HighLights

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Taking News at Face(book) Value

As you may be aware from my most recent post, I attended the 20th Annual Milken Institute Global Conference. The “Davos of the West” brings together speakers from the worlds of politics, finance, entertainment, and technology to discuss issues facing the world. This year’s theme was “Building Meaningful Lives,” and many of the discussions took on this area, with panels on healthcare in the developing world, aligning endowment investments with non-profits’ philanthropic missions, and improving public education. At times, it felt forced as well—witness the now annual “Private Equity bigwigs” panel comprised of four individuals collectively managing upwards of half a trillion dollars in investor capital.

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Case Study – Due Diligence and Valuation Analysis for a Fortune 100 CPG Company

HighPoint recently completed a due diligence and valuation engagement for a Fortune 100 CPG company. Our client was in the midst of building out its Enterprise Strategy team and had several opportunities under consideration, and limited capacity to properly review them, as part of a broader industry consolidation strategy.

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Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting: Woodstock or Mecca?

What was different this year is that it came right on the heels of my attendance at the 20th Annual Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills. The more I thought about both conferences, the more I wondered if the “Woodstock of Capitalism” nickname really held true. I began to wonder if maybe the Milken Global Conference was actually more like Woodstock and the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting was something more akin to Mecca

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Case Study – Sales and Marketing Strategy

HighPoint recently completed an engagement with a leading PE-backed B2B services provider in the broadly defined education market. The client is profitable and growing, with a high quality reputation with its customers. However, growth had recently slowed, and the private equity owner feared that the company would not reach its profitability and growth targets going forward. When a new CEO was hired, he asked HighPoint to support the development of a new sales and marketing strategy that would enable the company to meet its ambitious goals.

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Case Study – Channel Strategy

A multi-billion dollar global software provider recently approached HighPoint to create a formal channel strategy and to design and implement a program across SMB and Enterprise customer segments as a means to optimize growth. We deployed a senior consultant with 20+ years of experience leading strategy, marketing, and product management and new business growth initiatives, both as a McKinsey Senior Engagement Manager and as Senior Director of Strategy and Corporate Development for a Fortune 100 technology company.

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The Power of Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool that can make or break your business. As I’m sure you’re aware, United Airlines recently learned this lesson the hard way. What this incident illustrated was the speed with which a brand’s reputation can be impacted. In the age of smart phones and social media, companies can no longer ignore incidents or sweep them under the r

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Case Study – Revitalizing Care Management for Organizational Growth

HighPoint was recently engaged to assist an integrated health care delivery system to develop a new clinical care operating model. The client has received national recognition for its quality of care, and this success has fueled extraordinary membership growth, creating the need to reshape the organization in order to successfully administer its care delivery system on a much larger scale.

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Bouncing Back

Once again, much of the talk leading up to this year’s Super Bowl was about the ads and the record billions spent dazzling TV’s biggest audience of the year. Despite our advice from last year, ad revenues spiked a new high, exceeding last year’s $15.5 billion, with each 30-second spot costing $5 million or an astounding $166,667 per second.

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Case Study- Analytical, Strategic and Sales Operations Support for a Newly Independent Business

A mid-market software company engaged HighPoint Associates for assistance with financial analysis, business planning and sales operations as part of a larger effort to set its future strategic direction following its recent acquisition by a private equity firm.

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Case Study – Strategy Development for a Product Segment That Cuts Across Business Units

A global Fortune 100 consumer product company recently engaged HighPoint to guide strategy development for a segment that crossed multiple business units and locations.

The business segment had recently experienced significant changes, including vertical integration in the supply chain, having to deal with the implications of global trade deals such as TPP, and shifts in consumer demand.

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When Did Boomers Lose Their Cool?

When Disney starts bailing on the Boomers, is it the end of the ride for the generation that used to set the trend for just about everything?

Ditching “The Twilight Zone” for a new “Guardians of the Galaxy” theme on its popular Tower of Terror ride, Disney might not be the first to throw Boomers aside in pursuit of younger, hipper Millennials.

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Case Study: Flex Capacity

Instead of highlighting an individual project in this month’s Case Study, we want to revisit the concept of Interim Flex Capacity, a category of work that continues to be in strong demand from our client base. A meaningful percentage of HighPoint’s business has come from clients asking for additional “arms & legs” on a short-term, immediate need basis.

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Assessing New Market Opportunities

A mid-sized industrial equipment manufacturer based in the southeastern U.S. engaged HighPoint to evaluate potential new markets and growth opportunities for one of its key operating units.

HighPoint was introduced to and recommended for this project by the Company’s private equity owners, with whom we have a long-standing relationship. After a series of conversations with the Company’s CEO and other senior executives at the corporate and business unit level,

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Welcome To The Club

Much has been made lately of the emergence of subscription services in the marketplace. From Netflix to Birchbox to Trunk Club, these services have become ubiquitous. Some argue that this is just a passing fad, but with Unilever’s recent $1 billion acquisition of Dollar Shave Club, it’s clear this subscription economy is here to stay.

