Tag Archives: Conflict

How Do You Plan for Succession? Four Points

Situation: The CEO of a family business seeks to create a succession plan. One family member has expressed an interest in taking the reins of the company but has failed to take the initiative to demonstrate that he is prepared to take on this role. Another family member is now demonstrating both interest and initiative. How do you plan for succession?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • How should this situation be approached?
    • Do not view this situation competitively, but rather from the standpoint of what is best for the whole family because many family members stand to benefit from the ongoing success of the business.
    • Whatever decision is made, the successor will need support and assistance understanding both the financial and business sides of the company. This individual must also be aware of conflicts and challenges that face the business.
  • What else should be done to prepare for succession?
    • Given that there are two individuals interested in becoming CEO sit down with each individual and negotiate a clear boundary statement on what you, as CEO, can and can’t do, as well as what can and cannot be expected of you, as CEO, as the succession decision is made. This understanding should be documented in writing and signed, signifying understanding by both the CEO and the candidate. Each candidate should have their own signed agreement with the CEO.
    • In a family business, the CEO, as guarantor of the company, may be faced with a different level of financial risk than other family members. Both candidates for the CEO position must understand that if they accept this position, they also accept this risk.

Diversify or Optimize Current Opportunities? Four Options

Situation: A company that manufactures and sells components to a large corporation has a dilemma. This customer is throwing more business their way, under favorable terms. At the same time, the company wants to diversify to reduce exposure to a single large client. The challenge is that alternate opportunities are not as profitable as those from this customer. As the CEO puts it, should they use limited resources to chase copper when gold is readily available? Do you diversify or optimize current opportunities?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • It is always dangerous to have all your eggs in one basket. Dedicate resources to develop alternative business opportunities, knowing that at first the new opportunities will not be as appealing as current opportunities with this large client.
    • Think back – has business from the large customer always been this profitable? In developing new business opportunities, one often must pay dues to develop opportunities for future profits.
    • Invest in business development to find new business opportunities outside of this large customer. Do this sooner rather than later. One never knows when a large customer will change strategic direction.
  • What are the company’s options and choices?
    • Stay the current course and accept the risks of this strategy or diversify.
    • Put some resources into studying options to diversify. If there is no gold out there, then maximize the cash from the current situation and invest it in something that will provide a satisfactory long-term return. If the large customer closes the door, then just shut down.
  • How could the company diversify? Geographically? Additional products to other customers? Put together a diversification plan and test it for feasibility.
  • Make sure that company’s and owner’s priorities are clear and not in conflict with each other.
    • What is the optimal size of the company?
    • How many customers are needed to support optimal company size and how much diversification is required for this?
    • What is the owner’s exit strategy and timeline?
    • If the objective is to stay small and exit in one or two years, why chase diversification? Think about what would be appealing to a potential acquirer. Perhaps it is just access to this large customer.

How Do You Merge Two Firms Under One Umbrella? Five Points

Situation: A company has been approached by a customer with a proposal that the two companies combine. The customer believes that the combined companies will represent a greater market presence than either presents alone. This may make it easier for the combined entity to gain business from larger customers. How do you merge two firms under one umbrella?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • For a company to merge with a customer is a tricky process, assuming that the company has more than one customer. The merger places the company in competition with its other customers who may respond by seeking alternate providers. If this happens it will create a short term hit to revenue. This possibility has to be modeled into merger financial forecasts.
  • Different companies have different cultures. This fact is often ignored in merger discussions because culture is difficult to quantify or measure objectively. However if you ask those who have been through mergers, culture conflict between merging entities is most often the reason for their failure.
  • It may make more sense for the company to focus on ongoing sales to the customer than to entertain a combination that would result in the current owners losing control. In declining the proposal, it is important to emphasize your interest in maintaining a healthy ongoing relationship with the customer.
  • If the customer offers terms that are appealing, an alternative to a merger is a limited scope joint venture as a trial project to test the viability of collaboration.
  • Establish with your co-owners a price at which you are willing to give up control. This will help you to refuse offers that are below this price.

How Do You Create a Family Charter? Four Guidelines

Situation: The spouse of a CEO works in the business but has conflicts with other employees. This creates personal tension for the CEO. The CEO wants to explore a different role for the spouse, and also wants to create more balance at home. The CEO believes that working with the spouse to create a simple family charter with common values, vision and mission will help the two of them to find common needs and goals both at work and at home. How do you create a family charter?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • As you build a family charter, consider both your individual and your common views. Once you have established common ground with your spouse, you can bring children into the process to reinforce values and share creation of the vision.
    • In preparation for this discussion, both you and your spouse should start by thinking about what you each want. Once you have done this, compare notes and look for commonalities where you agree on what is important. These commonalities will form the core of your shared values, vision and mission.
  • Have lunch with your spouse once a month, just the two of you. Why? Because you are telling your spouse that they take precedence over your second spouse – your job, and you are taking time and attention from work to spend time one-on-one with your spouse. Do this monthly, but not always on the same day – make it more spontaneous and special.
  • Reinforce your family charter with regular family or one-on-one meetings with your spouse and children.
  • When having a conversation, focus on listening and don’t try to “fix” things.

