Tag Archives: Cost

How Do You Deal With a Deadbeat Customer? Four Thoughts

Situation: A company faces a difficult situation. One of their customers placed a substantial order for custom product a year ago. They have taken delivery of some product but the bulk of the order is still in the company’s warehouse. The company negotiated a cancellation fee with the customer, but they haven’t paid. What is the best option for the company? How do you deal with a deadbeat customer?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Because the customer is unresponsive, be ready to take legal action. Get an attorney. The initial process to prepare for a suit may cost $5,000-7,000. Therefore be prepared to sue for damages plus legal fees, with the threat that liens will be put on the customer’s business during the settlement process.
  • Once everything is ready for a suit, talk to the customer – the message is either they pay in full what they owe or you’re ready to file a suit which will cost them much more.
  • The Uniform Commercial Code may cover you for custom product. Check this out. This is important so that the company won’t be exposed to a countersuit for filing a frivolous suit.
  • A route which may be less expensive is to hire a lawyer on a contingency basis. Contingency lawyers may want up to 40% of the settlement or judgement to take a case, and the value of the case has to be large enough to attract their attention.

 

Have You Hired People with Disabilities? Six Suggestions

Situation: A company is expanding. Some jobs that need to be filled are either utilitarian or don’t require full mobility. Labor through agencies runs $20/hour including agency fees. The CEO considering hiring the disabled including wounded warriors for this work. Have you hired people with disabilities?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In San Mateo County California there is a group called Community Gatepath. They assess the work and work requirements and the company pays for disabled services a fair price piece basis. This worked well for sample product with simple packaging.
  • National groups include SourceAmerica.org and the Small Business Association which can assist with any regulatory questions pertaining to hiring the disabled.
  • Working with Easter Seals one company hired high functioning disabled individuals. For everyone involved, it was a very positive experience.
  • If you are interested in hiring disabled veterans, organizations like Hire Heroes USA provides both resumes and assistance. Tax credits are available for hiring disabled veterans.
  • There may be issues around how disabled workers process information or how they handle emotional situations that are different from non-disabled workers. Sensitivity among those supervising is important.
  • Interview and investigate the sponsoring organization and arrangements. Make sure that they are set up well for your needs as well as those of the disabled workers.

How Do You Introduce a Product to New Customers? 7 Thoughts

Situation: A company produces a high performance product which is priced modestly higher than competing products. They are finding customers resistant to cost increases, even when they acknowledge the advantages of the higher cost product. The company needs to develop a new way to position their product. How do you introduce a product to new customers?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Don’t compete directly with existing technology. Position yourself distinctly, as a new solution to address unmet needs.
  • Sell your solution “for those times when you need to save time.” Once they start to use your product, they will find it simpler and easier to use than the old product and will convert themselves to your product.
  • Use the pitch: Book an extra client today because this will save you this much time. This plays to customers’ incremental revenue opportunities to justify the cost.
  • At conventions, conduct contests among attendees – try our product versus your old product. Those who can use it fastest, or below a set time have their business card placed in a jar for an iPad drawing several times a day.
  • Sell a lower priced “starter” kit – or provide a free sample with easy to follow directions. Once the customer is sold on the product’s advantages they will be less resistant to the modest cost increase.
  • Conduct seminars:
    • Local gatherings
    • Regional meetings
    • Larger companies
  • Focus on specialty functions within larger target clients – the functions that will benefit the most from your product’s advantages.

