Tag Archives: Decision

How Do You Boost Awareness of Your Products and Services? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A CEO wants to increase awareness of company products and services. They have a strong customer list and a long history of successful projects. How to they increase awareness among potential customer decision-makers? How do you boost awareness of your products and services?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are three stages to a good awareness strategy:
    • Visibility
    • Credibility
    • Profitability
  • The company already has great products and services. Hire a quality PR Firm and have them highlight this for company trade shows, blogs, YouTube, etc.
  • The objective is not broad awareness but getting to specific decision-makers – what will get to them?
    • Generate broad awareness of company capabilities through entertaining videos to excite the team members of prospect companies who report to the decision makers.
    • This is a complex strategic sell. If recommenders think that the company’s stuff is cool they will pass the word – create a campaign to encourage this.
  • The priority is to close more business. Why not brand or co-brand and promote the company’s products? This may ease reaching the target decision makers.
  • The PR advice is good – but how will this play to the crowd that’s writing the check?
    • What makes current customers comfortable working with the company? Is it repeatability?  Credibility? Creativity? Referenceability? Decide which it is and highlight it.
    • Everything that the company is doing on the “cool” side falls under the marketing strategy. Efforts in PR and sales must support this marketing strategy.
  • Consider a campaign on YouTube – How do the parts of “Sally” work? How did we design it?  This attracts a smaller audience, but it may be the right audience.
  • Within company capabilities, there are two distinctions to clarify – both are important but require different emphasis:
    • Innovating the product
    • Innovating the process – making it happen

How Do You Build International Sales? Five Observations

Situation: A CEO wants to create new markets outside the US. They have investigated options and locations and are starting to plan. One question is how long it will take to start seeing results, so that they budget accordingly. How do you build international sales?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Decision timelines internationally are longer than they are in the US. For example, in Europe timelines are easily twice as long. This means that new entrants must budget for a sustained effort.
    • It took another company three years to develop traction in Europe. They have an office in Germany, but most new sales are coming from Eastern Europe. After three years their European operation is now break-even.
  • International markets, especially in Europe, can be very conservative. Job security and maintaining cash flow are the focus.
    • Labor laws encourage companies to do things themselves rather than outsource. The result is that a new entrant will face competition from internal departments of potential prospects.
  • In European the emphasis is not growth, but on conservative steady operation. Growth tends to come from acquisition.
    • Sales pitches should be tweaked for international audiences. For example, highlight reduced need for additional personnel to manage the systems, fewer breakdowns and glitches, and the ability to count on seasoned outside expertise to quickly address complications.
  • Relationship selling is very important internationally. Sales and tech support are best provided, and in some cases required to be provided in the local language.
  • In Europe, Italy can be an important lever to sales with the right partner. Italian companies can be excellent at marketing and can jump-start European sales. This will be a very personal relationship.

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 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 Introduce a Product into a New Market? Five Ideas

Situation: A technology-based company has a very successful product in a niche market. The team has been brainstorming about additional markets into which the product could be introduced. The only experience that the CEO and team members have is with the existing market. While other markets are appealing, they lack the experience and contacts to penetrate new market opportunities. How do you introduce a product into a new market?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Hire someone, either an employee or a consultant, who intimately knows and can introduce you to the new market. If you have more than one good candidate consider hiring them both.
  • Start with clients that you already serve in your current market but who also serve the new market. This can provide quick wins and proof of concept. Overlap is important because you will have a shorter sales cycle with these clients.
  • Another company moved from on-site consulting to turn-key services. They found the purchase process to be completely different. Originally, they were unprepared for this, so the transition took longer than it might have.
    • Talk to existing customers and learn about their companies’ purchasing processes to organize your fact gathering and strategy.
  • Read case studies of other companies’ experience moving a single platform between markets.
  • Another company moved from niche photography – holiday photos – to photos for Fortune 500 companies. This was the same expertise, but the market and decision processes were different.
    • Key to the successful move was understanding the people in Fortune 500s who were making the buy decision and the structure of their decision process. The CEO of this company registered for conventions attended by client prospects. This provided a quick way to meet and learn about key people and their decision processes.

What Impact Will Rising Interest Rates Have on Business?

Situation: A CEO notes that the national debt has nearly doubled over the last 8 years and the Fed is talking about raising interest rates. It’s not clear what impact the debt, or rising interest rates will have. Has this impacted your business and how are you coping? What impact will rising interest rates have on business?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Impact on business and customers.
    • The prospect of either rising interest rates or taxes increases uncertainty – customers are taking longer to make purchase, expansion and other decisions.
    • Companies are not spending the cash that they have out of concern over possible future expenses or the possibility of a downturn. Large companies have trillions of dollars of cash on hand. Some of this is held off-shore because of the tax consequences of repatriating the funds.
    • Lack of consumer demand holds back investment in production expansion.
    • Feeling of loss of control.
    • More concentration of wealth in fewer hands.
  • Other impacts
    • More people, old and young, are opting out of the business economy.
  • What are you doing to cope?
    • More involved in collections to keep this under control.
    • Delayed payments from big customers are part of the problem – conservative financial management.
    • Manage liquidity and cash – cash is king!
    • Adjust lifestyle and delay purchases – for example buy smaller cars.
    • Scrutinize contract terms – especially AR.
    • Scrutinize our business model. For example look at subscription models or Great Game of Business models.
    • Utilize those who are normally unemployable but trainable for repetitive task jobs. They work hard and produce good work.

