Tag Archives: Manager

How Do You Create an Effective Staff Back-up System? Three Recommendations

Situation: A CEO has a staffing issue. The company has four product areas but only three strong leads. There are no back-ups for these leads. The CEO feels that the company can’t afford full-time back-ups and is concerned that the presence of back-ups may threaten the leads. How do you create an effective staff back-up system?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are two problems, not one.
    • The leads may not be great managers and may not even like managerial responsibility.
    • The company has one administrator with support from the leads.
    • The company’s vulnerability is having an effective lead leave and taking their key core team members with them. This would create a significant hole in the company’s offering.
    • Change the structure – put manager administrators at top and let the leads do what they love to do. Fit the jobs of the leads to their skills and talents.
  • Hire the best #2s that can be found to back up the effective leads. Replace the less effective lead with a new lead.
    • Replace current team members who aren’t as good with new staff. This will provide the funding for the new people.
    • Then separate managers from architects in terms of role. This does not mean a change of compensation, or necessarily even titles. It means aligning roles with talents. It will also mean that individuals will be happier in their roles and will be less likely to leave.
    • Don’t do this all at once, but in gradual stages to avoid panic and allow individuals the time to adapt to their new roles. Act as a coach adjusting the whole team to a new playbook.
  • Consider adjusting the compensation structure to retain the key leads.

How Do You Construct a Deal to Expand? Three Areas of Focus

Situation: A CEO has an opportunity to combine with another business to expand their market geographically. A lead to work with the current owner to manage the transition has been identified. A second option is to bring in a new manager from the outside to manage the transition and the expanded business. How do you construct a deal to expand?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Basics that are needed prior to initiating negotiations:
    • Define what the seller wants – both financially from the sale and in terms of ongoing involvement in and support of the business.
      • Without a lengthy transition period, the value of the business is not significant. The value is in the current owner’s relationships – both with clients and his team. It is critical to retain both.
    • The other big question is what the seller wants personally.
      • Is it legacy? Is it the opportunity to transfer knowledge?
      • The seller knows the CEO’s company and approached them about a sale. Play on this.
    • Are there potential complications to the deal?
      • Do any non-compete clauses exist with other companies?
      • Do other agreements exist that impact the value of the acquisition?
  • What other aspects of the deal does the group recommend?
    • Within the new organization, put the current owner under the recommended lead. This gives the lead more prestige and demonstrates trust. It also raises the bar for the lead.
    • A bonus is that the current owner and the lead get along. This will facilitate the current owner’s mentoring of the lead – like the child that he wishes would have taken over the business.
    • The current owner is a savvy businessperson, and the existing relationship between the seller and the lead will facilitate his ability to pass this knowledge on to the lead.
    • The current owner’s key assets are his connections and knowledge of the business. This will include subtle aspects to the business of which only the current owner is aware.
  • The option to bring in an outside office manager potentially complicates the situation.
    • Bringing in an outside office manager to manage both the lead and the current owner is the worst case – the most likely to blow up.
    • This arrangement puts the current owner two reports away from the CEO.
    • With an additional person involved, the personal dynamics become more complex. Keep it simple.

How Do You Engage People in a New Offering? Eight Points

Situation: A founder has created a new social media offering. The concept is to attract individuals with complimentary interests and have them engage each other for mutual benefit as a better source of information and connections. Implied trust is an important component of these connections. How do you engage people in a new offering?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • People are willing to experiment with a new social media offering – in this case because they like to help others. It makes them feel good and they like the role of helping others.
  • People are always seeking good talent. If this does a better job helping them to find good talent, they will try it out.
  • Hiring managers prefer to pass on a resume of someone known to them because a bad referral could reflect badly on them. Strengthen this aspect of the offering through information gathered from participants.
  • A small pool is a negative. Broaden the pool to include those who are looking to step up their careers. Think of this as people-to-people direct hiring and use a social approach with broad appeal. This will increase the number of people willing to play.
  • Be the place where people can come to help others. Add additional tags – help to build confidence and get inspiration. Getting a job happens as a consequence.
  • The element of trust and relationship is important to many – 40% of early users of the current network express this. Assure that the value proposition is also attractive to the 60% who are not concerned about this.
  • The network will build on the energy from the emotional play.
  • Expand the options for how people can help. Investigate allowing trusted referral relationships within the system. Allow people to refer trusted people in their own networks. This can include people who “I would trust to refer good people.”

