Gray Cat Case Studies


Interim CMO Management -Destination Pet


For a period of six months, Gray Cat was contracted by Destination Pet as their Interim Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for 175 pet and vet centers across the country. Over the course of six months, Gray Cat accomplished the following:

     - Revamped the marketing team structure filling six (6) open positions in the first eight (8) weeks
     - Provided leadership to the team with focus on driving new customer acquisition and same store growth and overall assessment of the marketing structure
     - Created a detailed action plan to streamline and improve all marketing functions
     - Developed and set up a management system on ongoing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) metrics
     - Developed a merchandising business case and plan of action
Developed the 2024 marketing budget
     - Conducted assessments of vendor partnerships to determine which partners should be included in the scope and scale of plans
     - Worked with operations to assist in project management for key initiatives and/or process improvements

Jennifer Strickland Fowler

CEO, Destination Pet

“It's rare to find a consultant who can make an immediate impact, yet John Matthews successfully does that! I had the pleasure of working with John at Destination Pet when we hired him to help us transition marketing and partner with operations to address specific challenges. I was impressed by his ability to quickly form relationships with our leadership team, quickly identify specific limitations to performance, and jump in to solve and eliminate those limitations. During a critical time for us, John helped stabilize the team and drive positive results, restructuring process and helping restructure the team. He has significant breadth and depth in marketing and operations and was an asset to us during a critical transition period.”

Interim Executive Management - Safeguard and Deluxe

Over the course of past six years and counting, Gray Cat was contracted to become the interim Executive Manager for seven (7) divisions of Deluxe/Safeguard company-operated markets. Revenues from these markets were nearly $50 million and spanned the entire United States. Gray Cat’s role was to transform the business in preparation to either be sold to a distributor or transitioned to an employee-based general manager.

An overall Strategic Business and Assessment Plan was developed on behalf of each division. The Plan included:

      - The development of internal routines that enhance collaborative communication
      - A thorough review of the P & L with recommended enhancements to profitability
      - Creation of a sales forecasting tool
      - Development and management on ongoing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
      - A detailed action plan to drive sales and margin
      - Revamping an inefficient system of processes
      - Development of financial metrics to include a daily sales flash, revamped P & L statements, 
         and financial Proforma’s

In the end, results matter. What initially started as a one-market, six-month project expanded into a 7-division, 4-year+ series of contract renewals. Improvements were across the board in revenues, expense reductions and bottom-line profits. In one case, Gray Cat turned a net loss division into a 7-figure profitable entity. 

Jennifer Mitchell

Former VP & General Manager, Deluxe Corporation 

“John Matthews is a seasoned leader with a diverse business background enabling him to bring value add to every business that we asked him to lead. As a consultant for Deluxe Corporation, he focused efforts on customers, financial results, and process improvement. He drove meaningful gains in every aspect of the business. He lifted morale and drove collaboration across the team while ensuring key talent remained within the organization. I would strongly recommend him to support any business in need of performance improvement.”  

Capital Management -

Global Partners, Project Renaissance

Strategic project lead for Global Partners 1,500-unit Gasoline Distribution & Station Operations (GDSO) developing and overseeing the Project Renaissance initiative. Project Renaissance is the overall strategic design, process and implementation for new store builds, raze-and-rebuilds and remodels. 

This initiative is a multi-department, multi-outsource cohesive endeavor that manages the following:
     - Overall streamlining of the Capital Expense Management (CAPEX) process
     - New Alltown-branded designs
     - Development of 5 prototypical layouts
     - Overall strategic sponsorship of an equipment purchasing program
     - New site selection and economic validation in the downtown Boston marketplace
     - Development of a store-by-store equipment and attributes database
     - Oversight to the brand standards and guidelines
     - Development of the store-by-store Capital Expense Management (CAPEX) budgets

Project Renaissance combines the contributions of operations, marketing, branding, merchandising and facilities management under one umbrella. With as many as 30 concurrent projects, the complexities of all of the “moving parts” are immense. Gray Cat serves as the “quarterback” for the Renaissance initiative providing the strategic leadership to ensure that all parties are cohesive in their strategic guidance as well as with their tactical execution.

