Case Summaries

Read the entire list of our representative accomplishments for client companies, or click on any of the categories below to jump to the relevant case summaries.

Organizational Performance Improvement
Business Profitability and Growth Turnaround
Strategic Plan and Vision Development
Selling Effectiveness Coaching


Organizational Performance Improvement

Situation

Privately held $11 million manufacturer/integrator of industrial material handling systems lacked strategic direction and organizational discipline. Board had just fired the CEO for poor leadership – failing to connect effectively with employees and gain their buy-in to relevant business improvement programs that had been developed. Sales diversification was poor, with revenue highly dependent on a single customer.

Approach

Engaged by the Advisory Board as interim CEO for an initial 3-month period, with the objective of getting staff “on the same page” regarding the company’s priorities and resource allocation. Following an assessment of the business status and a series of one-on-one meetings with every employee, replaced three key managers. Initiated a comprehensive strategic planning process involving every function of the company, gaining agreement with staff on one- to three-year goals and action commitments. Implemented a new sales compensation structure to encourage customer diversification. Initiated marketing program to support awareness-creation in the industry.

Results

Board extended initial engagement to 10 months. Record revenue was achieved in first year. Company’s first strategic plan was approved by the Board. Successfully recruited a full-time CEO to the company.


Situation

Billion-dollar global market leader in radio communications equipment was experiencing a decline in revenue and profit from its International division. Management concern centered on the effectiveness of its organizational structure and leadership.

Approach

Retained by Group President to conduct a comprehensive organizational assessment of roles and responsibilities, reporting relationships, adequacy of internal business processes and effectiveness of the division’s leadership. Interviewed over 50 key employees, identified critical leadership and internal business process issues. Delivered a set of clear, actionable recommendations to management designed to improve scalability and profitability of the organization and its business model.

Results

Recommendations accepted by Group President; initiation of corrective actions.


Situation

$4 million tool-and-die manufacturer’s Owner had tired of working 60-hour weeks. Key managers were unproductive and unenthusiastic in their roles. Owner’s goal of selling the business was blocked by the fact that the business could not run without his day-to-day presence.

Approach

Retained by Owner to assess the situation, make recommendations and assist in implementation. Conducted review of internal planning and communication practices within the company - met with each employee and manager to identify common themes of need, with respect to business process and morale. Coached owner on effective planning, goal-setting, communication and delegation techniques.

Results

Business profitability was increased, morale improved and owner found more time for recreation. Increased capability and confidence among company managers positioned the business for acquisition and a resulting liquidity event for the owner.


Situation

Corporate VP for $1 billion utility company lacked “connection” and rapport with her peers, yielding difficulty in resolving issues and in gaining endorsement of her proposed policies.

Approach

Retained by VP to provide personal coaching on management and communication style. Conducted confidential interviews with 12 organizational peers, developed common themes on observed style and effectiveness, provided understanding to client on issues perceived and constructive assistance in style modification.

Results

After one year VP was promoted to oversee entire function for the five-utility parent company. President of the company stated that her overall effectiveness improvement was “remarkable and significant.”


Situation

Founder/Owner of $70 million computer services company, concerned that his method for running operations was slowing it down, desired to leave the business, but lacked clear succession-planning.

Approach

Retained by Owner to evaluate the company’s business model and service offerings, make management process recommendations and help identify succession plan options. Assessed owner’s management style with respect to the needs of the business and those of his team, recommended shifts in the services offered and target markets pursued. Recommended changes for how Owner might increase his effectiveness in directing the company and identified a rationale and process for his gradual withdrawal from the business. Developed succession plan actions to be taken.

Results

Within two years Owner merged his company with another and positioned an identified successor as President, resulting in a clear path toward retirement and a successful liquidity event.


Situation

Owner of $1 million services company, untrained in professional management techniques, complained of employee turnover, lack of loyalty and understanding of how performance in their roles was critical to the company’s success. Two disaffected former employees had recently incurred criminal indictments regarding theft of company’s customers and divulging proprietary information to competitors.

