Tag Archives: Office

How Do You Identify Key Managers? Three Suggestions

Situation: A software service company wants to expand operations. Their business model is to build clone offices that operate like the home office in new markets, much like a franchise operation. The founder CEO is struggling to identify key managers who can manage remote offices. How do you identify key managers?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The key managers must be individuals who are business savvy, not talented engineers. The key managers must understand:
    • Management – with a proven management record;
    • Basic accounting;
    • Recruiting and hiring;
    • How to manage an office;
    • A bonus will be experience in a similar field, but this experience does not substitute for the above four critical requirements.
  • Looking at current employees, is there the bandwidth within the current team to help bootstrap new remote offices?
    • For example, is there a key senior manager who can become Director of Franchise Operations? In this role, the DFO will serve as a resource to the individuals opening new offices.
    • As this individual’s focus switches, an important question will be who replaces this individual in their current role?
  • It will be beneficial if the individuals who are chosen to lead new offices have at least some experience in sales. This will help to quickly build new customer bases for the remote sites. However, a new site manager must have balanced experience. While sales will be part of the responsibility these individuals must also be able to build and oversee the other critical functions necessary to build viable remote sites.

How Do You Plan for Expansion? Four Considerations

Situation: A growing company needs new space for operations and back office functions. They have grown steadily over the last two decades. Prospects for the future are positive. Options include expansion near their current location or to another, lower cost city. The CEO is also considering whether to sublease space or rent. How do you plan for expansion?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Consider whether the company needs to expand in one step or whether it is possible to expand in stages. Also consider whether functions will benefit by being close to the primary base or whether, using Internet and telecommunications, the new location can be remote. This requires a careful analysis of not only the company’s functions, but also the strength of the management team and the willingness of key managers to relocate.
  • There are trade-offs between subleasing and working directly with the landlord.
    • The landlord will generally offer market rates, but the company gets to determine the terms and term of the lease.
    • Subleasing can save money, but the company is then at the mercy of the priorities of the tenant from whom they are subleasing. When things get busy, the company may disrupt the operations of the tenant. In another company’s case this resulted in a forced move with 30 days’ notice at the end of their sublease term.
    • Consider the cost of both moving and having to re-outfit the space to meet the company’s needs against the savings from subleasing.
  • Consider leasing a larger space, one which is convenient and enough for the company’s needs, and then subleasing excess space until it is required. This may cost more short term, but it puts the company in charge of their own destiny regarding space availability and utilization.
  • Another option is to buy a building and sublease the excess space until it’s required for company operations.

How to You Generate a Predictable P&L? Three Solutions

Situation: The CEO of a consulting company is frustrated by lumpy revenue and profits. From quarter to quarter it has been difficult to predict either number. Unpredictability reduces options in valuation and exit exercises, as banks and acquirers favor predictability. How do you generate a predictable P&L?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The objective is to construct a revenue base built on predictability, even if this is at lower margins. Given a predictable base, the company can complement predictable revenue and profits with higher dollar and margin opportunities as they arise.
    • Analyze the projects that the company contracts for both revenue and profitability. Some projects will be bread and butter situations which are more common and predictable, but which generate less revenue and profit per project. Others will be customer crisis driven. These latter projects will have higher revenue and profit, particularly if the company is the vendor of choice; the tradeoff is that the frequency of these contracts is unpredictable.
    • If the objective is predictability, the company’s base should be built on bread and butter projects. As the company grows, focus on this base. Customer crisis projects can then be added as they arise to bump both revenue and profit.
    • The objective will be to become one of the top 2-3 outside vendors of the choicest clients. Target projects may be ongoing maintenance of older projects in the client companies’ portfolios.
  • How would this model be pursued?
    • Focus on the company’s top 5 customers. Reduce risk by optimizing customer leverage as a proven entity and offer them strategic deals.
    • The focus is long-term project based with guaranteed delivery at lower cost.
    • Identify the fear or insecurity that exists within the customer and provide sleep insurance.
    • This model works well in the new economy – get lean, manage infrastructure size and cost, and grow with the economy.
    • Alternately, identify an area where the customer may not have enough resources and provide a solution that allows them to address this without adding additional personnel or by using existing personnel more efficiently.
  • Another option is to develop a virtual office model. Provide resources for $X per month, with an evergreen provision.

