Tag Archives: Incentive

How Do You Establish Accountability for Results? Four Ideas

Situation: A CEO has difficulty gaining realistic projections from sales – projections for which they will be accountable. For example, the VP of Sales promises X but delivers Y – a result substantially below X. What methods have you have used to get realistic assessments and commitments from sales executives? How do you establish accountability for results?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Shift the issue from their accountability to your own accountability to the company.
    • In order to ship to the projected sales targets, we will need to scale up production to X level, hire Y personnel, and invest in Z inventory. If we miss the target by 20% here’s the impact on our financial performance for the next period. Are we comfortable, as a company, with this exposure, or should we adjust our plan to reduce the exposure.
    • This makes it easier for the sales executive, for the good of the company, to reduce the projection if they are not confident that they will make it.
  • Do you need to examine your commission structure as well as bonuses for sales executives? Consider scaling commissions to make sure that the sales team hits their targets. Make them hungry by offering lower commissions for lower targets, but increasing total commissions for meeting and exceeding targets.
    • Have the sales team project their sales. If the projected level meets company objectives and they meet them they make X%. However, if they fall short they make successively smaller fractions of X% depending upon how much they fall short.
  • Currently, the ratio between new and repeat sales is 20% / 80%.
    • To focus the sales team on new sales, reduce commissions on repeat sales, and increase commissions on new or increased sales and/or accounts.
  • Good sales people are competitive and often respond to pride. Give them in incentive – hit the sales target and get trip to Las Vegas with your spouse or guest.

How Do You Sell Both Standard and Custom Products? Six Ideas

Situation: A company is rapidly ramping sales of standard products. However, the rep network that sells the company’s products has had more difficulty selling higher dollar / higher margin custom products. How do you sell both standard and custom products?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Make the custom products look more like spec products with adaptability. Create a grid that allows the customer to easily spec the specific product that they need and quickly determine the price of the product. This price can be overestimated at first blush, or scaled depending on the number of units wanted. Consider using a laptop or PDA spreadsheet.
  • Consider the combination specialist / generalist approach that companies have used successfully for highly technical sales. Put a significantly higher commission on the higher price / margin custom product, and have your own “specialist” reps do joint calls with the distributor reps who have relationships with the customer. With the incentive of higher commissions, a percentage of the distributor reps will take the initiative to learn from your inside reps how to sell the custom product to boost their sales and commission income.
  • For your distributor reps, separate and optimize lead generation and deal closing from a compensation standpoint to encourage both.
  • Reps with consultative sales experience, for example selling intangibles such as insurance, may be the best candidates to sell your custom offering.
  • Offer quarterly training of your reps and distributors to encourage them to sell the custom products.
  • Consider telemarketing. Support your telemarketers with a well-prepared script to assist them in qualifying prospects and setting appointments for your own reps.

When Does It Make Sense to Buy a Company? Three Guidelines

Situation: A Company has a key customer that wants to upgrade the Company’s status as an approved supplier. This comes with a catch – the customer demands that the Company reduce the amount of its total revenue represented by its business with the customer. The customer doesn’t want the Company to be overly dependent upon them or their business. One option that the Company may explore is purchasing another business. When does it make sense to buy a company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The Company may be working under a false premise.
    • If the Company is truly a critical supplier, the customer is not likely to go away just because they don’t like a single ratio on how the Company runs its business.
    • The risk that the Company takes on buying another business is that this distracts the Company and ends up jeopardizing current business both from thus customer and others.
    • It makes more sense to explore acquiring another company if the Company’s broader goal is to become more diversified, or if new business commitments are forthcoming from this or other current customers.
  • What about this strategy makes sense?
    • Provided that the purchase of another company makes strategic sense, it may be feasible to finance the purchase of that company through a leveraged buy-out.
    • Be sure to build an earn-out with incentives contingent upon the seller staying on and helping to maximize long-term value of business.
  • As an alternative to buying another business, it may be possible to build a new lower cost/price version of the Company’s current product or service and build a new customer base for the lower cost version. This is how automobile companies use the same or similar frames, engines and many of the same components to create different cars for different markets.

