Monday, June 9, 2008

Optimism…and the Right Market at the Right Time

As part of our efforts to share with you information that you may not otherwise encounter, this note recounts our recent experience at a leading Atlanta business forum. On May 21, 2008, Creative Growth Group served as a leading sponsor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s annual Georgia 100 program held in the ballroom of the new Cobb Energy Centre for the Performing Arts. The event ranks and honors the 100 top performing publicly traded companies in Georgia based on revenue total, revenue growth, profit margin growth, return on equity and total return for calendar year 2007. We’ve attached a list of the 100 companies and you can see more detail on these organizations by going to this web location:
The awards event included a panel interview with CEOs of the five top companies...

  • Jim Geiger, Cbeyond
  • Darren Joseph, Ebix
  • Jeffrey Sprecher, Intercontinental Exchange
  • Daniel Hendrix, Interface, Inc.
  • Larry Gerdes, Transcend Services

…and was moderated by Atlanta Journal Constitution business reporters Maria Saporta and Matt Kempner.

The panel was followed by a keynote speech by…
Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO (for details see next posting)

Perhaps it was the format…a public relations opportunity to spin a positive story around the positive nature of the top five Georgia 100 ranking. Or, perhaps it is true that optimism breeds success and the other was around, too. But, the five executives who participated in the panel discussion seemed to all see more opportunity than obstacles in the current economic climate. Intercontinental Exchange CEO Jeffrey Sprecher finds today’s increasingly interconnected global economy well-suited to his international commodities business. He is relishing the rapid upswing in commodity prices. Larry Gerdes’s Transcend Services (which was top ranked on the Georgia 100 list) is riding the ongoing rise in healthcare services – his firm provides medical transcription services – and, he claims, his market seems to grow independent of any economic downturn. Meanwhile, under the watch of CEO Dan Hendrix and vision of founder Ray Anderson, Interface has led the business world in the "greening" of Corporate America. His company will introduce the first 100% recycled carpet shortly and they are actively investing in alternative energy sources to boot. Plus, Hendrix has had the foresight to diversify their sales of carpet beyond the office market and into a portfolio of other specialty areas which has stabilized Interface revenues.

Fundamentals in the face of uncertainty
The Georgia 100 top five CEOs shared more than a positive outlook, they all agreed that it is their devotion to business fundamentals in difficult times that has produced consistently strong results. Larry Gerdes spoke evangelically of building a culture committed to customers and with deep respect for employees. He pointed out that, as indication of this commitment, when in 2006 Transcend acquired a company in Florida which had a more customer and employee-centric culture, Transcend made the bold move of embracing the acquired company’s culture rather than the other way around.

Other Top Five CEO comments included:

  • Avoid overemphasis on short term stock fluctuations and, instead, worry about operating and growing the business for the long run
  • Investing in people and infrastructure
  • Using the downturn as the opportunity to be more aggressive and grow market share

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