Tag Archives: Company

What is the Best Way to Roll out a Business Opportunity? Six Suggestions

Situation: A CEO is reviewing options for introducing a new offering. The target customers are small companies or projects within larger companies. The offering includes both an initial product and follow-on services. Education or training will be a component of the offering. What is the best way to roll out a business opportunity?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • It is best to position the offering as a straightforward proposition at launch and develop proof of concept. This will provide experience and an income stream to fund more complex offerings based on the initial model.
    • It will also provide insight on how to sell the product and service in different markets – manufacturing, service, and software.
    • Leverage this experience to pursue more complex models.
  • Build a portfolio of case studies before pitching to paying companies.
    • Use companies with whom relationships already exist as the proving base. These will become references for new clients.
    • Develop data to show actual cost savings from the use of the product and services.
  • Establish a relationship with an existing company for which the offering is complimentary and cross-offer products and services on an ad hoc basis.
    • Trial the product and service with one of their clients in return for a royalty or share of the profit.
    • Ask that company to make the introduction.
  • Target start-ups – offer an initial package for a low price. Offer the product to start-ups for free and get them hooked as long-term customers.
  • What would be needed to roll the offering through growth equity firms or venture capitalists?
    • This will require some proof that the offering increases the ROI to growth equity and VC portfolio companies and funds.
    • Note that the portfolio companies of growth equity firms are larger and farther up the growth curve
  • In current economy the key message to prospects may be that the offering will help them to “right size” their company.
    • Take a closer look at the offering and determine whether it is configured appropriately for the current environment.

How Do You Improve Your Company Presentation? Four Points

Situation: The CEO of a specialty company that is a leader in their market asked the group to review the company presentation. The members of the group were asked to put themselves in the place of a potential customer or investor. How do you improve your company presentation?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Don’t assume that the audience has a sophisticated understanding either of the company’s market or its technology. In any pitch either to a new prospect or for funding there will be individuals in the audience who are not experts. The pitch needs to deliver a message that any listener can easily translate to any colleague.
    • Give brief examples from the experience of current customers to make the technology and its advantages concrete.
  • What is the problem that the company solves?
    • State up front: What is the pain – why is it there? How does the company’s solution address this pain? What’s the impact?
    • Show market potential and explain why the company’s solution will be a home run.
    • What makes the company’s solution unique and gives it a sustainable advantage?
    • Assume Ignorance – KISS – Keep It Simple Silly!
    • The presentation should be high level, easy to understand, and crystal clear in 5 minutes.
  • Establish credibility by summarizing current success and list the names of current customers.
  • For presentations to investors have ready answers for the following questions:
    • How the funding sought accelerate development, and what is the expected return that this will produce?
    • Assure that timelines are realistic, particularly for a ground-breaking technology.
    • Do not be vague in answers to questions like “what is your market share?” Answers must be crisp and believable. If additional documentation is required to validate company estimates have a back-up slide in the presentation to address this. Keep the explanation in the back-up slide simple, even if the analysis is complex.
    • Add an expectation of return on investment. What equity will the company give for an investment of $X. State the company’s pre-money valuation as a believable number. Then give an estimated 3-year post money valuation with $X investment. Investors will discount anything number given but will not want a range.

How Do You Improve a Business Model? Four Observations

Situation: A CEO is in conversation about combining with another company. One option is for the other company to absorb his company. What are the pros and cons of this option? Are there other options that will better serve both owners and employees? How do you improve a business model?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The company has a great model today. The option under consideration looks like a double compromise – it alters both the company’s strengths and its fundamental business model.
    • The company’s strength is lean and mean – moving from a hourly/fee-based model with high utilization to a salary-based model, as the option on the table proposes, will change this. It also changes the dynamics of who will work for the company.
    • The magic of the current model is that it attracts top talent by offering them the best of two worlds: high individual billing rates with ready access to billable hours. Over the long term this has also made it very profitable.
  • Explore an alternative – how does the company transform its existing business model while retaining its strengths – lean, mean, low overhead – while transforming the model so that it builds “products,” perception, and recognition for the company?
  • A longer-term alternative is to look for a financial acquisition of the company. It has good net margins, good cash flow, and even spins out cash. This is valuable to a financial buyer.
  • What is the role of the CEO right now? Another CEO was asked “Do you have a job or a company? What happens if you leave? If the company dies, you have a job. But it may not be necessary to change much to become a company.”

