Tag Archives: Communication

How Do You Transition from Doer to Leader? Four Suggestions

Situation: The Founding CEO of a professional services company has always been deeply involved as a service provider and rainmaker in addition to his role as CEO. As the company has grown he sees the need to spend more time as leader of the company instead of being a doer. What can be done to facilitate this transition, and what expectations need to be created? How do you transition from doer to leader?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Another CEO removed himself from day to day business development activity by bringing in a new rainmaker. These were the adjustments made to facilitate the process.
    • During the first year he worked with the new individual in a team or partnership role.
    • Compensation was results-based. Discussion of equity consideration was deferred until the individual proved herself.
    • The CEO moved himself out of the individual contributor role except as needed to support the new rainmaker’s efforts.
    • All of this was accompanied with clear communication to clients: “this adjustment will provide better service to you; here’s my number if you need help.”
    • Rainmakers are a different personality type. To be most effective, they must be able to say “my team.” Allowing this will ease the transition and improve the relationship.
  • Create teams to deliver solutions that have traditionally been provided by the founder.
    • Identify skill sets behind the roles that are being delegated.
    • Build an organization that will fill these roles.
    • Participate in team meetings, but as an advisor rather than as principal decision-maker.
    • Adapt role and behavior in phases to ease the pressure of the change on both the CEO and the team.
  • How does the CEO manage his own expectations as well as those of the company as he makes this transition?
    • Delegation initially takes more time and effort than doing the work yourself. Be patient and let the investment pay off.
  • Larry E. Greiner of USC was an expert on the study of organizational crisis in growth. Per Greiner’s model, the company is currently at stage one – moving from principal and founder to initial delegator. It may be a useful to study this model.

How Do You Balance Core and New Businesses? Five Guidelines

Situation: A company has built a solid core business and wants to expand its product portfolio by adding new business. Core functions can serve both existing and new business, reducing overhead on individual businesses. What pitfalls must the company avoid? How do you balance core and new businesses?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • New business activity cannot impact core business. The core business is the company’s bread and butter. It is important to make this clear to both employees and clients and to structure the handling of new business opportunities accordingly.
  • From a staffing standpoint, new business opportunities cannot impact marketing, service and operations staff supporting the core business. New business development activity and operations cannot result in a pull from their focus on the core business. This separation may be facilitated by placing the staff supporting new business in separate facilities, or in an area separate from the staff supporting core business.
  • In the case of support functions that will serve both existing and new business, recruit and hire staff to support the new business to assure that both existing and new business receive proper support.
  • Hire a new person, one with experience and contacts, to develop the new business opportunities. Look for a sales person who can bring in significant new business. This will pay for the individual quickly.
  • How does leadership communicate these changes to staff?
    • Meet with key managers to identify potential concerns. These may include impact on company culture and client focus. Use the responses gathered to develop a communication plan to allay employee concerns.
    • As new business opportunities are added, it will be necessary to bring in new, experienced personnel. Previously, the company brought in experienced personnel to build the current business. Be open and up-front about this and explain that as the company grows there will be new opportunities for existing employees.
    • The company’s objective is to improve the quality of the organization and to raise the boat for all. Current owners and managers will automatically benefit from the efforts of new people to expand the business.
    • Building new business opportunities as separate businesses diversifies the company and reduces the risk of overdependence on existing clients and key vendor relationships. This enhances the job security of current employees.

Can You Pass Higher Expenses on to Customers? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company is concerned about increased energy expense as prices rise, and the impact on the bottom line. Pricing in their market is competitive. What’s the best way to recover these costs? Can you pass higher expenses on to customers?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Businesses regularly pass on their increased gas and transportation costs to both commercial and retail customers as these costs rise.
  • This isn’t just true for gas and transportation expenses. As other expenses rise, companies regularly increase their pricing to account for increased costs.
  • Is it necessary to send out an announcement letter about the company’s intent to do this?
    • Some companies do. Others just start adding a line with a gas surcharge to their invoices. This is happening frequently enough so that most customers just pay it without question.
  • What do you do if someone objects?
    • If a customer objects, you always have the option to credit them the charge.
    • Again, most customers are so accustomed to seeing and tolerating these costs that they don’t object.
  • Look at the company accounting system. Are costs and performance trackable by business segment? Performance numbers show both the impact and magnitude of energy cost and improve the ability to manage the business.
  • If the talent is not present to either improve the current accounting system or to shift to better software, bring in part time accounting help. A good source is Robert Half International/AccountTemps. The cost of adjusting the current system will be recovered as the company gains more control over expenses by segment.

