Tag Archives: Model

How Do You Plan for Business Expansion? Five Factors

Situation: A company has built a very successful single site business, and wants to expand geographically. They are investigating where it makes sense to duplicate operations in new sites and where it makes sense to consolidate operations. The company’s secret sauce is in their system and procedures. How do you plan for business expansion?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Look at the shared services piece and the cost/benefit tradeoffs. What services are best centralized, and what are the critical on-site services that you want duplicate in remote sites?
  • Other companies use remote offices for field personnel, but centralize all shared services. Centralized shared services include invoicing and collections, financial reporting, telemarketing, anything dealing with trade names and print or trade-marked collateral, and an array of other services which would be too expensive for individual sites to duplicate, or where leaving things to the individual sites might result in inconsistency of service and erosion of the brand.
  • How do you replicate key talent? Consider whether key talent can be retained in the shared services side of the business, not the cloneable service delivery sites. Typical franchise operations have people who are difficult to replace or replicate so most do not try to include these roles in the service delivery operations.
  • You will need to provide for a sales role in your remote offices as business development will be critical to early success of new sites.
  • In the transition from “successful small” to “successful large” most businesses find that the medium stage is the most difficult. Issues to consider include:
    • Does your direction match your expertise – do you have support of individuals knowledgeable about franchising?
    • What are the margin differentials within the business? Do you want to clone the high or low-margin areas of the business? Develop profitability models for your central and remote sites, and assure that the sites will have sufficient profitability to assure their short-term success. This will make it easier to proliferate the remote sites.

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How Do You Build a Young Company? Four Perspectives

Situation: An early stage company is positioning itself for growth. The CEO believes that they need to adopt a new model to grow. She is focused on a new channel – an affiliate model using the web. How do you build a young company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Introducing a new product to a new market is very difficult, especially for an early stage business that is still establishing itself. Shifting from direct sales to ancillary services presents a new challenge and a new demographic. In addition, in your market there are low barriers to entry so it may be too early to diversify. You are more likely to be successful marketing to your core.
  • Evaluate and decide whether there is growth in your core business. If so, stick with your core plan. If not, then you either must change or decide that your core market is not what you thought it would be.
  • You offer a valuable, important service. The issue is branding and a clear vision of what you want to be. Start by identifying your revenue stream. Then assess ways that you can move from one-time sales to an annuity revenue stream without major adjustments to your model.
  • Is it feasible to build a revenue share model for ancillary services with your core business partners? Here are the steps:
    • Develop a model.
    • Talk to both your business partners and customers – test the concept. See how they respond.
    • There are two things to look for: does it turn out that that the model is easy to sell and implement, with little effort or distraction from our core business, or does it compliment your core business. If either or both is the case, you may want to pursue it.

Can You Effectively Manage Your Team’s Emotions? Six Ideas

Situation: A CEO recently attended a workshop on awareness of employees’ emotions. The message was that to effectively lead, the leader must be aware of both their own and their team’s emotions, and effectively address these in all communications. How have others acknowledged employee emotions? Can you effectively manage your team’s emotions?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • All companies have both cultures and ways in which employees and managers interact. These are either intentional or accidental.
  • It is important to develop a competency model for any company – skills and behaviors that reinforce company culture and guide both hiring decisions and personnel evaluations. Behaviors should be defined by competencies, including both technical and soft competencies.
  • Once a company competency model is established, position descriptions will be variations of the company competency model.
  • A competency model will help you to script candidate interviews. This works whether you use a panel or individual interview format. Questions should address past behavior in specific situations that the individual has experienced. Provide each interviewer with a set of questions that will help the interviewer understand how the candidate expresses soft competencies. Post-interview, get together and discuss how each candidate’s responses compare with the company model.
  • Supplement your interview results with a psychometric test which scores and effectively measure the key soft competencies expressed in your culture. Pair the psychometric test with cognitive testing to assess a candidate’s technical competency.
  • Use similar questions for employee evaluations or coaching situations. The difference will be that in the case of current employees, you will want to have the employee refer to situations and behaviors experienced at work or working with customers or company partners.

Special thanks to Maynard Brusman of Working Resources for leading this discussion.

What are Best Ways to Boost Cash Flow? Five Guidelines

Situation: A company is frequently short of cash at payroll time. It has good revenue and profitability, but timing of receipts can make it difficult to meet payroll. Are the CEO and CFO doing something wrong, and what changes should they look at to better manage cash flow needs? What are best ways to boost cash flow?

