Tag Archives: Opportunities

How Do You Structure a Small Company Board? Five Suggestions

Situation: A small tech company’s Board of Directors is made up primarily of founders and advisors. The CEO wants to know how other companies structure their Boards. Concerns include increasing accountability of management, obtaining an objective view of company operations so to counteract group-think, and accessing opportunities for strategic alignment. How do you structure a small company Board?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In a small company, the fewer the number of board members and owners, the better. There are two considerations: control of the destiny of the company and complexity of the transaction in case of an investment or buy-out opportunity.
  • It is important to differentiate major from minor shareholders, including incentive-based owners.
  • What are the advantages of a Board of Directors?
    • Sounding Board – a group that can help management evaluate product and market opportunities.
    • Accountability – Board meetings provide an opportunity to assure that leadership and management are focusing on the best opportunities for the company.
    • Exit – knowledge of the industry, ties and introductions to potential acquirers.
  • Given new Federal regulations, the proper role of a Board has changed. Key responsibilities of Boards include:
    • Oversight of Corporate Governance.
    • Fiduciary Responsibility – to the shareholders.
    • Work with local or regional experts on Board role and structure. Experts can provide introductions to potential Board members that fit the company’s needs.
    • Good Board members will want Directors and Officers Insurance coverage.
  • Consider developing an Advisory Board, to compliment a stronger Boards of Directors.
    • Look at the key talents that the company is missing internally.
    • Ask friends, business partners and associates who they know who can add these talents.
    • Before kicking off a formal Advisory Board, start with informal discussions. Consider a facilitated dinner to share ideas.
    • One company has eight outside advisors who each receive 1/8 of a percent of the shares of the company for three years of service. The share offer required for service may be a function of the eventual forecasted exit value of the company.

Special thanks to the late Bill Rusher for his insight and contribution to this discussion.

How Do You Create Clarity About the Future? A Simple Method

Situation: A company finds that new opportunities are coming in more slowly than they had planned. They have work now, but no confidence that this will continue long term. This is frustrating because they are in the middle of a transition in their business model. How do you create clarity about the future?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There is a lot of uncertainty in the business world. Low oil prices are depressing investment in the energy sector. Global political and economic uncertainty are not conducive to bold expansion plans. This uncertainty may last for some time. Companies have to adapt.
  • A mapping solution is a used by some companies use to create clarity between alternatives:
    • Start with box representing where you are now.
    • Draw boxes representing each of the alternatives that you are considering.
    • Map the paths that will get from where you are now to each alternative. Draw them out, including what you have to accomplish and what resources you have or must acquire to get to each.
    • Do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) for each alternative.
    • This will help you to think through each of the options and identify the benefits and pitfalls of each.
    • This is a great exercise to do with your management team, as others will add their own perspective and insights.
  • Tools: use Post-it notes – either easel pads or larger (5” x 8”) Post-it notes. Put these on the wall, and start sketching out your ideas with boxes and paths. Revisit the charts for at least a few minutes a day for the next 3-5 days. You will be amazed at both the number of new options you generate and how the obvious options rise to the top.
  • This is much easier and more productive than it may sound. Don’t fear the process.

How Are You Responding to Market Instability? Seven Thoughts

Situation: Market swings in recent weeks have shaken up some people. A CEO is curious about how other companies are seeing this as well as how the see their companies doing in the current economy. How are you responding to market instability?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Business turned back up two years ago, and we are working on major sales opportunities.
    • Actions Taken:
      • We reduced executive expenses.
      • We are sharing a bookkeeper with another business to reduce salaries.
  • In April we increased staff to respond to strong first quarter demand; however since April revenue is flat to declining.
    • Actions Taken:
      • Let a few people go, may have to do more of this.
  • The current economy benefits our industry because our service thrives in an uncertain economy. We have not yet had to make adjustments.
  • We continue to see a big shift from direct hire and full-time to temp and part-time employees – this is working in our favor. Weaker competitors have closed shop.
  • Business is going well. Most customers have cash. The major decision that we face is how much to grow. We’ve seen some project cancellations, but not enough to hurt.
  • What concerns you about the future?
    • Availability of credit lines.
      • Varies by bank and your relationship with the bank.
      • Securing additional or increased lines may be difficult.
      • Anticipating a raise in rates by the Fed, lines may carry a higher interest rate.
    • The trickle-down effect from consumer spending continues to be weak. We are looking for opportunities less sensitive to swings in consumer spending.
    • Receivables are being pushed out.
  • What are you doing about this?
    • Proactively having employee meetings and being straight with employees about how the company is doing.
    • Good opportunities to lean up:
      • Cutting expenses.
      • Cutting less productive employees.