Monthly Archives: October 2011

How Do You Attract Good Candidates for Open Positions? Six Suggestions

Situation: Despite high unemployment, a company is finding it difficult to attract qualified candidates for technical positions. Many applicants don’t possess the requisite skills, and recent graduates aren’t responding to job posts. What works best attracting good candidates for open positions?

Advice of the Forum:

  • There is a wide array of specialized online resources to help you find qualified candidates. As an example, for tech candidates, try DICE.com. For a reasonable cost, you can post position on DICE.com or get employer access to the database and search it yourself using key words.
  • Better results come through networking with vendors, suppliers and customers to identify currently employed and highly qualified candidates. This should be regular company practice.
  • It is feasible to hire nationally and to relocate. As long as the employees and young and not invested, relocation expenses are not severe, and the Bay Area is appealing to young workers.
    • For distant candidates, companies frequently use an initial telephone interview, and then bring qualified candidates to the office for a face-to-face 2nd interview.
  • Push current employees for referrals. Give them a reward for successful hires that stay with the Company for a pre-set time period.
    • One company pays $5-10K for referred employees who stay with the company for 1 year. This is inexpensive in comparison with recruiter costs.
  • There are some highly targeted recruiters in Silicon Valley who specialize in technology positions. Get to know these companies. They may already have candidates for your positions.
  • A number of companies have had success with semester or summer interns from local colleges and graduate schools. Current students are highly aware of the challenges finding a job once they graduate, and unemployment among recent graduates is very high.

Key Words: Human Resources, Candidate, Technical, Applicant, Job Post, Networking, DICE.com, Relocate, Referral, Recruiter, Intern

How Do You Focus on Execution and Delivery? Three Observations

Interview with Doug Merritt, President & CEO, Baynote

Situation: A company has a proven technology and satisfied customers. To achieve their goals, they need delivery on sales and service to ramp revenue. At the same time, new opportunities arise daily. How do you keep the team focused on execution and delivery?

Advice from Doug Merritt:

  • The first thing to focus on is focus itself. Most of us don’t suffer from lack of opportunities, but from an inability to make hard choices and diligently pursue the few critical or high pay-off options. To tell the difference between gold nuggets and distracting bright shiny objects, you must have a clear strategy and priorities on customers and channels you want to develop. It is critical to choose the right opportunities that will optimize achievement of the strategic plan and to say not to those that don’t. This must be constantly reaffirmed through a simple set of metrics around your optimal customer set, revenue ramp, and quality of services delivered.
  • The second thing is attracting the right talent. A small and rapidly growing company has little time and resources to effectively train fresh talent. If scale is the issue, it’s important to identify and attract experienced individuals – those who have proven their ability to deliver and who bring along a high quality, proven, loyal following. Top talent that can open the purse strings of your target customers. This means hiring rock stars who do this better than you can! The challenge for the CEO is remembering that success almost always comes from hiring people who can do their jobs much better than you ever could. The CEO’s unique talent isn’t being the smartest person in the room – it’s your ability to build and guide an organization that will achieve more than you can alone.
  • Third is to keep the team focused on the most important priorities. The CEO needs to generate a crisp vision and to distribute information that maintains focus on that vision. Most “Type A” overachievers want to do lots of things well. The key is doing the right things well. You do this by measuring, and by creating transparency around the few key levers that drive the strategy.  It helps your cause to say no to a visible and enticing “bright shiny object” that, in the past, the team would have reluctantly accepted.  Finally, it also helps to create a few large and non-negotiable milestones that get the company to focus, as a unit, on achievement.   Ultimately, the CEO needs to coach and guide their team to do the right things right.

