Tag Archives: Message

How Do You Improve Your Company Presentation? Four Points

Situation: The CEO of a specialty company that is a leader in their market asked the group to review the company presentation. The members of the group were asked to put themselves in the place of a potential customer or investor. How do you improve your company presentation?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Don’t assume that the audience has a sophisticated understanding either of the company’s market or its technology. In any pitch either to a new prospect or for funding there will be individuals in the audience who are not experts. The pitch needs to deliver a message that any listener can easily translate to any colleague.
    • Give brief examples from the experience of current customers to make the technology and its advantages concrete.
  • What is the problem that the company solves?
    • State up front: What is the pain – why is it there? How does the company’s solution address this pain? What’s the impact?
    • Show market potential and explain why the company’s solution will be a home run.
    • What makes the company’s solution unique and gives it a sustainable advantage?
    • Assume Ignorance – KISS – Keep It Simple Silly!
    • The presentation should be high level, easy to understand, and crystal clear in 5 minutes.
  • Establish credibility by summarizing current success and list the names of current customers.
  • For presentations to investors have ready answers for the following questions:
    • How the funding sought accelerate development, and what is the expected return that this will produce?
    • Assure that timelines are realistic, particularly for a ground-breaking technology.
    • Do not be vague in answers to questions like “what is your market share?” Answers must be crisp and believable. If additional documentation is required to validate company estimates have a back-up slide in the presentation to address this. Keep the explanation in the back-up slide simple, even if the analysis is complex.
    • Add an expectation of return on investment. What equity will the company give for an investment of $X. State the company’s pre-money valuation as a believable number. Then give an estimated 3-year post money valuation with $X investment. Investors will discount anything number given but will not want a range.

How Do You Monetize a New Venture? Eleven Suggestions

Situation: An entrepreneur has created a new business offering a critical service but struggles with how to monetize it. The primary clients don’t have the resources to fund it viably. What alternative sources of funds or revenue can be found? How do you monetize a new venture?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The venture’s brand name must carry the message – the name must describe the mission.
  • One of the core messages is reciprocity. Reinforce this theme all over the site.
  • Testimonials are critical. Testimonial videos of real users personalize the experience. These drive participant acquisition and contributions.
  • Make participants feel like they are a part of a community.
    • Consider a variety of landing pages – same database but different doors of entry.
    • Encourage even more communication within specific target communities.
  • Look at MySpace vs. Facebook to guide the model:
    • MySpace was already big when Facebook launched.
    • Facebook exploded by making itself a more closed community – all exclusive colleges and Universities.
    • Monetize via donation or advertising vs. subscription. Fees could kill the opportunity. Too many other resources are available for free.
  • The key appeal is enabling people to do something that makes them feel good.
    • Post stories from those who have succeeded as a result of the platform, as well as those who have helped on the site. This will inspire others to participate.
  • How do you recruit new participants?
    • Some CEOs joined LinkedIn because of peer pressure – after enough people asked them to join, they did.
    • Install a template to encourage people to invite new participants – allow new participants to tell their story and the need that the service fulfills for them.
  • Consider adding premium content to the site, but only for those who have made contributions – monetary or in-kind.
  • Consider Fremium to Premium. In the Fremium model include a banner ad for users, like a university Training Institute.
  • Consider creating an advice network. Post questions and ask for answers from the community. Include an option to click to become a contributing participant.
  • Online there are eyeballs vs. action – the action is what matters.

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 Prepare for a Difficult Conversation? Three Suggestions

Situation: The CEO of a family business faces his most difficult conversation. One brother, who makes more than anyone else, is not living up to his responsibilities. A long-term key employee currently handles most of this brother’s responsibilities at a modest salary. The CEO is intimidated by this task. How do you prepare for a difficult conversation?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Call a meeting of the three brothers and the key employee. Propose putting all four into a pool. The key employee is treated like a brother. Ask: what is a fair way to split the pie and to build incentives so that each makes what their father, who built the company, made? Make it clear that all four members of the team want the same earning potential and that one team member is not more equal than the others.
    • Prepare and script this meeting ahead of time.
    • Don’t allow the under-performing brother to play the others off against each other.
    • Know what must be said if this brother says he will leave.
  • The CEO must stick with the message. If the underperformer doesn’t like the message, he is not indispensable. A replacement could be hired for far less than he is currently being paid.
  • What are the key points for the conversation?
    • Turn the question around – the brothers all joined a company model that no longer works – the three brothers, combined, make less than their father made.
    • Ask the underperformer – what are the proper incentives? What is fair? Is it fair that for years, he has made more than anyone else?
    • It’s time for each member of the team to work together to figure out how to make what their father made in this business.
    • The brothers have supported the underperforming brother for years. Any old debts that were owed have been paid.
    • Ask the underperforming brother for his voice in how to expand the company and make it more profitable.
    • This is a new game. If all members pull together everybody wins.

