By Vincent Dajani
In “Where Are They Now?”, SmartCEO takes another look at companies and CEOs previously featured on our magazine cover. Nick DeBenedictis’ cover story appeared in October 2009. Read it here. If your company was featured on our cover and you’re interested in having us revisit your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2012, MorganFranklin split. This may come as surprise considering that, as of 2009, MorganFranklin’s goal was growth. But the company’s founders, Rob Franklin and Ron and Bob Morgan, knew what they were doing.
“The company really consisted of two separate businesses,” explains current MorganFranklin CEO C.E. Andrews. “One [side] was the consulting business and the other was a specialty security solutions business that sold to the government.”
In 2012, MorganFranklin decided to focus solely on growing the consulting side, and the security solutions side was sold to SRA International, Inc. Houlihan Lokey, an advisory-focused investment bank.
With the change in focus, the owners knew they needed an experienced leader to ensure that MorganFranklin accomplished everything it was capable of. And, with a background in leadership positions at McGladrey, Sallie Mae and Arthur Andersen, Andrews was the man for the job.
“I knew them and they knew me, and it was a tremendous match,” he says. “I joined an unregulated quality consulting business with a solid foundation and an appetite to grow … organically and inorganically. To grow in the region and outside of it.”
Now, MorganFranklin has similar capabilities as a big-four consulting firm, but without the IRS compliance regulation restrictions. “We don’t want to be regulated. We want to be able to be unencumbered to operate with our clients under any scope or pace. We want to be able to maneuver in the best interest of our clients,” Andrews says.
MorganFranklin is operating in a space that is in desperate need of an uninhibited consulting firm, and it’s there to fill that void. “It’s what I characterize as alternatives to the approaches they’ve use previously,” Andrews says. “One client had used every large consulting firm over the years. Like all big companies, they want to get the big brand name, and sometimes you don’t get everything you’re looking to accomplish because they’re restricted, and often expensive. People are looking for alternatives that can be unrestricted, with capabilities equal or better, with a very value-focused approach.”
That’s not to say MorganFranklin competes with regulated consulting firms, however. In fact, Andrews likes to think of other consulting firms as allies. “One of our strategies is having good partnerships with many of the larger firms … in the sense that we might be a sub-contractor with them,” he says. “We do things that — because of regulatory restrictions — larger companies can’t do for their clients. If the client has the need … we often become a partner with [larger consulting firms].”
This type of unrestricted environment has not only attracted some major clients for MorganFranklin, but has even boosted its in-house talent pool. “People may leave a big-four [company] and come here. They’ve developed their capabilities and are encountering some frustration with a restricted force at their big-four company. It might be the collateral effects of regulation issues, or it might just be the size of the issues. They see us as an alternative. It’s a very exciting, successful match,” Andrews says.
When SmartCEO asked how Andrews liked working with “so many cooks in the kitchen,” he laughed. “It’s a great situation,” Andrews says. “Many businesses that would be similar to ours would have one CEO and a few people below them. We have the luxury of not only having our leadership team, but three rock stars that still have a huge role.”
Luckily, all four of the MorganFranklin visionaries had the same goal: finding their niche and growing the company. And it seems like they’re off to a great start.
As for the future of MorganFranklin, Andrews is optimistic. “In five years …, we’d probably have a serious office presence in three to five more locations. Our footprint will be bigger, and the things we do will be very much aligned with what we do today. The marketplace will recognize the value proposition that we offer.”