Monthly Archives: September 2011

What Three Qualities Characterize the Company of the Future?

Interview with Philippe Courtot, CEO, Qualys

Situation: Few economists predict a robust recovery. We know from past recessions that in a slow recovery some companies will fail while others rise to the top. What are the three qualities of the companies that will thrive and become the companies of the future?

Advice from Philippe Courtot:

  • Companies of the future will have three qualities. The first is a keen sense of who your customers are – what characterizes them and their buying and use decisions. You need to see yourself through their eyes. This will give you the ability to shift more easily as their needs shift. Making this shift is easier for a service company than for a manufacturing company because the infrastructure of a service company is more flexible.
  • Second is an intense focus on operational excellence. Everything is measured with the objective of obtaining the highest levels of productivity as well as the opportunity for ongoing learning and improvement. The companies of the future will have superior systems for gathering and tracking performance data, as well as cultures which allow them to learn from what they track.
  • Third is a culture of continuous innovation. The company of the future will be the company disrupting itself. Germany provides a wonderful example because of its culture of excellence in small, family owned companies. You may be surprised to learn that it is these small companies who are the true drivers of German innovation, not the big companies like Daimler or BMW. The small companies follow the three rules outlined here. Their success has been aided by the emphasis in German education on math and engineering which means that there is an ongoing supply of domestic talent to feed these jobs.

You can contact Philippe Courtot at pcourtot@qualys.com

Key Words: Company, Future, Quality, Customer, Shift, Adapt, Service, Manufacturing, Operations, Excellence, Learning, Improvement, Data, Culture, Innovation, Continuous, Disrupt, Family, Business, Education

What Is Changing The Game in Network Security?

Interview with Philippe Courtot, CEO, Qualys

Situation: Companies experiencing security breaches and data theft are regularly in the headlines. Those launching these attacks are increasingly well organized and very creative. What is changing the game in network security and how can you respond?

Advice from Philippe Courtot:

  • The movements from enterprise software to Software as a Service (SaaS), and from mainframes to PCs to mobile devices increase the challenges of protecting enterprise environments. Therefore, a cohesive technology platform is imperative.
  • Companies are sensitive to the possibility of attack at any time. There are three principal attack vectors: breach through web applications, breach through email and browsers, and breach by device. Between PCs, iPhones and Android devices, the PC is the most closely linked to the corporate intranet while often the most vulnerable because users are lax about updating their systems and applications.
  • Attackers often target a company executive or high level administrative assistant to access the user’s profile and passwords.  In one type of attack called spear fishing, the attacker creates emails tailored to the person targeted appearing to come from a colleague or friend. When the target clicks on the email, a small piece of code is inserted in the computer, which can give control to the attacker. Another way to gain control of a computer is through physical access. An attacker can learn about a pending vacation via Facebook or twitter, providing an opportunity for home invasion. Once the attacker has access to the computer, they can plant a control program on the system. When the user returns, the attackers can make fast, brief forays inserting additional code or taking data from the enterprise network. They may use the information themselves, or sell it to others.

Given these new realities, how does a company prevent attack?

  • First, the company must thoroughly analyze and understand their vulnerabilities which are all potential entry points for an attacker. Once vulnerabilities are mapped, work on a schedule to remediate them.
  • Second, you must educate all users about the threats. This is especially critical for any personnel who have access to secure company data.
  • Third, invest in and build additional defenses to shield all remaining vulnerabilities. Make sure that employees are drilled on the defenses and that they are used. One growing trend is the use of two factor authentication, requiring employees to carry token generation devices with them to use in addition to their password. These tokens can be delivered by smart phone.