You can contact Doug Merritt at doug@baynote.com

Key Words: Delivery, Execution, Focus, Opportunity, Priorities, Customer, Channel, Plan, Metrics, Talent, Experience, Ego, Team, Vision, Information, Listen, Learn

How Do You Revamp Your Brand and Marketing? Three Guidelines

Situation: A company wants to revamp its marketing materials and web site. They have no in-house resources, and no specific direction has been set. What are the best ways to revamp your brand and marketing materials?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first thing to consider is whether this Is just an adjustment to your current marketing, or whether you really need a broader in-depth analysis of branding, positioning and how well this is communicated by your marketing materials and web site. If it has been several years since your last revision of materials and web site, these may no longer be in step with current needs.
  • If you are located near a major metropolitan area there are many marketing consultants who can bring both a professional approach and a fresh vision to the task.
    • Work with your Chamber of Commerce, industry organizations, and your vendors, suppliers and distributors to find companies who have recently revamped their marketing. Check out the web sites of these companies and see which appeal to you. Ask the ones that you like what consultants they used.
    • If your company sells to consumers, or sells to consumers through outside channels, you should consider social media as a part of both your marketing mix. Even B2B companies now see see value in social media. Choose a consultant with expertise in social media as well as traditional marketing.
    • Interview several consultants before you make your final choice.
  • Many small companies are financially stretched and don’t have the dollars to support a major market revamp. Are there ways to reduce the cost?
    • Consider semester or summer interns for some of the analysis, data gathering and perhaps some of the design or social media work. Students at colleges and universities are hungry for intern positions – both paid and unpaid – to satisfy college course and graduation requirements as well as to get an inside track on future jobs.

Key Words: Collateral, Web Site, Branding, Budget, Intern, Consultant, Vendor, Supplier, Chamber, B2B, B2C, Social Media

How Does Social Media Aid Sales Efforts? Three Factors

Interview with John Lima, CEO, Coffee Bean Technology

Situation: As with anything new, there are varying adoption rates for social media. Many top executives aren’t sure  how social media can improve their sales. How can social media effectively enhance sale efforts?

Advice from John Lima:

  • Business is about people, and people are increasingly using social media to connect with others and to express themselves. Social media platforms encourage us to be ourselves – to take off the business mask that we normally present to the world. This enables the savvy company to better know their customers.
  • First, social media enable you to find customers more quickly. Almost everyone is somehow connected to social media. The problem is the inefficiency of searching for them through LinkedIn, Facebook Twitter, etc. Software-assisted search makes this more efficient. Develop a customer Social ID: a profile of what you believe your customers interests and buying behavior to be to serve as your social media connector.
  • Second, find people who fit this profile and engage with them in social media. Let them bring their conversations and interest to you, and refine your Social ID as you gain additional information. This gives you insight into the person – who they interact with and what interests them – and enables you to approach them as a human being. Envision an open marketplace where people connect first and then tell their stories. This allows salespeople to quickly build empathy and smooths the sales process.
  • Third, your evolving customer Social ID can help generate new leads. As the Social ID becomes more sophisticated you can develop key words to find similar customers. Software robots use these key words to find relevant conversations in Twitter or Facebook and flag then for a sales person who can then dig deeper to determine whether the individual identified is a competitor or a prospect.
  • To make this work efficiently, you want to have an integrated system with a set of tools that allows you to cost-effectively sift through the millions of daily entries logged through social media.

You can contact John Lima at john.lima@coffeebeantech.com

Key Words:  Sales, Marketing, Technology, Social Media, People, Mask, Customer, Connect, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Software, Social ID, Follow, Profile, Empathy, Relationship, Trust, Leads, System

