Pursuing A Strategic Vision

B.E. 100s CEOs are focused on maintainingtheir competitive edge today, while positioningtheir companies for tomorrow's opportunities

Burrell Communications Group (No. 9 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with $134.7 million) took a different tack. The Chicago-based marketing communications agency simply bought into a new market. Last year, Burrell acquired DFA Communications Inc., a New York City-based general market advertising agency that specializes in direct marketing and includes NYCE, NYNEX, Citicorp/Citibank, Pitney Bowes and Dow Jones & Co. as its clients, adding to a roster that already includes Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Sears. The acquisition is another step in CEO Thomas Burrell’s vision to create a full-service agency that can handle the advertising, public relations, direct marketing and interactive media needs of his clients. The move comes at a time when Burrell is feeling the competitive heat from such BE 100s concerns as Rush Communications (No. 54 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with $37 million in gross sales), which recently launched an advertising agency, and the nation’s top black-owned advertising agency, Uniworld Group Inc.(No. 6 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with $157.87 million in gross sales), as well as general-market firms that are aggressively pursuing urban and youth markets. For example, advertising giant DDB Worldwide, recently teamed with black filmmaker Spike Lee to create Spike/DDB, an agency that will develop campaigns targeted at this consumer base.

“The acquisition enables us to strengthen our position in segmented marketing and maintain our competitive advantage,” asserts Burrell. DFA has already borne fruit for Burrell, which celebrated its 25th year in business in 1991. The new division generated $34 million in gross revenues. Not a bad anniversary present.

Last year, Richmond, Virginia-based Community Pride Food Stores (No. 42 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with $47.5 million) continued its acquisition binge, buying a new combo supermarket, complete with a floral shop, pharmacy and banking services.
“We saw the acquisition as a plus because it was in a community that had more racial and economic diversity than our other locations,” CEO Jonathan Johnson says of the addition to his eight-store chain, which brings in an average of 30,000 customers and roughly $275,000 in gross revenues per week. But gaining the new outlet has not satiated his appetite for additional outlets. He is currently scouting for similar candidates in other urban markets within the state.

The battle for market share among the Big Three automakers continues to go full throttle. As a result, car buyers have received myriad incentives, ranging from cheaper leasing arrangements to cut-rate prices on used cars through the growing number of auto superstores. The BE auto dealers have fine-tuned their businesses so that they will not be run over by the competition. Many have followed the tactic of their automotive kinsmen by slashing prices and offering rebates and deals. The long-haul operators, however, know that expanding
into strategic markets and topnotch customer service are the keys to igniting franchise success.

That’s how Oak Park, Michigan-based Mel Farr Automotive Group zoomed to the top spot of the BE AUTO DEALER 100 with gross sales of $503.3 million, an impressive 31.8% spike from the

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