Situation: The Company wants to be prepared in case of emergencies including water, fire, earthquake, and the possibility that owners or employees may have difficulty communicating or traveling to their offices for an extended period. What have others done to create an emergency response plan?
Advice of the CEOs:
- One company developed a disaster recovery plan, including:
- A communication plan.
- Employees taking notebook computers home in the evening.
- Data back-up and server restoration capabilities.
The plan was relatively easy to build and is summarized in a 4-page document in the possession of each employee.
- What have others done to address emergency preparedness?
- Daily systems back-ups.
- If you use a web-based CRM, check whether they have a disaster recovery program.
- Assuring that there are sufficient cash reserves to manage through 30 days with no invoicing or collections.
- Drafting a full emergency plan is essential. Start simply:
- Look at the obvious risks in your location.
- For each that you identify, develop a back up or contingency strategy and put it in place.
- Let the list of contingencies grow over time as you recognize more risks.
- Start this exercise NOW.
- Once you have a plan, drill the plan. Make sure that employees know what to do in a variety of emergencies so that they are prepared.
- This can build the confidence that your employees will be able to handle emergencies.
Key Words: Emergency, Communications, Preparedness, Systems, Disaster Recovery, Cash Reserves, Risk Management, Contingency, Drills
Situation: The Company has had success with a few large clients but wants to expand their customer base for long-term growth. How do they differentiate their products in what is perceived as a commodity market?
Advice of the CEOs:
- One company created differentiation by getting to know everyone in the business – building long term relationships, based on reputation and trust.
- They spent time up front understanding the needs of customers that they wanted to develop.
- As opportunities arose, they built relationships and asked questions to clearly define client needs.
- While it takes time and patience, the objective is to be able to say “We know your business” – with credibility.
- The steps:
- Study the business, sector, and customers that you wish to serve.
- Leverage the success that you have had with large customers. Talk about how you helped subunits within your large customers. This makes a big customer seem more like a collection of small customers similar to your prospects and makes your experience relevant.
- Let prospective customers know, when appropriate to the situation, that you are hungry and will go the extra mile for their business. Simply out-serve your competition.
- Learn who currently serves your prospective clientele. Study these competitors, their strengths and weaknesses. Talk to their customers – learn what they love about competitors’ service, and what they would like to see changed. Find the holes in what they provide and fill these holes with a better offer.
- Look for and encourage repeat business and references to new business.
Key Words: Commodity, Differentiation, Sales, Marketing, Business Development, Customer Needs, Competition
Situation: We want to make our company more client-centered. What are the most important considerations?
Advice from the CEOs:
- One CEO transformed their company into a client-centered organization based on conversations with customers.
- The new structure is based on client-market groups.
- The core of each group is cross-trained professionals who focus on client needs.
- These groups are supplemented with a cross-trained support staff who can shift between projects depending on market conditions.
- Organizational structure must start from, and support, a strategic vision. The vision must be informed by the realities of your market and the products/services that you offer.
- Once you have determined strategy and analyzed customer markets, develop an structure that allows you to adapt to market changes. Structure follows strategy and market.
- Things to watch:
- Flexibility within the structure. You want most of your staff to be flexible, so that you can move them among projects as market conditions change.
- Cross-training is critical.
- You need strong leaders who can develop market segments.
- Create objectives and accountability that will tell you how the market segments are operating, and whether staff are meeting cross-training objectives.
- As you implement a new structure, be aware that:
- Any change is met with insecurity. Coach your managers to communicate with their teams.
- The core message is assure employees that they are valued, that any change will be gradual, and that you will provide them with the appropriate training and incentives that they need to succeed.
Key Words: Customer Focus, Cross-training, Communication, Strategic Vision, Structure, Objectives, Accountability
Situation: A long-standing employee committed suicide away from work. Relatives of this person work in the company. How can the CEO assure that assistance is available to help employees resolve their emotional shock?
Advice from the CEOs:
- First, do not assume that this is a passing situation and that all will recover without assistance. One never knows what may have passed between employees in the days or hours prior to the event or what lingering feelings of guilt or involvement may remain and impact future performance or development.
- Initiate personal contact with those employees closest to the individual to console them.
- Search for local resources on death and dying that provide trained counselors to work with employees. The service is generally free of charge, but a donation is appropriate.
- Be proactive – create a remembrance fund to allow employees to contribute as they wish. This can assist them in their personal bereavement process.
- Establish a company bereavement policy – for example 3 days time off with pay with guidelines as to situations that trigger this benefit – so that they can deal with their loss.
- One company has an Employee Assistance Program. They pay about $5000/year to access services for employees. This has been a very good program for the company.
- There will inevitably be future situations that arise through accident, illness or other causes that will directly impact employees. It is best to be prepared with a plan in case any of these occur.
Key Words: Performance, Bereavement, Policy, Planning