Tag Archives: Response

How Do You Plan for Market Evolution? Three Suggestions

Situation: A tech company competes in a rapidly changing marketplace. The companies they serve constantly evolve their platforms. The company must respond rapidly to assure compatibility with both hardware and software innovations. Users adapt to new platforms at different rates, and the company must address their needs, as well. With so much time spent tending these diverse needs, how do they plan for market evolution?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In the market you serve you must constantly reinvent yourselves as technology changes. Some platforms make changes on a 5-year cycle, while mobile platforms are currently on a 6-month cycle. This may force choices as to which platforms to serve. You also may want to focus on platforms where what you bring to the table is most useful.
  • You have made the strategic choice to tie the future of your company to a few large companies that dominate their markets. It is imperative that you cultivate close relationships with the technology as well as strategic leadership of those companies. This will give you more advanced insight into their plans, and they may even involve you in discussions about how the market evolves. If so, you will have positioned yourself for that evolution. These relationships may also become your exit strategy.
  • Businesses run on cash, or access to cash. As you cultivate relationships with your key customer companies, look for opportunities to invest in developing markets on a subscription basis which will provide ongoing annuity revenue. Figuring out how to leverage advertising or positioning options into your offering offers an additional revenue stream.

How Do You Survive a Maelström? Seven Strategies

Situation: Edgar Allen Poe’s “Surviving the Maelström,” is a tale is of three brothers whose fishing boat is caught in a monstrous whirlpool, and how the reaction of each brother determines his fate. Similarly, in times of uncertainty, our ability to react with either panic or a rational, reasoned response determines our fate. How do you survive a maelström?

Advice of the CEOs:

  • Based on Poe’s story, you need to replace fear with assurance, uncertainty with boldness, and doubt with conviction.
  • There are several potential financial bubbles forming including student loans and negative interest rate loans to sovereign governments. Both, in their own way, pose a threat to the international and domestic financial systems and could rapidly impact borrowing costs for companies. The solutions are to stay in ongoing contact with customers, and to stay light and flexible as companies so that you can adapt to market changes.
  • For Internet companies, the shift to Freemium offerings (a base product for free with pay as you go functional add-ons) makes it more difficult to design viable business models, and means new competition for established companies in low capital cost businesses. Again, a solution is to stay in ongoing contact with customers, constantly reinforcing your value proposition and the reality of switching costs.
  • Creative Destruction – particularly the emergence of new companies that threaten large customers and can change the value perception of suppliers’ core competencies. Solutions include ongoing communication with customers seeing what they see as “the next big thing,” focusing on continually improving our own core competencies, and possibly teaming with the more promising emerging companies.
  • The illusion that advertising will pay for everything – in reality, advertising dollars are a scarce resource like all other resources. Solutions include testing our own value-adds as an ongoing process, and creating fast-fail models to cost-effectively test our own promotions.
  • Definitions of value and productivity are no longer stable; all depends on the method of measurement. A solution is to remain aware of the innovator’s dilemma and to continually renew our value propositions.
  • A workforce in flux where young people don’t want to work for what they perceive as “old line” companies, as well as early-retiring baby boomers who may learn in 3-5 years that they can’t afford retirement. Solutions include focusing on employee engagement, building more flexible and “liberating” business models, and teaming younger with more experienced workers to cross-train each other.

How Do You Develop a Revenue Model? Six Recommendations

Situation:  A company has a crowd sourcing solution which is co-creational. You ask a question and get multiple answers. The company then uses technology to select the best answers. The challenge is developing a business model. What parameters are predictable and dependable? How do you develop a revenue model?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Revenue is always, in the end, a matter of value received – both potential and actual.
  • High dollar per click comes from delivering better responses, particularly if you can demonstrate higher sales conversion rates.
  • High value responses are valuable. If you can deliver these consistently, consider charging a subscription instead of pay-per-click. Pay per click is fine for attracting first-time users, but move to subscription for ongoing access.
  • Limit your initial audience to crowd source participants who have knowledge and experience – like CXOs on LinkedIn. Create relevant communities.
  • In addition to best practice answers, provide an opportunity for participants to share failures – experiences from which they learned. Simply Hired created an early, and lasting audience by creating a companion site called Simply Fired when they started. Based on the responses to this site, they created a Top Five Reasons for getting fired, with inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment at the top. This exercise helped them to create a lasting presence.
  • Make your site clean and show clear steps to a revenue model for users. This will take time and you won’t see results immediately. Over time it will pay off for you.

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.

