Two Leading Retail Industry Powerhouses Form A Strategic Alliance


Clint O’Rear

President, Creative Sales Consulting LLC



Dallas, TX,  October 6 – Creative Sales Consulting, LLC and Experts In How, LLC have announced the formation of a strategic partnership to advise retail vendors on strategies to identify opportunities and navigate challenges to increase sales in the Consumer Packaged Goods retail market and to create sustainable profitable growth in a difficult retail environment.  The executive teams of Creative Sales Consulting and Experts In How have specialized knowledge and experience in the Arts and Crafts, Hobby, and Home Decor channels, and are now applying that experience across multiple retail channels.  

According to the Arts and Crafts Market 2018 Global Analysis, Growth, Trends and Opportunities Research Report Forecasting to 2023 from, “Overall, the arts and crafts industry continues to trend positively, as consumers continue to seek out do-it-yourself (“DIY”) home projects. In general, it seems consumers have an ongoing interest in crafting. However, the industry remains very competitive, with traditional brick-and-mortar arts and crafts stores facing competition from big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, as well as online players such as The increased competition has caused many retailers to increase promotional activity to drive sales. While lower price points remain important for many consumers, many retailers have been recently focused on improving gross margin, and have been more strategic with the type and level of discounts offered.   In 2017, the global Arts and Crafts market size was $38.4 billion USD and is forecast to $52.1 billion USD in 2025, growing at a CAGR of 4.6%.”  

Clint O’Rear, President of Creative Sales Consulting, affirmed “There are a lot of challenges in the retail market today, and that’s why Creative Sales Consulting and Experts In How are aligning to help vendors develop strategies to navigate those challenges to allow continued profitable sales growth.  And, as we help vendors align their strategies for growth, we thereby help the retailers that we support grow their sales. Our goal is to turn challenge into opportunity.”

Key facts about the Arts and Crafts Industry:

  • Total spending in the Global Arts and Crafts segment are expected to reach $52 Billion USD by 2025
  • Michaels Stores Inc., Jo-Ann Stores Inc. and Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. hold the largest market share  in the US
  • Etsy’s annual marketplace revenue worldwide $179.5m USD
  • Number of Etsy sellers worldwide is 2.1M 
  • Monthly spend of 18-34 year old segment on craft and hobby items is $68.68 USD
  • Share of total US arts & crafts spend on painting and drawing supplies 16.9%

Charlie Leichtweis, Managing Director of Experts In HOW, acknowledges the existence of challenges in keeping up with consumer trends and reaching consumers in a profitable way. Even in the face of those challenges there is significant opportunity for suppliers with best in class product development and supply chain processes.

“The challenges in the retail landscape are growing: channel migration, retail direct sourcing, shifting consumer tastes, import economics, long lead time supply chains, and many others.  The vendors who continue to develop product informed by consumer insights, partner with retailers on inventory management, and effectively align their supply chain with their product development processes will continue to win and drive sustainable profitable growth.”

About Creative Sales Consulting (CSC)


Creative Sales Consulting has partnered with retail vendors by providing account management services to targeted large retailers for more than 30 years (previously as Randy Putnam & Associates).  Under the leadership of Clint O’Rear Creative Sales Consulting utilizes key account teams to grow relationships and identify opportunities in the retail market.  CSC helps companies in the areas of product ideation, go to market strategies, product presentation reviews, retail data analytics, negotiation, issue resolution, and overall relationship management with large retailers.  

About Experts In How (EIH) 



Experts In How, LLC brings together over 50 years of combined experience of Charlie and Stephanie Leichtweis, who have served in multiple C-suite positions with very successful companies, including multiple CEO roles for each of them at companies such as The Testor Corporation, Coats & Clark, and Fiber Craft.  Charlie and Stephanie are able to help companies in the areas of strategy development and execution, alignment of strategy with process, global sourcing and operations, and business transformation. They specialize in helping companies with the HOW to create sustainable profitable growth. 

Data Sources:

Reverse Waterfall Strategy Delivers Powerful Innovation

Charlie Leichtweis

By Scott Bermingham and Charlie Leichtweis

When a company stops innovating, it stops growing. But precisely where does that innovation come from? In some cases, a single individual becomes the “heart and soul” of a company, directing and inspiring growth and innovation. And for a while, that works, but it’s simply not sustainable. By the same token, strict “top-down” models tend to be limited in scope, and not get the feedback needed from front-line stakeholders to be realistic, especially when it comes to innovative thinking.