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Exploring the Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility

A few weeks ago, HighPoint had the pleasure of hosting an event in Boston with Mark Feldman, Founder and Managing Director of Cause Consulting. Mark is a nationally recognized leader in helping companies across all industries and sizes integrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their business strategies.

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An Octogenarian and Nonagenarian Walk into a Room Part 3

This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Warren and Charlie are business maestros. Everyone knows that. But listening to the two of them talk, I couldn’t help but think about how their business advice also translates to the world in general. What follows is a few of these bon mots of wisdom, partnered with some of my general observations.

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An Octogenarian and Nonagenarian Walk into a Room Pt. 2

This is Part 2 of a three-part series. I was lucky enough to have spent time with a few Berkshire Hathaway portfolio company CxO’s during my time in Omaha — from organized meetings to fortuitous seats on flights. What struck me most in these conversations was the consistency in their stories around joining the Berkshire Hathaway family.

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An Octogenarian and Nonagenarian Walk into a Room

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of a group that would be attending the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting in Omaha. How could I turn down the opportunity to attend what has been fondly referred to as the “Woodstock of Capitalism”? There was no way I wasn’t going.

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Case Study – Developing a Segmentation Framework and Corresponding Benefits Communication Strategy for Financial Services Firm

We were recently engaged to assist a Fortune 500 financial services firm in the development of a segmentation framework and corresponding benefits communication strategy for its network of financial advisors.

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Case Study – Merger Integration for a Consumer Products Company

A global consumer products company, for which we have previously completed multiple projects, recently engaged HighPoint to assist in their integration of a recently acquired producer of high-tech products for the children’s market. Complicating the integration effort was a need to quickly stabilize the business

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College Application Mania

Even if you don’t have a high school senior applying to college, you have at least a passing interest in what’s going on with college admissions. After all, today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce.

This year, colleges and universities hit a record number of applicants. Stanford won the top spot among the elites (earning itself a satirical punch from The New York Times in the process),

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Blame It On The Weather

Talking about the weather never gets old, even in corporate boardrooms.

Take the Polar Vortex. For many companies last winter, it was the go-to excuse for poor performance. Makes sense if you are cancelling thousands of flights or selling motorcycles, but selling products online? Debatable.

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This Year’s Deflategate: The Ads

I was lucky enough to attend Super Bowl XL. The experience is one in a million. Two top teams, amped up to play the most important game of their lives. But then the live action just stops, for what seems like a really long time. Why? The network is airing commercials.

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Case Study – Reducing Costs while Improving Operational Effectiveness

We were recently engaged by a leading provider of specialty technology equipment and systems to find cost-out opportunities and develop a more streamlined model for its North American operations. The client’s challenges included overlapping systems, errors in order entry and multiple handoffs on the front end of the business, all driving higher G&A costs.

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It’s a Small World

What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas.

Incidents and events once considered local issues are spilling over borders and having global repercussions.

With sanctions lifted and a massive stockpile waiting, Iran is ready to flood the market with more oil. But the ramifications to an already deflated price per barrel are global in reach.

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The Uncommon Core

I don’t claim to be an expert on parenting or education, but like many I had a fair amount of skepticism when I noticed how my daughter did her math problems. Gone were the rote times-tables, memorization, and lengthy explanations that I grew up with – all replaced by number lines and boxes. Exercising patience, I spent some time thinking and reading about the new theories in math education and admit, I became a convert.

As a recovering math geek, mathlete, and math camp attendee, I am rather passionate about numbers. I tend to think numbers are the answer to everything, and numerical data doesn’t just define how the world works, but actually makes the world go round. Numbers offer complex simplicity.

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Case Study – Change Management – Sourcing and Process Improvement

We recently worked with an international action sports manufacturer to ensure the successful integration of a new global sourcing organization and enterprise-wide process improvement initiatives (e-Commerce, Concept-to-Consumer and Supply Chain Logistics). HighPoint Associates deployed a former North Highland Senior Manager with over 15 years of experience

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Think Outside The Box

As I write this, a Bloomberg headline screams “Global Stocks Fall as China Moves Unnerve Markets,” which is certainly not the first bearish piece we’ve seen over the past few weeks. This challenging environment reinforces the importance of seeking new ways to grow and to enter new markets (see our recent InSights article for some thoughts on how to tackle this).

Despite all of the doom and gloom, plenty of businesses are finding ways to grow, whether by entering new geographic markets, business segments, or even new partnerships.

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Crystal Ball Gazing

It’s the time of year again when experts everywhere get out their crystal balls and predict what’s to come in the year ahead.

