Fast-Track Companies Need Focused Meetings What puts a growing company on the fast track? A CEO committed to strategic planning and regular, creative meetings, says Katherine Catlin, founding partner of the Catlin Group (www.ceoexchange.com), a Hingham, Mass - based company that helps CEOs and their executive teams manage fast-paced growth.

"The only way a company can survive is by innovating constantly in every way," says Catlin, who is also co-author of Leading at the Speed of Growth (IDG Books, Spring 2001).

One CEO who fits Catlin's model is Fred Bramante, the founder of Daddy's Junky Music, a musical equipment retailer based in Manchester, N.H. Bramante, who Catlin first surveyed 10 years ago, has grown his business to 21 stores in six states and more than $36 million in sales over the past decade.

"My style is to always keep my vision of being the best in the industry in front of everybody else in the company," says Bramante. He does this, in part, by bringing employees together for staff meetings to discuss where they are and where they should be going. At once highly structured and highly creative, his meetings follow a track that everyone in the company has come to know. "First we make sure we're all in the same place as far as our vision," he explains. "Then we analyze where we are in relation to where we want to be and get everyone's ideas on what the problems are and what the options are. Then we work together to figure out which direction we should take."

The meetings are able to achieve their objectives, says Bramante, because the structure provides an opportunity for everyone to take ownership in the solution. "The meeting structure says that the company values everyone's input, not just mine or top management's."