Clayton & McKervey CPA sees ‘customer obsession, a culture of trust, and structure = discipline’ as key philosophies behind success of long-term businesses

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Southfield, Mich.—February 4, 2019—Jim Biehl, CPA and shareholder with Clayton & McKervey, a certified public accounting and business advisory firm helping growth-driven companies compete in the global marketplace, has been advising business owner clients for more than 30 years. In that time, he’s noted several shared traits among companies that have made it to the 50-year mark and beyond.

‘It’s fascinating to be engaged with more established companies that function as finely tuned machines yet are open to change – and even welcome it,” Biehl said. “That’s just one facet of a successful business, though. Regardless of industry, location or ownership model, I’ve noted commonalities among longstanding companies that continue to thrive and lead their industry peers.”

  1. Proactive vs. Reactive – Longstanding businesses are forward thinking and employ some form of strategic planning that allows the team to “aim for the same tree on the horizon.” Decision making is aligned and a shared mission is embraced and clearly communicated. An overarching consistency to these companies is that they are nimble enough to adapt to change and they embrace innovation.
  2. Customer Obsessed – They have intimate knowledge of what their customers need and want; especially innovative customers who are at the most risk of leaving. They anticipate customer needs and pay attention to business and societal trends.
  3. Believe that Structure = Discipline – They implement simple processes, procedures and policies that are extremely effective in forcing the business to maintain the daily, weekly, monthly and annual discipline required to execute their plans.
  4. Value Outside Input – Leadership seeks input from those outside the organization, including customers, suppliers, business and legal advisors, and other stakeholders.  In addition, management looks specifically for advisors that will hold them accountable to their plans. Leaders also take on individual self-improvement and knowledge enhancement; for example, participating in CEO round tables or engaging a business coach.
  5. Cultivate Talent – The organizations make a significant investment in recruiting and retaining the right talent, including a consistent investment in the professional education and advancement of the team.
  6. Build a Culture of Trust – They understand and live their core values and are committed to– and even obsessed with—only adding team members that fit their culture.
  7. Fiscally Focused/Consistently Re-Invest in the Business – Despite its obviousness, these businesses clearly understand where and how they make money. They monitor leading indicators and metrics to insure a path to profitability. They know their financial position and maintain fiscal awareness and responsibility. They subscribe to the mantra: “Cash is king; don’t ever run out of it.”
  8. Maintain and Communicate a Business Succession Plan – No one is left to wonder where the business is going. Companies with a strong history utilize strategies such as a redemption or buy-sell agreement with Keyman life insurance to ease the transition should a traumatic event occur. Partners and owners agree to a buy-out price or valuation methodology, such as a third-party valuation report, rather than leaving it up to chance.
  9. Family Businesses “That Make the Difficult Decision” – It’s especially true in successful family-owned businesses that there is an understanding and discussion of which family member will lead the next generation.  Management by committee is difficult to execute, especially with family dynamics.   

“One of the most gratifying aspects of serving seasoned companies is to advise and watch the trajectory of their success,” Biehl said. “It’s like having a front row seat to business history and it never gets old.”

About Clayton & McKervey

Clayton & McKervey is a full-service certified public accounting and business advisory firm helping closely held businesses compete in the global marketplace. The firm is headquartered in metro Detroit and services clients throughout the world.  To learn more, visit