They measure historical trends, tap into reams of data and try to sound very smart. While many of their insights seem credible, some leave us scratching our heads. Certainly we will all use our smartphones more.

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Taking One’s Own Advice

We in the consulting world pride ourselves on giving good advice, hoping that our clients will heed it. If they don’t, shame on them. And if we ourselves don’t listen? Shame on us.

Guilty as charged.

Back in September I wrote a post about “Communications 101”, in which I campaigned for a return to face-to-face communications in lieu of emails or texts.

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Case Study – Establishing a PMO

We were recently engaged by a mid-market consumer goods company to help establish a Program Management Office (PMO) capability. Our client had recently put in place new leadership to drive an ambitious performance improvement program. Management quickly realized that driving a diverse and complex set of strategic initiatives would require a dedicated PMO to work closely with multiple key stakeholders throughout the organization.

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Just Message Me

My partner at HighPoint, Sumeet Goel, addressed the issue of poor written communication in a recent blog post. It got me thinking about our reliance on technology, particularly the effects of messaging and email.

Clearly, messaging and email make our lives easier. We can get more done in a shorter amount of time. We can avoid wasting time chatting about nothing and get to the meat of an issue. We can pose a perfectly crafted question to our client in an email, rather than risk stumbling over that issue in live conversation.

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Fan Loyalty

I’m a die-hard Philly sports fan.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, I was indoctrinated at an early age, living, eating and breathing the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers (much to my parents’ chagrin). I stuck with them despite a family move to the New York area, and got a second fix returning to Philly for college (picking up my Inquirer and Daily News from the 7-11 store on the corner of 38th and Sansom every day). And despite subsequent moves to other fan-fanatic cities like Boston, New York and now LA, I remain loyal to my teams.

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Case Study -Targeted Consumer Marketing Strategy

HighPoint was recently engaged by a U.S.-based financial services company seeking to accelerate market share growth and solidify its future position in a highly competitive market by reaching formerly untargeted consumers including U.S. Hispanics.

We deployed a seasoned general manager with over 25 years of experience in leadership positions at Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and award-winning Hispanic advertising agencies, who conducted a comprehensive internal and external situation assessment.

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Trust Me

When HighPoint Senior Advisor Jim Bennett penned a HighPoint InSights article last year on the importance of corporations building trust, who knew it would become such a hot topic in recent months? As Jim pointed out, trust isn’t just a nice perk achieved while growing market share and profitability. Trust can directly impact your ability to retain and grow your business.

Clearly this piece was not read by the former CEO of Volkswagen whose firm has lost the trust of just about everyone who matters, including his customers. VW didn’t just cheat on emission scores, they did potentially irreparable damage to their brand. This is perhaps the most extreme recent example of automakers running afoul of regulators and the public trust.

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The Lessons You Don’t Learn in Business School – Communications 101

I’m probably not alone in noticing that written communication has gotten, frankly, sloppy.

We could chalk it up to any number of culprits. Maybe it’s the proliferation of instant messaging that’s forcing abbreviations, conjugations and the like to become the norm. Or maybe it’s voice-to-text messaging, an over-reliance on auto-correct, big fingers on little screens, the list goes on.

You certainly can’t blame auto-correct for bad grammar. When did it become okay for a business email to read like a third-grader’s note, using “there” instead of “their” or “were” for “we’re”? If you’re like me, bad grammar instantly dilutes the merit of an email.

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Case Study – Sales Model Transformation and Interim Leadership of Sales Strategy/Operations

HighPoint Associates was recently asked by a SaaS business unit of a multi-billion dollar software company to conduct a diagnostic and retooling of their existing sales model. The head of the BU was looking to determine the optimal long-term model as well as a migration plan to minimize near-term revenue disruption.

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What is Good Leadership?

The question of leadership style has been recently addressed in the business pages as well, and it’s easy to see parallels between Trump’s brusqueness and the corporate culture at Amazon highlighted in a recent New York Times cover story. Some would argue that the approach taken by Jeff Bezos of Amazon is too harsh. But given his enterprise’s success, perhaps there is some merit to his “articles of faith” that demand excellence, candor and unerring commitment.

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Case Study – Interim Flex Capacity

For this month’s Case Study, instead of highlighting an individual project, we want to discuss a category of work that continues to be in strong demand from our client base. For years, a significant percentage of HighPoint’s business has come from clients asking for additional “arms & legs” on a short-term, immediate need basis. When faced with limited budgets and short project cycles where the traditional consulting firm isn’t the right fit, HighPoint is able to deploy an individual (or multiple individuals) as interim surge capacity.