Do you Merge, Sell or Keep the Company? Nine Factors

Situation: A company has been approached by an international firm with an existing West Coast presence that is interested in expanding its US operations. A Letter of Intent is in place but will expire in weeks. The LOI is of interest because the company has cash flow challenges. The CEO seeks advice on whether and how to proceed with a sale or merger, or whether to continue as an independent entity. Do you merge, sell or keep the company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is a personal decision. Do you want to be your own boss or to become an employee? It really is a question of what you want.
  • If you are burned out, there are advantages to having a boss, at least in the short term. However, 2 to 3 years out you may tire of this.
  • While cash may be tight, you can address this with other measures.
    • Can you save money by reducing office staff (hours or people) short-term until your cash flow improves?
    • Talk to private investors – offer up to 9% interest on a note. The company is a going concern and therefore likely to be able to pay off the note. You may be able to negotiate a note at a favorable rate.
    • Negotiate a 5 year note, with interest only payments for the first 3 years; sweeten the deal with an offer that if you get new business worth $X during the period of the note, you pay them Y% of upside.
    • You have revenue-producing business and receivables. Factor your receivables to raise the cash that you need. Adjust your prices to cover the cost of the factoring discount.
    • If you have the margins, or can increase prices to produce the margin, offer discounts for early payment of accounts receivable.
  • If you decide to sell, avoid a contract that takes away your flexibility to maximize your future payouts.
  • Can you be confident that the buying firm will survive until your payouts are completed?

How Do You Delegate Yet Stay Informed? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A CEO wants to push project ownership down to lower levels of the company. This is not happening unless the CEO pushes. How do you delegate yet stay informed as you push authority down the organization chart?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The company needs systems and guidelines to clarify on what and when the CEO wants to either have input or hear back, and what can happen without the CEO’s knowledge.
    • Set levels of approval – dollar impact or decision type – and clarify what decisions can made at what level, what decisions need higher level approval and at what level, where they must inform you, and where you must sign off.
    • Similarly, establish regular reporting and meeting schedules, along with guidelines as to what is to be reported – again by budgetary impact or decision type – and assure that this reporting takes place.
  • “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack describes a company which has implemented these systems with astounding results. It provides a template and describes in detail how the system is implemented and what bumps they encountered along the way.
  • Invest more time in setting roles and responsibilities for your direct reports.
  • Keep reporting systems aligned across the company.
  • Expect over time to adjust levels of authority as individuals grow in responsibility and accountability.
  • Most importantly, lead by example. If a team member comes to the CEO for guidance on a project, refer them back to the proper manager for advice.
  • 2015 Top ranked software systems to manage projects and processes from selected searches:
    • Capterra: Microsoft Project, Basecamp, Atlassian, Wrike, Podio
    • Insider.com: Smartsheet, Mavenlink, Wrike, Posoda, Metier
    • PC Magazine: Zoho Projects, Teamwork Projects, LiquidPlanner, Workfront, Wrike

When Are You Dominant and When Do You Facilitate? Three Keys

Situation: For a CEO to lead effectively, she or he needs to be able use both dominant and facilitative modalities of leadership. James Church, in Navigating the Growth Curve, ties the use of each mode to the growth stage of the company. A CEO asks whether the use of each modality is purely a question of growth stage, or whether there are situational guidelines for the use of each modality. When are you dominant and when do you facilitate?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The Dominant Mode is appropriate when there is an immediate situation with a clear desired outcome; whereas the Facilitative Mode is appropriate when fixing a broken system that produces issues, or to increase team communication and contribution. As examples:
    • The Dominant Mode is appropriate when there is an immediate issue to be resolved, with clear legal implications and a clear response based on established policy.
    • The Facilitative Mode is appropriate when you want to develop and institute policies and procedures to handle issues ahead of time, or to establish guidelines for action. In these cases you want both input from the team as well as buy-in to institute the resulting decisions.
  • Strategic Planning shifts from Dominant to Facilitative Mode as the organization grows and becomes more complex. Early on, strategy needs to come with a single, decisive voice. In larger companies strategy becomes a group exercise because there are many moving parts and teams.
  • Another way to think about this is that Dominant is appropriate when “the buck stops here,” and will shift from CEO to managers for specific decisions when you reach a stage where the managers are now dominant. Facilitative becomes appropriate when managers and employees – those below the level of company or division leader – need to make the decision instead of the leader.

How Do You Manage Multiple Products and Segments? Five Ideas

Situation: A company was launched on a single product with variations. Their R&D team has now developed several additional products which they are planning to launch. This will involve new product names and new customer segments. Having not done this before, the CEO seeks advice on managing multiple products, brands and market segments. How do you manage multiple products and segments?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The most important element is the plan – write it carefully and build from a solid base.
  • When working with multiple products or market segments, match your segment strategy for each segment to your product strategy for that segment.
    • Build a grid that shows all products and all segments where you wish to sell them. In each cell, determine both the decision maker(s) and their top purchasing priorities. This will help you to build your Product/Segment strategy and optimize resource allocation while increasing sales and marketing effectiveness.
    • It may also help you to fire problem customers who cost you money and attention and reallocate these resources to more promising opportunities.
  • Analyze the customer’s decision-making process for each product and segment. Make sure that your marketing and sales effort makes sense within their decision process and focus on what is workable.
  • When introducing a new product or idea, focus first on smaller segments and test the fit of your product or idea. This is low risk if you fail, and you can leverage what you have learned if you win.
  • Build a one-page strategic plan that covers your full company strategy. Each department compliments the company strategy with its own departmental strategy to support the company strategy.

Special thanks to John Maver of Maver Management Group for his contribution to this discussion.