Tag Archives: Documentation

How Do You Manage Employees Expenses? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company does not pay a lot of employees’ expenses but does pay mileage expenses for sales people and a car allowances to the sales manager. Sales people are paid 20% base and 80% commission. The CEO is interested in how other companies handle employee expenses. How do you manage employee expenses?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If you pay mileage, require that employees receiving mileage allowances to keep a log of business mileage:
    • They should track where they went, with whom they met, what the mileage was, etc. To assist employee compliance while respecting employee time, make it simple using Excel spreadsheets or an online tracker.
    • Don’t pay any mileage expenses without submission of proper documentation.
  • Fire a thief. If you catch an employee cheating on their mileage expenses, let them go. This is an important example for others.
  • For car allowances – ask CEOs of other local companies in markets similar to yours what their policy is. If it turns out that your policy is overly generous, consider cutting or reducing your allowance.

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.

How Do You Optimize Quality Improvement? Six Suggestions

Situation: A company’s reputation is based on quality of work. The CEO notes that occasionally they have mishaps due to suboptimal documentation. They are considering a concerted quality effort.  Based on your experience, would you do this whether or not you were bound by ISO requirements? If so, would you hire an outside consultant to guide your efforts? How do you optimize quality improvement?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Some companies have successfully used ISO to force documentation. ISO provides a structure to enforce keeping the company and employees diligent and honest.
  • Other companies have used standard operating procedures (SOPs) for field as well as internal functions to speed completion of documentation and accelerate invoicing. These companies may or may not have ISO requirements.
  • One company tried to go cheap – implementing process improvement without a qualified consultant. While the effort was eventually successful, it took way too much time and money. From this experience, they recommend hiring someone who is experienced and who already has a template to guide the process.
  • To test the experience of an outside consultant, start with a small project to get the company accustomed to the process and to evaluate the consultant’s efficacy.
  • If the choice is to work on this yourself with your employees, start by documenting what happens correctly. Once you have done this, work on improvements to address problem areas.
  • This is not a simple exercise – plan for it and use the right inside or outside person to guide the process.

 

Arbitration or Suit to Settle a Dispute? Five Factors

Situation: A company has a long-term client that stopped a project suddenly 6 weeks ago with no explanation. Later, the client called saying that they do not intend to pay for work completed to date. Would you pursue either arbitration or injunctive relief to settle this dispute?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If you have evidence of acceptance of a project contract or other documentation that the work proceeded under agreement with the client, this strengthens your position.
  • There may be other circumstances of which you are unaware such as financial or cash flow difficulties. Inquire through discrete channels to clarify this. Knowledge of the inside situation provides leverage as you negotiate a settlement.
  • Do you want to retain this client? If they have been valuable over the years this may just be the behavior of a single individual. If this is the case, work with your key contacts to bring this situation to light and try to solve the problem without legal action.
  • Because you have a long-term relationship with the client, focus your communications on the President rather than the VP who shut down the project.
    • Established your documentation, and complete your research on whether the client has cash flow problems; then call the President to work out an amiable resolution.
    • While you are justified in feeling miffed about the situation, business is business, and in this case it appears that your long-term relationship and the value of the ongoing business with the client outweigh the emotion of the present situation.
  • Focus on resolution of the dispute between the parties and do everything possible to resolve it between the companies rather than through legal avenues. This will help preserve the relationship with the client. Provided that you continue with this client, clean up the portion of the contract specifying notification and acceptance requirements and other areas of the contract that require attention.

Do You Continue a Difficult Partnership? Five Alternatives

Situation: A company has a key relationship with a major corporation. They recently completed work in Phase I of a multi-phase project which was fraught with difficulties. Now they are evaluating whether and how to proceed with Phase II. Do you continue a difficult partnership?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • What made Phase I difficult?
    • Initial work was done to original specs and on time. The partner then asked for additional work and a change to the original specs, but would not agree to pay for these changes. As a result, the company lost money on Phase I.
  • What alternatives exist?
    • In brief, you must fundamentally change the terms of engagement. You can convert everything to time and materials, so that when the partner makes changes or asks you to make changes, they pay as they go.
    • A second alternative is to reconstruct the project as a waterfall project with a fixed price up front. You agree to X iterations, at Y cost per iteration. Each iteration has a deadline and the work completed as of each deadline constitutes the final work on that iteration. You charge for additional iterations if the partner wants additional work after the final negotiated iteration.
    • A third alternative is to set a price that is 2x your estimated price, recognizing that there may be a need to change specifications during development. You will provide documentation of your time and effort. If at the agreed end of the project you have not used all of the funds budgeted, you refund the difference to the partner.
  • Adjust how you communicate with the partner as you renegotiate. Do not assume that silence constitutes agreement. Provide written documentation of your understanding at the close of each negotiation and invite them to correct any misunderstandings. Require that both sides sign this documentation to confirm agreement. Do not proceed until there is clear mutual understanding on all key points.
  • Purchase and use software to track any changes to requirements during the project. This will enable you to document both the changes requested and their waterfall effect on other portions of the project.

