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Murky Middle

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 6:49 a.m. June 29, 2012
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Strategies
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Veteran high-level executives Doug Tatum and John Woelfel are on a mission to save entrepreneurs — from themselves.

They plan to do that through the Newport Board Group, an Atlanta-based firm growing quickly in nine locations nationwide, including Tampa. The crux of the firm's mission is to provide C-suite and board level expertise to companies in what's commonly called the middle market. Those are firms with 20 to 100 employees and $10 million to $50 million in annual revenues.

“That's a place where a company needs the most help,” says Tatum, founder and chairman of Newport. “They are too big to be small, and too small to be big.”

An author and national speaker on business growth topics, Tatum launched Newport earlier this year, he says, because middle market companies have been squeezed. Big companies and startups get the bulk of people's attention, financial and otherwise, Tatum says, yet the firms that do the most growing, and hiring, are in the middle. Newport intends to address these problems by helping clients with challenges like improving capital structure, timing growth and grooming future executives.

“We all love startups, but what about the existing firms that are adding more jobs?” says Tatum. “It's really important to the country that we respect these kinds of companies.”

Newport nonetheless enters a crowded market: The Gulf Coast has dozens of business consulting firms. Newport, however, hopes to rise above the field with a strategy that combines proprietary business analyzing software with an all-star list of consultants. The software is run through a partnership with Inc. magazine, called Inc. Navigator.

The Newport team of partners and consultants, meanwhile, brings hefty resumes to the venture. Tatum previously founded Tatum LLC, an executive services consulting firm he led from startup to 30 offices and 1,000 employees across the country. Fort Lauderdale-based staffing and recruitment firm Spherion bought Tatum LLC for $46 million in 2010.

Tatum also wrote the book “No Man's Land: Where Growing Companies Fail.” A Miami Herald top business book of the year in 2008, the book details many of the themes and strategies Newport utilizes. Tatum also holds the Wright Travel Chair in Entrepreneurship at Middle Tennessee State University, where he's an associate professor.

Woelfel, former chief financial officer of Sarasota-based JCI Jones Chemicals, will run Newport's Tampa branch, which will also target the Sarasota-Manatee and Fort Myers-Naples areas for clients. Woelfel has already hired four consultants for the office. He plans to add six more by the end of the year.

“We share a passion to help entrepreneurs take their organizations to a new level of growth,” Woelfel says. “I really love working with C-level folks.”

Four M's of Success

Business consultant, speaker and entrepreneurial professor Doug Tatum has made a career of studying companies in the mid-market, with 20-100 employees.

His best-selling book, “No Man's Land: Where Growing Companies Fail,” is an instructional guide to survival for those businesses. “It's a very lonely place in no man's land,” Tatum says. “And it's very dangerous.”

Here are four questions addressed in the book that Tatum says every mid-market entrepreneur should strive to answer:
• Market: Is it easy for your customers do business with you? How are you better than your customers' other options?
• Management: Do you have the right team to get you to the next level? Is it rowing in the same direction?
• Model: Will you make more money as your sales grow?
• Money: Do you have the capital to fuel the growth?


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