Growing pains

As difficult as it is to turn around a company in trouble, spurring it to growth can be even harder. “As difficult as turning a company around is, it’s harder to grow a company,” says Steven Gerard, chairman and CEO of CBIZ, a Cleveland-based company that has experienced both a turnaround and growth in the last five years. “Growing a company means you’re in the market competing; turning a company around means most of the resources and activities are within your control. So growing a business is not easy for anyone.”

Gerard came to CBIZ, a provider of outsourced business services, in 2000, and despite the company’s growth premise of aggressive acquisition, it was in desperate need of stability.

“During the formative years of the company, the primary focus was on building the company through acquisitions, and it wasn’t focused on integrating those acquisitions for the benefit of the client,” Gerard says. “We said, ‘Let’s figure out what we have, and then let’s figure out who our client is, what do they truly need and how do we get the enormous resources that we have to service the client’s need?’”

Within 30 days of joining the company, Gerard’s turnaround team reorganized the management structure and presented a two-year plan focusing on stability in terms of finances, employees and market. The plan led to the company’s vision — to provide multiple products and services to primarily middle-market companies.

CBIZ adopted a three-pronged growth strategy — offering new products and services; making 12 acquisitions in the past year-and-a-half; and cross-serving its client base.

“We know every dollar of cross-referred business — when it comes in, what the status of it is, when it closes,” he says. “We calculate our earnings both in terms of total earnings and same business-unit revenue, so we’re able to track our organic growth, our acquisition growth and our cross-serving growth.”

Gerard says companies need to have a process in place that sets goals and that can be reviewed on a timely basis so they know when adjustments need to be made.

“As good as your plan is, it isn’t going to be perfect, and somewhere along the line, you’re going to make adjustments,” he says.

HOW TO REACH: CBIZ, (216) 447-9000 or