Professional summary

Gary Brooks has over 45 years of diversified executive management and consulting experience. He has personally counseled and provided management services to more than 200 companies. He is passionate about assisting early stage businesses to achieve profitability, arrive at sound market and operating strategies and establish a stable foundation from which to grow. Family businesses present special challenges. Gary's experience in operations management and with issues of organizational dynamics and human behavior has proven valuable in resolving family conflicts and matters of business continuity.

Gary’s prior career affiliations include General Electric, Eastman Kodak and Scott Paper Company. He managed the New York office of an international

Engagement overview

Initial discussions are held with potential clients at no cost in order to define both the problem(s) and potential scope of work. A formal proposal is provided which defines the objective and result that should be expected from the engagement. . Usually a project fee is proposed (rather than an hourly fee) thereby fixing the financial obligation associated with the project unless ongoing consultation is called for.


Example 1: $25 million wholesaler of industrial safety products. Founded by the father, now 80 years old, had to decide on a successor from among 4 brothers, all serving a key functional role in the company. The brothers have feuded with each other for many years, dramatically affecting the performance of the business. All agreed that they would leave the business once the father appointed the successor CEO. Two questions required resolution: Selection of the successor; equity value and terms of payment to the brothers upon their exit. The matters remain unresolved. The chosen successor was the youngest brother, based solely on his preferred relationship with the father. The brothers estimate of equity value far exceeds that derived by commonly accepted valuation techniques. Finally, the cash flow from operations of the business is inadequate to fund any reasonable payout post transition. Mediation and family counseling have been proposed and accepted in order to resolve the business issues, but more importantly, to insure that the family will not fracture even further.

Example 2: The father/CEO of a highly profitable metal working business was prepared to appoint one of his sons as successor. With approval and encouragement of his board of directors, he decided on the older son (John), a high school drop-out but a proven, well liked VP of manufacturing. The younger brother (Tom), well educated, had been serving as VP new products and was responsible for acquisitions. On the morning of the proposed announcement, Tom, angry at being passed over, physically accosts John as they entered the board meeting. John presses charges. The business and family concerns are significant.
After meeting with all key employees, customers and vendors, all suggested that the two could no longer co-exist in the company. An equitable plan was developed to give Tom one of the recently acquired subsidiaries as compensation for his equity holdings and arranged for a long term supply contract so that a viable core business could be build. Although it took almost one year of coaching and counseling, the family could finally gather together to celebrate life cycle events.


Strategic planning in professional service firms requires 3 elements:

1. An understanding of the market and a delineation by segment of market opportunities

2. an internal analysis (effectively a comprehensive SWOT analysis) to define strengths, weaknesses, your competitive advantage and the market segments most likely to require your services, and only then

3. a program to generate revenue.
... Read more

Good interviews require significant preparation by the candidate. Certainly, the questions one might ask depend upon the position and the seniority of the prospect. Generally, the following should be fair game:

- What elements in my application/resume did you find valuable for the company?
- What were some of the key strategies that allowed the company to achieve its current ma... Read more


The question has multiple answers, all depending upon ......

Is the question: Can the staff operate on a 4 day schedule? or Can the company be functional only 4 days per week?

Many companies have programs that result in 4 day (or less) schedules for employees. Job sharing, at home schedules (technology dependent), extensive use of part time or contract employees. Retailers, as one exampl... Read more

Some additional information about your business would be helpful. If possible segment your business by customer group or product offering. Each segment may demand different levels of service to meet customer expectations. Again, keep track of labor costs related to each segment. The metric may be labor to sales but that becomes unreliable if pricing varies within segment. Please contact me if y... Read more

Marc's answer is sound. Allow me to add just a couple of points.

