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What Separates Successful Companies From Also-Rans?

Date: Aug 07, 2013 @ 07:00 AM
Filed Under: Miscellaneous Topic

Amid signs that the economy is strengthening, are your clients positioned for success? See if they have these building blocks for success, and if not, work with them to achieve success together.

Great Vision

Success without great vision is unlikely to last long. For an example, you need only look to a once struggling Apple which brought back Steve Jobs for vision and direction.  Ask your client’s CEO to articulate their direction for the next year, and for the five year plan. If they can, whether you agree with it or not, it should give you comfort. If they can’t, you should understand why. Having a clearly defined vision is essential to staying great.


It’s surprising how many business owners don’t know the details that make them successful, don’t understand the basic financials, or don’t know the business fundamentals to keep up with the changing marketplace. Does your client pass this litmus test?

In addition, as the company’s lender, how well do you know your borrower?  Are you able to understand their needs, which makes you more valuable?  Is there seasonality or an acquisition strategy that may offer an opportunity to deploy additional outstandings to support growth?  Do the company leaders give you enough lead time for a sound credit decision or are requests done at the last minute?


Does your client stay focused on the ultimate goal of long-term success?  For example, say a company with $200 million in revenue drops 2% or $4 million after paying exceptional salaries, bonuses and perks. Those leaders usually feel like they have had a good to great year. 

However, they could have easily materially increased their profits and cash flow instead.  For example, I had a client in an out-of-favor sector, with sales of approximately $150 million and earning about $8 to $9 million on an EBITDA basis. They had a toll-free phone number that was costing about $15,000 per year.  They decided to discontinue it for a variety of reasons, including a cheaper per minute rate and the fact that the majority of their customers didn’t care if they had a toll-free number.  Even though they were earning over $8 million dollars, they were still laser focused on the bottom line – $15K matters.


Human capital makes a business go, and outstanding organizations have great people that make the difference. One leader I work with rarely takes his iPhone or Blackberry with him on vacation, an oddity in today’s 24/7 connected world. His reason: if I can’t go away for one week without being on call as usual, than I have the wrong people back at the company managing things. His goal was to hire exceptional people and allow them to lead and perform, providing direction without interfering. 

Identifying, recruiting, retaining and rewarding exceptional talent is key. Acknowledging people doing an excellent job will set you apart and have a significant impact beyond your initial words. It takes so little time and effort to do and leaves a positive, lasting impression.

Expect Excellence

Successful companies never settle for mediocrity. The late Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker once said “if you are going to be the janitor; be the best janitor that you can be.” 

I’d always rather have a person who was light on experience but had a great work ethic and confidence without arrogance. Years ago I was a financial analyst in the gaming industry and my client had been unsuccessful in filling the Casino Controller spot.  An employee who had been with the company six years in a variety of positions of increasing responsibility lobbied for the job. Even though he didn’t have the stated requirements, he asked for the opportunity and promised if he didn’t perform the company could replace him. Today his resume includes having been General Manager for multiple Casino/Hotel complexes. 

Courage, Discipline and a Positive Attitude

When it comes to human capital, there are certain traits that are the foundations of success. I have found these traits in people who have served in the military -- their work ethic and attitude are second to none.  One individual who used to work for our firm said early on in his training that honor, discipline and courage are ingrained in everything they do. Nothing makes up for hard work, positive attitudes, and courage. At your company and your clients, find those that fit this description and provide them the resources to succeed. It will pay significant dividends. 

A Final Thought

Identify and nurture these essential elements to put your clients and your own organization on the road to success. Growth, profits, cash flow and achievement will follow.

Robert D. Katz
Managing Director | EisnerAmper
Robert D. Katz, CTP, CPA, MBA is a Managing Director at EisnerAmper and is the former President of Executive Sounding Board Associates, LLC. Katz has been named one of the top restructuring consultants in the United States. He has led numerous operational and financial turnarounds for both publicly traded and private companies, generating substantial cash flow and operating improvements. He has acted as an interim restructuring officer for companies both in and out of bankruptcy. He sits on the CFA’s Education Foundation; is a former TMA Executive Committee member and a current TMA Board Member.

He is also an Adjunct Professor of Finance and Strategic Management at Temple University. He can be reached at (215)738-5542 or
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