Executives at Fortune 500 companies need to stay on top of the best practices in their industries if they're going to remain competitive. Using outdated or no longer workable business models can crimp profits in the long run, if it doesn’t utterly ruin a company.

In such situations, companies typically turn to Corporate Executive Board (NASDAQ:EXBD), which regularly culls the best data and practices of its members and provides information and training that executives can immediately put to use. The only problem is, when those same companies are struggling for economic survival, they'll often delay purchases like that until conditions improve.

That's where Corporate found itself yesterday, reporting lower earnings of $16.6 million on increased revenue of $141.2 million. On a per-share basis, the consulting firm actually saw profits rise to $0.49 from $0.46 per share the year before. No need to consult a seer here to figure out how that was achieved: Corporate Executive Board spent almost $42 million buying back more than a million shares. It's been using an aggressive buyback policy all along to keep things from looking worse than they are.

With shares down about 10% in midday trading, it looks like the market does not like what it sees in either the current quarter or the rest of the year.

While contract value growth was up 4.8% this quarter, that's almost half the rate of last quarter's growth -- yet the company is still forecasting full-year growth of 10% to 15%. Considering the rest of Corporate Executive Board's guidance, this seems like it will be difficult to achieve.

CEO Tom Monahan reiterated full-year earnings guidance for 2008 of $2.09 to $2.22 per share. With fourth-quarter guidance remaining unchanged, he's lowered the third quarter's expected profits by two pennies, to a range of $0.51 to $0.61 per share. Considering that the Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation used buybacks this quarter (and last) to keep earnings afloat, the business looks to be sagging badly in this economy, and promises of contract value growth that would have to nearly double or triple from what's being realized today just don’t seem reasonable.

Corporate Executive Board is not alone in the troubled business department. Resources Connection (NASDAQ:RECN), another Stock Advisor pick, reported lower profits on 18% growth in revenue this quarter, but it also benefited from an extra week compared to last year. Advisory Board (NASDAQ:ABCO) reports next month, with analysts expecting earnings to fall 6% on an 11% increase in revenue. FTI Consulting (NYSE:FCN), which reports tomorrow, might actually find business booming, since it specializes in advising companies in crisis.

Not that Corporate Executive Board will need FTI's services anytime soon -- I just don't expect it to be a winning investment in that time frame, either.

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Corporate Executive Board is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Resources Connection and Corporate Executive Board are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.