How Does a Professional Services Firm Get Known? Seven Ideas

Situation: A professional services firm has opened a new office in Silicon Valley. Their immediate priority is building clientele in their new market. They have an excellent reputation in their other markets, but are as yet unknown in in either Silicon Valley or Northern California. What can they do to create buzz and local awareness? How does a professional services firm get known?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Hire a part time PR person who is familiar with the local community. For example, this may be an experienced Mommy Tracker – a woman who puts priority on being a mother, but who is also interested in working part-time with a flexible schedule. The role will be to schedule speaking engagements with local organizations, groups or companies.
  • Think about publishing a book, whether yourself or with a professional writer. Tweak it to include a section on start-ups and do a book speaking tour in Silicon Valley.
  • Consider sponsorship of prominent local organizations. In Silicon Valley this could include incubators or entrepreneur groups. These are companies who could benefit from professional services.
  • Offer seminars to target clients, or those that invest in target clients – for example venture capitalists or angel investment groups.
  • Write articles for Red Herring (redherring.com)
  • Get to know the WI Harper Group (wiharper.com) – connected with Walden International. This is a San Francisco venture capital group with limited partners from China, and with a focus on US/Asia technology transfer.
  • Highlight past success in helping clients to gain funding.
  • The suggestions outlined here can be applied to opening a new office in any new location.

How Do You Get New Employees Up to Speed? Seven Thoughts

Situation: A company has a new set of employees coming up to speed, but this is happening slowly. The work environment is semi-skilled, with learning curves for new office employees and apprentices. How do you get new employees up to speed?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Provide a competitive level of compensation to journeymen and higher level office employees. Make these levels of skill to which office employees and apprentices aspire.
  • Develop a mentor program. Provide chits (company currency) to both the mentor and the mentee for learning each new processes. Make awarding these chits a big deal. For example, the mentor and mentee collect their chits from the CEO who then takes them down to the treasurer to collect on the chits.
  • As appropriate, create a team learning environment. Game theory has demonstrated that both basic and more advanced skills can be successfully taught in a team game environment where there is both competition and rewards for attainment.
  • Set up a system where successful training is demonstrated bench performance.
  • Establish Operator 1, 2 and 3 levels to qualify for graduated levels of jobs or responsibilities. This creates a career track and an incentive to go for the next level. Celebrate employees as they move from level to level.
  • Company celebrations are important. Celebrate birthdays, tenure anniversaries, skill level attainment, career track attainment, and so on at monthly meetings or events.
  • Hire slow/fire fast. Give new employees a fair shake, but if their mentor doesn’t see promise in them, let them go.

How Do You Maintain Company Culture as You Expand? Six Ideas

Situation: A company wants to open a satellite office in a lower cost geography where they can provide current services at a reduced cost to improve margins. In doing this, the company wants to maintain the same culture and controls on quality of work that they enjoy in their home office. They also need to accurately forecast revenue for the new office. How do you maintain company culture as you expand, and how would you forecast revenue for the new office?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Maintaining company culture is tricky as a company expands geographically. Assign one of your current managers, someone who buys into the company culture, to head the new office. Also maintain the same hiring and personnel management policies that you have at the home office.
  • As the biggest concern is cost efficiency, make sure that the office manager has clear objectives to realize anticipated savings.
  • Look for an incubator that can handle all the peripheral office details so your staff can focus on their work instead of managing facilities.
  • When it comes to revenue forecasting:
    • Given the lower costs associated with the new geography, look for opportunities to trade margin for longer contract commitment windows to improve revenue forecasting.
    • Both margin and delivery can be lumpy when opening a new location. Obtain a credit line to help you smooth the rough spots in your revenue stream.
    • Investigate deferred revenue options to spread revenue risk – right of first refusal on next generation projects in exchange for a lower cost per project to the customer.

How Do You Eliminate a Them-Us Cultural Divide? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company acquired an office in a new geography at no cost – just a commitment to keep the office going. The immediate challenge is transferring the previous owner’s client base to the new owner’s service. The people in the distant location are OK, but it will take coaching for them to deliver the new owner’s level of service. However, these people are proud and resistant to change. How do you eliminate a them-us cultural divide?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Involve the person who facilitated the acquisition in the integration process. Get his opinion of what is needed.
  • Your prime commitment is to the client base and past practices that built the client base. Maintain or surpass this level of service.  As long as the team meets this level of performance, they are serving your objectives.
    • You and the key manager of the newly acquired office should meet with their most important clients. Help the manager convert those clients for you.
  • Your other implied commitment is to the manager and employees that you inherited through this deal. Educate them on your approach – “we will do all that we can to create success for our clients.” Connect with the manager, understand how this person serves clients, and coach the individual.
  • Be fair – the fairest method of managing is a meritocracy.
  • Manage by results, not process – if the core values between the two sites are similar, allow for cultural differences in local practice.
  • If all this doesn’t work and you want for “them” to become “us” you will have to have someone from the home office move to the distant office and manage it.

