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Keith McFarland is the best-selling author of The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers, and BOUNCE: The Art of Turning Tough Times into Triumph. The speaker, consultant, and business school dean draws from a rich wealth of hands-on experience taking businesses to the next level.

As CEO, McFarland grew a cash-strapped two-time Inc. 500 company, Collectech Systems, from an annual revenue of $10 million to $100 million, repositioning the nearly bankrupt business in just four years. During that time he also completed his doctorate studies under the tutelage of the legendary thought leader Peter Drucker. Additionally, McFarland became one of the youngest deans of a business school when he took the helm at Pepperdine University’s business and management school, which today sits high on the list of the world’s top-ranked executive education programs.

McFarland is a must-have speaker at leadership conferences that focus on accelerated growth. He has headlined the Inc. 500 Conference on three occasions, spoken at more than 70 Young Presidents Organization (YPO) chapters, and keynoted more than 20 events for Vistage.

Full Profile

    As a technology CEO, business school dean, consultant and writer, Keith McFarland has provided management insight to organizations for more than 20 years. A frequent speaker to executive groups and business organizations, he writes a monthly online column for BusinessWeek, and is the founder of McFarland Strategy Partners, which provides strategic advisory services to companies such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, The Los Alamos National Laboratory, Vans, House of Blues, Motorola, and scores of middle market growth firms.

    Prior to establishing his consultancy, he served as CEO of two technology firms–most recently Nivo International, the exclusive provider of certification services for Microsoft Office products through 2,000 testing centers in 56 countries worldwide.

    McFarland previously served as chairman and as CEO of Collectech Systems, a two-time Inc. 500 company in Westlake Village, CA. He led the transformation of Collectech into the leading customer contact and accounts receivable management service provider for the telecommunications industry. As a result of his efforts, Collectech′s revenues grew from $10 million to $100 million in four years as it secured multi-year contracts with Verizon, AT&T, Direct TV and many other leading telecommunications firms. He successfully sold the company to buy-out firm Harvest Partners and GE Capital.

    While running Collectech, McFarland pursued the life-long dream to study with management theorist Peter Drucker–he has completed his coursework and qualifying exams for a doctorate from the Drucker School of Business at Claremont University.

    At the age of 26, Mr. McFarland became one of the youngest business school deans in the nation. As a dean for the Pepperdine University School of Business and Management (recently named as the 11th best executive program in the world) he developed joint-venture executive education programs in the US, Europe and Asia, and founded the quarterly business journal Management Insight. He ranked consistently as one of Pepperdine′s top professors in executive student evaluations.

    McFarland′s first book, The Breakthrough Company–which is being heralded as the Good to Great for growth companies–represents the most exhaustive study of successful growth companies in history. He and his research team spent five years assembling and analyzing a database of more than 7,000 companies–every company to ever be named to Inc. magazine′s annual list of 500 fasted growing companies. In addition to debuting as #1 on the Wall Street Journal list, the book also listed on the national best seller lists of the New York Times, BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. Chris Gardner–made famous in the Will Smith movie The Pursuit of Happyness –called Keith′s new book, Bounce, “an indispensible guide for leadership and life.”


Keith McFarland Speaker Videos Back to top

Keith McFarland: Interview


Keith McFarland discusses the inspiration and research behind his revealing best-seller The Breakthrough Company. Seeing that most business literature focused on start-ups that had transformed into famous billion-dollar companies – the exception rather than the norm – McFarland felt that no one was exploring how everyday companies get out of the entrepreneurial phase.

After being encouraged by his doctorate professor, Peter Drucker, and fellow speaker, Jim Collins, to examine that area himself, he spent five years looking at 7,000 companies only to discover the top nine fastest growing private companies were relatively unknown to most households and came from less-than-glamorous industries. McFarland admits that prior to writing the book, “You could not have convinced me for all the money in the world that on my list would be a nuts-and-bolt distributor from Minnesota, or a snow mobile manufacturer, or a real estate brokerage company. What we discovered really early in our research is that it’s not what you make; it’s what you make of it.”

Keith McFarland: Keynote Excerpt, Breaking Routines



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


Keith McFarland’s extensive breakthrough research on spurring company growth quickly made him realize that “it’s not what you make, but what you do with it.” The experienced CEO and in-demand business consultant delivers a vetted playbook of guidelines and approaches for leaders and management teams who are looking to break out of routines, focus their energy more efficiently, and get exponential results. McFarland details time-trusted tools that will help you prioritize your efforts so that you can get the most out of your talent in good times and bad.

    McFarland is a nationally-recognized keynote speaker who has given more than 100 major addresses to groups up to 1000 people around the world. He has spoken frequently to YPO (Young Presidents Organization) universities and conferences—known to be critical audiences—and he has often achieved speaking ratings of 9.5 or above. He was recently a keynote speaker at the 25th Annual Inc. 500 conference.

