Cross Company is a 100% employee-owned ESOP (Employee Shared Ownership Program), providing solutions to improve the performance of their customers’ industrial equipment, machines and manufacturing processes. They have specialized sales and engineering teams supporting a wide spectrum of technologies, including factory automation, process control, fluid power, process instrumentation and fluid conveyance.
Founded in 1954, Cross has grown into a leading southeastern regional technology solution provider covering nine states with 195 employees. They became an ESOP in 1979 and became 100% employee-owned in 2006.
Like many companies, Cross was challenged during the latest recession with dramatically reduced sales levels, necessitating painful reductions in operating expenses. Additionally, they asked their sales teams for ideas on what could be done to generate higher sales results than were forecasted. The outcome of these activities was the basis of their four-phase “Path to Prosperity”: Survive, Outperform the Revised Forecast, Return to Profitability, and Diversify into Higher Growth Markets.
Fortunately, the actions they implemented in each phase were successful, and Cross was able to weather the recession better than many other companies; however, they also decided to reassess their current business structure and direction, and develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the future. That’s when Cross first met the SBTDC.
When seeking strategic planning consultants, Cross’ CEO Steve Earley was referred to the SBTDC by Gaston County Economic Development Chair Donny Hicks. Steve learned that the SBTDC’s Strategy and Organization Development Services (SOD) were exactly what Cross Company needed.
After assessing the knowledge, experience and professionalism of the SBTDC team, Steve felt they could get a high-quality strategic plan for a fraction of the cost of a high-powered private sector consultant.
In 2010, SBTDC SOD Director Dan Parks, his team, and Cross Company leadership engaged all employees throughout the strategic planning process by conducting employee surveys, sharing key issues on various areas of the draft plan, and giving a copy of the final plan to each employee.
Since implementing the strategic plan, Cross Company has continued to outperform others in their industry. They have experienced a 32% sales increase, added 15 new jobs (with 12 more budgeted for 2012), eliminated their bank debt, and increased profit by 661%.
“Without the plan, we may not have been as effective as we are today,” says Steve. “Cross Company will continue to work with the SBTDC for thorough strategic planning for different business units and departments within the company.”
Steve is sure working with the SBTDC will help keep Cross Company and its employees strong for years to come.