The Characteristics of “Growth Champions”

The National Center for the Middle Market, a partnership with The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and GE Capital, conducted the largest survey ever taken of Middle Market businesses and recently presented their findings. The Middle Market in the U.S. is defined as companies with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion. This segment consists of 195,000 businesses and represents 1/3 of private sector GDP and employs approximately 41 million people. This survey also identified characteristics of a segment of this market identified as “Growth Champions,” representing an elite group (9%) of Middle Market businesses growing at an impressive rate of at least four times the rate of U.S. GDP growth. This article focuses on the key characteristics identified by this survey as shared by this group.

Growth Champions are more willing to embrace change and take calculated risks in running their businesses. They are significantly more likely than other Middle Market firms to compete globally, invest in innovation, have digital and social media strategies, and to have organizations that are prepared to respond quickly to both unexpected opportunities and challenges.

Growth Champion firms regardless of industry segment, geographic location or company size tend to strongly reflect the following qualities:

  1. Strong management culture and practices steer the company. They are nimble, operate efficiently, and have the ability to meet and withstand external challenges.
  2. Exceptional talent management and place a premium on attracting top talent with valued skill sets. They have the recruiting power to attract the necessary skill sets, and they reward their people for meeting growth targets.
  3. A formal growth strategy process and growth is planned and emphasized; these do not occur by accident. They set annual growth targets, effectively communicate those objectives internally, and then track their progress toward them.
  4. Sharper customer focus is paramount. They more successfully attract new customers and strengthen existing relationships, as well as focus on marketing and communications (including embracing digital and social media).
  5. A broader geographic vision key to growth. This often includes a global and/or national focus rather than a regional/local one.
  6. Focus on investing in innovation with a mindset toward future dividends. They invest in, and see, innovation in products and services and/or in business processes as keys to their success.

A key element for creating strong management culture and practices that enables companies to become “growth champions” is to have a solid financial management function with the right financial leadership. The role of the financial leader within growth and middle market companies is that of a business partner to the CEO as well as across the organization and with key third party relationships.  Harvest CFO provides companies with highly skilled financial leaders who enable CEOs, PE firms, management and investors to cultivate company value and develop their companies into consistent “growth champions.”  

Harvest CFO, LLC, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio is a premier provider of highly skilled CFOs, VPs of Finance and Controllers to growth and middle market companies across the U.S.  Please visit our website at to learn more about how Harvest CFO provides “spot on” and “spotless” financial leaders to growth and middle market companies.

For more about Harvest CFO, contact Don Hillier, CEO, at 216-650-3871 or email


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