What Do You Do When A Strategic Partner Changes The Game? Two Options

Situation: A membership association’s revenue is largely tied to its annual conference. The primary sponsor of the conference has decided to host their own annual conference. This will disrupt the association’s access to both conference attendees and vendors. The sponsor has offered terms of collaboration; however, the conditions are unfavorable to the association. What are the best alternatives available to the association and how should they pursue them?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Are the association’s mission and vision are tied to or independent of the sponsor? If there is an ongoing reason for the association to continue without the sponsor then it is reasonable to pursue alternatives.
  • There are at least two options available to the association:
    • Accept the partner’s offer of collaboration, provided that this can be done under conditions that will allow the association to survive short-term. If the partner stumbles hosting its own conference this may allow the association to recover ownership of the annual conference. The danger is that this may lead to a slow death if the sponsor further cuts revenue to the association or a fast death if the sponsor decides to abandon the association.
    • Shift the focus of the conference and ancillary services under a new branding scheme. A survey of the membership indicates that the majority favor a mixed-platform solution, and may welcome a mixed-platform approach. You may need to rethink and rework your model but this may offer the best chance for ongoing survival.
  • What steps should be taken to pursue the second option?
    • Conduct a second survey of the membership to evaluate their preferences on platform focus, what they want to see in a multi-platform conference, and what platforms should be included.
    • Shift focus of the association to multi-platform as a response to members’ priorities and desires. Court the majority of the membership that favor a mixed-platform focus and de-emphasize those who favor the single platform solution.
    • Develop an alternate roster of sponsors including all competitive platforms. If this model succeeds, your current primary sponsor may find participation imperative.

Key Words: Association, Conference, Sponsor, Conflict, Conditions, Collaborate, Vision, Mission, Participation, Competitor, Single, Mixed, Platform, Survey, Focus

How Do You Resolve a Conflict Involving a New Employee? Four Considerations

Situation: A company has hired a new employee with excellent skills who reports to a Director. This person is a self starter who prefers little supervision. Friction is starting to develop between the new employee and the Director. How do you resolve this conflict?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This person was hired for their talent. However a successful hire takes account of talent, but also role, cultural fit, organizational placement and the needs of the company.
    • For example, if this person is strong in operations but they are now in client services, is this the right role?
    • Similarly, if the culture of the office emphasizes teamwork, collaboration and support, is this the right culture for this individual?
  • Be cautious before tweaking the org chart to create a new role for this person..
    • Consider both your current staff and the new person. You may be creating additional conflict if your actions appear as favoritism.
    • The dominant factor is YOUR plan. If the employee is wrong, replace the employee.
  • If an employee can’t get along with others it is a difficult situation to repair.
  • When you meet with the employee what should be said?
    • First, don’t try to solve the situation before you have a clear strategy.
    • Question and listen. “You’ve been with us a short time, and I want to check in with you. What do you think of your role?” Let the employee talk, probe for clarification of what is said. Take note of what is said. Acknowledge any requests but indicate that you will put them under advisement.
    • Do the same in discussion with the Director.
    • The key is that you are in control. Look at your objectives, and where you fit resources best within the org chart. Once you have your plan, communicate it.

Key Words: New Employee, Conflict, Friction, Talent, Role, Fit, Organization, Company, Needs, Strengths, Skills, Report, Personality, Act, Direct, Concerns, Boundaries, Response, Conversation

What are the Challenges Facing Distributed Organizations? Part 1

Interview with David Van Wie, CEO, and Paul Brody, President, Sococo, Inc.

Situation: Research shows that 65% of teams within companies are now geographically distributed. This is driven by both telecommuting and the desire to access the best talent, and is enabled by technology. What are the implications of distributed teams for company and project success, and how can these be addressed?