How Do You Create an Incentive-based Compensation Plan? Seven Ideas

Situation: A CEO wants to build additional incentives into the company’s compensation plan. The objective is to add group incentives to the pay mix – to focus more attention on group performance rather than just company goals. How do you create an incentive-based compensation plan?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The best policy is to be upfront, open, and transparent as the plan is presented.
  • Communication is the key to success, including the following bullet points:
    • Pay starts at a base which is 75th percentile – a generous base in our industry.
    • Group bonuses, which reflect the results of the group’s efforts, allow you allow to reach the 90th percentile or higher.
    • On top of this, profit sharing enables the addition of 10-20% of your base.
    • Altogether, management thinks that this is a generous package. The difference from the old system is that employees will be rewarded for making decisions which will benefit the group as well as the company – and you will be generously rewarded for this.
  • Once plans are communicated to employees 1-on-1, reinforce the message with a group presentation and open discussion at monthly company meetings.
  • Consider: significant changes in compensation may be best taken in small rather than large increments. Start with small incremental adjustments. If these are effective proceed to larger increments on a planned and open schedule. This is particularly true if the historic culture has been that we all win or lose together.
  • A downside of rewarding by team is that some will get rewarded for producing minimal results. Consider some percentage of discretionary payments to recognize and reward effort instead of pure parity within the team.
  • Consider longer-term results within the payment scheme – not just quarterly results.
  • People need to know that they are accountable. Let them know that a 75% base is reasonable but that the significant rewards will be for producing results above this level.

How Do You Implement a Process Change? Six Suggestions

Situation: The CEO of a service company is concerned about lost income from uncaptured billing. He has identified the cause – failure to capture extra hours that haven’t been billed – but is struggling to get employees to monitor this more effectively. How do you implement a process change?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The group presented two options for growth: bring in experienced outside people to develop additional systems to run the company, or a hybrid model using internal resources, augmented with outside expertise.
  • Bring in Experienced Outside Resources: Hire an experienced outsider with a track record in your industry to design and implement the needed systems.
    • Pros for this solution: the outsider will bring a fresh vision and new energy, plus the experience and know-how to make the desired changes.
    • Cons: impact on current business culture. This may generate resentment among employees who can no longer make decisions on the spot and may remove a path to management for existing staff. Possible negative impact on customers who receive larger bills due to change orders.
  • Hybrid Model: Outside person creates model and trains employees to implement it, then monitors the system and progress long-term. The key is to change expectations and behavior within the team.
    • Pros for this solution: more opportunity for current employee participation; involves employees in the design of the system, providing better buy-in to the solution.
    • Cons: as with any change, this won’t provide the full expected return. Just the fact that things are being changed impacts the efficiency of implementation. Unanticipated blocks and resistance may hinder progress – don’t be surprised by this, it is predictable.
  • Implement SOPs that facilitate rapid response to change orders – starting now and with whichever option is chosen.
  • Generate a pick list of all possible change orders with pre-calculated costs to guide employee choices and keep customers informed.
  • Whatever solution is chosen, be sure to communicate frequently and consistently with employees to facilitate the change.

How Do You Maintain Focus on Quarterly Objectives? Three Ideas

Situation: The CEO of a service company is focused on growth, which is driven by new contracts. This, in turn is driven by new sales contacts per week. Sales staff are paid on commission. The CEO wants to assure that quarterly objectives are met to grow the company. How do you maintain focus on quarterly objectives?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Track and publish progress against weekly, monthly, quarterly metric objectives and key drivers.
    • Post charts around the office to maintain staff focus on objectives.
    • Put up whiteboards that show individual metrics as well as daily “top 3” focus items.
  • Identify key market sectors where focus will pay off for the company.
    • It’s OK to take a generalist approach as the company develops a new market sector. This helps to learn the dynamics of that sector.
    • As sector market penetration grows, develop functional or sector specialties.
  • Identify and focus on the gaps to company success.
    • Monitor and generate incentives to increase sales activity. The more fun that is involved in this, the faster the company will close the gaps.
    • Focus marketing on developing more prospects. Brainstorm creative marketing approaches that will generate prospects. Create a competition to develop the best new ideas with incentives or prizes to celebrate the most successful ideas.
    • If additional resources are required, currently beyond the company’s budget, investigate adding commission-driven contract resources with strong incentives for identifying new prospects and landing new clients.

How Do You Gain Control of the Company? Three Steps

Situation: A CEO founded his company with a partner. The partner is no longer deeply involved but retains a voice in company strategy and finances. The CEO wants total control. It has become complex trying to run the company with an absent partner. How do you gain control of the company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Get a formal company valuation as soon as possible. The expense is paid by the company or split 50/50 between the CEO and founding partner.
    • This exercise will provide the information needed to run the company. It is a much more sophisticated exercise than simply valuing current company assets.
    • It will provide a good third-party valuation upon which the CEO and partner can negotiate a buyout of the partner’s interest or place a value on a silent partnership arrangement.
  • Once the company has a valuation, how is the conversation started?
    • First ask what the partner wants. His response will help frame the discussion.
    • It’s OK to let the partner know that the current arrangement is not working for you.
    • As silent partner, instead of a salary the partner just gets checks – monthly, quarterly or whatever – based on net profits (EBITDA – Earnings before interest, taxes, distributions and adjustments).
    • The CEO’s salary is included in the expenses of the business.
    • If it is too painful to initiate the discussion on your own, hire someone to help you.
  • Once the CEO has control of the company, create an organization chart, including the roles and responsibilities of the key positions in the organization.
    • First, decide what you do as CEO – or want to do.
    • For the other roles, either hire employees or consultants to help.
    • The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber includes an example of how Thomas Watson did this as he founded IBM.
  • This process can have surprising results. Another CEO doubled the size of the company after buying out his founding partner’s position. The partner turned out to be one of the top inhibitors to growth.

