Monthly Archives: July 2012

Marketing: Consistency, Analytics, Archetypes, Reinvention

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The speakers at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association (NSA) focus their remarks on the needs of professional speakers, but there are always gems that can be translated for leaders of growth oriented midsized companies.

The “rock star of corporate CMOs,” Jeff Hayzlett, did a mega session on (surprise, surprise) marketing.  He provided ample evidence that a company’s investment in marketing must to be insistent, consistent, and persistent to get traction in today’s message-rich environment.

Steve Spangler, the guy who makes learning science fun, demonstrated the promotional value of YouTube videos.  The way he tweaks and retweaks the opening few seconds of his videos based on the analytics was powerful.  “DONE-NEXT DISEASE” is so prevalent these days. How many marketing departments in midsized companies invest countless hours on social media (including VLOGs) but then abruptly move on to the next project? How many people never dig deep into the analytics or refuse to change videos based on viewer feedback?

Sally Hogshead, the author of FASCINATE, helped each member of the NSA audience dig deeper about what makes him/her fascinating.  The 49 personality archetypes clearly have implications to branding for midsized companies.  Is your corporate culture and brand promise built around Anarchists? Advocates? Perfectionists? Mavericks? Trendsetters?

Jeanne  Robertson, this year’s winner of NSA’s prestigious MASTER OF INFLUENCE award, is a marvelous role model for the importance of constant re-invention.  Now in her 70s, she speaks to sell out crowds in theatres around the country. Leaders of a midsized business that is getting behind because they keep perfecting what has always been done could learn a lot from Jeanne.

 

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.    

Recognizing Opportunities That Exist in Challenged Markets

The growth of architectural firms is challenged when their customers can completely eliminate the need for architects by purchasing Cad Cam software.  Graphic artists are similarly frustrated by people who are under the misimpression that using clip art is equivalent. So what should your company do if its core customer base is architects or graphic artists? You would undoubtedly notice that most of your competitors have been shifting their marketing and sales efforts to target other industries.  Should you do the same thing?

Recently our market research clearly confirmed our client’s perception that its core client base is in an industry that is headed for trouble. Technology is tempting their clients’ customers to do more on their own and rely less on our client. Generational preferences and shifting priorities will only increase the challenges for this client’s customers.

One option is that our client could become THE leader that helps transform a challenged industry. While their competitors run away, they could provide state of the art technology. They could become THE source of leading edge strategies that help its customers survive/thrive despite the odds. They could help their customers develop new products/services. They could lead a roll up or an industry consolidation.

Are you just following what your competitors are doing or at least considering alternatives?

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called The Growth Strategist®. She has won over two dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized B-to-B service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, and search) help privately held midsized companies in Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability®. Ambler is in her 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer online program at www.growthstrategistshow.com 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. Family owned businesses are being emphasized in 2011. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

Sustainability and Profitability Precede Growth Financing

Our first contact from executives of privately held mid market companies often comes in the form of inquiries about growth financing. Some know I lead The Service Industry Fund. Others have read about the intermediary role we play for clients when we identify good sources for growth financing among the various private investor groups, venture capital firms, funds, and angel networks. Lately, more and more of those requests have seemed out of sequence.

One company is operating in a rapidly growing global industry. Although they provide a superior product and service, they hadn’t been growing as quickly as their competitors.So they became convinced that growth financing to fund improved marketing was the next step. We were glad that they took our suggestion to make sure that they are generating sufficient profit from their products/services before pumping outside funds into their business.  It turned out that they were losing money on 1/3 of their accounts, and the largest of their four revenue streams only generated profit in two customer accounts. IF they had qualified for growth financing and IF they had attracted a large number of new customer accounts, they would have quickly imploded. They weren’t undercapitalized. They couldn’t afford to invest more  money in their marketing campaigns because they weren’t generating enough profit.

This is a huge reminder that the secret to accelerated growth with sustained profitability is to reverse the phrase.  You must know what drives your profitability, then be able to sustain it before focusing on growth strategies. And acceleration comes last.  Ironically, they were lucky that their competitors had been growing faster.

With focused effort, their profitability problem has been resolved. As I write this blog, the growth financing deal is being processed. Instead of marketing, the funding will be focused on the acquisition of state of the art technology. Not only will technology help this company continue to  provide superior services for its customers, it will help sustain their profitability as they expand.  The 13 investors of The Service Industry Fund would not have been interested at all if sustainability and scalability hadn’t been addressed first.

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called The Growth Strategist®. She has won over two dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized B-to-B service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, and search) help privately held midsized companies in Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability®. Ambler is in her 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer online program at www.growthstrategistshow.com 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. Family owned businesses are being emphasized in 2011. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

[video post] Why Roll Ups Are Coming Back

Why Roll Ups Are Coming Back

There were more industry consolidations through roll ups in the 1980s and 1990s than over the past few years.  That’s because individual investors were able to line up the financing more readily.  Roll ups weren’t as popular in the late 1990s when employees had a good chance to purchase businesses.  But roll ups are again popping up around the country as Baby Boomer business owners look for exit strategies that can replenish retirement funds lost during the 2008 implosion of the financial industry. The idea of a roll up is also becoming more appealing to family held companies because the members of the second and third generations are increasingly reluctant to work as hard as their parents did for so little return on their investment of long hard hours and sacrifice.

In some ways, the roll up process saves a business owner a great deal of time and effort.  Plus the business owner learns what his/her business is really worth. The leader of a roll up must understand how money works. He/she approaches several owners of competing businesses within a growing industry.  After a series of discussions with individual business owners, the roll up leader now has a sense of which owners are really ready to retire and who still want to be active in their business.  He/she also gets a sense of which competitor has strong marketing and sales, which has better operating and administrative procedures, and which focuses most on customer service.  The series of interviews helps the person who leads the roll up to decide which locations, systems, and would be retained once deals have been finalized.   I have participated in a handful of roll ups.  You really would want to be a fly on the wall to learn what a prospective roll up leader knows about you, your competitors and your industry.  Let me tell you…you would feel naked.

I am seeing more situations where employees are stepping up and asking for the chance to buy shares.  Some are requesting that their owners look at ESOPs, which are also not as popular as they were in the 1990s. As a person who is focused on economic development, I am concerned about the increase in roll ups because they involve so many secret meetings.  The process is distracting.  Growth of businesses slows.  Employees can misinterpret what is happening.  I understand why it can be difficult for owners to discuss their retirement plans and exit strategies.  But the economy, customers, and the retiring owners are usually better served if/when employee ownership options are considered well before the owner gets too tired.  I am certainly glad that we executed an ESOP in the 1990s.  And I have recently restructured my enterprise into a suite of companies.  This way, multiple partners can be involved and focus on what they do best. And I have more exit options when that time comes.

 

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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