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Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers Hardcover – Sep 12 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bibliomotion (Sept. 12 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1629560065
  • ISBN-13: 978-1629560069
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.3 x 22.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #181,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review


“Problems specific to midsize companies are not always visible. Sher writes passionately about the ways in which leaders can become aware of these challenges and rally their management teams. This is a quiet but hard-hitting game plan.”
Publishers Weekly

“Robert Sher has written a very important book in these times of economic uncertainty, and every executive team member of a midsized company should read it.”
Warren Bennis, author and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California

“Through interviews with CEOs as well as real life case studies, author Robert Sher shows readers how to keep a midsized company healthy and avoid the seven dangerous mistakes that kill growth.”
Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager and Legendary Service

“Robert Sher offers powerful insights into how to address the critical issues that can derail growth in midsize companies.”
Douglas Conant, former CEO, Campbell Soup Company and the New York Times bestselling author of TouchPoints

Mighty Midsized Companies superbly identifies the seven silent killers which routinely throw a wrench into a company’s development and provides excellent solutions for fostering success. A terrific read.”
Stephen M. R. Covey, author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller The Speed of Trust, and coauthor of Smart Trust

“What a valuable book! Sher understands the unique opportunities—and temptations—that middle market companies meet on their road to growth.”
Thomas A. Stewart, executive director, National Center for the Middle Market

“Robert Sher’s insightful and useful book could only have been created by someone who’s been immersed in this world as practitioner and thought leader. Let’s hope that this book is the first of many to shine the spotlight of public attention on this high-performing sector and its leaders.”
George Gendron, long-time editor-in-chief of Inc. Magazine and founder of The Build Network for mid-sized companies, a co-venture of Inc. Magazine and Fast Company

About the Author

For more than two decades, Robert Sher was the CEO of a mid-sized company. Since 2007 he’s been a personal advisor to more than 80 mid-market company CEOs and their management teams, helping them identify the growth killers and help the company recover. Since 2011, he’s been researching the vulnerabilities of the middle market, and has interviewed over 100 middle market executives (most of whom are not his clients). Sher began writing about these issues as a columnist at Forbes.com in early 2012, the publication’s only contributor focused on the management challenges of mid-market companies. More recently, Sher was asked by CFO magazine to write a regular column in its online edition for mid-market chief financial officers.

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Format: Kindle Edition
The most valuable business books tend to be research-driven and that is certainly true of this one. As Robert Sher explains, “In December 2011, [he and his research associates] began a series of interviews with leaders of midsized companies to explore the factors that facilitate or kill growth…Between December 2011 and July 2013, we conducted 101 interviews, many of them recorded and transcribed, in which executives discussed their experiences at 110 companies [listed on Pages 211-220]. We conducted many (66) in person and the rest by telephone. Some executives spoke to us under the condition of complete anonymity, and are not [identified].”

Sher is one of the first business thinkers of whom I am aware who focuses entirely on midsized companies: those whose annual sales are between $10-million and one billion dollars. The almost 200,000 midsized companies in the U.S. account for about a third of the U.S. GDP and a third of all U.S. jobs. He wrote this book for those who are leaders in these companies to help them face unique challenges. He duly notes that their nature may be essentially the same but the extent (i.e. scale) of each challenge can differ significantly for those leading companies with $10-million in annual sales companies than for those leading companies with one billion dollars in annual sales.