A “reverse waterfall” strategy solves this dilemma and delivers the best of both worlds in terms of meaningful innovation, cost savings and improvements on an end-to-end basis. Setting priorities is naturally the domain of the C-suite, but once those priorities are set, they are sent down the line throughout the organization. With proper implementation and enough support from higher levels, what happens next is nothing short of phenomenal. Armed with support, resources, empowerment and defined priorities, ideas from the “shop floor” will flow back upwards, be captured, implemented and measured for impact.

The result is that those great ideas that often come out of the departmental level actually get heard by those that can make it happen. And those innovators don’t need to “go rogue.” They will, under this strategy, have the guidance and support of the C-suite, and those great ideas will be more likely to be integrated into a broader strategy. This holistic approach to business innovation has been shown to deliver solid, measurable results and meaningful improvements across the board. In one case in the medical device industry, this strategy resulted in a six million dollar cost savings to one division over a six-month period.

Yes, the strategy works. And yet as is often said, “The devil is in the details”. Like any strategy, the “reverse waterfall” strategy’s success depends on several factors including thoughtful leadership, overcoming barriers to teamwork, and implementing the right type of progress metrics that measure not only results but the key drivers of success.


Leadership is defined in many ways. Fundamentally, leadership is about direction, motivation, and measurement. Effective leadership can accomplish these elements through an equal emphasis on results and relationships. Thoughtful leadership includes an understanding that there are many in the organization that do not think and act as the organization’s leaders think and act. It does not matter within which industry category your company falls. What matters is that leaders appreciate that when they set expectations of results for the company,  many manufacturing folks, research scientists, or service personnel may very well not understand how the expected results translate into work they do in their jobs every day. When this happens, the expected results can be misunderstood and thus not achieved. Thoughtful leaders consider these potential barriers to success and ensure that the organization understands the “what” and “why” behind the expected results. In addition, these leaders must facilitate the “how” to achieve the results through engaging and empowering the very same people, at all levels of the organization, who are expected to achieve those results.

A reverse Waterfall strategy and process to facilitating innovation does in fact leverage the knowledge and talents of the people in your organization that are most familiar with what is done today. With the help, guidance and empowerment of the organization’s leaders, those individuals may have a significant impact on implementing improvements going forward.

Diagnostic assessments can provide sound guidance on the size of the opportunity for change and the effort/risks involved in creating change.  At the same time, diagnostic assessments are only as good as the understanding and experience of the people doing the work. If people do not understand the objectives or don’t have the experience to know how to use diagnostics to identify issues and gaps, you will miss critical information and could end up attempting to solve the wrong issues.

When your organization’s quest for innovation focuses on only one of the critical components of people, culture, process, or structure, you can miss key ideas for innovation. In order to focus efforts on all four critical components, leadership must be open to addressing all four starting with engaging the one component that touches all of them – People. Properly engaging your people involves an equal emphasis on results and relationships!

Silos – The Hidden Barriers

Teamwork, the old “all for one and one for all” call to action, can be difficult to achieve under the best of circumstances. Resistance and other barriers to change make gaining momentum difficult, and unlocking innovation at all levels frequently include process issues. Most organizations start with the assumption that process issues are the biggest barrier to achieving expected results. In fact, experience informs us that this is where most organizations start to attack the lack of innovation. The risk with this approach is that the change initiative starts and ends with tactics to “fix what’s wrong with our processes”.

The reality is that there are “hidden” barriers beyond process steps that are not addressed. The hidden barriers that frequently prevent companies from unlocking the knowledge and experience of its people to optimally “fix processes” in a sustainable way are cultural and structural barriers.  If an organization is structured such that units operate relatively autonomously from one another, a lack of appropriate communication between operating units can and will lead to breakdowns in process and quality. We call these barriers “silos”. There are a number of silos that prevent organizations from being effective and some of them are intertwined with culture. For example, there are functional silos, hierarchical silos, and constituent silos. When an organization operates in silos, breakdowns can occur in the handoffs between processes anywhere along the product or service development and delivery spectrum. The reverse waterfall strategy and process recognizes these potential hidden barriers and takes them into account through the planned engagement of all levels, departments, functions, and hierarchy of people involved in meeting the expected results outlined by management.

Defining expected results is one thing. Achieving the expected results is another. For the Reverse Waterfall strategy to be effective priorities need to be communicated to every unit in the organization in each unit’s own terminology. Further, frontline employees, shop floor, researchers, etc. must be enabled to help the organization achieve its goals and priorities. This, in turn, translates into two key strategic implementation questions: Do front line employees need special training and/or technology to effectively contribute to the organizational objectives? If the answer is yes, these needs must be addressed in concert with the rollout of communiques on targets and metrics. The second question is how do managers ask frontline workers to identify problems and issues within their range of control and not cause chaos throughout the organization?