How Do You Shift Culturally from R&D to Production? Seven Steps

Situation: An early stage company needs to move from an engineering/R&D focus to a production focus. Cash availability and business plans dictate that this must happen very rapidly – within 4 months. How do you coordinate a rapid cultural shift from R&D to production?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You will need an experienced VP of Operations.
  • Operations and production engineers are a different personality type than R&D engineers. The latter are creative and seek new and more effective ways to solve problems, while production engineers thrive on perfecting a process and getting it right every time. You will likely have to adjust the team to assure that you have both types.
  • Reorganize the current engineering team into R&D and Production engineering teams.
    • A core R&D team reports to the CTO.
    • Another team reports to VP Ops and will cover product manufacturing, process improvement and logistics and QA.
  • What are the most important steps to take first?
    • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with the individuals who you have assigned to production responsibilities.
    • Get back together in small groups or one-on-one with your production group and explain that to meet the company’s objectives – and everyone’s long-term financial objectives – there must be a change. Explain the cost in stark dollars of what the failure to make this change means to the company and to the team. Challenge them to assist you in developing solutions that will allow you to meet your corporate objectives.
    • Allow some learning opportunities to arise. Let team members make the occasional mistake and use these as coaching opportunities for the group to show what happened, why it happened, and why it can’t be repeated.
    • Separate standard and special order production into two groups. Each group will have to meet their own performance objectives and metrics – but all objectives and metrics must support the company’s objectives.
    • Early on you may want to require CEO sign-off on production sheet changes, but within a system that allows you to easily determine material from non-material changes.

How Would You Address a New Employee Challenge? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company just hired an individual to fill a key position. The position has a steep learning curve, and requires an on-site presence so the CEO made sure during the interview process to emphasize that he wanted a 3-5 year service commitment. Two days after the new individual started he told the CEO that his wife and child are moving to North Carolina and asked whether he could he work remotely from NC. The CEO said this was not an option. The employee says that he will stay, but the CEO is concerned whether this individual will fulfill his verbal commitment of service. How should the CEO handle this situation going forward?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Verbal commitments made during an interview process are difficult to enforce. Further, under California law once you have hired an employee, you cannot fire or let the employee go except for cause – performance or company financial adjustments such as layoffs.
  • What should the CEO say to the employee at this point about the situation?
    • Thank him for his honesty. Let him know that if the situation changes you would appreciate knowing as soon as possible. Assure the employee that you will not fire or otherwise penalize him for giving you this notice.
  • Is there anything else that the CEO can do to protect his training investment?
    • As the employee moves from training into productive work, make it one of his responsibilities to thoroughly document the position and responsibilities. If he eventually leaves, this may reduce the learning curve of his successor.

How Do You Discourage Personal Work on Company Time? Three Solutions

Situation: A company recently hired two employees. In their first weeks of work, they were observed using company computers, on company time, to do personal work – in one case to monitor a personal web-based business. What is the best way to communicate company policy to these individuals?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Everything starts with the orientation on the first day of employment and the atmosphere established in the first weeks of work.
    • Particularly in a small company, new employees should meet with the CEO whose job it is to describe the culture of the company, the vision for the future and broad expectations of the role and contributions expected from employees.
    • Matters concerning personal work on company time and with company equipment should be clearly addressed in the employee handbook. Key points should be reviewed by a representative of upper level management, along with a conversation to assure that these key points are clearly understood.
    • Particularly during the initial weeks of work, new employees should have frequent meetings with their immediate supervisors to assure that they have the resources they need, that any questions they have about their work are addressed, and that they are performing to company and role expectations.
  • Given what has been observed, you, as CEO, should definitely speak to them about the behavior observed, and give them the opportunity to explain what is happening.
    • Clarify expectations of all employees, and ask whether these individuals understand these expectations.
    • Document the meeting. If the behavior continues, take action.
  • What is being done by other employees, and is there a broader issue to be addressed? Are other employees behaving similarly? If so, the new employees may just be responding to what they perceive as allowable behavior within the company.
    • Start with a company meeting or a letter to all employees. Highlight relevant passages from the employee handbook, and speak in terms not only of company culture but of the destructive impact that this behavior has on company performance and viability. The future of everyone in the company is tied to company performance and success.

Key Words: Leadership, Team, Expectations, Personal Work, Company Time, Policy, Orientation, Culture, Expectations, Employee, Handbook, Evaluation Period, Supervision, Documentation