I agree with Sher that there are no formulas, templates, solutions, and “secret sauce” appropriate to all midsized companies. During the last 25 years, I have worked closely with more than 700 owner/CEOs and their associates in companies with annual sales between $5-million and $50-million and learned first-hand that, although many of them ask the same questions and face the same problems, the answers and solutions not only differ between and among companies.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9f179054) out of 5 stars 71 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f183b88) out of 5 stars So you want to be a CEO, senior manager or Board member ....... Aug. 30 2014
By James F. Clouser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mighty Midsized Companies is a wonderfully concise description of the problems, issues, and pitfalls facing mid-sized companies and, more importantly, how to address them. As a CEO, President, or Board member of start-ups, midsized, and public companies in the US and Europe for 20+ years, I found myself nodding my head in agreement or smiling throughout the book. I thought Robert must have been with me. With the reading of every chapter, I found myself reminiscing about an example of the points that Robert was making and agreeing with his conclusions and remedies. The book helped me organize my own thinking in some cases and educate me in others. If you were a CEO, you will find the book validating. If you aspire to be a CEO, you will find the book instructive. If you are a CEO, you will find the book exceptionally helpful. I wish it had been available to me during my work life. I would have been much more efficient - saving myself time and heartache. As I sit here and write this review attempting to denote the points that are particularly relevant for me, I run the risk of reiterating large sections of the book. However, make sure that your takeaways include the six reasons why midsized companies are different and the seven silent growth killers.

I am glad that Robert wrote this book. His experience, thought and insight provide me with my own reference document to reminisce about business situations that I faced. I will use many of the concepts (with proper recognition) in my pending graduate school teaching career. Having an MBA and a CPA designation and having attended training courses at Xerox and Chrysler Corporation, I have read many books on strategy, management, operational analysis, and systems. I would rank Mighty Midsized Companies on a short list of the most germane books to be read if you are a senior level manager, CEO or Board member today.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f183bdc) out of 5 stars Must-read for mid-size company CEO's, executives and managers Sept. 1 2014
By Charles B. Doyle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Sher gets right to the point. As a consultant to medium and small companies, it is frustrating for me to explain to a mid-sized company manager why those MBA case studies don’t apply and won’t work for them. This book summarizes why managing a mid-sized company is different as it relates to risk tolerance and talent development. Then Sher exposes 7 problem areas specific to mid-size companies. Meeting deadlines, tinkering, “shoot from the hip” strategies, acquisitions, operations, cash management, and dysfunctional leaders. Many of the case studies reveal the importance of common sense which isn’t too common at all. Like: let your cash flow finance your growth, don’t leverage the entire company on a single strategy when you’ve got a solid performer that is profitable, don’t do M&A if your staff doesn’t know M&A, recruit right. The people he interviewed are highly intelligent and motivated. And they still made these mistakes. It’s much cheaper to read and learn from their examples. The nuggets are non-stop as he goes deep into data, case studies and analysis in each of these 7 areas. His personas he describes from a dysfunctional company hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve personally worked with every single one of the “types” he described.

The real life company examples keep the book engaging and easy to read. The lessons are so fundamental and specific to mid-sized companies yet so easily overlooked that I expect that managers won’t just read this book and then store it on a shelf. Managers and leaders would be well served to keep this book handy on their desk, reviewing it over and over every few months.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f186030) out of 5 stars How midsized companies can achieve and then sustain organizational health Sept. 2 2014
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The most valuable business books tend to be research-driven and that is certainly true of this one. As Robert Sher explains, "In December 2011, [he and his research associates] began a series of interviews with leaders of midsized companies to explore the factors that facilitate or kill growth...Between December 2011 and July 2013, we conducted 101 interviews, many of them recorded and transcribed, in which executives discussed their experiences at 110 companies [listed on Pages 211-220]. We conducted many (66) in person and the rest by telephone. Some executives spoke to us under the condition of complete anonymity, and are not [identified]."

Sher is one of the first business thinkers of whom I am aware who focuses entirely on midsized companies: those whose annual sales are between $10-million and one billion dollars. The almost 200,000 midsized companies in the U.S. account for about a third of the U.S. GDP and a third of all U.S. jobs. He wrote this book for those who are leaders in these companies to help them face unique challenges. He duly notes that their nature may be essentially the same but the extent (i.e. scale) of each challenge can differ significantly for those leading companies with $10-million in annual sales companies than for those leading companies with one billion dollars in annual sales.