Approach

Retained by Owner to perform a thorough analysis of the day-to-day business process, planning and communication practices in the company. Implemented a process for goal-setting, accountability awareness and weekly information meetings conducted by the owner for all employees.

Results

Within four months employee productivity, morale and retention rate had improved measurably through the creation of a more cohesive culture and sense of team accountability. Owner’s enjoyment of going to work and his quality of life increased significantly. Company improved its positioning for growth.


Business Profitability and Growth Turnaround

Situation

Private equity fund, dissatisfied with two years of losses, fired the CEO of the $6 million technology company he founded 10 years earlier. Sales had declined 50%, the bank loan was in default, past-due obligations to suppliers exceeded $1.3 million. Employee morale was very low.

Approach

As interim CEO, worked with the management team to develop a “get-well” plan for the company detailing cost savings, improved selling effectiveness through coaching and revised incentive plans. Improved employee morale through engagement and training in the area of selling effectiveness and improving relationship with the company’s board. Stabilized the supplier base through personal meetings and relationship building, sharing with them the strategy going forward and negotiating revised payment plans for past-due. Negotiated revised terms with the bank. Conducted intensive industry networking to identify a new equity investor.

Results

Within three months achieved lower break-even revenue level and turned positive EBIDTA for the second half of that year. Succeeded in consummating $2.3 million new equity investment for the company to support forward growth strategies.


Situation

Privately held $30 million contract manufacturer’s owner filed Chapter 11. Unprofitable, cash reserves depleted. Sales falling, rapid loss of customers, COD terms with suppliers, employee turnover high.

Approach

Engaged by Owner as interim President with full operating responsibility, shared financial decision-making. Downsized team and worked with them to cut costs and pared non-critical activities, strengthened customer and supplier relationships and improved communication with bank.

Results

Within four months, lowered break-even sales level to $12 million, retained three largest customers and 75% of others, re-gained terms with suppliers. Arranged for sale of company to another local manufacturer. Owner avoided extended cash outflow and eliminated personal debt; 80 jobs were retained in the community.


Situation

$5 million metal-fabrication company, a family-run business for more than 80 years, now incurring losses and falling behind in economic competitiveness. Poorly positioned for growth but with opportunities in its niche market.

Approach

Retained by Family Board as part-time CEO. Outdated business practices required fresh approaches and wholesale culture change, without losing valued people. Reorganized roles & responsibilities, eliminated unproductive people & practices. Established new direct-sales effort to diversify customer base. Secured municipal financing to upgrade facility and equipment. Implemented new computer system to improve build planning, quoting and inventory control.

Results

Within six months business returned to stable profitability. New customers were captured, plant was significantly modernized; employees gained new confidence in their abilities as a team. Board extended interim CEO engagement.


Situation

$16 million publicly held manufacturer of advanced electrical power sources was not growing and incurred continuing losses. R&D spending was substantial, yet new product introductions had been delayed for more than two years. Workforce appeared unmotivated and disorganized. Value of company shares had fallen from $12/sh to $5/sh during past 12 months.

Approach

Hired as Chief Operating Officer, implemented quality circles and improved communication with shop floor personnel to identify and resolve problems. Established initial manufacturing planning systems, hired new managers in most key functions, including a CTO, evolved culture toward employee collaboration and customer service. Worked closely with company’s Board to improve the governance process.

Results

Within two years sales were increased to $32 million, share value grew from $5 to $16/share. Within five years company sales approached $100 million and business was consistently profitable.


Situation

$3 million high-tech manufacturer of laser imaging subsystems for the printing/publishing and cinema markets, still run by its technical founder, was unprofitable. 80% of sales dependent on one customer, who was curtailing orders. Existing investor base unwilling to provide funding needed for turnaround. Bank preparing to call its $500K loan. Business lacked a strategic plan.