How Do You Manage Customer Change Orders? Three Suggestions

Situation: A mid-sized company has taken over management of the supply chains for several large customers. The products that the company manufactures have long lead times both for sourcing materials and manufacturing customer orders. Sometimes customers either ask for additional production on an existing order in process, or ask for deliveries to be spread beyond contracted timelines. Either situation has a significant impact on the cost of producing the order and company profitability. How do you manage customer change orders?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The issue is one of managing contracts and customer expectations. Because this is hurting the company, prime the customers now that things will need to change in the future. Depending upon the level of comfort the response can be reactive or proactive.
  • A proactive response: because this happens with some frequency, establish a change order schedule and share this with the customers. Your message will be that you are happy to accommodate changes in orders, but you need to recover the cost of these changes in order to be able to continue supplying the customer. Include the change order schedule in future customer purchase contracts. This may cause them to have second thoughts about requesting changes in orders.
  • A reactive response: the next time a customer makes these demands the response can be: “We’ll take care of you this time but when we draft our next contract we have to adjust the terms of the contract so that it is a win-win.”
  • The appropriate response depends on value of each customer’s business to the company – both revenue and profit – and your confidence in the relationship with the customer.

What are Your Key Business Metrics? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A CEO has been analyzing the metrics that she uses to track her company’s performance. Historically she has used common metrics like sales, gross and net margin, profit and net operating income, budget plan vs. actual expenses, and sales forecast vs. actual sales. She is curious what other companies use to track performance. What are your key business metrics?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The most important financial metric for many companies is actually cash flow – how much cash you have on hand and your cash flow forecast. Two metrics that can help you to better understand and boost cash flow are:
    • Receivables – aging rate
    • DSO – Days Sales Outstanding
  • Additional financial metrics include:
    • Portfolio performance
    • Variable versus fixed cost ratios
  • To augment understanding of profitability, track “good” profit – revenue from customers who are profitable, as opposed to revenue that is either break-even or unprofitable.
  • Sales metrics to measure future revenue include:
    • Order backlog – by month for X months out
    • From this, forecast beyond visible orders
  • Marketing metrics include:
    • Net promoter score – would the customer refer us to a friend or family member?
    • Client and referral client retention rate
  • Metrics for utilization of resources for a service provider include:
    • Total hours paid versus total hours billed
    • Resource utilization
  • Business trend tracking. If business is seasonal, look for historic peak to peak times – this may be 3 months and may be 18 months. Determine this and make the rolling cycle equivalent to your business cycle.
  • Review your metrics regularly to reinforce their importance across the company

How Do You Maintain Company Culture as You Expand? Six Ideas

Situation: A company wants to open a satellite office in a lower cost geography where they can provide current services at a reduced cost to improve margins. In doing this, the company wants to maintain the same culture and controls on quality of work that they enjoy in their home office. They also need to accurately forecast revenue for the new office. How do you maintain company culture as you expand, and how would you forecast revenue for the new office?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Maintaining company culture is tricky as a company expands geographically. Assign one of your current managers, someone who buys into the company culture, to head the new office. Also maintain the same hiring and personnel management policies that you have at the home office.
  • As the biggest concern is cost efficiency, make sure that the office manager has clear objectives to realize anticipated savings.
  • Look for an incubator that can handle all the peripheral office details so your staff can focus on their work instead of managing facilities.
  • When it comes to revenue forecasting:
    • Given the lower costs associated with the new geography, look for opportunities to trade margin for longer contract commitment windows to improve revenue forecasting.
    • Both margin and delivery can be lumpy when opening a new location. Obtain a credit line to help you smooth the rough spots in your revenue stream.
    • Investigate deferred revenue options to spread revenue risk – right of first refusal on next generation projects in exchange for a lower cost per project to the customer.

How Much Inventory Should You Carry? Six Considerations

Situation: A company has been offered the opportunity to buy a container of raw material from China at what may be a favorable price compared to local supply. This raw material will last 6-12 months at current and anticipated production rates. Does it make sense to purchase 6-12 months of raw material inventory in advance? How much inventory should you carry?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is a fairly straightforward economic question. What are the risks and costs of purchasing this large lot of inventory vs. purchasing month-to-month? Here are the factors to include in your evaluation:

o    What is the cost difference of a container versus local supply?

o    Another option is to commit in advance to 6-12 months’ supply from the current supplier. What pricing will the local supplier offer for committed regular purchases?

o    How many months of inventory are required if you need to change suppliers?

o    What is the viability of the local vs. the foreign supplier? If you cease purchasing from the current supplier for 6-12 months will they remain a viable supplier? Similarly, can you count on the foreign supplier long-term?

o    What is your cost of capital, and what is the tax effect of significant inventory at the end of the tax year?

o    If you purchase a container, what is the exposure to overstock of certain sizes of product? What is the carrying cost of this overstock?

