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For sales-consulting firm, customers don’t come first

John Seelmeyer

Joe Terry flat-out disbelieves the cliche that customers always should come first.

Terry, the president and chief executive of fast-growing Corporate Visions Inc., puts the interests of the company’s employees first.

“If we do what is right for those 32 people, they’ll take care of our customers,” he says.

The company headquartered at Incline Village posted 30 percent growth during 2011 its fourth consecutive year of growth, despite the recession and Terry expects that the company will at least double in size during the next five years.

Since 2008, the privately held company has grown at a 182 percent clip.

The company’s product? It helps big clients such as General Electric, IBM and Dell develop effective sales and marketing messages for use by their business-to-business sales forces.

Much of its focus is on the methods that salespeople use at the point of sale, when they are talking directly with potential clients a three-foot conversation as opposed to a 30,000-foot marketing message.

Founded in the late 1980s in Incline Village by Charles Laughlin and Karen Sage, Corporate Visions was among the pioneers in helping sales teams learn the use of stories to deliver their messages.

They built a loyal following in the business-to-business sales world.

“Nobody else was teaching salespeople how to deliver a unique and compelling message,” Terry says. “The intellectual property they developed was based on how the brain processes information and how the brain makes decisions.”

The company took a major step in 2008, shortly after Terry came on board, when it acquired Customer Message Management LLC.

Its co-founder, Tim Riesterer, is a well-known author on sales messaging McGraw-Hill published his “Conversations That Win the Complex Sale” last year and now works as chief strategy and marketing officer for Corporate Visions.

“That acquisition really catapulted the company,” says Terry.

In mid-2010, Terry led a management buyout of the company after lining up equity support from Hammond, Kennedy & Whitney, a New York City investment firm. James O. Futterknecht, Jr., a partner in Hammond, Kennedy & Whitney, is chairman of the board of Corporate Visions.

While Terry expects the company to grow significantly in the next few years, he says the growth is likely to slow and steady rather than dramatic.

“There is no magic bullet,” he says. “We just have to execute what we do to more people. We are just barely scratching the surface.”

Corporate Visions added 35 customers across sectors such as telecommunications, technology and insurance last year alone.

Acquisitions also are a possibility to further fuel the company’s growth, Terry says.

About half the company’s staff of 32 works in Incline Village the others are spread across the country but Terry doesn’t expect that its staff will grow as quickly as its sales.

“People are blown away by the size of the business we have created with this team,” he says.

Corporate Visions is generous with the time of its team. It gives each employee two additional days of time off each year for community and charitable activities, and it matches donations up to $2,000 to causes chosen by its employees.