Approach

Hired by the Board as CEO, also made a personal investment in the company. Business suffered from a business and economic model out-of-sync with market needs and cost realities. Worked with founder to focus efforts on new product development and cost reductions. Revised business model, developed new strategic plan, secured bank line-of-credit without personal guarantees.

Results

Within 18 months company returned to profitability, new customers were won including a large contract with a Fortune 500 company. Product offering was successfully transitioned into custom integrated systems, versus standard components. Five years later company was acquired, giving all 120 investors liquidity.


Strategic Plan and Vision Development

Situation

$300 million privately held electronics manufacturer desired to diversify business from primarily military markets toward industrial applications for its products and technology.

Approach

Retained by company Chairman to lead the business and scientific team in development of a strategic plan for commercialization and adaptation of existing products and technology.

Results

Within three months delivered a Phase I plan detailing the company’s relevant intellectual property and potential new product applications, identified value-engineering efforts and manufacturing processes required for success in industrial markets. Performed assessment emerging technologies and target market needs.


Situation

Small, family-owned financial services firm desired to increase assets under management but could not do so profitably by focusing on existing client base. Founder was hesitant to change ways of doing business, yet realized that the business would not otherwise grow.

Approach

Retained by owner to facilitate development of strategic plan. Worked with firm’s principals to identify and analyze the new target market, develop a revised value proposition and assess ways to increase awareness of the firm’s capabilities.

Results

Within three years average size of portfolios under management increased from $100K to $300K and established the firm’s growth potential in its new target markets. Company was subsequently acquired by a larger financial management company – Founder gained liquidity, continues to work under new management.


Situation

Privately held $30 million manufacturer of material handling equipment and industrial cranes needed an “outside” businessperson to design a comprehensive strategic planning process and lead the management team through development of the plan. Desire was to gain fresh thinking and address key criteria for the business roadmap via a best-practices approach to planning and an outside facilitator for developing the team’s ideas.

Approach

Met with business owner to confirm objectives for the planning process and the resultant plan. Met with nine members of the management team to gain their input regarding the business’s opportunities and strategic issues and to share with them the initial blueprint for carrying out the planning process. Subsequently tailored the planning process, as well as approach to the group facilitation sessions, to meet the needs of the owner, enable the team’s rapid contribution in group sessions and gain their “buy-in” to the subsequent plan.

Results

Created a comprehensive business roadmap which met the needs of the owner and was supported by practical, actionable strategies and action plans. Supported subsequent quarterly reviews of progress against the plan. Was retained by the president in the following year to lead the team through a second planning process.


Situation

Newly formed economic development entity, privately funded with $2.5 million, required a plan for supporting new business growth in its geographic region.

Approach

Retained by CEO to develop a roadmap reflecting an optimum approach to supporting technology commercialization and emerging businesses. Benchmarked “best practices” across the country, identified required content for support of entrepreneurs and community coordination, developed a plan tailored to resources and the culture of the local business community.

Results

Within one year organization was successfully implementing many of the recommended initiatives and there developed clear evidence of increased entrepreneurial activity, funding and support which has positioned the community for increased growth.


Situation

$3 million developer of custom software realized risk of existing business model required addition of standardized products, to smooth out revenue stream, diversify customer base and generate higher profitability. Management lacked a roadmap to achieve these objectives.

Approach

Retained by President/CEO to lead team through assessment of company’s core competencies and identification of new market opportunities; identified key strategies/actions required to implement a “standardized” software product line for the targeted business applications. Recommended acquisition strategy.

Results

Within one year company was successfully marketing a suite of new products, improving profitability and growth positioning. Continued expansion currently being enhanced via selective acquisitions.


Situation

$500 million automotive parts manufacturer, with 17 plants worldwide, lacked a formalized strategic planning process involving key operating people among the staff, factories and field sales-force.

Approach

In role as CFO, developed a comprehensive strategic planning process from scratch – working with key management and staff in each functional area and geographic location of the company. Led the annual planning process and established interim progress checkpoints.