How Do You Manage Culture as You Grow? Six Solutions

Situation: A tech company has grown to twenty people. The CEO is concerned that if they grow much beyond this their culture will start to change. The principal question is whether team leadership structure will remain tight and focused, while teams will continue to be flexible and have fun. How do you manage culture as you grow?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Other companies have grown to twice this size and continue to increase their number of employees.
    • One uses component owners as leads, with people under them. Leads are more technical than managers and aren’t expected to be superb managers.
    • They grow middle managers organically instead of hiring from outside.
    • If an individual’s plate is full, give them the ability to delegate work to an up and comer.
  • Active communication has number limits.
    • The optimal functioning group is 7-12; higher functioning teams are even smaller with 7-8 members.
    • Create flexible teams that maintain communication pathways and culture.
    • Consider using reconfigurable space.
  • When one company grew from 25 to 60, they noticed that at 30 people it became difficult to track people; they needed to develop systems and internal management tools.
    • Much more attention was needed on sales forecasting and expense elasticity. The solution was to study peaks and valleys and built a model that could function within historic peak /valley limits.
  • How do you maintain the contractor pool?
    • Keep a list and actively communicate with them about current and anticipated needs.
    • One company’s rule: consultants are 100% billable – functionally they are only able to realize 98%, but the rule keeps this number high.
  • Use contractor pools to supplement project tasks. If your primary differentiating focus is on successfully closing projects, focus contractors on ramping new projects.
  • Hire people who embody you and your culture. Hire in your own image.

How Do You Create Accountability? Four Suggestions

Situation: A CEO is concerned that there is insufficient fairness and accountability within her company. One manager is paid hourly and the CEO is thinking about shifting this person to salary plus bonus both to put them on par with other mangers and to create more accountability. How do you create accountability?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • What exactly are you trying to achieve? An operations manager is paid competitively at hourly rates, even compared to salaried employees. The issue is that this person has no responsibility for results as they relate to the P&L. Given this, the group consensus is that it is better to have this person on an incentive program that ties compensation to the performance results that you want.
  • One objective is that you want this employee to contribute more to planning, strategy or the company’s attempts to develop solutions to the challenges that they face. Have you spoken to the employee about your expectations? Does the employee realize that you want or value their input? Direct communication with the employee is important.
  • While the employee understands his responsibilities in the operations area, be sure that he is aware that he is also important to the profitability of the company, and managing operational expenses which are contributors to that profitability. Depending upon the individual’s background, he may need training about the links between expenses and the P&L.
  • Given these factors consider the following options:
    • Adjust the employee’s compensation by switching from hourly to salary. Make the base livable, but not comfortable, and tie the bonus (which will make the total compensation package comfortable) to the profitability of the business. This will have an immediate effect.
    • Clearly explain to the employee that you value his creativity and input. Give this person the freedom to contribute and make it clear that his contribution is expected. Early on encourage this and acknowledge contributions in meetings.
    • You may want to make this person a part owner of the business. This will have a long-term effect.

How Do You Prepare to Sell a Company? Seven Suggestions

Situation:  A CEO has hired a banker to advise on the potential sale of a privately-held company. What else should she be doing in advance of the sale? How do you prepare to sell a company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Prior to moving forward with a banker, it is necessary to prepare a privately-held company for sale. Get an advisor – not a banker – to assist you. Search online for a good mergers and acquisitions advisor. If you know CEOs from other local companies, network with them to discover high quality advisors.
  • In selling a company, the final deal must provide for the survival and continuing effective operation of the company. A buyer may want assurances from you, or assistance in the transition. This can have a significant impact on your final payout.
  • Be prepared for the reality that you or someone else within the company will have to remain with the company post-sale. If this is to be another person, this individual will be very important to you during the negotiation process with potential buyers. Keep this individual up-to-date with your intentions and plans.
  • A company is more than numbers – it is a story. The story must be very crisp and compelling.
  • The buyer will want to perform due diligence before offering you a price and setting conditions on a purchase. This may involve more than you and your top managers. Communications within the company will be critical to keeping managers and employees informed and on-board.
  • You will want to have two or three potential buyers, both in case a top prospect fails, and to assure competition and a higher sale price.
  • Think carefully about your next move from a personal standpoint. Being at leisure may not fulfill you. What do you really want to do for the next segment of your life? This is far more important for you, personally, than you may estimate.

