Tag Archives: Profitability

How Do You Build in a Declining Market? Five Solutions

Situation: Revenue for a product and craft business has been slipping. At the same time, their competition has been disappearing. It is clear to the CEO that demand is and will continue to be present because of the market that the company serves. The question is how to maintain the profitability to survive long-term. How do you build in a declining market?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The keys to recovery in a business like this will be in two areas: improving sales and increasing margins.
  • To increase sales the choices are more aggressive marketing and selling to existing customers or creating new markets like previous generations did when they started the business. Consider services that you could bundle with your products to augment the ways that customers use them. It will be the responsibility of your sales and marketing teams to demonstrate these product/service bundles to increase sales both to new and existing customers. This will help to solve the revenue slippage.
  • The other side is ongoing efforts to reduce cost which will, in turn, improve your margins. Costs can be reduced in creative ways that are not obvious. These include improvements in purchasing, reduction of waste, recycling of component materials, and inventory controls. It will be the responsibility of your production, purchasing and inventory management teams to develop these solutions. Assure that these teams are recognized and rewarded for their solutions.
  • Look at the segments of your product offering. Are they declining at the same rate or are there differences? This will help you to focus your efforts, as a company, to grow market share even if the overall market is declining.
  • Other suggestions for increasing sales:
    • Take advantage of the craft trends. Do this with NEW talent – not tired talent.
    • Consider partnerships and collaborations.
    • Set up contests and craft classes.
    • Look at how other industries promote to the craft industry and follow their lead.
    • Consider kitted craft products.

How Do You Respond to a New Large Competitor? Five Suggestions

Situation: A mid-sized company has learned that a much larger company is entering their geography and market niche. This company is known to enter new markets with a low pricing strategy to “buy” market share. How do you respond to significant new competition?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Accept the fact that you will lose some business; particularly from customers who driven more by price than quality and service. The flip side is that these customers are likely not your best customers.
  • Research the reputation and business practices of the new entrant in their traditional territory. What is their reputation? What are their weaknesses? Do your homework by networking with their current competitors and customers.
  • Take a lesson from those who have survived a move by Walmart into their territory:
    • Boutiques survive Walmart – especially those that focus on personal service. Upgrade your customer base based on personal service.
    • Use your knowledge of the marketplace and your long term relationships to your advantage – including your reputation with existing customers when going after new customers.
    • You may remain more profitable than the larger company, on a per transaction basis, based on your knowledge of the territory or business niche.
  • Don’t assume that all large companies are Walmarts. Walmart has a unique set of talents and a tightly controlled process. This may not translate to other markets – especially those involving personalized service.
  • If you are a family business, consider promoting your “old world skill” and established reputation and expertise.

Key Words: Competition, Geography, Market Niche, Walmart, Price, Personal Service, Reputation, Contacts, Boutique, Profitability, Family Business

My Worst Nightmare – Sell or Downsize? Fifteen Considerations (Part 2)

Situation: The Company is losing money and has been approached about a merger. The CEO’s ideal outcome would be to get cash on the table, integrate with the merger partner and continue business. The other alternative – downsizing – may hurt company morale. What are the best options available?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The downsizing experience is wrenching, but results were far more positive than expected.
    • A 10% cut resulted in a 30% increase in productivity.
    • Employees once thought to be critical were not missed post-layoff.
    • The employees generally understood more about the situation than the CEO knew, and those remaining responded positively to a restructuring that allowed them to keep their jobs.
    • Some companies used a layoff as an opportunity to cross-train employees and increase company flexibility.
    • If concerned about loss of key talent, consider rehiring a laid-off employee on a consulting basis for a limited period.
  • Smoothing the layoff process:
    • Communicate with the employees. Let them know the truth, and share enough of the situation so that they understand.
    • Challenge employees to come up with ways to save money or make processes more efficient and cost-effective. This can have a remarkable impact.
    • Consider a cross the board salary reduction as a temporary alternative to layoffs.
    • Position as a layoff to restructure expenses – keeps you on the right side of employment law.
    • Obtain assistance from a personnel consultant who can help to handle the process effectively.
  • Summary: If you can save expenses, return to profitability and stay independent you will be happier than you may be post-merger.

Key Words: Merger, Negotiation, Ownership, Downsizing, Mitigation, Layoffs, Profitability 

My Worst Nightmare – Sell or Downsize? Fifteen Considerations (Part 1)

Situation: The Company is losing money and has been approached about a merger. The CEO’s ideal outcome would be to get cash on the table, integrate with the merger partner and continue business. The other alternative – downsizing – may hurt company morale. What are the best options available?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The realities of mergers:
    • 70% of mergers fail, and the merger process often leaves founders with a minority stake in the company.
    • Experience of others with partners has been disappointing – better to control your own destiny.
    • Look at all alternatives before you jump into a merger. You founded the company and have brought it this far. The company will be a different company following a merger, and not the company that you founded or have led to date.
  • Message to your potential merger partner:
    • Be a reluctant bride.
    • “We are making improvements to return to profitability and I’ve joined a board of CEOs who are consulting me through the process.”
    • If the partner sweetens the offer to keep the merger on the table, make sure that you get 51% of the merged company and retain control of your own fate.
  • Reconsider downsizing – Others have found the downsizing experience wrenching, but with far more positive results than they expected.
    • More on this in the next ceo2ceos blog.
  • Summary: look more closely at your situation before your jump into a merger. If you can save expenses, return to profitability and stay independent you will be happier.

Key Words: Merger, Negotiation, Ownership, Downsizing, Mitigation, Layoffs, Profitability 

But We Don’t Produce Anything Measurable! Seven Metrics and Tactics for Service Companies

As a service company we find it challenging to measure project profitability and client satisfaction. What measures and metrics do you find most useful?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • For billable services: utilization percent defined as (hours available for service delivery)÷(billable hours)
    • Include in the denominator both billable hours and customer good-will or preventative maintenance hours. The latter, while not producing current income, are an investment in future income.
    • Set up audits for service needs, especially future needs, when working with customers. This will help you to stay abreast of changes in the service environment and to plan accordingly.
  • For fixed budget projects – measure budgeted vs. actual expenditures by project.
  • For fixed-fee services: a fraction expressed as: (income per customer company) ÷ (cost in hours for that customer)
  • Customer audits and surveys. Options
    • Exit “pizza party” with the client – may produce tainted results. While this builds customer good-will and may provide qualitative feedback, it should be supplemented by more objective measures.
    • Mailed survey – from 3rd party with a prize for responding.
    • Email follow-up from 3rd party that directs you to the 3rd party site to complete the survey.
  • Ambassadorial CEO visits to the top contact person in key accounts
    • Opportunity to learn about the customer’s present and future needs, staffing plans, business and strategic direction. Helps to anticipate changes in the competitive landscape.
    • The more your business relies on recurring revenue, the more important these visits are.

Key Words: Service Metrics, Project Profitability, Resource Utilization, Customer Satisfaction, Business Trends