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CEO Advisor® Newsletter
January 2019
When is the Best Time to Acquire for Growth
Some say the best time to pursue an acquisition is when the right opportunity comes along, but they're wrong. The best time to pursue an acquisition is when you commit to focus on it. The best opportunities are those that you seek out proactively as part of your strategic and business planning process. If you wait around for opportunity to come to you, you are missing out on the best opportunities and wasting a lot of time.

We recommend pursuing not-for-sale acquisitions. Companies that have not advertised themselves as potential acquisition candidates may have not even considered the option. The fact is every company is for sale, for the right price and terms, or the right situation. When a company is not-for-sale it simply means the owner is not currently considering selling, but they may be open to it if a sufficiently attractive offer is presented or the right fit presents itself. It's possible that up until now, they haven't found the right buyer, or simply have never really thought about selling as an option. If you only look at companies that are for sale, you drastically limit your options. And most CEOs and business owners are hesitant to start a sale process on their own, but are very open to being approached.

By being proactive you can search for a business that meets your ideal profile and fits in with your growth strategy rather than accepting whatever happens to be on the market. Engaging with an M&A advisor, such as CEO Advisor, Inc., is needed due to the time and expertise required.

Pursuing an acquisition starts with a carefully developed M&A strategy. This should complement your company's overall growth strategy. The most successful acquisitions aren't about cost-savings or financial engineering. They are about long-term growth and building shareholder value. Acquisitions can be one of the fastest ways to grow your business, and help you reach new markets and customers, and increase shareholder value substantially.

It usually takes from six to twelve months to develop your M&A strategy, create a step-by-step plan, identify the right companies and execute and close the deal. Keep this timeline in mind when you start thinking about a transaction. So if you're anticipating any challenges to your current or future growth, the time to start on your acquisition plan is not some future date when you run into an eager seller - it's today!

The key to initiating an acquisition effort is securing an M&A advisor, a trusted expert that will generate a plan, work with you to manage the entire process, seek out the proper acquisition, perform Due Diligence and advise you through to a successful closing.

