Lessons From the Front Lines

B.E.100s CEOs deploy a new battle plan to combat an unforgiving business environment

since 1946. The Consumer Price Index rose 2.6%, with the increase in the overall costs for goods and services due primarily to higher gas and food prices. Personal income decreased 1.7% in contrast to an increase of 2.9% in 2008. And America’s jobless rate reached as high as 10.1%.

Some be 100s suffered heavy blows with significant revenue losses but managed to contend for another year. be industrial/service companies that primarily supplied parts and services to the auto industry were hit hardest. Among those that suffered heavy losses was Bing Group, founded and formerly run by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. The supplier of automotive sheet metal sold its Bing Metals Group subsidiary to L&W Engineering Co. in November for an undisclosed amount and the local press has published several articles claiming suppliers are suing for unpaid bills. The Bing Group was not the only casualty last year, as  11 companies fell off the Industrial/Service roster.

Overall, be industrial/service companies posted a 12.53% drop in revenues to $17.905 billion and 5.47% decline in payroll to 67,937 employees. To stay competitive, chief executives took strategic steps in the face of a tough economy—repositioning their companies for new opportunities, diversifying products or services, bringing on new clients, and expanding market territories. CEOs who finessed pre-existing relationships with federal and state governments to garner lucrative contracts were notable winners, realizing revenue gains. Here are more of their strategies:

1 ADD TO YOUR PRODUCT PORTFOLIO. Gene Hale, president of G&C Equipment Corp. (No. 52 on the BE industrial/service companies list with $75 million in revenues) in Gardenia, California, was among those CEOs who expanded product lines to spur sales growth, with revenues up 36.4%. Since 1981, G&C has supplied everything from trailers, drill rigs, forklifts, cranes, man hoists, lumber, concrete, appliances, and power and hand tools. In 2009, the company’s inventory carried more widely used materials in the construction of large-scale commercial buildings, such as HVAC equipment, pipes, and valves. Says Hale: “We realized there was more money to be made in supplying items used in the building than the equipment used to dig the hole.”

2 THINK GLOBALLY. Trillion Communications Corp. (No. 29 on the BE industrial/service companies list with $140.6 million in revenues) has a strategic plan to grow the company through global expansion. Sales for 2009 were up 15.2% as the Bessemer,

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