How Do You Handle Demands for Faster Delivery? Four Options

Situation: A company’s clients are demanding increasingly faster response times, particularly in areas that historically have not been considered mission critical. Clients also want faster answers to technical questions. Is this a common occurrence, and would you adjust pricing in response? How do you handle demands for faster delivery?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If clients are demanding faster delivery, it’s entirely reasonable to tier your rates for different levels of service and delivery. Create cost / ROI breakdowns for different options, and let your clients make a business decision about the level of responsiveness that they need.
  • When brining on new clients, do a worst case down time analysis for the prospect as part of your evaluation process, then provide price options and let the prospect evaluate what is important to them. This is similar to different price / deductible levels with health or car insurance.
  • You will need to educate your current client base on what you are doing for them, and when they are reaching the upper levels of service provision under their current contract.
    • When you provide remote service, communicate what you have done.
      • Email individualized update reports to client contacts.
      • When you meet clients face to face, have a printout of service provided and toot your own horn about your service and delivery.
  • Be aware of the needs of clients who have distributed locations across time zones. A two-hour response time on the West Coast at 8:00 in the morning, translates to a half day for an East Coast location because they can’t call you until 11:00am Eastern time.

How Do You Respond to Demands for Process Upgrades? Five Suggestions

A company manufactures components for an important large customer. That customer now specifies that all components need to be manufactured under clean room conditions. The company can’t afford to lose this customer but is at a loss as to how they should respond. How do respond to demands for expensive process upgrades?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Start with a discussion. Ask them exactly how clean production must be, and what their concerns are. You can also offer to perform destructive testing (at the customer’s expense) to demonstrate that your current processes meet their specs.
  • Look at the overall cost of the clean room conversion versus your anticipated profits on the job. Make sure that your profits justify the conversion.
  • Increase your prices to the customer based on the new requirement, and make sure that the increased price pays for your conversion at a minimum. If they ask why your prices have increased, explain that the process that they now demand is more expensive because of the costs of operating under clean room conditions.
  • If the customer is a very large player and is doing this because of demands placed on them by their customers or regulators you may have little bargaining room other than complying and adjusting your prices accordingly.
  • Consider a prefab clean room. Especially in high tech areas like Silicon Valley you may be able to find older rooms at a bargain rate. If you don’t have space in your current location or upgrades will be very expensive consider leasing new space for this job.

How Do You Handle Allegations of Employee Theft? Four Guidelines

Situation:  A company’s leadership is wrestling with how to handle an accusation of employee theft. In the case presented, the accuser lacks credibility, but the charge is serious. The leadership team wants to deal fairly and equitably with the case, but doesn’t want to send the message that pilferage is acceptable. How do you handle allegations of employee theft?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • To assure fairness and equity, determine a way to substantiate, with objective or third party information, whether charges of pilferage are valid.
    • Express your seriousness about the situation, and ask the accuser what evidence they can provide to substantiate the allegations.
    • In a warehouse or stock room situation, install inexpensive video equipment to record and verify pilferage.
    • To assure that messages to employees are clear, revise employee manuals to specify serious repercussions for pilferage as well as measures being taken to prevent it. This will demonstrate awareness of the issue as well as the company’s determination to discourage pilferage.
  • If you can verify the allegation, either through objective or third party evidence, face the employees involved. The choices are simple:
    • Either the behavior stops and the estimated damages repaid to the company by the employee, or
    • The employee is fired.
  • Do not think that this is something that will go away on its own. If there has been pilferage and the situation proceeds unchecked, it will damage you both financially and in terms of employee respect and morale. Employees will be watching your response closely.
  • To protect yourself, once you determine a course of action be sure to document everything.

What Is Changing The Game in Network Security?

Interview with Philippe Courtot, CEO, Qualys

Situation: Companies experiencing security breaches and data theft are regularly in the headlines. Those launching these attacks are increasingly well organized and very creative. What is changing the game in network security and how can you respond?

Advice from Philippe Courtot:

  • The movements from enterprise software to Software as a Service (SaaS), and from mainframes to PCs to mobile devices increase the challenges of protecting enterprise environments. Therefore, a cohesive technology platform is imperative.
  • Companies are sensitive to the possibility of attack at any time. There are three principal attack vectors: breach through web applications, breach through email and browsers, and breach by device. Between PCs, iPhones and Android devices, the PC is the most closely linked to the corporate intranet while often the most vulnerable because users are lax about updating their systems and applications.
  • Attackers often target a company executive or high level administrative assistant to access the user’s profile and passwords.  In one type of attack called spear fishing, the attacker creates emails tailored to the person targeted appearing to come from a colleague or friend. When the target clicks on the email, a small piece of code is inserted in the computer, which can give control to the attacker. Another way to gain control of a computer is through physical access. An attacker can learn about a pending vacation via Facebook or twitter, providing an opportunity for home invasion. Once the attacker has access to the computer, they can plant a control program on the system. When the user returns, the attackers can make fast, brief forays inserting additional code or taking data from the enterprise network. They may use the information themselves, or sell it to others.

Given these new realities, how does a company prevent attack?

  • First, the company must thoroughly analyze and understand their vulnerabilities which are all potential entry points for an attacker. Once vulnerabilities are mapped, work on a schedule to remediate them.
  • Second, you must educate all users about the threats. This is especially critical for any personnel who have access to secure company data.
  • Third, invest in and build additional defenses to shield all remaining vulnerabilities. Make sure that employees are drilled on the defenses and that they are used. One growing trend is the use of two factor authentication, requiring employees to carry token generation devices with them to use in addition to their password. These tokens can be delivered by smart phone.