Results

Over four-year period company was able to optimize its response to new market opportunities and to leverage emerging technologies toward new product development. Sales grew to $750 million, profitability achieved a 50% return-on-net-assets. Planning model was subsequently emulated by Corporation parent.


Situation

Family owners of $120 million producer of Italian specialty foods desired growth to $150M within three years but lacked a cohesive business roadmap identifying strategic priorities and requisite resource requirements so that they could align cash-flow planning to support the Plan. Issues were also present in product strategy relative to current distribution versus opportunities in higher growth markets.

Approach

Designed, developed and facilitated a comprehensive strategic planning process with 14 members of the management team. Assisted in the identification of strategic priorities and creating rationale for decisions around them, identified looming competitive and regulatory issues which needed to be addressed, organized the development of specific action plans and timing to support each functional strategy.

Results

Company achieved clarity regarding key priorities for the coming three years and buy-in by each member of management who would be charged with carrying out the Plan. Most importantly, the planning process drove difficult decisions regarding product strategy – which products should be dropped and which should be given stronger support and broader distribution.


Selling Effectiveness Coaching

Situation

$15 million producer of complex manufacturing automation equipment was “stuck” at current revenue level despite significant efforts in field sales and a high level of quoting activity.

Approach

Retained by CEO and majority shareholder to implement an enhanced approach to strategic selling and relationship development, coach sales engineers and management on new sales process skills.

Results

Within three months team was utilizing process and applying new skills/approach to identifying and pursuing new customers. Within three years company had tripled its sales to over $50 million and had entered new, higher-growth market segments. Improved cash flow allowed further expansion through acquisitions.


Situation

$2 million facility management company was dependent on a single business development person whose track-record for winning new business was poor, despite a high level of effort. Company was also not generating sufficient leads with which to begin the selling effort.

Approach

Retained by business Owner to work with under-performing salesperson and company principals. Evaluated root-causes for long selling-cycles, assessed problems with existing approach to targeting prospects and developing the relationship. Established weekly “sales funnel” review process to ensure progress and to identify more effective approaches to difficult customer-prospects.

Results

Business held its sales level in a down market. Salesperson’s deficiencies were identified and replacement was hired. Company was successfully acquired by another, larger firm in the same industry.


Situation

$100 million privately held, multi-division company lacked a formalized sales review process, leaving the owner without ability to forecast new orders nor a way of identifying performance deficiencies and requirements for skills improvement among the sales team.

Approach

Retained by Owner to coach salespeople as well as general managers on Selling Effectiveness. Fine-tuned the team’s selling approach via the POP, 4-A’s and 3-S’s tools. Implemented bi-weekly reviews of progress toward new orders.

Results

Company’s growth rate was increased; production requirements planning and cash-flow forecasting accuracy improved; productivity among most salespeople grew significantly – marginal performers were more easily identified and given training assistance or terminated.


Situation

$1 million telecom services company, after 10 years of modest growth, had hit a plateau. Owner saw significant potential for new, larger customers but sales calls had not been successful. Expanding sales to the existing, small customer market was not feasible due to declining profitability and pricing resistance.

Approach

Retained by the Owner to assess the existing approach to winning new accounts. Analyzed the target market’s needs and developed optimum approach to increasing awareness and interest in the services being offered. Reconstructed the value proposition of the company and worked with team to refine their selling skills.

Results

Within 6 months company had captured several new accounts in its target market, including one with the potential to double overall sales.

When something needs to shift... O'Brien Associates.

I want to know what keeps a client up at night. While I’m engaged with clients, I want to live their business lives with them. This is how I can be most effective in helping them.

Roger O'Brien,
President

When something needs to shift... O'Brien Associates.
s e r v i c e s
 
When something needs to shift... O'Brien Associates.    
When something needs to shift... O'Brien Associates.      
When something needs to shift... O'Brien Associates.      
When something needs to shift... O'Brien Associates.