You can contact Philippe Courtot at pcourtot@qualys.com

Key Words:  Network, Security, Breach, Data, Theft, Response, Mainframe, PC, Mobile, Enterprise, Environment, Criminal, Government, Attack, Vector, Social Network, Email, Browser, Web, Application, Device, Spear Fishing, Executive, Assistant, Profile, Password, Vulnerability, Educate, Defense, ID

How Do You Handle a Perfectionist in Your Company? Three Thoughts

Situation: A consulting company has an employee who is a perfectionist. They can bill clients for standard work to complete a project to client specifications; however, this employee wants to continue working unbillable time to perfect the work and considers this to be of research benefit to the company. The CEO wants to impress the individual that the company is a business, not a research organization, without discouraging the employee’s enthusiasm for the work. How have you handled perfectionists within your own organization?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If the employee possesses skills which are important to the company’s strategic direction it makes sense to work with the individual. One option is to focus this employee on future development rather than current projects.
  • An increasing number of companies allow employees in development positions 10% to 20% of their time to pursue pure research. Both product and software companies leverage employee enthusiasm to build their products or services. At the same time, they create guidelines to assure that the remaining 80% to 90% of these individuals’ time is devoted to current business.
  • Why not allow the employee one day per week to focus on research, but limit the focus on pure research to this one day – as well as any evenings and weekends that they want to devote to this on their own time? This way the individual is encouraged to pursue their ambitions, but within a framework that clearly states that we want 80% of your work week to be devoted to billable work.

Key Words: Perfectionist, Consulting, Billable, Research, Expertise, Enthusiasm, Strategy, Rules, Guidelines, Policy

How Do You Find and Focus on Your Promoters? Five Factors

Interview with Richard Owen, CEO, Satmetrix Systems

Situation: If you are not creating promoters of your product or service, you are inhibiting your own growth. Growth is challenging and if you don’t have positive word of mouth it becomes more expensive. How do you find and focus on your promoters?

Advice from Richard Owen:

  • Calculate and understand your “Net Promoter Score” – the percentage difference between “promoters” and detractors.” Promoters are those customers who would highly recommend your business, detractors have a negative perspective.
  • It is important to attend these two audiences – “detractors”, who create negative word of mouth, and “promoters” who create positive word of mouth. Detractors can be targeted for service recovery. At the same time, you must identify your promoters and find ways to get them to actively let others know about your business. Both negative and positive effects are being amplified today by social networks.
  • Understand what your business does that creates detractors and promoters. Gather and analyze root cause data to provide insights around the actions you and your team should take to change the balance in your favor.
  • Hold employees accountable by “stack ranking” the customer performance of each of your teams or employees. In part, this helps you to understand areas of strength and weakness and allows you to create individualized or group action and coaching plans. There is also a tendency for groups below the average to improve performance because they are being measured.
  • These are simple ideas, but making this work in practice can be a challenge. Setting up an effective system takes more leadership than leaders typically realize and is often counter to the short term realities of most companies. Success requires a long-term perspective and an external versus internal focus. And, of course, the right systems!
  • While the leadership of many mid-market companies are as sophisticated as that in large companies, mid-market companies lack the resources of large companies. A focus on action around promoters and detractors allows a company to get 90% of the value for 10% of the effort in customer experience management.

You can contact Richard Owen at richardo@satmetrix.com

Key Words:  Promoter, Growth, Word of Mouth, Positive, Negative, Cost, Data, Customer, Metric, Coach, SMB, Perspective, Effectiveness, Resources

How Do You Evaluate Tradeoffs Between Strategic Options? Six Suggestions

Situation:  A company’s primary objectives are to hone their business model and establish their first satellite office as a model for future expansion. An opportunity has arisen from a trusted source that could rapidly expand both business and opening of satellite offices by providing service to a single national client. How do you evaluate the tradeoffs between these options?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • What is the impact of this new option on client diversity? One of Porter’s fundamentals of strategy is to not have too much of your business dependent on any one customer.
  • What is the impact of this opportunity on your personnel, time and resources?
  • Are there areas in which this opportunity will save time and resources, for example by consolidating some back-office functions like billing and accounting?
  • If this opportunity will take an inordinate amount of time and focus, consider starting a new entity to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Use a decision-making grid to evaluate the new opportunity versus your present strategy:
    • Identify the most important factors of both your current strategy and the new opportunity.
    • Weight the importance of each factor as a percent of with the total adding up to 100%.
    • Rank each opportunity against each factor.
    • Multiply the factor ranking times the weight for each ranking.
    • Sum the weighted rankings.
    • See whether the summed rankings support of contradict your gut feeling, and further analyze depending on the result.
  • Once you have identified the risks in this proposition, determine contract provisions that will reduce risks to acceptable levels. If the potential client is unwilling to yield enough of these points in the contracting stage to acceptably mitigate your risks, then walk away from the deal.
  • Don’t risk your entire company for one opportunity. Financial rewards are only a scorecard.

