In late May of 2005, Cliff Robbins, Senior Counselor with the Small Business Development Center based in Southeastern Massachusetts, called and requested that I immediately get in touch with Chris and Jim Veglas who own and operate CBM. The company is an ISO 9002-registrered enhanced mechanical solutions provider, first founded by their father in 1971.
Within two hours of my initial conversation with Jim, Cliff and I were on our way to discuss the production of a comprehensive marketing plan with the management team to be delivered by no later than July 15th, in order for new collateral materials and a new website to be functional by early fall. As with our roles on many other plans we've worked on together, Cliff would provide guidance and support for the overall marketing strategy, and Mike would "be in the trenches" with key company managers to ensure that the job got done on time.
CBM has traditionally supplied precision mechanical components and linear motion devices. Products have previously include gears, timing pulleys and belts, shafting, bearings, couplings; and ball screw, lead screw and acme screw assemblies. Items were provided as off the shelf or complete to print with all modifications ready for assembly. Supplemental products provided include a wide range of precision fasteners, box build components, access and assembly hardware, and mobility products including casters and mounts. In addition, CBM had also provided "value added" services such as kitting, bagging, light assembly, and rail cutting.
While the company was performing well, the management team recognized that a new strategy was required in order for the company to remain competitive even in the near future. "Given the trends to outsource offshore coupled with the commoditization and severe price-cutting facing our industry, we knew we had to make changes but were unclear as to how to best implement them" commented Chris in our initial meeting. The management team decided that the best way move forward was with the assistance of outside consulting help. "We chose to move forward in this fashion in order to gain outside perspective and ensure that we kept on track, given the focus that an outside consultant can provide" explained Jim.
First, an overall organizational assessment was performed with all key members of the management team participating, using a traditional SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis. Information was first gathered individually then discussed and prioritized in a series of meetings that were considered to be exciting and hopeful by the participants. Next, extensive web-based, Lexus Nexus and publication database market research was conducted. Robert Morris Associates data was also provided through contacts of Bejtlich & Associates. All research findings pointed toward CBM focusing increasingly on the importance of its "value added" opportunities and key strategic niche industries were identified in the process.
In addition to interviewing all key company employees, Mike traveled with outside sales associates to visit key customers for further meetings. A customer survey was quickly created and conducted in order to ascertain what factors were most important in the purchase decision for clients. This data was then compared to previous ISO data in which customers ranked CBM across similar factors in terms of performance. "What began to emerge was a clearly documented pattern indicating a need to restructure our company and revise our marketing strategy" stated Eric Lavendier, Director of Marketing. Eric further added "It wasn't that we didn't know these things already-it's just that documenting these issues and working with Mike helped us to more clearly implement solutions much more quickly than we would have been able to do on our own."
After an initial two-week research phase, it became clear that major changes were needed and upper management was open, ready and willing to act. Within a very brief period of time, significant personnel realignment decisions were implemented that were essential to help transform the company to achieve its new mission. A new company divisional structure was agreed upon. This occurred through a series of intensive working sessions with the newly promoted National Marketing Director, and through formal proposal meetings off campus to the company owners as well as through meetings with key managers and Cliff Robbins to ensure that we received SBDC advice and support for the new strategy.
New sales and marketing strategies evolved and were documented through collaboration with key managers so that the marketing plan that emerged reflected true ownership and much greater potential for effective implementation. 95% of the work for the CBM marketing plan was conducted on site by Bejtlich & Associates to maximize contact and involvement working with key managers and a highly effective CBM-employed college intern. The marketing plan document was delivered on time and within the scope of the original budget.
Now that a thorough, well-documented and agreed-upon marketing plan existed on paper and in the minds of all key managers, outside web and collateral design consultants could now be successfully brought in. The design team leader's closing comments were "Your timing is tight but given the work done on your marketing plan, we can meet your objectives-it just helps us to get the job done much more efficiently when you have a solid marketing plan to work from."