CEO Advisor, Inc. has over three decades of mergers and acquisitions expertise and will efficiently and effectively accelerate the growth of your business through acquisitions.
Contact Mark Hartsell, MBA, President of CEO Advisor, Inc. at (949) 629-2520, by email at or visit us at for more information.
Source: Excerpt from the Philadelphia Business Journal, Aug 9, 2018
I'm a big believer in career advisors. For one thing, they help drive measurable and positive outcomes. That's clear from a wide range of studies over many years on the subject. Advisors, coaches, mentors - however you label them - have been found to improve competitiveness and leadership development.
A review of 25 years' worth of research on mentoring, published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, found mentors "improve career outcomes for individuals. My own experience confirms all these findings." 
The type of relationship or counsel you are looking for also evolves over time. Ironically, many people abandon these sorts of partnerships as they climb the corporate ladder. They feel they can go it alone, but I am a firm believer in leadership under advisement. 
Early on in my career, I sought out coaches or mentors. As I rose through the executive ranks, and especially as a CEO, the stakes became higher and I sought out trusted advisors - individuals who sat outside of the organization that I could safely and confidentially bounce ideas off of and get insights from, in addition to my management team. These people continue to round out my thinking and help me navigate through challenging situations, prioritize opportunities, and improve performance.
When it comes to advisors, the duration of the relationship is an important factor. There can be people in your professional life who make a distinct impression. A great orator, a wise elder, or a paid consultant that gives you sound advice.
But, in my experience, when it comes to making an indelible mark on your career, finding a person who you implicitly trust, who truly understands your strengths and weaknesses, who pushes you to be accountable, who you are willing to take constructive feedback from, and who can be a thought partner - well, that doesn't happen overnight. That builds gradually and requires investing time and energy and deliberation. It's a relationship where there is no agenda other than making you the best you can be and reinforcing it through remarkable results.
I've been fortunate to have several long-time advisors. One of them has been working with me for many years as an executive coach. His role at that time was to help us think through executive leadership, transformation, and value-driven outcomes. I remember one of the first things that struck me that he was a "strategy guy," with strong business acumen and a hard drive for accountability and results. 
He asked thought-provoking questions, always pushed for more, challenged the status quo and was all about partnering to achieve the best outcomes for the organization. As a senior executive in the company, I quickly came to value him as a resource to help think through some of the complex issues we were facing. The relationship evolved to trusted advisor.
His experience is diverse. He was a Marine Captain and has worked for a range of Fortune 100 companies, such as Pepsi, GE and Citigroup, as well as smaller companies, including a recent one in the medical devices industry where he led the build-out of a top-tier domestic and international organization. His vast experience across a variety of highly competitive industries informs his keen insights, intuition and advice on business and cultural issues - all of which have been invaluable to me. 
While nothing fully prepares you for the challenges of being a chief executive, having a business advisor when the going gets tough or to just to be a thought partner is an enormous plus. Our always-evolving, never-ending agenda is building "a remarkable organization" and keeping it remarkable as dynamics change. 
Very few companies consistently outperform over long periods, so setting out to do so means you have to strategically beat the odds. It's a fluid and complex process - you have to get the right team and culture in place, set forth a clear strategy that the team can execute against, establish goals with measurable outcomes, and learn how to navigate and best serve a diverse group of stakeholders with different agendas. 
As time goes on and new opportunities and challenges constantly present themselves, organizations and cultures need to be rethought and assessed. It's important to have someone who is not ingrained with the day-to-day team, that you trust, to help you think through these issues, challenge you, and provide critical insight.
I'm enormously grateful for the impact my business advisor has made - and continues to make - in my professional growth as a trusted confidante. I now take elements I have learned from him and use it with others who are looking to grow as leaders. Whatever stage you're at in your career, make the time to cultivate a trusted advisor. 
CEO Advisor, Inc. has 38 years of advising some of the most successful CEOs and business owners of companies in the Southern California area. Contact Mark Hartsell, MBA, President of CEO Advisor, Inc. at (949) 629-2520,by email at or visit us at for a no cost, no obligation initial consultation today.
7 Ways CEOs Can Continuously Improve Their Performance 
Continuous improvement is vital to performing optimally as a CEO. The best ones make time for it, because they see it as an investment in themselves and their company that will pay off in real dollars now and down the line. So what specifically can you do as a CEO to improve your skills and performance? Here are 7 ways. 
1) Attend Training Programs: For the past several years I have given an annual seminar on the CEO position. The biggest excuse I hear from CEOs for not attending is that they don't have time. From my experience the CEOs who do attend are typically the ones who are already better than most. Because of this, they know how to make time to improve their skills. If you think you don't have time to get better at your job, then you are not doing your job properly.
2) Read Books: CEOs who take the time to read about the experiences of other chief executives and other business leaders have an advantage. While the advice may not be perfect for every situation, I can tell you that I almost always come away from reading a top-rated business book with a couple of ideas that make a difference in my businesses.
3) Write Some Content: Writing forces you to clarify your thoughts in a way that is highly beneficial for future action. Taking the time to write a regular email to your company explaining your thoughts and actions can do a lot to improve your thinking as well as align the team with your vision. Many CEOs have begun a regular blog to comment on issues they find interesting. Formalizing your writing schedule will pay big dividends as a CEO.
4) Meet with Wise People: As a CEO it is part of your job to find people from outside your company who can bring knowledge and experience to bear on your problems. Make an effort to get to know people in your community who have relevant experience. Seek out the other leaders in your industry to establish relationships. Many times the relationships I formed within my industry provided tremendous value to the company.
5) Study Yourself: Learning about yourself, how you think and react, is critical to developing as a CEO and overcoming your internal biases. There are many different self-assessments tools available - from Myers-Briggs to Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton's strengths-based assessment. Many firms specialize in this area and may offer a free interpretation of your results. If you find one you like, extend it to your employees so you have a common language to address personality issues across your entire team.
6) Gather Feedback: If you are not getting feedback about your performance, then you have a problem. It is not enough to just ask for feedback and hope it comes to you. You should actively solicit feedback both from your employees as well as your board or outside advisors. Getting feedback from employees will often require an anonymous feedback mechanism or third-party gatherer. Feedback from your board should be both informal and formal as well as on a regular schedule.
7) Seek out Mentors and Advisors: Reach out to those who have gone before you to gain from their expertise and experience. The CEO job is unique, so make sure you have people in your circle who have been in the chair and know the challenges of the job. Avoiding lost time and missteps converts to big dollars in your pocket.
If you are not improving your knowledge and experience, you are letting the company down. Don't be the CEO who keeps doing the same things over and over and wonders why he/she doesn't get different results.
To learn how to achieve better results, accelerate sales, increase profits and increase shareholder value, call Mark Hartsell, MBA, President of CEO Advisor, Inc. at (949) 629-2520 for a no cost initial consultation. 