How Do You Create Consistent Business Operations? Seven Thoughts

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.

Do You Promote an Employee with Limited English? Five Points

Situation: The CEO of a small but profitable company has a promising employee who she wants to promote to a supervisor role. The challenge is that this employee has limited English. Promoting this individual may upset the current supervisor. Do you promote an employee with limited English?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Before making any decisions consider taking the “lead” position in manufacturing short-term instead of promoting or hiring a supervisor.
    • This will allow you to fully understand the manufacturing operations, as well as any points of art in the operation that can serve as the company’s foundation IP.
  • To think about the role of supervisor or Plant Manager, visit a Starbuck’s for an hour and watch the Starbucks Manager. This individual will, over the course of the hour, perform all functions within the establishment. This is a good model for a hands-on supervisor for a small operation.
  • Given the small size of the current operation, look for a more modest role for the position. Instead of Operations Manager perhaps Plant Manager. This will allow the individual time to grow into a larger role as the company grows.
  • How should the message be delivered to the promising employee with limited English as well as to the current supervisor?
    • Tell the employee “We like you and think that you have real potential. Would you be interested in an English as a second language course to build your English skills? We’ll pay for the course.” It is important to be enthusiastic and positive with the individual as you have this conversation.
    • A supplemental alternative is to reimburse the individual’s use of one of the online programs like Babbel or Duolingo that enables learning or improvement of language skills using a mobile phone. These programs are inexpensive and highly effective with diligent practice.
    • Promoting this individual above the current supervisor may generate a problem. This doesn’t prevent the promotion. Just assure that it is done carefully and be prepared for the current supervisor’s reaction.
  • When it is timely, instead of promoting this individual immediately, consider offering a temporary lead role for key tasks of increasing levels of responsibility. This will allow time for the individual to prove their merit and capabilities to others over 2-3 months.

How Do You Boost Company Morale? Five Suggestions

Situation: A CEO is concerned that her #2 is being challenged by others in the company. An option is to hire a technical project manager; someone who carries the CEO’s authority and who can get things done. What are the obstacles to achieving this? How do you boost company morale?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The technical project manager must have a non-threatening role – they shouldn’t challenge the technical skills of the developers. The role is to oversee schedules, progress, and to resolve barriers – both technical and personal. The job is to get things back into shape.
  • While the business involves highly technical software, operationally it is people centered, not software centered. People centered means a team that collaborates and supports one-another. The important questions are:
    • Where do the needed people skills come from?
    • How do the model and reality transition to a people centered business?
    • Look for someone who can nurture talent. People skills are more important for this role than technical skills, with the caveat that individual must be able to understand technical challenges.
  • An option is a 3rd party within company to straighten this out.
    • “COO” Responsible for Technical Direction – title is important because it conveys respect.
    • The CEO’s voice and ears.
    • Run weekly meetings and is the go-to person when the CEO us traveling.
    • The focus is to manage the primadonnas and keep them focused on their jobs instead of on interpersonal conflicts.
    • This role focuses inwardly on company vs. the CEO who focuses outward on the broader vision, key stakeholders, etc.
  • The bottom line – this is your company, your vision. Make it work. The task is teaching maturity – learning to give rather than worrying about making a name for themselves.
  • Have regular lunches with each of the developers and have frank conversations with them. What’s up and what’s wrong? Listen and let them air their concerns. Talk them through these concerns, but make sure that they understand that the CEO sets the direction both for the company and the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior within the company.