Mark Cosenza

SVP, Global Partners 

“Global Partners and hired John Matthews and Gray Cat and he has provided an expertise that we were looking for to enhance our operations across a number of fronts, producing great results. His personality meshes perfectly with our culture and has consistently provided creative solutions in a timely manner. All in all, he has been a tremendous value to our organization in operations, merchandising, marketing and strategic planning. John is a high integrity guy that is a great contributor to the overall success of our team.”  

Project Management -

Potbelly Centralized Catering Kitchen  

Project lead for Chicago-based Potbelly Sandwich Works (300-stores) to create, construct and open a centralized catering kitchen in Chicago, servicing 23 store trade areas. Gray Cat was the overall project lead and led the operations, marketing, design, analysis and IT teams to get the project completed.
Working with the Senior Management team at Potbelly, Gray Cat was assigned a dotted-line reporting team within the Potbelly organization to manage all of the steps to developing and constructing a centralized catering kitchen. Included in the dotted-line report team were representatives of:
     - Operations
     - Marketing
     - Facilities
     - IT
     - Accounting
     - Financial Analysis
     - Human Resources
     - Training

Gray Cat developed a 23-page, 600-task project plan incorporating all departmental co-dependencies and task time lines. Utilizing a weekly reporting structure, the team methodically worked its way through their respective tasks while identifying conflicting issues and resource allocation. Each milestone was recorded and the project plan was developed to ensure an on-time, on-budget accomplishment. Gray Cat was the functional overall project lead. 

Bob Gregg

Former Operations Manager, Potbelly Sandwich Works 

“John is an “A” player. He brings a great deal of industry knowledge and experience to the equation and utilizes critical thinking and planning skills to organize and unify a team. He understands the importance of nuance in the effect of a project’s outcome and ensures the team is thinking robustly in each process and function. I hope to have the opportunity to work with John in the future and would recommend him highly to anyone looking to kick-start a stalled process, project or program that needs to be taken to the next level in your organization.”  

Local Marketing Pilot -

Sylvan Learning Centers 

Project lead for Baltimore-based Sylvan Learning Centers (1000-centers) managing a local marketing Pilot Market study (37 centers). This pilot study not only identifies and quantifies the best practices for local marketing, but then communicates to the 1,000+ centers throughout Sylvan, guidelines and targets that they could expect when they embark on their own local marketing campaign. The pilot center study yielded quantitative benchmarks for both Return to Active (RTA) and Referral marketing as well as best practices for longer-term relationship building with Schools, Seminars and Community activities. The objectives of the Pilot Markets were to:
      - Test & validate the impact on Local Marketing (LM) to the Sylvan business
      - Define LM targets & benchmarks – i.e., conversion rates of Referrals
      - Define the LM business process for everyone to follow

Each of the pilot centers was called every month for a 30-minute coaching session. Pilot centers reported their activities in each of the LM areas providing information and feedback that is both qualitative and quantitative by filling out the pilot tracking sheet for their center and submitting prior to the call.

The centers saw the following results:
     - $100,000 in annual center sales from the 5 LM areas
     - Of which, 94% of pilot to date revenue came from RTA and Referral
     - $2,000 in annual expense for the 5 LM areas

A Local marketing manual was created for all the centers that highlighted best practices, case studies, financial metrics and other key learning’s from the pilot study. 

Michele Popelka

Former VP, Sales, Sylvan Learning Centers

"John was hired to operate a Local Marketing pilot, refine tactics through the pilot, operationalize the tactics and ultimately deliver a local marketing practices manual for Sylvan Learning. John was very professional and organized in his approach. As one of the internal owners of the project, I appreciated the relationships John established both with us and the pilot center franchisees. Ultimately, John delivered incremental revenue in a difficult business year, and we have hired him on for 2010 to expand the program. It has been a pleasure working with John and I will definitely recommend him to others who need similar work."

Strategic Planning -

The Body Shop 

Strategic lead for Raleigh-based The Body Shop (300-stores) to create cohesive management for all of their key strategic initiatives.

The Body Shop indentified 37 key initiatives for the upcoming planning year – submitted by 9 different departments. Gray Cat’s role was to guide the senior team by: a) organizing their projects in a simple, one-page format by initiative; b) identifying the key steps to accomplishing their goal; c) mapping out the specific time table for each step; and d) assigning an owner for each key task. 