I agree with Sher that there are no formulas, templates, solutions, and "secret sauce" appropriate to all midsized companies. During the last 25 years, I have worked closely with more than 700 owner/CEOs and their associates in companies with annual sales between $5-million and $50-million and learned first-hand that, although many of them ask the same questions and face the same problems, the answers and solutions not only differ between and among companies. Moreover, the answers and solutions for a company 3-5 years (or even 3-5 months) ago may not be the right ones for it now. In today's business world, change really is the only constant and seems to occur faster and with greater frequency than at any prior time that I can remember.

Sher identifies and briefly discusses what he characterizes as "six factors in the DNA of midsized companies that set them apart from both larger and smaller companies and give rise to the distinctive challenges they face." Keep in mind these are general rather than defining characteristics.

1. A low tolerance for risk
2. High barriers to internal collaboration
3. Few ways to develop talent
4. Less investor patience for leaders learning on the job
5. Less strategic thinking
6. Less seasoned talent

To repeat: These are general rather than defining characteristics.

Of greatest interest to me is what Sher has to say about the seven growth killers with which leaders in midsized companies must contend each day. He devotes a separate chapter to each. Keep in mind that all are risks to which all organizations are vulnerable. For midsized companies, they can be potentially fatal. He offers advice in two separate but related dimensions: How to avoid them, and, how to overcome them. Here they are, accompanied by my brief annotations:

1. Letting Time Slip-Slide Away
Comments: In Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises, one of the expatriates mentions that his company "back in the states" went bankrupt. How did it happen? "Gradually and then suddenly." Everyone involved in the given enterprise must buy into the idea that "time is money," a precious resource that must never be wasted.

2. Strategy Tinkering at The Top
Comments: I view strategies as "hammers" that drive tactics ("nails") to achieve objectives. If you don't know where you're going, any road can take you there. It is also true that if you keep changing the destination, you'll never go anywhere.

3. Reckless Attempts at Growth
Comments: Not all growth is progress so the objective should be profitable growth. Dozens of companies I have worked with became more profitable only after they became smaller. Think of an organization as a garden that must be constantly pruned. Less can be more if there is less waste. More can be less if initiatives consume resources that should be preserved or allocated elsewhere. I agree with Jason Jennings: "If it's DOA, bury it."

4. Fumbling Strategic Acquisitions
Comments: Most M&As either fail or fall far short of original expectations. With regard to midsized companies, an M&A could be fatal and often is. Focus on the degree of probability of what will happen after the courtship, wedding, and honeymoon have occurred. Also, be sure to re-read Chapters 3 and 4. In my opinion, with rare exception, a badly conducted and/or badly implemented M&A will do more damage to an organization's health than anything else could.

5. Operation meltdowns
Comments: I agree with Sher that midsized companies "usually lack both rigorous processes and dedicated operational troubleshooters. They are often surprised and overwhelmed by meltdowns in key processes, especially those that come from always-difficult process of automating systems." Whenever anyone must make a decision, I think two questions must be asked: "Is this a sound business decision? and then, How do I know? Operational meltdowns are the inevitable result of bad decisions, including a decision to do nothing.

6. Liquidity Crashes
Comments: Unavoidable accidents do happen on the roadways but most in business can be avoided with constant tracking and alertness for early-warning signs. I also favor worst-case scenario thinking in combination with contingency planning and accumulation of reserve resources. Sher has much of value to say about all this in Chapter 6.

7. Tolerating Dysfunctional Leaders
Comments: Coping with this not-always-silent growth killer obviously poses different challenges in a publicly traded company than it does in one that is privately owned, usually by the CEO and her or his family. Governing boards are primarily responsible for the former. What to do about the latter? Again, Sher offers sensible advice. My own is to tolerate while locating another, better position. Many owner/CEOs see their company as a personal ATM. The only way I have ever been able to get their attention is to suggest that increasing the company's profitability now will substantially increase the cost if and when it is sold later. Even then....

