Lessons Learned to Leverage Growth: Elise Mitchell Success Story


Participating in Tuck’s Growing the Minority Business to Scale program was a game-changer. Despite the worst economic downturn in our nation’s history, the lessons I learned at Tuck prepared our leadership team to leverage the many opportunities for growth that have come our way.  As a result of attending, we doubled revenue in the first 12 months and are on track to double again this year. I’m grateful for Wal-Mart’s generous sponsorship and highly recommend the Tuck experience.

– Elise Mitchell

Here at Tuck, we are very proud of Elise’s accomplishments, and this is just one of the many success stories we want to share with you. Below is the full story of how Elise doubled revenues in the 12 months following her participation in Tuck’s Growing the Minority Business to Scale


Lessons Learned to Leverage Growth

by Elise Mitchell president and CEO, Mitchell Communications Group, Inc.

June 2011

During the fall of 2009, I had the good fortune to participate in a week-long executive education program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Thanks to a scholarship from Wal-Mart's supplier diversity team, I attended Growing the Minority Business to Scale and was determined to learn everything I could to take our business to the next level.

Within just a few months of attending the program, our company would enter the largest expansion of its 14-year history, growing in just one year from:

  • 13 to 37 full-time employees;
  • $3.2 million to $6.5 million in gross revenues; and
  • 4,500 square feet of office space to more than 11,000 square feet.

The Growth Program at Tuck helped us develop a four-point plan for success that would allow our company's leadership team to prioritize the needs of a growing company and maximize business opportunities -- in spite of the worst economic downturn in our country's history.  Our strategy included a focus on:

  • operations -- upgrading our systems and processes to streamline work flow and ensure consistent quality
  • people -- finding, keeping and developing the best people;
  • culture -- creating a values-based corporate culture that would inspire teams to achieve great things
  • growth -- developing a focused strategy and taking calculated risks to help position the company for long-term growth

One of the ways we put our plan into action was creating an operations assessment tool to help us evaluate what was working, what wasn't, and to identify our highest priority needs.  This proved especially important during a time of rapid growth which spurred the need to make quick decisions for maximum impact such as hiring our first controller, creating two new departments, and leasing more office space.

Another important takeaway was crystalizing our value proposition.  Every company needs a compelling reason why clients should do business with them.  After attending Tuck, we developed new positioning to play to our strengths, leveraged emerging trends in our industry and focused on identifying "best-fit" clients.  This strategy has helped us expand our business through both new and organic growth.

As our company has grown, we have also received numerous national and regional awards recognizing our accomplishments including:

  • 2011 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies -- Women Presidents' Organization and AmEx OPEN
  • 2011 Small PR Agency of the Year -- PRWeek
  • 2011 Overall PR Agency of the Year, Honorable Mention -- PRWeek
  • 2010 Arkansas Business of the Year

The results during the last 18 months are evident -- and they continue to surface.  Our company is fortunate to continue to experience exponential growth during 2011 – growing from 13 to 50 employees – and on track to exceed $10 million in gross revenues.  Most importantly, we are still applying lessons learned to help us create future success. 

I highly recommend Growing the Minority Business to Scale as the right program for business owners who want to create an implementable and sustainable strategic growth plan, including deployment/management of critical resources: capital, people, & facilities. In a particularly tough economic environment, this program will give you the knowledge and tools you need to take your company to the next level, and position your organization to ride the recovery wave. Lastly, I’ll say it was a lot of fun to be on campus at Tuck and soak up lessons from the first graduate school of management in the country. 


What does it take to grow a business to scale? 

Some of my favorite lessons learned from Tuck's faculty include the following:

  • Have a strategy for growth and constantly assess and adjust it to accommodate for a changing business environment;
  • Put correct processes in place to create operational efficiencies and minimize errors;
  • Design the company with a robust infrastructure that can sustain higher volume over time;
  • Identify and access key resources you need to grow the company such as capital, people and facilities;
  • Invest wisely in technology and systems, and support this investment with properly trained people; and
  • Establish a workplace culture that attracts and retains the best and brightest and motivates them to perform at their highest level.