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CEO Advisor® Newsletter
August 2011
Great Companies Grow in Good Times and Bad

Strategy Yields Growth


The economic recovery has been struggling to take hold, but it is slowly gaining momentum. As the rising stock market once again becomes all-too synonymous with a strong economy, one is prompted to ask: Did we learn nothing from 2005 - 2010?


CEOs and small business owners know that they need to grow their businesses by executing a strategy that is right for their company. A.T. Kearney research reveals that 70 percent of the growth opportunities available to any company lie in internal factors that are under the CEO's control; only 30 percent are beyond the company walls. 


CEOs who achieve superior growth don't possess a covert script that others lack. Rather they simply know how to map out a course for all parts of the company, from the ground up, and then execute it flawlessly. The bottom line is that superior growth is within reach for all companies, in all industries, and in all phases of the economic cycle.


Growth Model


Most companies begin to grow by removing operational and structural barriers, and by focusing on their core strengths. Companies that achieve superior results are able to reach new heights in all aspects of their business: satisfying customers, delivering high-quality products or services, achieving a low-cost position, building a team of motivated top-performing employees, and, most importantly, making money. 


How do they do this?


1. Operations: Cleaning House

The first step on the growth path is to do some operational housecleaning. Companies that overlook the growth potential in operations do so at their own expense: A.T. Kearney's research indicates that the operations improvements can account for 60 percent or more of a company's future growth potential. At your next management meeting, raise these questions: Are you truly the low-cost competitor in your industry? Do you have the highest levels of product and service quality? If not, the operations step is critical to returning your company to a growth trajectory.


The key areas to focus on include:


Sourcing and Vendor Management. The decisions surrounding purchasing goods and services account for 20 to 60 percent of the cost structure of most companies. And when a company optimizes its sourcing process, it can reduce its total costs anywhere from 6 to 13 percent. 


Product and Service Quality. During his tenure at General Electric, Jack Welch brought Six Sigma quality standards to the world. Yet companies continue to struggle to achieve consistently superior product and service quality.


Sales Effectiveness. The sales team is the main link between products and customers, and having the people and the processes needed to consistently achieve your sales goals is critical. However, identifying potential lapses in this area is often as difficult as correcting them. Small companies can boost their bottom lines by revisiting and updating some of their key sales strategies, such as altering their compensation for their sales team or targeting new markets.


Pricing Strategy and Execution. Gone are the days when the market determined prices. Companies are finding that they have considerable power and flexibility in setting price, and are seeing their profits rise as a result. Recurring revenue models are key for long-term growth and profits.


2. Organization: Structuring for Success

The next step is to create a solid, high-performing organization. Organizational growth improvements can account for another 25 percent of your company's future growth potential. The two key components of the organization step are customer focus and organizational speed. In the eyes of your customers, how responsive is your organization, and, in your own eyes, why do you lose customers? Can your company make faster, more effective growth decisions than your competitor? 


Eliminate Friction. In creating the best company, CEOs and business owners must not only find and eliminate existing points of friction or bottlenecks, but also create a structure that encourages potential and success. In other words, it's not just about fixing parts that are broken; it's about building a platform for growth.


Break Down Growth Barriers. Ask any CEO who has dealt with organizational silos and barriers, and he or she will tell you they aren't the ideal way to grow. It is critical to remember that the key to growth is to develop processes that cut through or across a company to unleash the power of the businesses' most talented people. 


Improve Decision-making Processes. Clear and efficient decision-making processes, particularly in volatile situations, can mean the difference between profit and loss.  In a business climate where the potential risks and liabilities are increasing, the natural inclination for CEOs and business owners is to rein in the decision-making processes.


3. Strategy: Pulling the Growth Levers

When CEOs and business owners think about the role of strategy in growth, they often think of a big strategic breakthrough that will transform their industry and result in a sales jump of tens of percentage points. But our research suggests a different course of action. Most companies are already on the right overall strategic track. And rather than look for a miracle breakthrough, they should take a comprehensive look at their core business and identify specific growth opportunities within it. 


What's the right strategy for your company? The best answers always begin with the best questions:


What is your customer growth strategy? Spending time with customers and learning more about what they need and how they use various products or services can yield a goldmine of information about good opportunities for growth. Customers should be at the center of your growth strategy. 


What is the best product or service mix? Reshaping your products or services may sound like a tactical improvement, not a strategic one. But companies need to work from a more strategic perspective when deciding what products and services to offer and promote. How might your products and services be tailored to better meet customer needs? Do your products and services cannibalize each another? How well do you develop and launch new products and services?