Advice from David Van Wie and Paul Brody:

  • Broadly, the most important challenge is that of team “presence” – the feeling of people collaborating and working together. As social beings, we are used to establishing trust and mutuality face-to-face. Trust and mutuality are more challenging when we are limited to audible communications.
  • Working at a distance becomes a challenge when different members of a team are on the same stage of a workflow issue and there may or may not be shared understanding of technical requirements or timelines.
    • Team members need to understand requirements to a “T” – across functions, technical requirements, and needed skills.
    • Consider the challenge of keeping team members in synch when project requirements are continually shifting, as frequently happens when new technical breakthroughs are involved and there is no preplanned predictability to the project. This challenge is exacerbated when the team is designing at light speed.
    • The agile design model focuses on people and talent over process and dictates a continuous ongoing meeting. In a distributed setting, the whole team is never stronger than the most remote and linked-up member.
    • These are the challenges that we seek to address at Sococo through our Team Space application.
  • Let’s look at an example of resolving a conflict based on miscommunication of information.
    • In this case, a young employee was tasked with drafting an email campaign around a product. Other team members were time zones away and on their own schedules. The night before campaign launch a misunderstanding developed around one of the core features of the product.
    • Because of the Always-On nature of Team Space, all of the team members working on the project were right there and on call to ensure a smooth product launch. When the problem arose, they were able to have a quick online meeting to share spreadsheets and analysis, understand the issue and resolve the misunderstanding on the fly.  The campaign launched the following morning.
    • When people are in the space, you know they’re part of the team and they’re at work, ready to solve problems. They haven’t given up. Having to bring someone back into a conversation (to resolve a problem) takes more time, effort, and energy and is draining for a distributed team.

For more information on Team Space, visit www.sococo.com

Key Words: Distributed, Teams, Presence, Collaboration, Workflow, Project, Agile, Conflict, Crisis, Silo 

What are the Challenges Facing Distributed Organizations? Part 2

Interview with David Van Wie, CEO, and Paul Brody, President, Sococo, Inc.

Situation: Research shows that 65% of teams within companies are now geographically distributed. This is driven by both telecommuting and the desire to access the best talent, and is enabled by technology. What are the implications of distributed teams for company and project success, and how can these be addressed?

Advice from David Van Wie and Paul Brody:

  • A second example of a critical challenge occurs in crisis mode – for example when a major system is down and service is impaired.
    • You need the right people with the right information talking real time. Those without complete information are at a loss. If they respond from emotion rather than fact, it hinders crisis resolution.
    • Having an avatar in Team Space yields a positive emotional response, primarily in that you then interact with other avatars instead of just names on a list. It gives you an increased feeling of presence.
    • This emotional investment positively correlates to increased trust, as you feel more connected to your peers.
    • You want an environment in which you can bring distributed people together on the fly, provide them with complete information, raise and candidly discuss issues and alternatives, and come up with a solution with all parties involved, all while reducing the emotionality of the situation.
    • Emotionality of tense situations is reduced because of the trust built amongst team members through our unique spatial UI.
  • Third, organizations beyond a certain size tend to form silos by function. This can help to build strong functional organizations, but has drawbacks when different functions have conflicting priorities.
    • In a distributed organization, a visual layout becomes important. You want to be able to include and intertwine all functions in a visual space, and provide access between and across functions.
    • This entails a philosophical shift to an open culture where teams don’t feel defensive or protective. It is facilitated by a visual space where it is easy to bring in the right expertise to resolve issues based on information.
    • Likewise, the underlying open structure of Team Space and its ability to promote quick conversations as well as hefty meetings helps solidify trust in a distributed group.

For more information on Team Space, visit www.sococo.com

Key Words: Distributed, Teams, Presence, Collaboration, Workflow, Project, Agile, Conflict, Crisis, Silo 

What are the Challenges Facing Distributed Organizations? Part 3

Interview with David Van Wie, CEO, and Paul Brody, President, Sococo, Inc.

Situation: Research shows that 65% of teams within companies are now geographically distributed. This is driven by both telecommuting and the desire to access the best talent, and is enabled by technology. What are the implications of distributed teams for company and project success, and how can these be addressed?

Advice from David Van Wie and Paul Brody:

  • A fourth question which arises with distributed organizations is whether you have to have different processes to manage a distributed organization.
    • We don’t think so. Each company has developed their own set of process to address the challenges of distributed personnel. Rather, we focus on communication tools that adapt to clients’ existing processes by humanizing communication – enabling people to easily find each other and share information.
  • Fifth, some of the most challenging environments occur in organizations which span extreme time zone differences. How is this addressed?
    • You want an audio and visual system that lets you know who is available at a given point in time or could be made available easily. This facilitates bringing the right expertise into a conversation.
    • When different parts of the team are widely separated by time zone, it is important to create a more social and effective environment during the times when all team members are available. We believe that Team Space helps to create this environment.
    • In one company, Indian team members stay at the office until 7:00pm – thereby avoiding the worst traffic – and can be available online at home after dinner. This increases the time that they can interact with their American counterparts.
    • It is also important to be able to record meetings and presentations so that members who are absent can play back the meeting to stay up to date.
    • Our experience is that visual presentation is superior for communicating visual information, and we accommodate this.

For more information on Team Space, visit www.sococo.com

Key Words: Distributed, Teams, Presence, Collaboration, Workflow, Project, Agile, Conflict, Crisis, Silo