Operating In Rough Waters

B.E. Industrial/Service 100 companies seek to grow earnings by battening down the hatches

reach outside Michigan to snare lucrative contracts from foreign car manufacturing “transplants.” In fact, Global is cranking up its marketing machinery in Alabama where Mercedes operates a factory and where Hyundai and Honda are on their way. “If we are able to land this (business) with transplants, that would give us a much, much broader customer base,” he says. Currently, Ford, GM, and Chrysler provide 90% of Global’s revenues. Pickard wants sales evenly split four ways between foreign manufacturers and each of the Big Three. Global is intent on cementing a valuable joint venture with a major logistics company in an effort to diversify into the non-automotive arena — a smart plan since Ford and GM have announced major cutbacks in vehicle production.

Another auto supplier, Commodities Management Exchange (CMX), scored a 23.5% sales increase in 2002, from $170 million to $210 million. This accomplishment for the Northfield, Illinois, raw materials, commodities, purchasing, and management firm earned it the 16th spot on our BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list.

So what revved up sales? Ironically, the weak economy worked to CMX’s advantage as companies, including the Big Three, cut staff and outsourced functions. CMX’s profile has also been raised by the wartime economy, which has fueled volatility in the commodities marketplace. Increasingly, companies came to realize that managing price risk for raw materials is essential to their bottom line. “I attribute a lot of our success and growth to the fact that we stayed on course with our original business plan and were able to — with good management and a working team — execute it and leverage off of our existing relationships,” says CEO A. Demetrius Brown.

Moreover, Brown was able to extend the company’s range of product offerings as businesses were pulling back. Using its commodities pricing skills, CMX developed a partnership with the Board of Trade Clearing Corp. to clear derivative transactions through its subsidiary, Guaranty Clearing Corp., in Chicago. Another new division serves as a professional service organization that exclusively helps corporations streamline their processes and trim employees. And Brown, a former college hoops star, forged a strong relationship between a major sports and entertainment promoter and his CMX Sports & Entertainment firm to help professional athletes and entertainers achieve and preserve their wealth.

BE 100S food companies, like Baldwin Richardson Foods Co. (No. 51 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list), have cooked up some rather healthy revenues during 2002. Through the introduction of new products and the growth of its existing business of toppings and condiments, sales of the Frankfort, Illinois-based company rose 12.7% from $62 million to $69.9 million. Roughly $7 million of Baldwin Richardson’s added revenue came from a major new partnership with the Kellogg Co.; they now produce fruit fillings for the food giant’s North American products. CEO Eric Johnson maintains that the partnership will contribute another $16 million to 2003 sales.

International turmoil, however, has presented some major challenges. Unrest on West Africa’s Ivory Coast is affecting the production of cocoa, a key ingredient for Baldwin

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