How Do You Balance Core and New Businesses? Five Guidelines

Situation: A company has built a solid core business and wants to expand its product portfolio by adding new business. Core functions can serve both existing and new business, reducing overhead on individual businesses. What pitfalls must the company avoid? How do you balance core and new businesses?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • New business activity cannot impact core business. The core business is the company’s bread and butter. It is important to make this clear to both employees and clients and to structure the handling of new business opportunities accordingly.
  • From a staffing standpoint, new business opportunities cannot impact marketing, service and operations staff supporting the core business. New business development activity and operations cannot result in a pull from their focus on the core business. This separation may be facilitated by placing the staff supporting new business in separate facilities, or in an area separate from the staff supporting core business.
  • In the case of support functions that will serve both existing and new business, recruit and hire staff to support the new business to assure that both existing and new business receive proper support.
  • Hire a new person, one with experience and contacts, to develop the new business opportunities. Look for a sales person who can bring in significant new business. This will pay for the individual quickly.
  • How does leadership communicate these changes to staff?
    • Meet with key managers to identify potential concerns. These may include impact on company culture and client focus. Use the responses gathered to develop a communication plan to allay employee concerns.
    • As new business opportunities are added, it will be necessary to bring in new, experienced personnel. Previously, the company brought in experienced personnel to build the current business. Be open and up-front about this and explain that as the company grows there will be new opportunities for existing employees.
    • The company’s objective is to improve the quality of the organization and to raise the boat for all. Current owners and managers will automatically benefit from the efforts of new people to expand the business.
    • Building new business opportunities as separate businesses diversifies the company and reduces the risk of overdependence on existing clients and key vendor relationships. This enhances the job security of current employees.

How Do You Decide Between Strategic Options? Five Thoughts

Situation: A CEO is faced with three strategic options that the company could pursue. He seeks guidance on how the company should evaluate the three options. What signs should they be watching for in their marketplace? Are there steps that they should take while completing their evaluation? How do you decide between strategic options?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Go with what sells! Listen to the market, and your key customers. Make sure that you have ears out there that will give you early signals.
  • Until there is a clear indication from the market place as to which is the stronger strategy, keep your options open. A hybrid strategy – maintaining your current strategy while evaluating the strongest strategic option – will allow you to do this and continue to drive revenue from your existing base while the market determines dominance among the new platforms.
  • Look at the cash flow from your current strategy and each of the new options that you are considering.
    • What difference is there in upfront payments versus ongoing residuals?
    • Look closely at your cash flow needs compared to the timing of receipts from each option.
    • Are there ways that you can strengthen your cash flow depending upon which strategy you select? How will you bridge the gap between current and future cash flows from each strategic option?
  • Consider hiring a full-time manager in business development.
    • This will help you to learn more about your customers and what they will buy.
    • Select someone who has relationships with the key people in your target markets, and who knows what the insiders are doing at important existing or target customers.
    • Select someone who can give you access to new opportunities and help steer your strategic development.
  • Consider a long-term strategic partnership with a leader in your market.

How Do You Facilitate Management Change? Four Suggestions

Situation: Historically the management of a company has been family and a few long-term managers who’ve grown with the company. Some of these managers have reached their limit. Over the last couple of years, the company has added new, high capacity management. Who do they do with existing managers who can’t keep up? How do you facilitate management change?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is why packages exist. Employees, even key managers are not forever. As a company grows both its needs and culture must grow. There comes the time in the life and growth of most every company when certain managers are unable to accommodate this growth or adapt to the changing culture. You may well find that these managers are not very happy and no longer feel at home. Whatever the case, it is better that they move on.
  • Who creates the package?
    • You or your HR manager come up with the outline.
    • Get professional advice if you have none in-house.
  • Is there a moral issue – our commitment to our employees?
    • If an individual is demotivated, they are not contributing – this solves the moral issue.
    • If the individual is terminated amicably this can be for the best – for both parties.
  • How do you ease the pain of separation, both for the individual and the company?
    • Packages can be adapted to the situation.
    • Take the example of a manager who has made important contributions in the past, and who has good relations with others in the company, but doesn’t have the skills to adapt to the next level. Include a generous term of job search assistance. If the separation is amicable, offer them space, computer and a telephone to facilitate their job search. This can ease the separation.

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.