When Do You Decide to Expand Your Office? Three Options

Situation:  A company signed a 3-year lease a year ago, assuming that this would accommodate their needs. Growth has been much more rapid than anticipated, and they’ve outgrown the space. Should the company expand or move now and run the risk of over-purchasing new space, or should they wait until actual growth requirements are more apparent?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The answer depends on the risk that you are willing to take as a company. When you signed your lease you took a risk based on your expected 3 year needs. The current situation is no different. Analyze your current growth trajectory and take a comfortable level of risk.
  • Options will vary depending on whether the move is relatively high or low cost, and what space configuration you need.
    • Determine whether you have a high or low cost to expand or move – equipment, communications, wiring, etc.
    • If your costs to reconfigure space and move equipment are low, then the risk is relatively low beyond your new lease obligations.
  • Talk to your landlord.
    • With the amount of space currently available in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula, your landlord may have alternatives that are attractive to you.
    • Look for a solution that allows you the space you need under a comfortable risk scenario, but which also gives you options to expand into adjoining space as need arises.
  • Also talk to a broker about what kinds of space are available at what rates, and what incentives may also be available.
  • Short-term, consider leasing excess space from your neighbors as you consider alternatives.

Key Words: Office, Space, Lease, Growth, Risk, Cost, Landlord, Broker

What Factors Should Be Considered Starting a 2nd Office? Three Considerations

Situation: A Silicon Valley company is considering starting a second office both to reduce costs and to diversify its geographic client base. What are best practices for starting your first remote office?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Do you really need to have an office, or can your employees be virtual?
    • Look at your business model and what aspects of your business require an office. Within Silicon Valley, some companies have established local remote offices to enable staff to reduce commutes. These offices include full computer and audio-visual facilities so that remote office staff can participate in home office team meetings. There are an increasing number of cloud-based services that facilitate collaboration between widely distributed teams in different geographic areas. These include Go-to-Meeting, WebEx and Sococo. Can a model like this work for you? If so, then locating an office in a different region is not very different from a remote local office.
  • Outside of your current client base, what customer companies would you like to target?
    • Where are they located? Is there a significant geographic concentration of potential customers in other regions? This might tell you where you would want to put either a real or a virtual local office.
    • Locating an office in a location with numerous potential clients also increases the likelihood that you will find a trained and experienced local talent pool to staff your office.
  • Make sure that you analyze and understand your business model and what portions are exportable.
    • What is your culture and how much does it rely on interaction between home office and consultant staff? Avoid a situation where remote staff feel 2nd class.
    • The solution is to fully understand your model, and to manage both local and remote office staff through the model. Make it simple to monitor people and their activities.

Key Words: Office, Remote, Virtual, Business Model, Collaboration, Technology, Customer, Location, Contractor, Culture

How Do You Evaluate Tradeoffs Between Strategic Options? Six Suggestions

Situation:  A company’s primary objectives are to hone their business model and establish their first satellite office as a model for future expansion. An opportunity has arisen from a trusted source that could rapidly expand both business and opening of satellite offices by providing service to a single national client. How do you evaluate the tradeoffs between these options?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • What is the impact of this new option on client diversity? One of Porter’s fundamentals of strategy is to not have too much of your business dependent on any one customer.
  • What is the impact of this opportunity on your personnel, time and resources?
  • Are there areas in which this opportunity will save time and resources, for example by consolidating some back-office functions like billing and accounting?
  • If this opportunity will take an inordinate amount of time and focus, consider starting a new entity to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Use a decision-making grid to evaluate the new opportunity versus your present strategy:
    • Identify the most important factors of both your current strategy and the new opportunity.
    • Weight the importance of each factor as a percent of with the total adding up to 100%.
    • Rank each opportunity against each factor.
    • Multiply the factor ranking times the weight for each ranking.
    • Sum the weighted rankings.
    • See whether the summed rankings support of contradict your gut feeling, and further analyze depending on the result.
  • Once you have identified the risks in this proposition, determine contract provisions that will reduce risks to acceptable levels. If the potential client is unwilling to yield enough of these points in the contracting stage to acceptably mitigate your risks, then walk away from the deal.
  • Don’t risk your entire company for one opportunity. Financial rewards are only a scorecard.

Key Words: Expansion, Options, Satellite, Office, Time, Focus, Resources, Trade-offs, Client, Diversity, Consolidation, Function, Corporate Structure, Factor, Weight, Rank, Contract, Mitigate, Risk