The departments involved are listed below:
     - Real Estate
     - E-Commerce, Marketing & Merchandising
     - Operations
     - Finance
     - Human Resources
     - Canada & Mexico

Each of the key initiatives was condensed to a one-page summary and the departmental owners shared their plans with their peers in a series of senior leader meetings. The initiatives were compiled in a master key initiative tracker that linked the financials, broken pipes and time lines in summary fashion for the executive team.

Todd Meyer

Former General Counsel, Secretary & VP of Real Estate – Americas Zone, The Body Shop 

“I was introduced to John when he assisted the company with respect to the project management of a number of initiatives. In addition to ensuring the timely delivery of milestones, John provided relevant, substantive input thanks to his vast experience as a senior executive in the Retail Industry, and was always selfless in providing guidance and input. I highly recommend John to any company seeking a seasoned executive with exceptional operational and administrative bandwidth.”  

Company Business Planning -

InfoSec, Inc.  

Based in the Chicago area, InfoSec is a privately held firm that has created numerous advanced software products and services for large-scale information security, serving primarily Fortune 500 clients. Gray Cat wrote a 40-page Offering Memorandum and represented InfoSec throughout both transactions managing the entire process. The sale resolved a dicey distribution issue by positioning the company’s attributes and negotiated with IBM, Vanguard, BMC and Computer Associates, ultimately resulting in the sale of the IP in two separate agreements.

InfoSec’s TASA for ACF-2, CA-Top Secret Security and RACF, which CA named eTrust Cleanup for CA-ACF2; eTrust Cleanup for CA-Top Secret Security; and eTrust Cleanup for RACF protects enterprise IT environments by identifying and removing obsolete, unused and rogue user ID and access rights in mainframe computers.

Gray Cat was the lead negotiator and principal for InfoSec Inc. and completed its sale of its eTrust Cleanup for CA-ACF2 and eTrust Cleanup for CA-Top Secret Security to Computer Associates (CA). Gray Cat completed a second agreement for InfoSec, with CA acquiring InfoSec’s automated security cleanup for IBM’s RACF mainframe platform.

Transaction 1: InfoSec, Inc.’s TASA for ACF2 and CA-Top Secret Security to Computer Associates

Transaction 2: InfoSec, Inc.’s TASA for RACF and TSXCopy to Computer Associates 

John Busse

President of InfoSec Inc. 

“I recently sold a portion of my high-tech company to Computer Associates, with Gray Cat Enterprises’ John Matthews as my lead negotiator and principal. In addition and as a result of working with Gray Cat, I now have an excellent strategic business plan for the remainder of my company.” 

Strategic Operations -

White Hen Pantry Kiosk Design & Implementation 

Project lead for Chicago-based White Hen (300 convenience stores) to develop self-service, touch screen foodservice ordering kiosks and eventual rollout to the entire chain.

Gray Cat was engaged to lead the project from start-to-finish and oversee the design; development and implementation of foodservice touch screen kiosks in all of the White Hen stores working with a dotted line White Hen team. Included were representatives from marketing, merchandising, operations, analysis and IT – as well as an outside technology vendor.

The benefits from the White Hen touch screen included improvement in speed of service, order accuracy, lift on up-sells/combos, as well as increased consumer satisfaction. From a technology standpoint, each White Hen store was equipped with a Kitchen Production System, Food Service Back Office, Remote Content Management, Management Reporting, and Analytics Dashboard.
The main goals of this project were achieved and the rollout was successfully delivered on the following:
     - Authored the overall project plan and coordinated the installation effort
     - Created a new White Hen self service application for the pilot stores and chain
     - Coordinated with the vendor and installed the hosted self-service solution 
     - Demonstrated to White Hen staff on how to maintain graphics and menus
     - Contracted vendor to provide hardware and software support to White Hen
     - Ensured a smooth ownership transition of the self-service solution

Brandon Barnholt

Former President & CEO, White Hen Pantry

"John is the consummate project leader that's one of the reasons why he was ultimately responsible for four different divisions of ours as a vice president. That is why White Hen now has John tackling some major projects for us. He has a tremendous ability to quickly analyze a multitude of complex components, producing a detailed project plan while communicating with every team member involved until the project is successfully implemented. John always gets the job done."

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