Situation: A CEO is concerned that business operations are inconsistent. Employees are always coming to her for answers instead of working things out themselves. As a result, the CEO is continually focused on operational details as opposed to strategic direction. How do you create consistent business operations?
Advice from the CEOs:
Make managers live up to their titles.
Require them to go to each other to solve problems first, instead of always asking the CEO.
When they ask a question, don’t give them the solution, but advice on how to solve it.
Require them to present solutions vs. problems
Be willing to spend money on their solutions.
Answer all questions with questions.
Ask them for their recommendation.
Keep asking until they come up with the answer.
When one starts to delegate, it hurts for a while but will work itself out.
The CEO should not be doing “regular jobs” that are really employees’ responsibilities.
How has implementing these suggestions impacted other companies?
Businesses have become more diversified.
CEOs are focused strategically vs. tactically.
Businesses are more successful and profitable.
CEOs enjoy coming to work again.
Create a sales intern program.
Hire 4 sales interns for $10-15/hour – with the offer that after 3 months there will be full time jobs for those who prove they can sell.
Have the top 4 sales staff design the intern program – call response scripts, responsibilities, etc. – subject to CEO review and approval.
Assign one intern to each of these 4 sales staff in mentor/mentee relationships. This will demonstrate the capacity that each has as a sales manager.
Should younger workers be handled differently?
Allow flexibility – where appropriate – on hours and how they do their jobs.
Responsibility will also vary by pay level – higher pay equals more hours and more accountability.
The CEO of a new company is building her business. She has a business plan but
is struggling to bring in new clients. How do you create a roadmap for a new
from the CEOs:
Creating a new business is a numbers game. Draft a 3-year plan that will generate $1M in billings.
The bottom line of the plan is bringing in new clients.
Create a financial template that is driven by how many clients it takes to reach the financial goal in three years. Fill out the annual numbers including where new prospects will come from and set quarterly and monthly goals and activities to generate those clients.
Develop a marketing “hook.” For example, in the case of business services:
Fixed cost business tune-up – a low-level retainer with limits on time and services offered (up to x hours work per month or quarter on y projects)
Fixed fee in-house service for small business – again with limits on the services offered
Additional services beyond the limited services will be at the company’s normal rates, possibly with a discount to those on the basic retainer service.
Create a list of desirable new clients – the company’s sweet spot. Next look for people who can connect the company with these clients.
How to get to the target client?
This is a funnel question. To build the funnel take three sources of clients: referrals, current business contacts, networking. How many contacts are needed from each source to generate 10 new clients per year?
Make presentations to groups which may produce clients or referrals.
Get to know the local business people who make referrals.
Write articles for magazines that these business people read. Be an expert.
To save money, use student interns from nearby colleges and universities to do some of the basic work – target client research, researching and writing articles (make then co-authors on the articles – looks great on their resumes!) This is an inexpensive win-win for both the company and the intern.
Situation: A company has hired interns in the past and wants to upgrade their intern program to attract more interns from top schools. How do you attract interns from top schools?
Advice from the CEOs:
Top schools want to build lasting relationships with the companies to whom they send interns. In addition, the ability of top schools to attract top students increasingly relies on the placement rate of the school, so this can be a win-win proposition for both company and school. Take the time to cultivate this relationship and let the school’s representatives know your intentions. Get to know the top professors in programs from which you wish to recruit interns.
Provide a high quality internship experience. Treat interns as though they were normal employees during internships. Give them a job, objectives and tell them that you will evaluate you as though they were FTEs. They will feel more like members of the team and will have a higher quality internship experience. They will likely tell their placement office and other students about their experience. Interns should understand that if all goes well, the company MAY have a job for them; no job is guaranteed.
If you want more applicants from top schools then view your internship program as an investment. Look at it as a recruiting tool, not as an expense.
Pay for interns may not be same as FTEs – frequently interns are paid less, and don’t get the same benefits as FTEs. Before you make an offer or hire, call the school from which the potential intern comes and check out the candidate’s representations as to expected salary, etc.
Hire more than one intern and compare their performance against each other.