Key Words: Expansion, Options, Satellite, Office, Time, Focus, Resources, Trade-offs, Client, Diversity, Consolidation, Function, Corporate Structure, Factor, Weight, Rank, Contract, Mitigate, Risk

How Do You Stay Focused While Building? Five Suggestions

Interview with G.K. Sally Solis-Cohen, President, CEO Intronet

Situation: An early stage company is simultaneously undergoing geographic expansion and broadening its network to include new audiences. This mandates finding the right people to run the new opportunities while staying focused on existing operations. How do you stay focused on core operations while building new opportunities?

Advice from Sally Solis-Cohen:

  • First and foremost, understand your own limitations. Know what you can do, what you can’t, and delegate what you can’t do. This means choosing the right people to whom you can delegate important initiatives. As a start-up you have few people to whom you can delegate. Make sure that they see the opportunity as you do and have the skill and personality sets to handle their responsibilities. The choices that you make in selecting your core team will be critical to your success.
  • Make sure that your team talks back to you – your need their perspective and feedback, especially when their perspective differs from your own. Listen openly to their ideas. At the same time listen to your customers; they will keep you focused on your business and marketing plans. Focus more on listening, thinking and doing than speaking.
  • Have a very clear set of priorities and a to-do list. Focus on your A priorities. Delegate the rest. When you’re growing it doesn’t double your work, it quadruples it with travel and extra distractions.
  • Stay focused on your core value proposition. Keep reminding yourself why you started the business. Observe the validation that you receive from your customers and users. Live your value proposition.
  • If you are talking to nay-sayers, you’re talking to the wrong people. Surround yourself with positive people who are heading in the same direction that you are and who can present alternate points of view in a positive tone.

You can contact Sally Solis-Cohen at ssoliscohen@ceointronet.com

Key Words: Growth, Expansion, Right People, Opportunity, Focus, Operations, Limitations, Delegate, Feedback, Listen, Priorities, Distractions, Validation, Positive

What are Best Practices for Effective Delegation? Three Thoughts

Situation: The CEO of a small company finds that whether he gives broad direction to employees or very specific instruction he gets the same result: they don’t seem to understand what he wants. He feels that they don’t have a sense of buy-in or urgency. What are best practices for effective delegation to improve results?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You recently fired an employee for inconsistent performance but didn’t tell your staff. When you return to the office this afternoon, get the employees together and tell why the individual was fired. Let them know that this is part of a broader pattern that you see within the company and that if you see other cases of individuals not following through on their assigned responsibilities you will have to take additional action. Unless your employees understand that nonperformance has consequences, there will be no change.
  • In your operations, set subassembly goals and intermediate milestones coupled. Create and post a set of charts in the operations room so that employees have a regular visual reminder of how they are doing. Bring these charts to employee meetings and discuss how the company is doing. If deadlines aren’t being met, ask for input on how to improve performance. Celebrate successes with recognition for individuals or groups who demonstrate the ability to meet objectives.
  • Hire an operations manager with experience working with teams the size of yours. You want an individual who excels at motivating and getting results from people, and who has supervisory versus managerial experience. Think platoon leader – a person who excels at effectively running small teams.

Key Words: Delegation, Direction, Buy-in, Urgency, Performance, Consistent, Consequences, Vision, Priorities, Goals, Milestones, Chart, Review, Employee Input, Improvement, Celebration, Manager, Motivation, Results