Who Do You Serve – The Customer or The Company? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company’s motto is that they serve the customer first. As an unintended consequence company projects get lower priority and action than customer projects. Frequently, the CEO finds that company projects are only half completed. What have you done to make company initiatives a priority? Who do you serve – the customer or the company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is a great question. Clearly serving the customer has to be top priority. However, you also have to complete company projects, particularly those which are critical to company function or which will enhance your ability to serve your customers.
  • Define the company as a customer for important projects. Call this “billable hours” to the company and credit them as such on these projects. Accompany this with employee training on how to prioritize “company” versus “customer” projects when priorities conflict. It may take time to work through this, and for the message to sink in.
  • Add completion of company initiatives to the company kudos list. LInk company award eligibility to completion of company initiatives. For mission critical projects, grant double credit for completion of company projects. Adjustment of incentives will help to get the message across.
  • In employee communications, include updates on company projects along with customer projects and give equal or greater emphasis as appropriate.
  • Have you defined your “ideal customer”?
    • Include internal customers within your definition of ideal customers.
    • This will help to clarify and prioritize opportunities and shift the mindset.
  • For mission critical projects hire additional personnel or contractors.

How Do You Handle a Side Project? Two Considerations

Situation: An early principal of a company has done a lot of work on a product that no longer fits the company’s business strategy and focus. The CEO wants to reward this individual for past work. An arrangement could include equity plus a big chunk of whatever this individual can make marketing the product that he created. What is the best way to handle this side project?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There may be benefits to working with this individual as proposed. Letting the individual play in his own sub-market gives you an additional customer and may lead to interesting but yet unknown opportunities. Take care that this does not impact critical timelines for the company’s principal strategy.
  • A set of guidelines for this arrangement may include:

o    No grant of additional stock in the company – the opportunity to pursue the project should be sufficient incentive.

o    Keep this side project as company property.

o    Give the individual a sizable chunk of any revenue that he can gain from the product.

o    Task the individual to manage and solve technical challenges so that this does not impact company priorities.

o    Retain control of timelines and quality sign-off so that this project does not conflict with your higher priorities.

o    Give the individual sufficient support so that he is more likely to succeed.

  • Are there concerns regarding brand risk?

o    Draft an agreement to allow this project to operate cleanly and treat the principal an early small customer. Define the requirements of the project, release timelines, and branding options so that they do not interfere with the company’s larger goals.

How Do You Manage Cash Flow and Growth? Five Thoughts

Situation: A company faces dual challenges – assuring that payments are collected for work done and developing a business model that facilitates growth. How do assure that payments are collected to support your cash flow needs and that employees are focused on growth?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • It may be that the two problems are closely related. Ask whether your compensation and incentive system is focused on cash flow and growth. If not, you need to change it.
    • Restructure your compensation and incentive systems to create a direct link between profitability and compensation. Augment this with training. For example, if your engineering team isn’t good at assuring that change order costs are paid by their clients, teach them how to write statements of work to anticipate change requests and to include charges in the SOW. Then tie the team’s compensation to how well team members follow though in assuring that work is properly accounted for, billed, and payment collected.
  • Create simple procedures that are innate and complementary to team members’ natural behavior. The best way to do this is to involve them in the writing of the procedures.
  • Give them easy tools that take the guesswork out of negotiating change orders with clients. For example, if a client asks for faster delivery, give them a formula that ties delivery to cost::
    • Standard Delivery = 8 weeks at Price X
    • 4 Week Delivery = Standard delivery price times Y
    • 2 Week Delivery = Standard delivery price times Z

This turns client demands into a simple economic question – what is expedited delivery worth to you?

  • Hire a contracts manager to track contracts and change orders with authority to assure that change order costs are being billed.
  • Create “learning” teams to develop solutions. Allow the teams to speak to each other and to learn each other’s best practices. Supplement this with regular tutorial sessions to bring the whole group up to speed on new technologies.

Are Your Folks Getting Offers from Others? Five Thoughts

Situation: A company’s employees are increasingly getting offers from other companies. They believe that they have a good team, a good work environment and offer a competitive pay and benefit package. However, they are concerned that the job market in Silicon Valley is heating up. How do you keep your employees on-board when they start receiving offers from others?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Make sure that your wage and benefit scale continues to be competitive. The Silicon Valley Index, published by Assets Unlimited in Campbell, is the best local survey covering Silicon Valley and the San Francisco technology market.
  • Survey after survey finds that compensation is basically a hygiene factor – it has to be good enough so that needs are satisfied, but it isn’t one of the more important factors in retention. The Gallup Organization has determined that respect, challenging responsibilities, and personal recognition are much more important factors in employee retention. Be sure that you are actively involving your key personnel as leaders in formulating and updating your processes, and that there are plenty of opportunities for recognition and celebration for your staff.
  • If you are generating a profit, share this with the employees as an incentive. This may well be better spent in fun and team-building activities like a weekend in Tahoe for a team, or supporting their creative needs by sponsoring their efforts in engineering design competitions. Whatever is appropriate for your company, involve your employees in setting company performance goals and give them a voice in determining how achievement should be rewarded. Making them part of the process builds better long-term loyalty.
  • On the sales side, establish a reward incentive structure for bringing in new business for the company to prompt field personnel to develop and exercise their business development skills.
  • Whatever you and your team decide, be sure that your choices support your overall strategic plan.

