Grant Thornton LLP plans to begin emphasizing growth as its new “brand focus,” positioning the firm as an organization that can help business clients grow despite the challenges of today’s economy.

The Chicago-based firm announced the new brand positioning at its annual partner conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Besides just the U.S. firm, other member firms of Grant Thornton that operate in more than 100 countries are also expected to emphasize similar positioning.

“Growth is really at the center of the brand promise,” said Grant Thornton CEO Stephen Chipman in an interview with Accounting Today. “It’s global, so all around the world all the member firms of Grant Thornton will be delivering on the same brand promise of growth. The notion of growth really aligns with the marketplace that we’ve chosen. We’re very focused on being the firm of choice for dynamic organizations that are growing, expanding, raising capital, and moving internationally. Growth is obviously the key dominant issue that faces business today. Our brand is all about unlocking their potential to grow through our services and advice, and the value that we bring to the relationship.”

Chipman pointed out that the firm’s current services already do provide this type of support and advice to help clients grow their businesses, but in the future the firm plans to expand those capabilities.

“I’m sure, as we move down the road, we will innovate and have additional services,” said Chipman. “But our traditional services in the audit, tax and business advisory area really today allow us to provide distinctive value to dynamic organizations that are seeking to grow. It’s important to note that this is not growth for growth’s sake. It’s quality growth, and growth holistically, smart growth. It’s about getting their financial house in order so that they can access the capital markets. It’s about growth in terms of talent, customers, distribution channels, products, services. Growth is much more than just growing top-line revenue. It’s all the things that dynamic organizations need to do to advance toward their objectives. In our traditional services that we will continue to evolve and innovate, we already support that. One of the things that we learned, in our market research on this brand proposition, is that the market sees us as an organization that can already deliver on the growth opportunity.”

Grant Thornton worked with the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather and market research agency Millward Brown to create the new brand strategy.

To emphasize the new brand positioning, Grant Thornton has unveiled a new Web site, GrowthWins.com, featuring a survey for prospective clients.

“The Web site GrowthWins.com will be an opportunity for our clients and other businesses to learn what we’re doing to support the growth agenda, and contribute to a survey about what they think is important as they seek to grow their businesses,” said Chipman. “It will become a virtual meeting place for ideas and thoughts and what we bring to the table on the growth opportunity and debate.”

Chipman expects that his firm’s growth strategy will help its clients generate more of the jobs that are needed to revive the economy.

“In the economic world that we are in today, we’re all striving to drive growth, and growth leads to jobs,” he said. “Jobs are obviously on everybody’s mind, and our Web site will provide a forum to really advance the debate on growth and what it takes to grow, especially in a challenging environment. Through the survey opportunity, we will have an opportunity for people to provide their input and ideas and thoughts.”

He noted that Grant Thornton has growth plans of its own. “We want to grow ourselves,” said Chipman. “We’re dynamic and we’re on the move. We want to, over time, raise the bar on the growth agenda and be committed to it for the long haul.”

The firm plans to continue with its global expansion plans, especially in emerging markets. “We’ve been very vocal about how the global organization has an ambitious five-year strategy to double our market share, and that’s consistent with our plans here in the United States,” said Chipman. “There will be organic growth, it will be strategic growth. We will invest in new talent and expertise, and it will be M&A growth through mergers and acquisitions.”

He noted that the firm announced the merger of a new health care unit in the United States last week (see Grant Thornton Acquires Military Health Contractor). This week, reports also emerged that the firm is in talks to acquire the Boston-based CPA firm CCR LLP (see Grant Thornton in Negotiations to Acquire CCR). More M&A activity may be on the way.

“You’ll see Grant Thornton continuing to drive an M&A agenda, both within the U.S. and globally, as part of our growth ambitions,” said Chipman. “Geographically on a global basis we have aggressive plans in the major emerging markets: in China, Russia, Brazil, India, for example. In the United States we are very industry focused, on health care, technology, energy, sectors within the consumer industrial products area, financial services, real estate and hospitality. We also do a lot of work for dynamic nonprofit organizations, so our industry sectors are very important to the focus of our growth within the United States.”

The new brand positioning will not extend as far as changing the firm’s logo or slogan, at least not yet. “We are not changing our logo,” said Chipman. “You will see the same Grant Thornton logo, but you will see a lot of branded material focused on supporting the growth agenda.”

However, Grant Thornton may eventually evolve its strategy to incorporate new taglines or slogans.
“As we move forward with this over the next several months, we will certainly be looking for different ways to innovate to present our messaging,” said Chipman.

The firm will start by selling services to its clients. “Initially the most important thing is for us to focus on the services and the interaction with our existing clients and our existing relationships,” said Chipman. “In the beginning phases this is less about an advertising campaign and a slogan and much more about the value that we deliver to the growth agenda. You’ll certainly see us talking about it and providing thought leadership. We will be visible and vocal about growth. But the focus will be on delivering on the growth agenda rather than a major advertising campaign.”

Grant Thornton plans to offer seminars built around the concept. “We’ve been very keen to ensure that this is less about a gimmicky advertising campaign, and more about what we really stand for, how it aligns with the markets that we choose to serve, and how we deliver on the promise of unlocking the potential for growth,” said Chipman. “You’ll see surveys, you’ll see commentary. We’re working on seminars with groups of CEOs to discuss the growth agenda and the opportunities and barriers associated with growth. Within our existing offices and outreach to various communities, not only in the United States but around the world, you will see us engaging with the community on the growth agenda.”

Chipman said there was no specific timeframe for the branding effort. “We do anticipate that this is a long-term commitment,” he said. “This is not a flavor of the month. This is a real commitment to the marketplace, a commitment to the public interest.”

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