  • Do the numbers and negotiate between the two suppliers.

Category: Manufacturing & Operations

Key Words: Inventory, Purchase, Advance, Container, Carry, Cost, Commit, Supplier, Tax, Negotiate

Where Do You Currently Stand on Benefits? Three Comments

Situation: A small company (fewer than 50 employees) is reviewing their employee benefit package and wants to get a sense of what others are currently covering in their benefit packages. Where does your company currently stand on employee benefits, and what does your company cover in its benefit package?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • A recent small (unscientific) poll of entrepreneurial Silicon Valley SMB Companies on benefits offered found:
    • Health: 100%, Dental: 83%, Vision: 67%, Disability: 17%
    • 401K: 100%, 401K Match: 33% (most companies eliminated the match to reduce costs)
    • Reduced benefits in the last 6 months: 67%
    • Employee complaints or recruiting challenges following cuts: 0%
  • One company commented that when a key customer cut their payments they had to cut benefits. They reduced the company payment from 100% to 50% of benefit cost. Their employees make choices among options available, with a company dollar payment cap. Management explained the situation when they made the cuts, and there were no objections.
  • Several companies have shifted to consumer directed health care options.
  • A comment of caution was offered by one CEO – employees are unlikely to object to their company needing to reduce benefits to get through a difficult market. However, as conditions improve, employees are likely to expect some level of return to prior benefit levels. If not, the company at risk of increased turnover. It is best to stay ahead of the curve to assure that your benefits packages are competitive.

What’s the Best Way to Sell a Domain Name? Five Suggestions

Situation: A company has a domain name that they no longer use. They have been approached by a domain reseller that wants rights to sell the name for a percentage of the sale price. The reseller is talking big money for the name. What are the best options for selling a domain name?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The offer may look interesting, but you want to compare it with other options. These include Godaddy.com or buydomains.com. Compare both the price for selling the name and the estimates of what the domain name is worth. Look at how each would market the name, and their record for selling names. Compare their responses with the offer from the reseller that contacted you.
  • Get an appraisal on the name. Valuate.com offers a free tool to appraise a domain name, or you can look at GoDaddy for assistance in valuing your domain name under their Support section.
  • Have a contract attorney look at the reseller’s contract for hidden traps.
  • Get references from this reseller and check them out before signing anything.
  • If you move forward, make sure that you choose the escrow company. One CEO recommends Escrow.com for domain name sales.

How Do You Handle Demands for Faster Delivery? Four Options

Situation: A company’s clients are demanding increasingly faster response times, particularly in areas that historically have not been considered mission critical. Clients also want faster answers to technical questions. Is this a common occurrence, and would you adjust pricing in response? How do you handle demands for faster delivery?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If clients are demanding faster delivery, it’s entirely reasonable to tier your rates for different levels of service and delivery. Create cost / ROI breakdowns for different options, and let your clients make a business decision about the level of responsiveness that they need.
  • When brining on new clients, do a worst case down time analysis for the prospect as part of your evaluation process, then provide price options and let the prospect evaluate what is important to them. This is similar to different price / deductible levels with health or car insurance.
  • You will need to educate your current client base on what you are doing for them, and when they are reaching the upper levels of service provision under their current contract.
    • When you provide remote service, communicate what you have done.
      • Email individualized update reports to client contacts.
      • When you meet clients face to face, have a printout of service provided and toot your own horn about your service and delivery.
  • Be aware of the needs of clients who have distributed locations across time zones. A two-hour response time on the West Coast at 8:00 in the morning, translates to a half day for an East Coast location because they can’t call you until 11:00am Eastern time.