How Do You Negotiate New Shares for the Founders? Five Suggestions

Situation: A company’s founders will be fully vested in their options by the end of the year. Also, the option pool for founders and employees has been exhausted. The CEO has spoken with the Board Chair and Compensation Committee about this in terms of fairness and incentives for future work to both founders and employees, while making it clear that the Founders are not unhappy. The Chair listened sympathetically and promised to get back to the CEO. Is there anything more that the CEO should do to negotiate new shares for founders and employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Seek a letter of understanding from the Board that the founders and employees will have access to future stock incentives, and a timeline as to when this might occur – either in the near future or at the next financing round.
  • Wait a few weeks and have an informal follow-up conversation with the Chair about his current thinking. Ask whether he would like any further supporting information on the issue.
  • So far, your approach has been non-threatening. Keep it this way.
  • Maintain focus on fairness and your tone supportive of the best interests of the company.
  • Don’t press the issue if you sense resistance.

How Do You Shift From Regional to National Operations? Three Foci

Situation: A company has a network of regional offices, operating under loose oversight from the home office. Increasingly, large customers are asking for national service agreements, but the company struggles to coordinate uniform national service delivery. How do you shift from independent regional to coordinated national operations?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If you want to act like a national company, then organize like a national company. Create a national account office which will take the lead in negotiating national contracts. That office will then coordinate with the regional offices to assure that service delivery occurs according to contract.
    • As the national office is built, it will be important for them to understand how service delivery may vary between states because of differences in state regulations. This will require a manager who is experienced and knowledgeable in your field. This may be a promising current regional manager or an outside individual from your industry.
    • You will also want to define customer categories which will enable you to classify current and prospective customers as regional or national accounts. You may want to consider three customer categories, for example Regional, Emerging National and National Accounts.
  • The key to success will lie in your incentive and professional development structures.
    • If region managers receive their incentives and promotions primarily for developing regional business, then this is where they will focus.
    • If you want the region managers to shift their activity and priorities to creating and servicing national contracts, then bias both your incentives and professional development programs accordingly.
    • For region managers, continuity of business will be a top priority, as this enables them to maintain region performance. To come on-board with the new program, they must perceive a value for both themselves and their customers.
  • Once you have determined your structure, look for high profile wins that drive the structure. Reward and promote those who produce these wins.
    • These producers will become your champions for change.
    • The message will spread quickly across the organization.

How Do You Shift from Craft to Lean? Four Steps

Situation: A company has an engineering structure which emphasizes function over cost. As a result, there is little collaboration between design and manufacturing, and little design for manufacturability or cost control. This contributes to a last-minute mindset and expensive solutions. How do you shift design engineering and manufacturing from a craft to a lean mindset?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Changing how people think and act may also mean changing people. Are you prepared for this? If not, then it may be difficult to achieve the change that you desire.
  • Let’s use a mindset change in another area – sales compensation – as an example. In this case, the sales team had previously focused primarily on revenue, with no incentive to drive margin. This impact was continuously eroding margins, though the company realized revenue goals. The mindset was changed by introducing a new system with dual incentives: to retain their position, a sales person had to hit at least 85% of their revenue target, however commission was based completely on the gross margin from their sales, with a bump in commissions when they hit 100% of their revenue target. This system drove both revenue and margin targets and was very successful; however, the company lost a few sales reps who couldn’t make the adjustment.
  • Transferring this lesson to the engineering situation, design an incentive structure that drives both function and low cost manufacturability to achieve both targets simultaneously.
    • Task your VPs of Operations and Manufacturing – and the key managers of your design and manufacturing teams – to create a dual incentive system that meets both function and manufacturability objectives. Measurements may include:
      • Actual vs. initial estimated manufacturing costs.
      • Margin on final product.
    • Once the parameters are developed, clearly communicate these to all affected employees up front to set clear expectations for the future.
    • Incentivize your VPs and key managers jointly on collaborative efforts and their ability to develop joint solutions.
  • Another solution which will speed the process – put design and manufacturing engineering in the same work space instead of separating them. This encourages the teams to work together.