How Do You Work with a Resistant Employee? Five Points

Situation: A CEO feels overworked, fatigued and ready to retire! The core problem is a long-term employee who is constantly resisting the CEO’s the company’s strategic direction. How can the CEO alleviate this situation? How do you work with a resistant employee?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If this individual is valuable, try to work with him first.
    • Can you give him a different focus – another role within the company for which his talents are suited and where he will make a significant contribution?
    • For a change like this to be effective it must be offered and accepted with the condition that this becomes his focus and not your strategic leadership of the company.
  • How is it best to have this conversation?
    • First, clearly state the direction of the company.
    • Then ask a question: What do you want to be doing for the next 5 years?
    • You may be surprised by the response to the question. It may lead you to a win-win solution; or it may become clear that this individual needs to be doing something else.
  • Conduct the discussion in two stages – but without a lot of time between these two discussions.
    • “You are valuable but things have to change. I prefer that you remain as part of the team, but on the strategic front you have a choice – are you on board or not?”
    • If after consideration the answer is that he is not on-board then you must let him go.
  • Don’t blindside this person. Think of a Resurrection versus a Come to Jesus Meeting.
  • If it turns out that you must get rid of this person you will wonder: why you didn’t do this 6 months ago.

How Do You Respond to Delivery Delay Requests? Four Points

Situation: A company negotiated a contract with a customer giving them a significant price break in exchange for a large committed order with extended delivery. The customer has now come back and requests additional time for delivery and payment on the order. The company has already procured extra material to produce the large order. How do you respond to requests for delivery delays?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Response will depend on the company’s history with customer. In the case of a long term customer who pays bills it is best to work with them. Explore solutions to meet them half-way.
    • Ask for a new commitment to take delivery by a date certain. Request consideration in return. For example, request partial payment up-front to help cover the cost of managing the delivery delay.
    • Keep the conversation going. Don’t get to point where you alienate a good customer.
  • If the customer is newer with less history but good potential for future growth, also respond flexibly but ask for additional consideration in good faith to cover your additional costs. As in the case above, request partial upfront payment to cover carrying costs – maybe a larger payment than for an established customer.
  • If the customer has been difficult in the past, or has been late with payments then the situation is different. There is no assurance that the customer isn’t just gaming the situation. Because the company has already committed resources to deliver the large order, demand an adjustment on price and terms in exchange for the delivery delay.
  • Whatever the history and situation, it is important to emphasize that you want to work with the customer.

How Do You Get Managers to Honestly Rate Teams? Seven Points

Situation: A company is preparing for end of year reviews. They use several performance measures to evaluation employee performance, including 360 Reviews. The challenge is that both managers and peers tend to rate everyone at the highest levels – even though everyone knows that this is not valid. How do you get managers to honestly rate their teams?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is a common problem for companies. The central issue is that managers want to get on well with their teams, and may fear that giving someone a less than stellar review will impact individual and team performance. You have to change both the perspective and the methodology.
    • Start with the basics. Performance reviews are about communication and documentation.
    • Expectations should be based on an up-to-date Job Description for the position.
    • Job Descriptions should address skills, expertise and behavior. Clarity and specificity are essential.
    • They should anticipate growth, and include standards of performance to measure growth.
    • To prepare for a review meeting, the manager rates the employee against the standards specified in the Job Description, as well as any objectives established in past reviews. The employee self-rates against the same measures.
    • Following the review meeting, the manager must document the discussion and objectives for the next period set during the meeting. The employee reviews and signs this document.
  • For managers, a key performance measure is quality and substance of reviews.
  • Besides individual reviews, have your managers rank their people 1 to X along several metrics:
    • Team performance
    • Reliability on the job
    • High or low maintenance
  • Use zero based thinking: Knowing what I do now, would I hire this employee for their current position?
  • Align the review process with the company’s goals.
  • Do a total ranking among company employees. Tell managers that those ranking last place(s) must be upgraded. The CEO approves the final ranking.

Is It Time To Change Horses? Four Suggestions

Situation: A company has a business relationship with another firm. The relationship involves co-development of technology as well as marketing and other support. Portions of the relationship have worked, however, the other firm has not kept its part of the bargain in terms of marketing and support promised. What is the best way to approach the other firm to resolve this situation? Is it time to change horses?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Have you have clearly communicated to the firm both what you are pleased with about the relationship as well as your level of dissatisfaction regarding lack of marketing and other support promise? To whom has this been communicated? Are you sure that your message has gone all of the way to the top?
  • Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on the current arrangement and alternatives available to you to support your trade-off analysis before taking action.
  • Present a marketing option that will address the situation and ask whether the firm will support it as previously agreed.
    • If they say yes, have a contract ready for them to sign.
    • Negotiate other key items at same time.
    • Be sure to involve all parties on your side in the preparation, including the individual(s) who made the introductions that led to the relationship. Additional heads can bring more insight into the options that the firm and relationship offers. Bring the key parties involved to the negotiation, and be sure to prep them in advance.
  • Business relationships should be based on clearly stated deliverables and timelines. If deliverables are missed then it is time to make a business decision – either repair the situation or part ways.