You can contact Philippe Courtot at pcourtot@qualys.com

Key Words:  Network, Security, Breach, Data, Theft, Response, Mainframe, PC, Mobile, Enterprise, Environment, Criminal, Government, Attack, Vector, Social Network, Email, Browser, Web, Application, Device, Spear Fishing, Executive, Assistant, Profile, Password, Vulnerability, Educate, Defense, ID

How Do You Focus on Positive Responses to Stress? Ten Techniques

Interview with Janis Pullen, Transformational Coach

Situation: When we encounter stress, like financial, economic or business stress, we may respond positively and proactively or negatively. Negative responses include drinking, smoking and comfort eating which can damage our health. How do you focus on positive responses to stress?

Advice from Janis Pullen:

  • It is important to understand that there are two aspects to stress management – the ontological or being side and the facilitative or doing side. These are different but related.
  • When people experience stress they seek comfort in activities that they associate with relaxation. This includes alcohol, tobacco and eating. These reactions are automatic, habitual and predictable and can lead to unhealthy consequences.
  • Ontological techniques to counter habitual, automatic reactions and to positively respond to stressors include:
    • Recreate our relationship to time. In the US we are deadline oriented and multitask. These increase stress.
    • Arrive at meetings 5 minutes early so that we give ourselves time to get settled instead of entering the meeting in a rush.
    • Plan time for nothing – even a 5-minute break with no pressure to “do” anything increases ease and relaxation.
    • Become more aware of our needs and what we have to do to meet them. Often we are not in tune with our needs and operate on top of them. The positive alternative is to slow down, notice more of what is within and around us, and have the courage to fulfill our real, deeper needs.
    • Take responsibility. When we blame external causes for situations, we give up power and control. The alternative is to be “at cause” rather than “at effect” to produce constructive results.
    • Realize you are not alone.  Employ assistance/guidance/mentorship to lighten your load.
  • On the facilitative side, these practices can alleviate or reduce stress:
    • Simply take a few deep breaths when we become aware of stress. This increases blood oxygen, helps us to relax and cools our reaction.
    • Exercise – even a short walk – does wonders for changing moods from negative to positive. Under stress, the body releases cortisol and adrenalin – the fight or flight hormones. Exercise increases endorphins, which help us to relax and reduces cortisol and adrenalin levels.
    • Consciously eat whole versus processed foods and drink more water to help our bodies to function more efficiently and to respond more effectively to stress. Berries and nuts are much healthier snacks than sugar or other simple carbohydrates.
    • Sufficient sleep is critical to effective physical and mental function. Alcohol impairs sleep by reducing deep sleep cycles so we do not wake up refreshed.
  • The effective solution to stress is to focus on our real needs and to replace destructive behavior patterns with constructive alternatives.

You can contact Janis Pullen at Janis@CoachJanisPullen.com

Key Words: Stress, Response, Positive, Proactive, Negative, Alcohol, Tobacco, Eating, Food, Ontological, Facilitative, Comfort, Habit, Healthy, Unhealthy, Real Needs, Time Management, Deadline, Act, Control, Responsibility, Blame, Breath, Cortisol, Adrenalin, Endorphins, Whole Foods, Sugar, Carbohydrates, Focus

How Do You Resolve a Conflict Involving a New Employee? Four Considerations

Situation: A company has hired a new employee with excellent skills who reports to a Director. This person is a self starter who prefers little supervision. Friction is starting to develop between the new employee and the Director. How do you resolve this conflict?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This person was hired for their talent. However a successful hire takes account of talent, but also role, cultural fit, organizational placement and the needs of the company.
    • For example, if this person is strong in operations but they are now in client services, is this the right role?
    • Similarly, if the culture of the office emphasizes teamwork, collaboration and support, is this the right culture for this individual?
  • Be cautious before tweaking the org chart to create a new role for this person..
    • Consider both your current staff and the new person. You may be creating additional conflict if your actions appear as favoritism.
    • The dominant factor is YOUR plan. If the employee is wrong, replace the employee.
  • If an employee can’t get along with others it is a difficult situation to repair.
  • When you meet with the employee what should be said?
    • First, don’t try to solve the situation before you have a clear strategy.
    • Question and listen. “You’ve been with us a short time, and I want to check in with you. What do you think of your role?” Let the employee talk, probe for clarification of what is said. Take note of what is said. Acknowledge any requests but indicate that you will put them under advisement.
    • Do the same in discussion with the Director.
    • The key is that you are in control. Look at your objectives, and where you fit resources best within the org chart. Once you have your plan, communicate it.

Key Words: New Employee, Conflict, Friction, Talent, Role, Fit, Organization, Company, Needs, Strengths, Skills, Report, Personality, Act, Direct, Concerns, Boundaries, Response, Conversation