How Do You Market to Company Insiders? Three Suggestions

Situation: The key to a career development company’s growth, historically, is leveraging relationships with insiders in potential client companies who know the needs of their own companies. The key benefits to these people are access to good people, no recruiting fees and feeling good about the experience. What is the marketing message to this group? How do you market to company insiders?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Ask them. You already have a number of company insiders who work with you. Develop a detailed survey to query what they see as the key benefits of working with your company, and which of these benefits are most important to them.
    • Consider a broad quantitative survey that you can administer via the web.
    • Complement this with a smaller in-depth interview survey to understand qualitatively how they benefit from their relationship with your company and the service that you provide.
  • Your equity is the experience that these people enjoy when they work with you – this is your leverage.
  • Your pitch is emotionally oriented. Stick with this. Saving recruiting fees will not be as important given your focus and the company insiders that you are likely to attract.

How Do You Focus Your Sales and Marketing? Eight Thoughts

Situation: A company has a technology road map and a flexible set of technical capabilities. To date they have elicited broad interest from a variety of different markets. They currently don’t have the resources to pursue a large number of different markets, and will likely need their next round of funding within the next year to year and a half. How do you focus your sales and marketing?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • A race to generate interest from a number of markets is a valid strategy at this stage of your development; provided that you raise or generate the cash to survive. This caveat describes your critical challenge – determining how long you can afford to maintain and fund a broad strategy.
  • Look at your burn rate and timeline. Pursue options that will generate cash before your next round of funding. Your top objective is to validate your ability to generate revenue prior to your next round.
  • You haven’t yet found the fish. You are fishing and have nibbles but no bites. Look at what your people are doing and start to eliminate options that are less likely to pay off both short and long-term.
  • To preserve development cash, create a new rule. Any project that you accept must come with development dollars. This will eliminate some smaller prospects and targets but will help you to focus on others which are more immediately promising.
  • When one company was in this position, their rule was that the first PO gets the engineers. No PO, no commitment of resources.
  • Another’s company’s policy is that they don’t work for free.
    • A softer version is to give the prospective client 30 days to produce an LOI for the proposed project or you will go elsewhere.
    • Even better is an LOI and $50K up front.
  • A third company’s strategy from the beginning was always to hunt for elephants – even when they had no money. This has worked well both short and long-term. It represented the level of faith that they had in their technology and capabilities.
  • The team needs to hear this message from you.

How Do You Communicate a Company Sale? Six Guidelines

Situation: A closely-held, non-public company is in negotiation for a possible sale. The CEO seeks guidance on when and how to communicate this to employees. What event would demand communication? The CEO is concerned that if the sale falls through this may significantly damage employee morale. How do you communicate a company sale?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The trigger point for any employee communication will be due diligence. At this point, you may have a serious buyer.
    • Going into due diligence, limit updates to those who will be involved in the process.
    • Most acquisitions do not go through, so a broader communication risks disrupting the company – unless you are very confident that the sale will proceed.
    • Prior to due diligence, there is no benefit to communicating any possible sale to employees.
  • What message do you deliver to those who will be involved in due diligence?
    • We are entering a due diligence. This is an exercise that we’re doing for our own education so that we understand the value of the company. This is just a drill.
  • Keep your eye on the business and don’t be distracted by the offer.
  • Have a good idea of an acceptable sale price.
    • For a company with intellectual property or significant assets, three to five times EBITDA is a good starting point – unless the sale is a strategic buy to the buyer.
  • A possible deal is often spoiled by terms and conditions that the buyer attaches to the deal.
  • One buyer (at any one time) is the same as no buyer. When owners get serious about selling the company they will need a broker to develop multiple buyers, to advise them through the sale process and to defend their interests.

