of a defective payroll process. “

Would you have expected that being ethical would be a differentiator for a legal search firm? There are lawyers involved. And maybe recruiters aren’t always known for their transparency either. OK, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  I’ll give you that.  When I asked the President of Princeton Legal Search Group, Inc., David Garber said, “It still seems amazing to us how many of our clients (law firms, universities and large corporations) view us as being SO different because we say what we mean and mean what we say.  Ethics, integrity and honesty are very important to our clients. We now provide our clients with copies of our code of conduct (which goes well beyond industry standards) and we have adopted a client bill of rights.  Not everyone can work in a firm like ours, but professionals who value ethics and honor do seem to gravitate to us.”

How much money does your company spend on… or should I say LOSE TO… unethical vendors?                           

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available atwww.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.    

[video post] Results of Analysis of 15 Years of Funding High Potential Service Firms

Results of Analysis of 15 Years of Funding High Potential Service Firms

Bankers don’t like to do non asset based lending, so sometimes owners of service firms are under-capitalized.   When a service firm delivers great value for its clients, the owners learn how to manage cash well enough to self fund continued hiring. So they typically need more money to fund stepped up marketing, which is another reason bankers seem reluctant to finance service firms. Bankers do not feel comfortable evaluating the quality and expected return on investment in proposed marketing campaigns.

Occasionally, a private investor is an alternative to being repeatedly turned down by traditional bankers, but they have the same difficulty evaluating the ROI on marketing.

The 13 investors who pooled their money to form The Service Industry Fund™ 15 years ago look to me to evaluate the scalability and resilience of high potential service firms.  I have noticed that most owners of growth oriented service firms are willing to invest in their personnel.  They’ll pay top dollar for a scientist/inventor, a rainmaker, or a controller, but they tend to skimp when it comes to marketing.  They’ll bring in interns or ask an entry level employee to do their press releases, social media, and websites updates.

Too many owners of service firms are convinced that no one can understand their businesses as well as they do.  No one could convey the benefits and differentiation better than they can.  So why should they spend money on high priced marketing talent? I also think the frugal behavior is a result of their not knowing what they don’t know about the art and science of marketing.

Recently, we reviewed the portfolio to see which service firms have been the most successful and concluded that the firms that invested in proven marketing agencies and executives have done the best.  Those firms were able to package their processes through more effective merchandising (PRODUCTIZE).  Those firms were able to quantify their investment in process and product development and marketing so they could price their licensing or certification deals and protect quality.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST®. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

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I wish we had met Aldonna five years ago. If you’re looking at your company and it seems that everything is on track and opportunity seems to be there but something isn't working right, hire Aldonna. She catches the important leverage points that help make companies with potential grow--exponentially

David Leboff
President/Co-Founder Expaticore

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