How Do You Choose Between Opportunities? Six Points

Situation: The CEO of a software company has been presented with two opportunities by a large customer – international expansion to support their sales and creation of a data warehouse facility. The company has the option of pursuing either or both. The customer is not offering up-front cash to support either opportunity. Should they pursue either or both? How do you choose between opportunities?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Keep pursuing both opportunities and establish a series of decision points which will yield either a Go or No-Go decision on each. The big question is to determine how either will support company growth.
  • The customer is interested in both opportunities so ask them for assistance such as: removing barriers, client referrals, or some form of cash or investment.
  • For either opportunity to succeed requires a high level of internal buy-in and support from the customer.
  • If the company can afford to be aggressive now, this is a great time to move.
    • Look carefully at the ROI on each opportunity under different scenarios.
    • Do background work with potential clients to validate each market opportunity.
  • Specifically to International Expansion
    • Buy-in from the customer’s head of international sales is essential – without this it will be difficult to establish a solid relationship with the international sales team. Lack of this support will be a No-Go sign.
    • Can the customer provide office space, access to their infrastructure, administrative support, assistance in gaining necessary licenses to do business, etc. during start-up?
    • Could this venture be undertaken through a joint venture with an established international company? This would save start-up costs and allow validation of the opportunity before risking the company’s investment.
    • Execution will require a large-scale effort – both time and money. Include both in the Go/No-Go calculation.
  • Specifically to the Data Warehouse Facility
    • A competitor’s right of first refusal on this business is a barrier. However, the opportunity may be viewed as too small for the competitor. Is it possible to buy rights from this competitor?
    • Ask the customer to transition their customers to your company and its product.

How Do You Free Up More of Your Time? Four Observations

Situation: The CEO of a successful small software company is snowed under by day to day tasks. She wants to focus more of her time on business and infrastructure development. However, the company’s departments are not strong enough to run without her supervision. How do you free up more of your time?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first priority is to develop infrastructure that will allow the CEO to focus on strategic development.
    • To build this the company needs the right people to do the work.
    • Look at the daily task list and develop or hire new managers to oversee day-to-day non-strategic functions.
    • For example, offload payroll and back-end accounting to a bookkeeper.
  • Look at the gaps between where the company is now and where you, as CEO, want to be in terms of your time and responsibilities:
    • In addition to a bookkeeper, hire an experienced executive assistant – to keep you focused as CEO.
    • The company is growing rapidly. It is time to hire a human resources manager.
  • The company’s cash flow projection for the coming year indicates a substantial surplus.
    • Use this surplus to hire infrastructure.
    • In front of key clients, keep the impression that you are available to them; however, this is primarily for client relations. The CEO doesn’t have to do all the work demanded by clients.
    • Use the lawyer / rainmaker model. The rainmaker maintains key client relationships; however, the rainmaker has staff do 90% of the work.
  • The 7 States of Enterprise Growth Model indicates that the company is now in what’s called a Wind Tunnel. The critical activities in a Wind Tunnel are:
    • Letting go of methodologies that no longer work and acquiring new methods that do work, and
    • Hiring and training additional staff.

How Do You Transition to New Management? Four Insights

Situation: The CEO of a small technical company is in the process of handing off responsibilities to a new President who lives in another state. The CEO and President have known each other for a long time and have a strong relationship. The CEO will hand off several key responsibilities immediately, while retaining financial and HR because of the President’s location. How do you transition to new management?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Most of the current hand-off plan concerns non-technical areas. The next logical area to delegate is Customer Support.
    • Establish a trigger process for new requests for support that keeps key parties informed and meets customer needs on a timely basis.
    • Think about bumping up Customer Support to a more proactive Customer Relations function. This is important during economic downturns when trade show attendance is low.
  • Next in line are Installation and Installation Planning, since the new President will already have Installation Support.
  • Think about Technical Support. This could be combined with Customer Support and makes sense because many customer support questions come through technical support.
  • Beef up the financial function to support future growth. Growth brings new complexities into the picture. Consider handing this off to a part time professional who can provide regular updates of the company’s financials. A professional can also look at the structure of the books and suggest changes that will provide more insight into company operations, opportunities for savings, and sources of funding to support planned growth.