How Do You Bring A Long-Term Employee Back On-board? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company has a long-term clerical employee. While this individual has handled a wide range of responsibilities, they have not significantly grown their skills even though cumulative yearly pay raises put this individual on the higher end of the company pay scale. Increasingly, the individual is refusing to do work requested. In your experience, what can the CEO do to get this individual back on track?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Recently the CEO hired a personal assistant. The position was offered to the individual in question but declined because of hours and expectations. The personal assistant has supplanted much of the contribution that this individual historically made to the company. They are likely hurt by the resulting reduction in their role. This may explain the refusal to do certain tasks that used to be routine.
  • To have the best chance of recovering this individual, it is important that your approach be positive, not punitive.
    • Instead of going over performance variances in your next review, bring the individual into your office and let them know that “we need you.” Present a vision of the company and its future growth. If the individual shows a willingness to turn around, take them into your confidence and show them your plans. Ask them what role they see for themselves in the organization chart.
    • Simultaneously, be frank. The company has changed and is poised for growth that was not possible two years ago. Tell the person you want them on the team and set forth long-term goals. Establish and agree on objectives for 90 days and measure from this meeting forward.
    • Either the individual will rise to the challenge or will let you know within the 90 days that the company is no longer the place for them.
    • The key point is that this must be a caring and heartfelt discussion.
  • Analyze how this situation arose so that it isn’t repeated with other employees.
  • Hire for both current skills and the potential for growth. Develop new and existing staff in line with plans for growth. This is how you achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people.

Key Words: Team, Long-term, Employee, Growth, Responsibilities, Change, Review, Role, Objectives, Goals, Selection, Educational assistance

How Does Crowd Sourcing Impact Business Models?

Interview with Vikas Sharan, CEO, Regalix, Inc.

Situation: Online communities offer the opportunity to leverage crowd sourcing to both solve problems and create new capabilities. How can these communities be leveraged to expand business models?

Advice from Vikas Sharan:

  • With the simultaneous explosion of digital devices and online communities, the concept of crowd sourcing will only increase. The ability to tap into the crowd sourcing ecosystem will differentiate high performers from everyone else.
  • If you can think through a problem strategically, and build crowd sourcing capability to scale, you can leapfrog the competition and change the game.
  • Take the example of ComplianceOnline (CO) from MetricStream.

○    MetricStream started as a company with an enterprise compliance platform. Their vision was to build information and best practices across multiple areas of compliance and vertical industries.

○    Since compliance is a very large area and spans thousands of industries and topics, MetricStream started with building best practices in a couple of compliance topics. To further their vision, they partnered with Regalix to create CO.

○    At CO, MetricStream and Regalix have created an ecosystem of over 20-30,000 experts on different compliance topics. These experts contribute training and best practices on thousands of compliance topics. Without adopting a crowd sourcing model, it would have been very difficult for MetricStream to build expertise across such a diverse range of compliance topics.

  • Here is the sequence of events that helped to build CO.
  • CO secured a collaboration with top regulatory officials across a handful of topics. These individuals brought not only credibility, but an initial list of advisers, peers and regulatory contacts to seed the new ecosystem.
  • From this seed, the ecosystem rapidly grew to a large community which submitted white papers, best practices and training programs.
  • Using the model first developed with the initial topics, CO has expanded their efforts to thousands of compliance verticals, with 20-30,000 experts contributing information to these verticals.
  • There are thousands of federal, state and international compliance verticals to which this model can be applied.

You can contact Vikas Sharan at vsharan@regalixinc.com

Key Words: Strategy, Technology, Online Communities, Crowd Sourcing, Business Model, Platform, Compliance

What Factors Should Be Considered Starting a 2nd Office? Three Considerations

Situation: A Silicon Valley company is considering starting a second office both to reduce costs and to diversify its geographic client base. What are best practices for starting your first remote office?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Do you really need to have an office, or can your employees be virtual?
    • Look at your business model and what aspects of your business require an office. Within Silicon Valley, some companies have established local remote offices to enable staff to reduce commutes. These offices include full computer and audio-visual facilities so that remote office staff can participate in home office team meetings. There are an increasing number of cloud-based services that facilitate collaboration between widely distributed teams in different geographic areas. These include Go-to-Meeting, WebEx and Sococo. Can a model like this work for you? If so, then locating an office in a different region is not very different from a remote local office.
  • Outside of your current client base, what customer companies would you like to target?
    • Where are they located? Is there a significant geographic concentration of potential customers in other regions? This might tell you where you would want to put either a real or a virtual local office.
    • Locating an office in a location with numerous potential clients also increases the likelihood that you will find a trained and experienced local talent pool to staff your office.
  • Make sure that you analyze and understand your business model and what portions are exportable.
    • What is your culture and how much does it rely on interaction between home office and consultant staff? Avoid a situation where remote staff feel 2nd class.
    • The solution is to fully understand your model, and to manage both local and remote office staff through the model. Make it simple to monitor people and their activities.