How Do You Succeed in Turbulent Markets? Seven Suggestions

A CEO is concerned about a possible downturn in the company’s market. They have survived the Great Recession and want to assure that they continue to survive future downturns. How do you succeed in turbulent markets?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In turbulent markets, companies do everything that they can to reduce costs. This includes just-in-time ordering – regardless of lead times which they view as the supplier’s problem, delaying orders until they have confidence that they can sell what they order and produce, being miserly with cash, and demanding lower prices – even if supplier costs are rising. Dealing with each of these requires a steady head and creative solutions.
  • Spend as much time as possible meeting with important vendors and clients. Maintain the dialogue. They need you as much as you need them – without your products and services, their business is compromised, too. Spend time finding and cultivating the right relationships in client companies. Most of the time, this will NOT be the purchasing departments, but higher ups within the business units who are being pressed by their superiors to generate sales and revenue.
  • Pushing harder does not work in turbulent markets. Too many others are doing this.
  • Change your message – what used to work does not work now. Adjust your message to the times and adapt your message to your customer’s needs.
    • People want choice, and to do business with those whom they can trust to deliver.
    • Develop good case studies and testimonials – stories that your customer can share with others in their company.
  • Adjust your sales approach – look at SPIN Selling (Status, Pain, Implication, Needs-Payoff).
  • Don’t cut sales and marketing – focus it on the sectors that have cash and who are using the current market to grow. These people will continue to buy.
  • Look at what worked for you in the last five years – this situation is similar.
  • Look at your communications through the eChannels – if your competition is there, you should be too. For example, explore LinkedIn.

Special thanks to Jennifer Vessels of NextStep for her contribution to this discussion.

How Many Web Sites Should One Company Have? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company has two businesses in different locations serving different sets of customers in two separate markets. The CEO is evaluating whether it makes more sense to have one umbrella web site with pages for each of the two businesses, or to create two complete web sites with different URLs. How many web sites should a small business have, and why?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first question is whether you call both businesses the same or different names. Many small companies have separate businesses at different sites, and just differentiate the businesses through division names. Moreover, because you use the same company name for both businesses, you want to make it easy for customers to find your web sites. This argues for at least a single splash page, listed under your current company URL.
  • There are many corporations with diverse, unrelated businesses. Generally, these corporations don’t have any problem having a general web site, with separate links to the individual division web sites where customers and partners can drill down to detail specific to each division. The advantage to this strategy is that by having one corporate site, the larger entity strengthens its own market presence.
  • Given that the advice of the group is to have a single splash page how do you construct it?
    • You want to prominently feature your company name on the splash page, but not to include much detail. Maybe just an overall positioning message that expresses your core values or a distinctive visual that shows what you do.
    • On the splash page, create two links with distinctive pictures and names that enable your customer to easily go to the side of your business that interests them.

Should You Offer Employees Stock Ownership? Four Thoughts

Situation: When an early stage company was founded, the CEO made vague promises of stock ownership to new employees. Some original employees have asked whether and when they will receive ownership. Should the CEO offer stock ownership, and what is the message to employees?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first question concerns company policy on ownership. For example, what do the founding owners think about expanding the ownership pool? It is important for the founders to have this discussion and agree on official company policy on ownership. This can then be communicated consistently to employees.
  • Investigate practices for similar companies in your industry. If you find that there is a size at which companies typically start to diversify ownership, then have a conversation among the owners as to what your company will do. You don’t have to follow the pack, but you may risk turnover if your policy is significantly different from the industry norm.
  • Employee stock ownership is a double edged sword. Employee shares only receive a true value in a liquidity event – sale of the company or an IPO. Absent a liquidity event, employee stock ownership can complicate corporate decisions, and there’s also the question of the value of an employee’s stock if the employee leaves.
  • If you decide not to expand ownership, what’s the best way to update earlier promises of ownership?
    • Tell the story: stock ownership was one option that we considered. We looked at industry practice, and here’s what we found. We determined that at our size there are few advantages to broad employee ownership, and several potential disadvantages to additional owners including tax consequences. Therefore, we decided that we could achieve our objective more effectively through our profit sharing plan.