5 Ways to Drive Business Growth

By James S. Cassel

James Cassel headshot

A common mistake for middle-market business owners is getting too caught up running day-to-day business operations and not allocating enough time to consider strategies to reposition and reinvent their companies when needed.

In my experience working with middlemarket companies, I have learned five general areas where companies seeking continued growth should focus their efforts. Whether companies are seeking exponential or incremental growth, they should keep in mind the following five growth drivers.

Have the right team: Like it or not, your company is only as strong as your weakest link. Many times, the weaker links can be strengthened by reevaluating their positions to ensure that the right employees are in the right places. Otherwise, if you find there is no place where the weaker links can contribute at the level they should, you should consider replacing them.

Play to people’s strengths, and put them in positions that best allow them to thrive, applying their knowledge, skills and talents. Do not assume a good salesperson will make a good manager, as that salesperson might have a great sales personality but might not enjoy or succeed in a management role.

Recently, a friend confided that she lamented her promotion because she had to give up the position she loved. Although she now has more responsibilities and higher pay, she is not doing what she most enjoys and therefore is looking to leave the company.

Continuously evaluate your senior management team. Do you have the right senior management in the right roles? Have they helped get you to where you are? Can they take you to the next level? Different organizations need different management structures at different times — there are no cookie-cutter solutions, and the key is to find what works right for your organization.

Have the right branding and marketing: In today’s competitive market, it is important to have strong brand presence and keep your brand top of mind. Fish bite when they are hungry, so always keep your bait in the water.

Before launching any public relations or marketing campaigns, make sure you have strong brand assets (logo, website, tagline, etc.). For example, it does not make sense to drive people to a subpar website that does not put your business in the best possible light.

Also, make sure you have the right marketing team. Many business owners do not understand the difference between public relations, advertising, and branding, or the importance of having a strategic marketing plan that is designed to support their business plan. Some do not recognize that a good advertising agency that creates award-winning television commercials might not be a strong public relations agency that can secure top-tier media coverage, or that a creative web design firm that can launch attractive websites might not be good at developing search-engine optimization programs to ensure that those sites rank high on search-engine results pages.

Have the right suppliers: While it can be comfortable for business owners to continue to work with the same folks they have worked with for years, it is important to routinely evaluate these relationships to ensure that you have the right suppliers with the right capacity to grow with you. Are they supplying the right products or do you need to expand that? Do they give you the right quality, pricing and support?

Have the right research: Knowledge is power, and you should continually conduct product and market research to determine where your products and services are needed. Can you identify new markets? How are you perceived by your customers or clients and the public? Some business owners conduct this research internally while others outsource these functions to specialists. Whatever approach you choose, all of this insight can assist your strategic business planning.

Have the right geography: Are you a single or multi-location business? Do you have the right locations? Can you provide quality service to your clients from where you are currently based? When it comes to expansion, you can take advantage of innovative solutions like shared workspaces or virtual offices to give the perception of a broader presence.

While a multitude of other factors affect business growth, there is significant value in keeping these five factors in top of mind. A common mistake for middle-market business owners is getting too caught up running day-to-day business operations and not allocating enough time to consider strategies to reposition and reinvent their companies when needed.

To help you through this process, you may choose to apply internal resources or to rely on external partners with greater experience and specialization. Whatever the case, make sure these factors are evaluated routinely. By doing all these things right, you can help ensure maximum and sustained growth for your company.


James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co. LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle-market companies.

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James Cassel on why Miami is a great city to build a career

By Nina Lincoff

Where were you born? In Miami Beach at the old Mount Sinai. I may have been the youngest employee at Mount Sinai actually. At 14, I worked in the records department. It was an opportunity for a summer and I was paid, maybe $76 a week. I joke that I had more disposable income then than today because I had no expenses.

What did you use the money for? To buy my first car at 16, an Oldsmobile Cutlass from my mother for under $2,000. What’s worse was that when I was 17, I bought a brand new Buick Century. The problem was, when my future wife saw me in that car, she asked me if it was my father’s. I explained to her it wasn’t, it was the car I wanted, and she said it was better for a 40-year-old, not a 20-year-old.

How has Miami Beach changed? Miami Beach in the late 60s and early 70s …it was the James Bond era when “Goldfinger” was filmed at the Fontainebleau. It was a very small city and very much had a seasonality to it. In the summers a lot of stuff was closed and it was quiet. Today, of course, it’s very different. It’s a year-round community and the summers are as vibrant as the winters.

How did your family get to Miami? My family has been here since 1908. My grandmother had a house on 17th Street and Biscayne Boulevard and in the living room there were two grand pianos and an organ on a stage. She would have concerts there. My family has really grown up in Miami. I go to New York a lot, but Miami is different. It’s a great community and we have some very goods schools and there are great opportunities here. I never seriously thought about moving. As long as they can keep control of the rising sea, we’ll be in Miami.

Was the records department gig your first job? No, I worked as a delivery boy for the Miami Beach Sun, and then I worked for a gentleman by the name of Robert Hurwitz… on and off running political campaigns. We ran everything from a senate race to local races. Law school was a natural follow after that, because I had political aspirations at the time.

What happened to your political aspirations? Fortunately sanity prevailed. I was given advice that I didn’t want to seem like a politician who was in politics because they couldn’t do something else. The natural way to stay involved with politics was to get into law. I started as a real estate lawyer, working with my father. This was back in the 80s and I determined that I would be better in corporate law. In hindsight, it probably didn’t matter, but I started doing corporate law and I built my practice.

But you transitioned out of law? Yes, March 1, 1996 was my first day of not practicing law. I went into investment banking. In 1998, I started a boutique investment banking firm that I built with my partner Scott Salpeter and Gary Stein. We were ultimately acquired by Ladenburg Thalmann, in 2006. I ran private banking and had the opportunity to work with Phil Frost and he is more amazing than most people know. The depth and breadth of his knowledge is breathtaking.

And now you’re here, at Cassel Salpeter? At the end of ’09, which was a tough year, I left. From a technical standpoint, ’09 really sucked. In 2010 we founded Cassel Salpeter. We’ve been blessed, one of my children has joined up as has one of Scott’s kids. We’ve got a great team and we’re building a nice boutique South Florida firm.

What is the private equity environment like now? It changes in cycles. The industry is changing because of technology. If we had to do financial modeling 20 years ago it was very labor intensive, today tech gives you the ability to gather information much more easily. You still have to do a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but technology has definitely made a different competitive environment.

What do you like to write about? To a certain extent I try to give back to the community. I try to write about things that are helpful to middle market businesses. Maybe they don’t get 50 points out of one article, but if they get one point, it has value. It’s also a way to stay in touch with people, because after all, we are a referral business.

James Cassel
Current position: Chairman and co-founder of Cassel Salpeter & Co.

Past position(s): Vice Chairman and head of investment banking at Ladenburg Thalmann, President, CEO and Chairman of Capitalink, Managing partner of the Miami office of Broad and Cassel; Chairman of the Retreat Psychiatric Hospital

Age: 60
Born: Miami Beach
Residence: Coconut Grove
Past boards: Equity One
Education: American University, University of Miami School of Law

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