    Built for Speed: Driving Your Company’s Ability to Adapt
    One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of a breakthrough company is the speed with which the company adapts. This session explores how leaders can increase velocity and adaptability by throwing out the traditional strategic planning model and replacing it with a dynamic strategy model that enables the firm to adapt on the fly and to focus the business on the twenty percent of the activities most likely to create eighty percent of the results. (Available as keynote speech or as a four-hour executive workshop).

    Olympians, Commandos, and CEOs—Keys to Performance Under Pressure
    Rapid growth is stressful, both on the individual and on the organization as a whole. Managing personal and organizational stress turns out to be one of the most important factors in running a high-growth company. Olympic athletic teams and military commando units have for decades used The Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS) Inventory to optimize performance in high-pressure situations. This same tool has proven very effective in also improving the performance of growth company managers and executives (Two-hour workshop).

    Bounce: Leading in Tough Times
    Great companies aren’t built during the good times—they are built in times of adversity—when the old ways of doing things aren’t working so well. It is during these times that companies open themselves up to new ways of thinking and are in a position to initiate a step-change that can radically transform their potential. Effective leadership during these periods is the critical factor that determines whether a company will come out of a period of adversity wounded, or stronger than ever. (This session is built around Keith’s book Bounce: The Art of Turning Tough Times into Triumph.)

    How to Crash an Inc. 500 Company: Lessons Best Learned Vicariously
    In his early 30s Keith took over a two-time Inc. 500 Company that was out of cash, was facing a default notice from its bank, and was facing the threat of a lawsuits from its newest shareholders. Over the next eighteen months he and his new management team cut costs by 60%, repositioned the company with a new set of products, and eventually sold the business to a leading private equity firm. The experience taught him four fundamental lessons to managing a company in good times and bad.

    Other Suggested Speaking Topics:

    • Rapid Enterprise Development: Build Strategy Like Software
    • The Strategic Edge
    • The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers
    • Managing on the Edge
    • How to Crash and Inc. 500 Company: Lessons Best Learned Vicariously
    • Value-Added Investing: Getting at the Facts
    • The Mind of the CEO
    • TAIS and Executive Performance
    • Value-Added Investing: Myth or Magic
    • Case Study in Adaptive Strategy
    • Rapid Innovation and Commercialization
    • Managing Growth: Life on the Edge


Keith McFarland Speaker Testimonials Back to top

    Select List of Clients:

    Alpine Confection
    Ambrose International
    Boeing (BA)
    Cigna (CI)
    Colorbok
    Dedicated Logistics
    Dorchester Capital
    Eagle Global Logistics (EAGL)
    ESmith Group
    Evault
    NCH
    FdG Associates
    Foamade
    Freescale
    Kings Seafood
    Los Alamos National Laboratory
    LSG Insurance
    Miratech
    Motorola (MOT)
    O2 Ideas
    Olson Company
    Pepperdine University
    Phone Directories Inc.
    Prudential (PRU)
    Vans (VANS)
    Willow
    Wingate Partners
    Young Presidents Organization

    "You were a smash hit at the recent Gettysburg seminar for CEOs—they gave you the highest of ratings. I could gush further, but prefer what Shakespeare would have said, had he been lucky enough to experience your presentation; ′O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful…′"(As You Like It)
    Ambassador Kenneth Adelman,
    Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

    "What a terrific experience! Not a minute was wasted, and all of our independent thinkers came together with clarity on how to reach their individual goals. You can definitely herd cats!"
    Margaret Black,
    Regional Vice President
    Morgan Stanley




* Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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    Select List of Clients:

    Alpine Confection
    Ambrose International
    Boeing (BA)
    Cigna (CI)
    Colorbok
    Dedicated Logistics
    Dorchester Capital
    Eagle Global Logistics (EAGL)
    ESmith Group
    Evault
    NCH
    FdG Associates
    Foamade
    Freescale
    Kings Seafood
    Los Alamos National Laboratory
    LSG Insurance
    Miratech
    Motorola (MOT)
    O2 Ideas
    Olson Company
    Pepperdine University
    Phone Directories Inc.
    Prudential (PRU)
    Vans (VANS)
    Willow
    Wingate Partners
    Young Presidents Organization

    "You were a smash hit at the recent Gettysburg seminar for CEOs—they gave you the highest of ratings. I could gush further, but prefer what Shakespeare would have said, had he been lucky enough to experience your presentation; ′O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful…′"(As You Like It)
    Ambassador Kenneth Adelman,
    Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

    "What a terrific experience! Not a minute was wasted, and all of our independent thinkers came together with clarity on how to reach their individual goals. You can definitely herd cats!"
    Margaret Black,
    Regional Vice President
    Morgan Stanley