  • All financing begins with your cash flow pattern! Your ability to manage cash flow is the foundation of credit worthiness. It is both a reflection of past performance and specific future performance expectations.
    • What can you do to optimize your situation?
      • First – put your own house in order!
      • Review your business model and the aspects of the business model that are causing cash flow challenges. Based on what you find, fine-tune your business model and its cash flow capacity. If receipts are the challenge, work with your customers to focus on timely payments.
      • Understand your financing needs in their full context. What short-term financing options are available? Will your bank offer you better terms on your line of credit to keep your business.
    • Stop, think and analyze before you act.
      • Framing:  View the problem in its full context!
      • Alternatives:  Consider all relevant choices!
      • Trade-offs:  Get more than you are giving up!
  • It is important to fine tune your business model, not just in slack times when you have the time, but also in good times so that you are well-prepared for the next slack period.
  • When times are flush, set aside funds to invest in analysis of your business model.
  • Special thanks and in memory of Eric Helfert, PhD for his advice in this discussion.

What Will Happen to HSA Accounts Under the Affordable Care Act?

Situation:  To maintain expense control as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, a company is looking at HSA options to replace their past insurance coverage. What do you think is the future of HSA policies and accounts as the ACA is implemented?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • HSA Accounts are expected to survive implementation of the ACA, at least for now, and may even thrive (Forbes Magazine analysis, 3/27/13).
  • The HSA Model combines a relatively inexpensive high deductible health insurance policy (minimum deductibles in 2013 at least $1,250 for individual and $2,500 for family coverage) with an HSA Account. Employer or employee contributions go into the account pre-tax. Most insurers offer a high deductible policy and many companies have adopted this option because it helps to control the growth in health care costs.
  • Annual HSA contributions are limited to the amount of the deductible, currently up to $3,250 for individual and $6,450 for family coverage, though these amounts are increased by $1,000 of the employee is 55 or older. Contributions are held in a bank account and can be withdrawn by the employee to cover most out of pocket health expenses. This is under an honor system, subject to possible audit by the IRS.
  • The key component that differentiates HSA Accounts from older health reserve accounts is that if the funds deposited annually are all not used to pay for health costs, the employee gets to keep the excess funds in the account. If the employee builds up excess funds in HSA Account, these can be transferred into an IRA. Check with your HSA bank for rules as to transfer of IRA funds back into the HSA Account if needed to cover out of pocket health care costs.
  • The down-side of the HSA Account is that if the employee encounters a significant health cost, above the amount in their HSA Account, they will have to cover this out of pocket. However, they have the option to reimburse themselves from future HSA contributions as these accrue.
  • If you are considering this for your company, it is advisable to hire a consultant to help you tailor the plan to the specific needs of your company.

How Do You Value the Stock of a Private Company? Three Factors

Situation: A private company has not issued stock options in over 6 months. The business press highlights concerns over appropriate valuation at the time of option grant. How do you value the stock of a private company to assure that option awards reflect proper company value?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Decide on the objectives of your valuation exercise. These may include:
    • A credible valuation to protect the Board from challenges over option valuation.
    • A calculation that the company can use quarterly or semi-annually to assess company valuation; possibly something that can be done internally on a quarterly basis, with independent validation annually.
  • Given that your concern is option valuation and protection of your Board, they only clean way to do this is to have an outside party perform your valuation. Internal valuations are subject to challenge. Look for reputable CPAs that specialize in private company stock valuation and get quotes from several for initial valuations plus follow-up valuations in 12 months. You may anticipate paying a fee of $12,000 to $15,000+ for this service.
  • There are issues that you will want to address in your valuation process:
    • A valuation must have a supportable rationale and demonstrate consistency of methodology so that valuations will be performed on a comparable basis year after year.
    • You want to see consistency between valuations with your annual financial audits which will reflect company performance.
    • There are at least two models that you may follow – a hard model and a soft model.
      • The hard model is a one-time valuation based on your financials. This may include historic performance, as well as forward-looking ROI.
      • The soft model is based on operational and risk assessment.

Do You Lead with Your Head – or Your Heart?

While doing some last minute holiday shopping this weekend, I noticed a book, The Spell of New Mexico, by one of my favorite writers, Tony Hillerman; a collection of essays by renowned authors with reflections of their visits to the state. Perusing the Contents I saw an essay “The Pueblo Indians” by the famed Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung, whom Sigmund Freud called his “crown prince and successor.”

Jung’s essay is about a visit to Taos Pueblo in 1924-25. He recounts a conversation with a Taos chief in which the chief described his perception of the Europeans and European Americans that he had met.

“See,” said the chief “how the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.”

Jung asked the chief why he thought the whites were all mad. “They say that they think with their heads,” he replied. “We think here,” indicating his heart.