The grade range structure should be built reflecting similar jobs in the industry and in the community. This information is usually easily gotten with some survey effort. Once the job is rated and fitted within the range, those outside the range need to be adjusted. Typically those below the minimum are brought into the range within... Read more

I think that you are dealing with 2 distinctly different issues:

1) Your operating review which deals with current performance

2) Trends, opportunities and risks relate to future affairs. I suggest that you do not address these in the same meeting and with the same participants.

The operating review should be measured against milestones and performance targets established as part of the budge... Read more

The comments already provided by Susan & Michael regarding involvement are extremely valid and important. Given your objective, 2 issues are important to note. First, no matter what the size of the company, matrix organizations are hard to manage and often result in complex human reactions. Typically, the composition of any matrix is continually in flux responding to the demands of each new pro... Read more

I recommend that you rethink your "all industries" strategy. A matrix model that considers key or core industries is suggested. One of the reasons you have been successful using industry verticals is the knowledge & expertise you acquired by industry and the unique value that this contributed to other members of the vertical. Do not lose this competitive advantage. If careful in implementatio... Read more

There should be no conflict. Your primary interest must be your end-use customer. The role of your channel members is to support and execute that strategy. Your tactics in accomplishing this mission must be designed accordingly. If the end user is not satisfied, your channel partners will perform poorly.

Are you in a push or pull market? The distributor typically is less equipped to r... Read more

It sounds as though you are asking your meetings to deal with dramatically different agendas. Your executive meetings sound as though they are serving as operational review sessions (as they should) dealing with the day-to-day performance issues one always faces. Weekly, if not daily meetings with this focus are important management tools. It also ensures that your newcomers stay focused on th... Read more

Service businesses are very different. In general 3 areas of practice are critical to your success in addition to your service offering which I assume is top draw. Add pricing/funding; employee management and customer management to your list of concerns. I suggest you take a look at the elements of each.

Pricing/terms: To what degree do you use value pricing as a strategy-understanding your v... Read more

The comments already offered are valuable. One important piece of information missing is how the family board members are compensated. Assuming that they depend upon the success of the group, the suggestion already made of submitting the problem to the board for resolution is valid. But, as part of that planning review, I suggest that you extrapolate todays businesses, given no change, to dem... Read more

An experienced facilitator is critical. Your objectives are worthy, but in the absence of an open culture, the program will prove to be frustrating. A significant amount of preplanning & active involvement from the DR's in advance of the off-site are urged if you want substantive results in the 2 days.

1. Have the objectives for 2014 been defined and communicated? This represents the executive... Read more

You are dealing with multiple issues. Not only are you looking for a new core business but a means of leaving your dependency on government contracts to access the commercial/industrial market. In facilitating this shift in strategy, I have found that companies are most successful when concentrating on two core strengths: technology and distribution linkages. In this case, distribution includes ... Read more

You are facing a common problem, particularly when incentive systems are based upon performance to plan or constraints are about to be imposed. Budgeting is a disciplined process. The most rigorous is to begin to institute "Activity Based Costing" and to enforce a process as though you were budgeting a production department. Taking last year and adding X% is not acceptable. I suggest the follow... Read more

Have you truly defined your competitive advantage? Sound strategies, particularly for mid-market companies, should be based on capitalizing on strengths. One of the greatest strengths one can build is around your distribution linkage, i.e. your customers, your distribution channel, brand. Developing additional competitive advantages around this core can include new capabilities as well as your n... Read more

Stock options in private companies often have negative consequences. Unless there is a commitment by management and the majority equity holders designed to achieve high, rapid growth resulting in a near term sale or IPO, options, warrants or other equity instruments can be serious problems.

Already noted, the inability to monetize the "award" is a drain on morale rather than a motivator, regard... Read more

Project Proposals

Most family businesses fail to consider the issue of succession. Whether driven by premature tragedy, incapacity or the desire to alter life style, family members are ill-prepared to assume the responsibility leaving qualified management continuity at risk. Recruiting non-family executives as successors often leaves the organization unstable.

Identification of candidates, programs to prepare s... Read more