The answer is in the implementation of the strategy. The key is providing frontline workers and their managers with ownership of the innovative process. Once leadership has translated and communicated priorities to the entire organization and any educational and technological issues have been rolled out, leadership then requests ideas for solutions that meet or exceed objectives. These requests authorize and empower every employee to identify, within their range of control (work responsibilities), any issues and offer their manager possible solutions. Managers at all levels should facilitate the process of identifying, quantifying, and prioritizing potential solutions. For those initiatives for innovation and improvement that are the priority, work teams that transcend any silos should be engaged to implement recommendations and be held accountable for results. The people in your organization should be empowered to be able to repeat this process on a continuous basis as needed.

Financial bonuses are always appreciated but are not always necessary. Recognizing and empowering employees are the keys to this strategy’s success.

Measurements of Results and Drivers

Metrics are a critical element of accountability and progress. Most organizations/companies understand the need for metrics. Without metrics, it is impossible to know what the target is or what has been achieved. There are two types of metrics: measures of drivers and measures of results. Knowing which to use when and properly developing the correct metrics is not as simple as it sounds. Many measures of business today are required measurements of results, and while necessary, these metrics only tell half the story. Typically by the time results are known, time and money have been wasted. Measures of the drivers of your business are more meaningful predictors of results. To understand and interpret drivers allows you to be more proactive, and to prevent wasting time and money – and the result is maximized value and a more proactive outlook. The process of how to identify, report, and prioritize measures of drivers is something that Phoenix Strategic Advisors has helped many companies in a number of diverse industries and the subject for a separate publication dedicated to that topic.

Real Life Example- Medical Device Manufacturer

A medical device manufacturer sold a product that was one of a hospital’s highest cost disposable items. Medical staff at a hospital would open the product which included a machine with attached tubing, all sterilized and ready to go. In many cases the attached tubes had kinks in them making them unusable, leading to a large number of returns and high replacement costs. The solution included for key elements:

The right team: The packaging engineers, manufacturer of the tubes, line packing employees

  • The right metric: Product returns by reason code
  • The solution: Packaging redesign identified by the team
  • The result: Six million dollar cost savings to one division over a six-month period and improved customer satisfaction/

In this case, innovation came not only from front line workers but in a box. Who knows what innovative ideas your front line will come up with given the opportunity? You hired your people. Let them work for you!

Process Solutions, Inc. a unique Chicago business consulting firm launches under new name: Experts in HOW, LLC.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Charlie Leichtweis 704-412-1117 

Charlotte, July 25

– Charlie Leichtweis, President, Process Solutions, Inc. announced today that the business consulting firm will launch operations under the new name Experts in HOW, LLC. 

According to Leichtweis, “The WHAT and the WHY are critical to success… The HOW validates and aligns those two elements to create sustainable, profitable growth” and is the source of the name Experts In HOW. 

The name change is designed to reflect the firm’s unique consulting service. “Our team has deep experience with some of the most successful companies in North America. Not only can we help identify issues, but we can also show you HOW to make changes that result in sustainable, profitable growth. That sets us apart from traditional consulting.” 

About Charlie Leichtweis:

Charlie Leichtweis is a 30-year business veteran with a strong track record of success at some of America’s best-known companies. His C-suite experience extends across a variety of businesses, including CEO and President of The Testor Corporation, COO of North American Wholesale Group of Blyth Inc., CFO of Rand McNally Book Services, and CFO and Comptroller of Rust-Oleum Corp. 

He has written two books, “The Power of Respect in Business” and “QlikView Your Business,” both available from Amazon. 

About Experts In HOW, LLC 

Experts in HOW, LLC is a consulting firm focused on helping clients with HOW to achieve sustainable, profitable growth. Our highly accomplished partners and affiliates provide strategic, organizational, and operational guidance as well as implementation where needed. 

Our team has deep experience successfully helping Fortune 100 companies, companies with #1 brand recognition, large and small family-owned businesses and companies backed by Private Equity. Our experience cuts across B2B and B2C companies. 

On the spectrum from strategy to execution, businesses encounter numerous barriers to achieving sustainable profitable growth. Our team provide tailored, actionable solutions that can be executed at all levels of an organization to optimize sustainable profitable growth and maximize cash flow. 

To learn more please visit our website:


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