Jung then reflected on the history of European civilization. Instead of seeing the “sentimental, prettified color prints” that artists painted he saw another view of European culture. “What we from our point of view call colonization, missions to the heathen, spread of civilization, etc., has another face – the face of a bird of prey seeking with cruel intentness for distant quarry – a face worthy of a race of pirates and highwaymen.”

We who pursue the practice of business sometimes fall into this face. We think about technology, numbers like ROI, ROE, growth of sales and profits, and profit per employee. We don’t always consider the impact of our focus and actions on our employees, customers, business partners, and the community and world in which we live. We don’t see the bigger picture that we might see if we thought with our hearts instead of just our heads.

So throughout this holiday season and as you enter the coming year, consider spending more time thinking and leading from your heart instead of just your head. It may soften your face and actually improve both your business and your business model.

How Do You Build A Scalable Sales Model? Three Steps

Interview with Scott Dietzen, CEO, Pure Storage

Situation: Even with a better mousetrap, an early stage tech company can’t afford a large sales force to cold call enterprise prospects. How do you build an affordable, scalable sales model – one which lets you quickly identify potential customers, and sell to them with a predictable rate of success?

Advice from Scott Dietzen:

  • From our experience, there are three steps to the process:
    • Form and quickly test hypotheses about your early adopters, and be prepared to iterate. “Friends and family” customers typically provide this test bed;
    • Look for ways for candidate customers could self qualify, and then strive to make that easily repeatable; and
    • Once have honed your messaging, leverage PR, viral marketing, social media, and other inexpensive means get your value proposition in front of more customers.
  • The chain of events between hypothesis, private experimentation and public launch is crucial:
    • Before launch, you want to have many confidential conversations about your value proposition with early prospects, and hopefully get many customers to privately try out your product. What do they love about the product? What changes will make it even more valuable? Listen and learn. At Pure Storage, we spent a year and a half in customer testing before we came out of stealth.
    • Most companies work too hard on the product and too little on the go to market plan. It’s better to do these in tandem. At Pure Storage we thought our messaging would skew toward performance, but learned that the fact that we saved customers 10X on their power and space budgets was equally important to them.
    • By having referencable customers in place before launch, you are better able to declare and defend first mover status and their validation is crucial to a successful launch.
  • A great way to accelerate growth on a start-up budget is to let customers self qualify for free:
    • At WebLogic, we offered developers a free download evaluation version of our software. A developer could choose to use WebLogic for free, and then go to their manager only after they had a WebLogic solution up and running. This made it far easier for management to make a buy decision, and took off so fast that it was hard for our sales force to keep up with the inbound license key requests!
    • At Pure Storage, we give away a software tool that storage administrators can point at an existing storage workload. The tool allows them to evaluate the savings from our data reduction algorithms, and hence how much their companies could save in cost and power by converting from mechanical disk storage to Pure solid-state flash. Enabling the customer to generate their own ROI story is an easier, more economical path to winning a happy customer, and the end user insider becomes a hero for delivering value to his/her organization.

Key Words: Technology, Solution, Model, Sales, Marketing, Customer, Identification, Hypothesis, Early Adopter, Social Media, Scalability, Pre-launch, Stealth

How Do You Fire a Founder? Three Suggestions

Situation: A founder of a company also heads business development. This person had no prior experience in business development, and no other skills to offer the business. Over the last two years he has generated only a fraction of his salary in new or additional business. The CEO has concluded that it is time to hire a business development professional; however, the Board is reluctant to act. What are the steps that you would take to let a founder go?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Because the individual in question is an owner, the situation is delicate. Staff relationships are involved as well as morale. Therefore, it is essential that you create a convincing case for replacing the individual and show that this is the best for the business. Don’t rush the process. However, once you’ve built a solid case for what needs to be done, act expeditiously.
  • Start by evaluating and documenting what the individual is doing to develop new business.
    • Count customer connects per day. Set a baseline expectation and measure against this.
    • Look at the pipeline. Historically what does your new business funnel look like – contacts, presentations, evaluations, closes. How does this individual’s pipeline stack up?
    • What are his business advancement and close ratios? How do these compare with industry standards?
  • For the individual: Demonstrate that his performance is penalizing his own return as an owner. Create a spreadsheet that shows:
    • The current situation, and his return as a shareholder from current results, versus
    • Hiring two effective business development people, and how this could change his return.
    • Show the individual a graceful way out – one that works for him.
  • For the Board: if the current direction is negative, create a model that shows your current direction and the break even implications. Present this analysis to the Board to show that the company needs a change.

Key Words: Business Development, Founder, Principal, Experience, Performance, Replace, Document, Pipeline, Return, Model, Trend