Key Words: Office, Remote, Virtual, Business Model, Collaboration, Technology, Customer, Location, Contractor, Culture

How Do You Chase A Moving Ball? Three Fundamentals

Interview with Michelle Bonat, CEO and Founder, RumbaFish Technologies

Situation: Early stage companies focusing on social commerce and analytics face an unpredictable market. Nobody can accurately forecast market direction or even who the players will be in 2 to 3 years. What are best practices for chasing a moving ball?

Advice from Michelle Bonat:

  • In a rapidly evolving market it is critical to have laser-like focus on the needs of your customers. You must create value for them by understanding their needs, businesses and challenges. While technologies and markets change and evolve, human behavior is remarkably consistent over time. By focusing on rewards, sharing and customer motivations we better understand their needs. We see three fundamentals in working with customers.
  • First, focus on understanding needs versus wants. If Henry Ford had asked what customers wanted for better transportation they would have said “a faster horse.” They needed a faster way to get from Point A to Point B without getting rained on. We invent solutions that are incrementally better at addressing fundamental customer needs by leveraging technology and social commerce.
  • Second, work collaboratively with your customer. As we develop an understanding of needs versus wants, we develop an arm in arm relationship with customers and partner to evaluate solutions that work for them. We use short versus long release cycles with frequent checkpoints to assure that both sides are on the same page and that we understand the features that are most important to the customer. As a result, our customers become evangelists not only for the resulting product or service, but for us!
  • Third, go into any project with the customer’s success foremost in your mind. We focus not only on getting the solution right, but on assuring that the solution optimizes the customer’s primary objectives. That way we all share in the win.
  • The bottom line is that customers want to be treated as individuals and want their individual needs met. We honor this and make it central to our customer interactions. This way, no matter where the market goes, we will be a player.

You can contact Michelle Bonat at michelle@rumbafish.com

Key Words: Strategy, Leadership, Social, Media, Commerce, Analytics, Predictability, Unpredictability, Market, Direction, Player, Customer, Value, Needs, Wants, Behavior, Engage, Share, Understand, Technology, Social Commerce, Collaborative, Relationship, Success, Solution, Individual

Is it Better to Grow by Building Existing or Adding New Functional Teams? Three Approaches

Situation: Sales at a small company have grown rapidly. They need to expand staff to keep up with demand and fulfillment. There are two options: expanding current functional teams in sales and service or adding a back office operations function. Based on your experience, which of these two options makes more sense for a company of fewer than 20 people?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Since the company is planning to grow from 10 to 20 people, create an organizational chart for what the company will look like with 20 people. From this back into what it looks like with 15, and then 10 people.
    • Look at how the positions work, and what talents you want to see in each position. Assess how well your current staff fills both current and anticipated talent needs.
  • The company’s key market differentiation is and will continue to be exceptional client service. Here are some of the questions to ask:
    • Are the back office needs of the sales and service teams similar or different?
    • If there is enough overlap, can one person, and eventually a team, supply the operational needs of both your client services and sales functions?
    • If there is little overlap, what specific needs are currently unfulfilled by each team? Is there enough work to justify adding more than one person so that each team manages their own operations?
  • One option is a matrix organizational structure which can work well in a firm of 10 to 20 people. Key factors include:
    • Establishing a company culture to compliment your strategy and objectives.
    • Establishing clear expectations of accountability and expectations to govern the model.
    • Matrix structures don’t always succeed. Ask whether your current people and culture are suited to a matrix organization.

Key Words: Growth, Staff, Demand, Function, Team, Sales, Customer Service, Organizational Chart, Talent, Matrix, Culture, Objectives, Accountability, People Skills