Booth Growth & Profits in 2019
CEOs and presidents of small businesses must remain focused in 2019. There is a tremendous opportunity for growth-oriented business owners to maximize profits in 2019. Below are 6 critical profit drivers for the coming year.
1. Strategic and Tactical Focus
CEOs and presidents develop and communicate their company's strategy, and focus on execution. It's critical that every employee's function in your company lines up with your company's strategic plan. Without the focus to execute that strategic plan, profits will suffer greatly. Communicate openly and focus your employees on the strategy, goals and tactics of the company to maximize growth and profits.
Create a 2019 Business Plan and Monthly Forecast to optimize your time, money and resources toward achieving your business and financial goals.
2. Sales Growth
Growth is a must for every company to increase profits. Growth requires sales management, goals, planning and the creation of a sales and marketing machine. Target your top 100 prospects to optimize new business development. Also focus on your top customers to expand, upsell and cross-sell to maximize profits.
3. Gross and Net Profit Margins
As a CEO focusing on profits, your Gross Profit Margin (GPM) (Sales less Cost of Goods Sold ( COGS)) is the primary financial metric to measure on a consistent basis. Make sure your financials are set up to track Revenue, COGS and GPM so you can determine what products and services generate the most money, as wells as, which products and services are subpar and need some changes, or to be discontinued. Target between 50 - 60% GPM to maximize Net Profits, higher GPM for software companies.
4. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
COGS are the direct costs to provide your products and services, and helps you calculate how profitable your products and services are (before overhead expenses). Your Cost of Goods - materials, direct labor, outsourced contractors, customer service and other costs related to producing your products and services are critical to your Gross Profit Margin (GPM).
5. Motivate and Manage Your Team
The energy in your workplace reflects the level of enthusiasm, urgency and intensity of focus as expressed by the people working in your company. You need people engaged. You need your staff to care. And you as the leader need to be responsible for energy and urgency in order to maximize your profit potential. This can be tracked by developing reporting and metrics and updating these reports monthly and real-time in some cases to hold your employees accountable and gauge your progress.
6. Company Innovation
Are you constantly looking for ways to process orders quicker, create customer reports faster, save money by honing an internal procedure, and develop new products and services?
Company innovation is a global mindset in your company that is consistently improving how you do business. The impact of having your employees constantly innovating is a huge driver of profitability for any company. The key is to balance focus and execution versus innovation.
Contact Mark Hartsell, MBA, President of CEO Advisor, Inc. at (949) 629-2520 or by email at for a no cost initial consultation.


"Over a one year period, Mark helped me to understand what my role entailed. Together, we segmented my numerous headaches into achievable goals. I learned to focus on specific issues and predict obstacles by looking at my business in monthly and yearly models. Mark taught me how to understand financial reports as well as the implication of spending. I now understand how to measure the performance of my company and profitably grow my business."

CEO, Web Service Company

CEO/President, Engineering Services/Manufacturing Company

Whether it is growing a business to the next level, turning a distressed company around or preparing a company for an exit, Mark's firm, CEO Advisor, Inc, provides a broad range of services and Mark is there for the CEO every step of the way."



Haynes & Boone, LLP

Words of Wisdom

"The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.  The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore."

Dale Carnegie
Author and Public Speaker