    Bounce: The Art of Turning Tough Times into Triumph
    Why do many people and companies crumble in the face of difficulty, while others use adversity to bounce back even stronger? Here from New York Times bestselling author Keith McFarland is a leadership fable for those wary of fables, a story that rejects pat, heard-it-before advice and shows—in a startlingly fresh way—how to use challenges to make both yourself and your organization stronger.
    Order Here




    The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers
    Based on a five-year, 7,000-company study

    The vast majority of small businesses stay small–and not by choice. Only the most savvy and persistent–a tiny one tenth of one percent–break through to the very highest ranks. In The Breakthrough Company, technology CEO and Fortune 500 consultant Keith McFarland draws upon an extensive empirical study to reveal exactly how everyday companies become extraordinary, showing that breakthrough success is associated with a clearly identifiable set of strategies and skills that anyone in any business can emulate–from small startup to industry leader.

    With powerful and specific action steps concluding each chapter–and invaluable advice on virtually every page from business leaders who’ve taken their companies to extraordinary levels of growth and profitability–The Breakthrough Company is stuffed with real-world tools and myth-busting insights that can be used by anyone wanting his or her business to join this exclusive circle.
    Order Here





    McFarland is a nationally-recognized keynote speaker who has given more than 100 major addresses to groups up to 1000 people around the world. He has spoken frequently to YPO (Young Presidents Organization) universities and conferences—known to be critical audiences—and he has often achieved speaking ratings of 9.5 or above. He was recently a keynote speaker at the 25th Annual Inc. 500 conference.

    Built for Speed: Driving Your Company’s Ability to Adapt
    One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of a breakthrough company is the speed with which the company adapts. This session explores how leaders can increase velocity and adaptability by throwing out the traditional strategic planning model and replacing it with a dynamic strategy model that enables the firm to adapt on the fly and to focus the business on the twenty percent of the activities most likely to create eighty percent of the results. (Available as keynote speech or as a four-hour executive workshop).

    Olympians, Commandos, and CEOs—Keys to Performance Under Pressure
    Rapid growth is stressful, both on the individual and on the organization as a whole. Managing personal and organizational stress turns out to be one of the most important factors in running a high-growth company. Olympic athletic teams and military commando units have for decades used The Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS) Inventory to optimize performance in high-pressure situations. This same tool has proven very effective in also improving the performance of growth company managers and executives (Two-hour workshop).

    Bounce: Leading in Tough Times
    Great companies aren’t built during the good times—they are built in times of adversity—when the old ways of doing things aren’t working so well. It is during these times that companies open themselves up to new ways of thinking and are in a position to initiate a step-change that can radically transform their potential. Effective leadership during these periods is the critical factor that determines whether a company will come out of a period of adversity wounded, or stronger than ever. (This session is built around Keith’s book Bounce: The Art of Turning Tough Times into Triumph.)

    How to Crash an Inc. 500 Company: Lessons Best Learned Vicariously
    In his early 30s Keith took over a two-time Inc. 500 Company that was out of cash, was facing a default notice from its bank, and was facing the threat of a lawsuits from its newest shareholders. Over the next eighteen months he and his new management team cut costs by 60%, repositioned the company with a new set of products, and eventually sold the business to a leading private equity firm. The experience taught him four fundamental lessons to managing a company in good times and bad.

    Other Suggested Speaking Topics:

    • Rapid Enterprise Development: Build Strategy Like Software
    • The Strategic Edge
    • The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers
    • Managing on the Edge
    • How to Crash and Inc. 500 Company: Lessons Best Learned Vicariously
    • Value-Added Investing: Getting at the Facts
    • The Mind of the CEO
    • TAIS and Executive Performance
    • Value-Added Investing: Myth or Magic
    • Case Study in Adaptive Strategy
    • Rapid Innovation and Commercialization
    • Managing Growth: Life on the Edge


Keith McFarland: Interview


Keith McFarland discusses the inspiration and research behind his revealing best-seller The Breakthrough Company. Seeing that most business literature focused on start-ups that had transformed into famous billion-dollar companies – the exception rather than the norm – McFarland felt that no one was exploring how everyday companies get out of the entrepreneurial phase.

After being encouraged by his doctorate professor, Peter Drucker, and fellow speaker, Jim Collins, to examine that area himself, he spent five years looking at 7,000 companies only to discover the top nine fastest growing private companies were relatively unknown to most households and came from less-than-glamorous industries. McFarland admits that prior to writing the book, “You could not have convinced me for all the money in the world that on my list would be a nuts-and-bolt distributor from Minnesota, or a snow mobile manufacturer, or a real estate brokerage company. What we discovered really early in our research is that it’s not what you make; it’s what you make of it.”

Keith McFarland: Keynote Excerpt, Breaking Routines