Where do mergers and acquisitions fit in?Acquisitions can be an important part of the strategy step. Companies such as GE Capital, HSBC and Teleflex use acquisitions to bolster the competitiveness of their core business by acquiring companies to enter new geographic markets or gain access to new technologies or complimentary products or services. A key success factor, however, is that they patiently wait for the right M&A opportunities to emerge and refuse to overpay. CEO Advisor has extensive experience in smaller, opportunistic acquisitions to fuel growth.


4. Growth Breakthrough

You might look at your product or service offerings for opportunities to expand your customer base, your customer service levels, or the level of convenience and customization you provide. You might extend your value chain or business model, your geographic reach, or your partnership and risk-sharing approach to accelerate growth. You might stretch the way you go to market through your distribution channel strategy or your branding. You might look to new technologies to change your entire company or get to the next level. 


Top performing companies accelerate their growth along several dimensions simultaneously. And while many good companies are able to maximize their growth in interesting and innovative directions, being able to take that final step is what today's CEOs and business owners executives would do well to set as their goal. The path to getting there isn't flashy or quick, but with flawless execution and unwavering focus, sustainable, superior growth is a goal that any company can reach.


CEO Advisor is an expert in helping companies grow to the next level. Contact Mark Hartsell today at (949) 759-8676 or email him at for a free initial consultation.

CEO Advisor, Inc. Advises Definitive Media on Business Strategy and Growth 
One of the most overlooked sources of leads for any small business is the rich pool of non-competing businesses that serve the same target market.


Identifying a group of "best of class" providers in your market and finding ways to gain access to their customer base is one of the quickest ways to flood your business with new opportunities.

For the right business, a strategy devised to make your business irresistible to potential strategic partners may indeed produce the greatest ROI of any marketing activity. Below is a systematic approach for doing just that.
  • Discover - Identify the partners you would like to attract. You may be able to find some of these potential matches from your own experience and research, but your customers can also be a great source of suggestions. Ask them about other businesses they like doing business with.
  • Recruit - Now that you have your initial list of candidates, it's time to reach out and introduce yourself and your idea for partnering. Instead of simply cold calling, reach out and ask them to show you the best way to introduce them to your customers. If you are recruiting potential partners that your clients recommended, make the common connection between your shared customers a starting point. When you make this type of invitation you get their attention in a way that is potentially beneficial to them. This can make all the difference in helping you stand out.
  • Ignite - You should now have a handful of potential strategic partners interested in telling you more about their business and open to allowing the same from you. If you want to ignite your strategic relationships then come to the table with a winning, prepackaged way for them to immediately benefit, while introducing you to their customers.
  • Promote - The last step is to find ways to promote your partners and make them glad they got on board with your program. Create opportunities for them to meet your customers; teach them how to create content and promote; provide a blog for all your partners and allow them to contribute posts related to their field; put together events and allow them to make presentations and invite guests. 

When you take this platform approach to partnering you go from being a nice idea they may get around to some day to an irresistible marketing partner they can't stop raving about.


"The CEO Advisor Program is a great way to gain a CEO Advisor® and be part of a dynamic process.  What I realized the most after taking on the services of CEO Advisor, Inc. was that just because I knew my industry inside and out did not mean I knew how to grow my business profitably.


Before I hired CEO Advisor I was growing my business, but not seeing any more money in my pocket. It almost seemed like I was running in place. My CEO Advisor® helped me lay a foundation and create an immediate path to profitability. In a matter of months I was seeing an incredible velocity take place in my business. Mark helped me see opportunities that I never even dreamed of.


I can't believe how much money I was leaving on the table before CEO Advisor, Inc.  He showed me how to capture a lot more profit without expending more man-hours and capital.  The most exciting part is that I now have a very specific plan and forecast of my company's future. It looks very bright indeed. 


Thank you!"


CEO, Web Services Company

"As a President of a mid-size technology company, I have been very pleased with the services provided by CEO Advisor®. He contributed in many areas, but identified marketing and sales as our primary need. His guidance and contributions have been invaluable in establishing and maintaining a meaningful marketing and sales program for the company. He is a knowledgeable business advisor and a pleasure to work with."
CEO/President, Engineering Services/Manufacturing Company

Whether it is growing a business to the next level, turning a distressed company around or preparing a company for an exit, Mark's firm, CEO Advisor, Inc, provides a broad range of services and Mark is there for the CEO every step of the way."



Haynes & Boone, LLP

Words of Wisdom

"Every day, you'll have opportunities to take chances and to work outside your safety net. Sure, it's a lot easier to stay in your comfort zone.. in my case, business suits and real estate.. but sometimes you have to take risks. When the risks pay off, that's when you reap the biggest rewards."

Donald Trump

Real Estate Investor

Prime Minister of the U.K.