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Weaving a Web for Omnichannel Marketing Success

Today’s customer journey has become an increasingly complex maze for marketers to follow, with multiple entry points into the purchasing cycle and new influences that can detract them from reaching the end point. Customers can simultaneously bring their digital shopping experience in-store, share product insights on social media and compare competitor’s products across physical and digital channels. To create the seamless, personalized shopping experience that consumers expect requires a careful balance of customization and brand consistency across all marketing channels, from traditional print and broadcast to in-store and experiential. With so much fluidity in the buying process, companies must re-evaluate the rigidity of their marketing approach.

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The Lessons You Don’t Learn in Business School – Developing a Stabilization Strategy

In my last post, I offered some guidance on weathering business downturns based on my experiences at HighPoint during the recession. This month, I want to move to the next phase of the cycle – stabilizing ahead of the upswing. Recessions and financial crises quickly teach you some tough lessons in business, so it’s easy to get excited once things start to turn around. But putting the business back on a steady course following a down cycle brings a host of new issues that can prove equally challenging. When I tried to get HighPoint back on track after the global financial crisis, I chased too many off-target deals – projects with minimal (or no) budgets or situations where a client had an idea of what they wanted help with, but no actual mandate to act on it – only to find that they created more headaches.

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Moving Past Fear – Secrets of Successful Post-Merger Integrations

Merger activity is at a fever pace this year, on pace to hit new record levels. But are many of these deals doomed to fail, driven more by fear than coherent strategy? Overcoming market pressures to pursue M&A activities that are both strategic and successful in driving business results takes more than simple due diligence. You need to understand the pitfalls along the path, have a strategy for success and a playbook that helps to guide the process.

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Case Study – Post-Merger Integration and Developing a Playbook for Future Acquisitions

After a new acquisition, getting the post-merger integration process right was only the first step in the process for a multi-billion dollar diversified insurance holding company. HighPoint provided guidance and oversight of the integration process, while also helping to develop a playbook to guide future acquisitions, completely with workplans, reusable tools and detailed templates to guide the pre- and post-merger assessment and integration process.

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The Lessons You Don’t Learn in Business School – How Do You Prepare for the Bad Times?

Economic downturns are one of those events for which there are no written rules. There are no courses that prepare you for the multitude of “what if” scenarios that can unfold when it strikes. I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of experiencing two downturns in very different ways, but I’ve learned a lot from the journey and emerged stronger for it.

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Brands – Know Thy Customer

A recent chat with my colleagues about our kids turned into a great lesson about building resonant brands. I’d mentioned my daughter’s recent obsession with everything Ivivva – the Lululemon spinoff brand for tween girls – and one of the folks around the table suggested the company must be losing out on a lot of brand equity by going with the “Ivivva” brand, instead of calling itself “LuluKids.” My first instinct was to agree, but then I thought about it a moment and realized that’s exactly the reason why Ivivva should go against the ‘brand equity’ third rail.

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Case Study – Optimizing Customer Segmentation & Retail Strategy in OTC Pharmaceuticals

We were recently engaged by a specialty OTC drug company as they looked to optimize their consumer segmentation and retail strategy. Intense competition in their industry made identifying new channels for potential growth challenging. Where should they invest their time and resources – the down-market consumer benefiting from the recent growth in the dollar store channel, or new premium products geared to reach higher income consumers?

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Building for Growth – Strategies for Dipping a Toe into New Markets

As anyone who has worked to build and expand a business knows all too well, growth is hard. Expanding your offering in existing markets rubs elbows with the competition and can erode differentiation, leading many companies to turn their sights overseas. But branching out into new regions has become more complex than ever. Globalization has opened the door to flourishing homegrown industries that can pose a potent competitive force in their own right, and unfamiliar local market dynamics, regulations and financial complexities can create a pile of red tape to cut through. We’ve found an experimentation approach is key to successfully tackling the risks, and reaping the rewards, of expanding abroad.

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The Lessons You Don’t Learn in Business School – Making That First Hire…Intelligently

When building a business from the ground-up, your first inclination may be to bootstrap it and do everything yourself; I know mine was. But after awhile you realize your time and energy is better spent on the 20 percent of things where you add the most value to the business. So you pivot to hiring folks who can support your growth. Sometimes you make mistakes along the way, but here is what I’ve learned from them.

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The Lessons You Don’t Learn in Business School – Building to Scale

Mid-May marks the start of the annual business school graduation season. Over the next few weeks, schools from Anderson and Booth to Wharton and Yale will graduate some of the top new business talent, who all feel “ready to lead organizations into the future.” I put that in quotes – why? Because that’s the mindset coming out of business school, of the graduates themselves…but the reality is that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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Case Study – Breaking Into Latin America

We were recently engaged by a private equity-backed, US based, specialty property/asset management company. The company faced an increasingly competitive market at home, and firm leadership felt that international markets, particularly Latin America, represented a large untapped opportunity for the company. But making the jump into unfamiliar markets is never an easy task, so HPA put a consultant in place to drive strategy and help ensure success.

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