Robert Sher is to be commended on the wealth of information, insights, and counsel he provides in this volume. I think the material can be of incalculable value to leaders in midsized companies but also to those who provide services (banking, legal, accounting, insurance, etc.) to those companies. My only words of caution are these: Don't assume that all leaders in midsized companies face the same degree of risk with regard to the "silent growth killers" discussed in this book. Also, don't assume that the degree of risk for any one of them will remain the same.

I am again reminded of an incident years ago when one of Albert Einstein's colleagues at Princeton playfully chided him for asking the same questions on his final examinations. "That is quite true. Each year, the answers are different." Leaders in midsized companies, especially, appreciate the relevance of that incident to their own efforts.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1863f0) out of 5 stars My New CEO Bible ... And A Required Reading For My Entire Executive Team Sept. 7 2014
By laurent dhollande - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I don't often read business books. They can be full of clichés. They may be designed to attract attention. They are usually authored by folks from the outside looking in. Some may be interesting to other folks on the fringe of running a business, but I rarely find any of them helpful for running a $15+ million business with double digit growth like I do.

Such is not the case with this book. It was written by someone who has been there before. Not just once, but via dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of rich consulting assignments with mid-sized firms, from which the author extracted so many relevant examples to illustrate well thought out points, with enough case studies to ground mid-sized company management concepts into palpable reality, but without too much detail to keep the book an easy yet impactful read.

In that respect, Robert Sher's involvement with the Alliance of CEO has given him a unique vantage point. I was a member of the Alliance of CEO myself for several years, which is what triggered my interest for his book. What an inspiration that was! My next step is to buy a copy of the book for each member of my executive team and make it a point of discussion at a future offsite meeting.

If I found the book 'Mighty Midsize Companies' so useful, it is partly because it articulates a few management pet peeves of mine in a very powerful way, ranging from the need for carefully articulated plans, proper meeting management, to keeping a steady hand and highlighting more basic skills executives graduating from a small business to growing a mid-sized business are not always perfectly equipped with. I believe my own company executives will benefit greatly from hearing that message from another voice, and a very articulate and powerful voice at that. But I also found the book incredibly helpful because it also challenges some of my company's (and my own) behavior and tendencies, which could translate into flaws and shortcomings if not paid attention to, such as issues related to executive skill set assessment, loyalty, temptation to tinker with strategy, and more.

With time, a growing business becomes heavier to carry for its original management team. Hence, it is important to identify where the business foundations could use reinforcement, so that the management team can indeed carry more weight. What this book does for me is help produce an MRI of my business foundation, highlighting not just a few areas of reinforcement to focus on, but also actionable solutions which will help my entire executive team grow and establish a more solid foundation to support more challenges, more opportunities, and more growth.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1864d4) out of 5 stars Why mid-sized firms need strong leadership infrastructure Sept. 7 2014
By John Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Many of the problems that midsized companies must deal with are not obvious; these problems grow out of sight, unrecognised by management until they emerge as full-blown crises that can threaten the present and future of the business, according to Robert Sher in this book.

The seven growth killers identified by the author are: letting time slip-slide away, strategy tinkering, reckless attempts at growth, fumbled acquisitions, operational meltdown, liquidity crises and tolerating dysfunctional leaders. Ultimately, to avoid these pitfalls, you need to build a strong leadership infrastructure, which includes these four elements:

• Quality leadership with deep experience.
• Planning and governance processes that ensure leaders of the company stay on track.
• Information gathering and analytics acumen.
• An effective communications rhythm among leaders, between management and employees, and out to customers and partners.

The book contains compelling stories of mid-sized firms which encountered one of the 7 pitfalls and either suffered severely or died as a result, including the story of one firm which boldly encountered all 7 pitfalls at the same time, yet somehow managed to survive.

As the author has noted, most of the management and leadership literature relates to large firms or small firms, so that the problems peculiar to mid-sized firms (defined as firms having revenue between $10 million and $1 billion) are rarely discussed. This book remedies that omission, and will no doubt have readers carefully scrutinising each growth-killer to see whether it might be a danger to their own firms.


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