Monthly Archives: February 2013

Are Your Folks Getting Offers from Others? Five Thoughts

Situation: A company’s employees are increasingly getting offers from other companies. They believe that they have a good team, a good work environment and offer a competitive pay and benefit package. However, they are concerned that the job market in Silicon Valley is heating up. How do you keep your employees on-board when they start receiving offers from others?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Make sure that your wage and benefit scale continues to be competitive. The Silicon Valley Index, published by Assets Unlimited in Campbell, is the best local survey covering Silicon Valley and the San Francisco technology market.
  • Survey after survey finds that compensation is basically a hygiene factor – it has to be good enough so that needs are satisfied, but it isn’t one of the more important factors in retention. The Gallup Organization has determined that respect, challenging responsibilities, and personal recognition are much more important factors in employee retention. Be sure that you are actively involving your key personnel as leaders in formulating and updating your processes, and that there are plenty of opportunities for recognition and celebration for your staff.
  • If you are generating a profit, share this with the employees as an incentive. This may well be better spent in fun and team-building activities like a weekend in Tahoe for a team, or supporting their creative needs by sponsoring their efforts in engineering design competitions. Whatever is appropriate for your company, involve your employees in setting company performance goals and give them a voice in determining how achievement should be rewarded. Making them part of the process builds better long-term loyalty.
  • On the sales side, establish a reward incentive structure for bringing in new business for the company to prompt field personnel to develop and exercise their business development skills.
  • Whatever you and your team decide, be sure that your choices support your overall strategic plan.

How Do You Build Strong Teams? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A company has lost the team spirit that they had when the company formed. The CEO has struggled to revitalize this spirit but encounters resistance from some employees. What techniques have you found effective in building or rebuilding a strong team culture and improving team performance?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If an individual is resistant to team meetings, work with them one-on-one. Listen to their concerns about meetings and ask questions to focus them on a higher level of concern – individual and team performance and the need to build effective teams to enhance this performance.
  • If an organization has divided into functional silos, form multidisciplinary teams around initiatives to build inter-team synergy.
  • Choice of leader is critical in team formation. The best teams have the most effective leaders.
  • Crisp, clean communication is important. Document verbal commitments in writing.
  • Select team membership with an eye to team compatibility. Avoid putting individuals with a history of conflict on the same team, particularly if this is a management team.
    • Engineering product teams – where individuals work independently on distinct aspects of a larger project – may be more tolerant of past conflict as long as team activities do not require collaboration among individuals with a history of conflict.
  • Look for common value systems and common focus when assembling teams. This helps to build the team as a strong unit.
  • Recommended Reading: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni.

How Do You Negotiate New Shares for the Founders? Five Suggestions

Situation: A company’s founders will be fully vested in their options by the end of the year. Also, the option pool for founders and employees has been exhausted. The CEO has spoken with the Board Chair and Compensation Committee about this in terms of fairness and incentives for future work to both founders and employees, while making it clear that the Founders are not unhappy. The Chair listened sympathetically and promised to get back to the CEO. Is there anything more that the CEO should do to negotiate new shares for founders and employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Seek a letter of understanding from the Board that the founders and employees will have access to future stock incentives, and a timeline as to when this might occur – either in the near future or at the next financing round.
  • Wait a few weeks and have an informal follow-up conversation with the Chair about his current thinking. Ask whether he would like any further supporting information on the issue.
  • So far, your approach has been non-threatening. Keep it this way.
  • Maintain focus on fairness and your tone supportive of the best interests of the company.
  • Don’t press the issue if you sense resistance.

How Do You Forecast Revenue for a New Technology? Three Ideas

Situation: The Board of a company has asked the CEO to generate to forecast of revenue for this year. Their primary technology is new and the company has just started receiving orders. An achievable revenue forecast my not please the Board. However, the company may lack manufacturing capacity to meet a higher level of demand. How do you forecast revenue for a new technology?

  • Be realistic in your forecast. While the Board may not like your number, the impact of setting the goal too far out of reach is potentially significant, including discouraging the team, and impairing credibility with the Board. However, if you aim realistically and significantly exceed the target you will be heroes.
  • How is it best to approach this in discussions with the leadership team?
    • Create a set of objectives and revenue targets and put probabilities around each. Also look at the obstacles to hitting the higher numbers, including manufacturing capacity and the cost of increasing capacity.
    • For examples if your most likely forecast is $X, then put probabilities around achievement of multiples of this number:
      • $X – 95%
      • .75X – 99%
      • 1.5X – 75%
      • 2X – 60%
    • Once your determine the objective, think through everything that must be covered to meet that goal, from sales to production, and start developing plans and contingencies to address these.
  • Share your probabilities with the board, as well as your plans and contingencies that may increase likelihood of reaching the higher targets. Ask for their input and assistance hitting the higher targets.