The CEO of a technology company has hired many engineer interns. Many of these were subsequently hired as employees. Overall their success has been good, but not fantastic. Similar to a new employee, it takes time for an intern to get up to speed.
Situation: Despite high unemployment, a company is finding it difficult to attract qualified candidates for technical positions. Many applicants don’t possess the requisite skills, and recent graduates aren’t responding to job posts. What works best attracting good candidates for open positions?
Advice of the Forum:
There is a wide array of specialized online resources to help you find qualified candidates. As an example, for tech candidates, try DICE.com. For a reasonable cost, you can post position on DICE.com or get employer access to the database and search it yourself using key words.
Better results come through networking with vendors, suppliers and customers to identify currently employed and highly qualified candidates. This should be regular company practice.
It is feasible to hire nationally and to relocate. As long as the employees and young and not invested, relocation expenses are not severe, and the Bay Area is appealing to young workers.
For distant candidates, companies frequently use an initial telephone interview, and then bring qualified candidates to the office for a face-to-face 2nd interview.
Push current employees for referrals. Give them a reward for successful hires that stay with the Company for a pre-set time period.
One company pays $5-10K for referred employees who stay with the company for 1 year. This is inexpensive in comparison with recruiter costs.
There are some highly targeted recruiters in Silicon Valley who specialize in technology positions. Get to know these companies. They may already have candidates for your positions.
A number of companies have had success with semester or summer interns from local colleges and graduate schools. Current students are highly aware of the challenges finding a job once they graduate, and unemployment among recent graduates is very high.
Key Words: Human Resources, Candidate, Technical, Applicant, Job Post, Networking, DICE.com, Relocate, Referral, Recruiter, Intern
Situation: A company wants to revamp its marketing materials and web site. They have no in-house resources, and no specific direction has been set. What are the best ways to revamp your brand and marketing materials?
Advice from the CEOs:
The first thing to consider is whether this Is just an adjustment to your current marketing, or whether you really need a broader in-depth analysis of branding, positioning and how well this is communicated by your marketing materials and web site. If it has been several years since your last revision of materials and web site, these may no longer be in step with current needs.
If you are located near a major metropolitan area there are many marketing consultants who can bring both a professional approach and a fresh vision to the task.
Work with your Chamber of Commerce, industry organizations, and your vendors, suppliers and distributors to find companies who have recently revamped their marketing. Check out the web sites of these companies and see which appeal to you. Ask the ones that you like what consultants they used.
If your company sells to consumers, or sells to consumers through outside channels, you should consider social media as a part of both your marketing mix. Even B2B companies now see see value in social media. Choose a consultant with expertise in social media as well as traditional marketing.
Interview several consultants before you make your final choice.
Many small companies are financially stretched and don’t have the dollars to support a major market revamp. Are there ways to reduce the cost?
Consider semester or summer interns for some of the analysis, data gathering and perhaps some of the design or social media work. Students at colleges and universities are hungry for intern positions – both paid and unpaid – to satisfy college course and graduation requirements as well as to get an inside track on future jobs.
Key Words: Collateral, Web Site, Branding, Budget, Intern, Consultant, Vendor, Supplier, Chamber, B2B, B2C, Social Media
Situation: The Company downsized during the recession. The CEO and sales staff are overburdened by administrative and business development tasks. What’s the best way to bring to add resources to support sales and infrastructure?
Advice from the CEOs:
Look at what hats you are wearing. Wear the hats that fit best and take off the others.
If an activity is not core to your success, off-load it. For example: bookkeeping, shipping and receiving, records and basic correspondence.
These are necessary, but don’t generate revenue.
If your core businesses are sales and service, is one more profitable than the other? Can you outsource pieces of the less profitable activity short-term?
Where do you want to be personally in the next 2 years? On what roles do you want to focus? Build a plan to transition you into these roles.
The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber is a quick read that outlines the process.
You may not need to bring in a high level operations manager. Consider hiring an office manager to help organize you and your business development staff. For a smaller operation this person can take care of phones, bookkeeping, shipping and receiving and routine correspondence. This will allow executive staff and sales to focus on growing and servicing customer demand.
During the summer months hire high school or college summer interns. They provide an inexpensive source of labor, high levels of energy and creativity, and are eager for work experience.