Business Spotlight/The Advisory Board – Positioning small companies for smart growth


The biggest downturn in the regional economy has been in the failure of small business to survive, according to George Masons Regional Economic Forecast for 2008. 

Some of it might have been needless, if Dean Shaw, owner of The Advisory Board Program in Old Town had been consulted.  

Shaw, whose CPA credentials go back 35 years in Alexandria, coaches small- to medium-sized businesses on how to combine an effective management philosophy with the right fiscal structure. 

The six-year old program includes monthly meetings to set goals, organize a business to handle the unexpected, and to set a strategic direction for companies to grow smartly, which may include the purchase of another struggling company in times of economic stress.  “Dont sit on the sidelines find the opportunities in a down market, so that when the economy recovers, you are positioned to take advantage of new opportunities for growth, Shaw advises.

He has a word of advice for small businesses that may be feeling the pinch in the current economic downturn, saying, you learn when things are not going well; it opens your mind on how to do things differently.  Rather than face a negative, look for the opportunity.

The first target for any business is to distinguish the difference from their competitors, said Shaw, but there are other structures that need to be in place to safeguard a companys assets. 

The Advisory Board Program schools clients in driving their businesses, rather than letting the business drive them.  It instills an understanding of what drives cash, margin, velocity and revenue growth, as well as what creates competitive advantages. Over 40 companies have benefited from Shaw’s sage advice, with personalized guidance and individual counsel that takes into account owners personal strengths and weaknesses, so that everybody works smart.

Shaw also stresses the need to safeguard a companys institutional knowledge.  He sees the people whose knowledge drives the company as invaluable assets to growth.  Hiring people who fit in with a companys culture will safeguard the retention of valued knowledge, which is an important asset of any company. 

Contentment in a work environment sows the seeds of growth, he said.  The same management issues that confront large companies confront smaller ones, too.  Emphasizing the value of human capital, Shaw cites the need to provide employees with opportunities for personal growth. 

What manager hasnt faced a moment of truth when confronted with a valued employee who wants to join the competition, because they havent felt valued, or see no room for growth in the position they are in?  Shaw is a student of Alisar Chartings structural tension management philosophy, which stresses the need for setting strategic goals and offers understanding on how to build an internal consensus for following through. 

Shaw contends that strong management principles must be adhered to, including a focus on retaining employees, satisfying customers and rewarding shareholders.  These, he says, are the components of a high performance culture, that position a company for growth.  For businesses that may have lost their way, a reality check with The Advisory Board Program might just put things back on track.