Tag Archives: Responsibility

How Do You Create Consistency in a Business? Six Suggestions

Situation: A CEO feels like he is on a roller coaster ride with unpredictable revenue and processes month to month. His ideal outcome will be to be able to go on vacation for 4-6 weeks, and have the business running better when he returns than when he left. Have you managed to achieve this? How do you create consistency in a business?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Make your managers live up to their titles.
    • Insist that they go to each other to solve problems first, instead of always asking you.
    • When they ask a question, answer how to solve it – but don’t give them the solution.
    • Require them to present solutions rather than problems.
    • Be willing to spend money on their solutions.
  • Answer all questions with questions.
    • Ask them for their recommendation.
    • Keep asking until they come up with the answer.
  • You should not be doing jobs or tasks that are really your employees’ responsibilities.
  • When you start to delegate, it hurts for a while but it will work itself out.
  • What has been the impact on other companies when they’ve made these changes?
    • Businesses have become more diversified.
    • CEOs are focused strategically vs. tactically.
    • Businesses are more successful and profitable.
    • CEOs enjoy coming to work again.
  • How do you work with younger workers, millennials?
    • Allow flexibility – where appropriate – on hours and how they do their jobs.
    • Responsibility will vary by pay level – with the understanding that higher pay equals more responsibility and most likely longer hours.

How Do You Manage Residual Commissions? Three Thoughts

Situation: A CEO is renegotiating the company’s agreement with a sales person. The sales person wants a declining residual commission on sales from past customers, regardless of who is servicing the account. A consultant who knows the industry advises the CEO to focus on new sales. What are the implications of each choice? How do you manage residual commissions?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are two types of salespeople: Hunters and Farmers.
    • Hunters focus on new business and generally get paid first year, then in later years only on sales that come specifically through their efforts.
    • Farmers focus on ongoing relationships with existing customers and are the service people for those customers. If they are paid commissions, they get paid on the ongoing sales that result directly from their efforts.
  • It is rare to find a salesperson who can manage both of these roles well, so companies often divide responsibilities, and any commissions paid, according to responsibility.
  • Decide what behavior you want from your sales person and pay for this – make the distinction between hunting and farming. Then ask the sales person which they want to be. If they say “both,” challenge this and let them know that they need to make a choice.

How Do You Delegate Yet Stay Informed? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A CEO wants to push project ownership down to lower levels of the company. This is not happening unless the CEO pushes. How do you delegate yet stay informed as you push authority down the organization chart?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The company needs systems and guidelines to clarify on what and when the CEO wants to either have input or hear back, and what can happen without the CEO’s knowledge.
    • Set levels of approval – dollar impact or decision type – and clarify what decisions can made at what level, what decisions need higher level approval and at what level, where they must inform you, and where you must sign off.
    • Similarly, establish regular reporting and meeting schedules, along with guidelines as to what is to be reported – again by budgetary impact or decision type – and assure that this reporting takes place.
  • “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack describes a company which has implemented these systems with astounding results. It provides a template and describes in detail how the system is implemented and what bumps they encountered along the way.
  • Invest more time in setting roles and responsibilities for your direct reports.
  • Keep reporting systems aligned across the company.
  • Expect over time to adjust levels of authority as individuals grow in responsibility and accountability.
  • Most importantly, lead by example. If a team member comes to the CEO for guidance on a project, refer them back to the proper manager for advice.
  • 2015 Top ranked software systems to manage projects and processes from selected searches:
    • Capterra: Microsoft Project, Basecamp, Atlassian, Wrike, Podio
    • Insider.com: Smartsheet, Mavenlink, Wrike, Posoda, Metier
    • PC Magazine: Zoho Projects, Teamwork Projects, LiquidPlanner, Workfront, Wrike

How Do You Focus Managers on Growth? Five Suggestions

Situation: Two key managers of a company are too busy with day-to-day activities to focus their planned 40% of time on growth. The company has hired personnel to relieve some pressure on them, and a new ASP (Application Service Provider) is improving customer out-reach. How can the CEO take pressure off these managers so that they have time to grow the business? How do you focus managers on growth?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Small companies grow through their early stages with everyone wearing many hats and doing everything. The company is now larger than this and it has to stop. Managers need to focus their responsibilities where you need them to focus and stop doing less important tasks.
  • Have you gone over key responsibilities and expectations for the two managers? Do they have clear objectives and deliverables? If not, focus on this.
  • Brainstorm with them how they could free-up time to focus on growth.
    • Do this in a meeting. Your plan is 10% growth. Ask for their ideas on how to grow the business, and develop a plan to put their ideas into action. What help or resources do they need to meet this plan?
    • Three heads better than one to ask core questions – let them come up with the answers.
  • Design processes to address needs and responsibilities.
    • Rank implementation of options in terms of impact to the company and financial results.
    • Given the ranking, implement programs sequentially – most relevant and easiest first.
  • Taking orders by phone is clerical. This should not be a manager’s prime focus.
    • Have a clerical person answer the phone, and train them over time.
    • Limit the manager’s direct involvement in phone orders to critical situations.

How Do You Recruit Outside Board Members? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A company wants to recruit outside members to its Board of Directors. Currently, all Board members are founders except for a single early investor. How do you recruit outside Board members?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Board Member selection is a strategic matter. You want to have people on your Board who have done what you want to do strategically with the company.
  • A Board does not run the company. Board Members provide input and perspective to help the CEO make better choices while running the company.
  • Board Members have fiduciary responsibility – to the Shareholders, the government (to assure that the company is being run legally), to customers, to employees, and to vendors. Their role is to assure that the company does what it says it plans to do.
  • How affordable are Board Members?
    • Stock options are very feasible if you have little cash to pay salaries. Much will have to do with the prospective member’s buying into your vision.
    • You will need to secure Directors and Officers Insurance for Board Members – $3K+ per year per member.
    • The rationale behind payment in stock is for Board Members to have the same incentives for company success as shareholders.
  • Target remuneration of Board Members is, for a pre-IPO company $100K per year if the company is successful, but if not then $100K over 5 years. Members of the Audit Committee are generally paid about double what other Board Members receive.
  • Is there a downside of having numerous minor shareholders?
    • Not really, except perhaps nuisance. You run the company. As long as you retain majority share ownership, Board members can only advise.
  • Sitting on another Board is one of the best ways to improve your own abilities as CEO. Advising another CEO on how to run their company is a learning experience.

Special thanks for input on this topic to Bill Rusher, founder of Rusher, Loscavio and LoPresto.

What are Best Practices in Succession Planning? Four Ideas

Situation: A company wants to create a succession plan for key roles. Historically they haven’t had succession plans, but they are actively looking at candidates, skill sets, and so forth. The CEO wants to be able to make a recommendation to the Board. What are best practices in succession planning?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Start with job and role descriptions. Select internal candidates for the positions and offer trial opportunities to assess their capabilities.
    • Test potential successors with projects to see if they can rise to the level of the higher responsibility. It may take more than one try to assess this.
    • Along the way you may discover hidden talents possessed by some of your employees.
  • Start with your incumbents. One of their responsibilities should be to identify possible inside candidates as successors for their positions, and to create a profile of qualifications for outside candidates. This should also be part of their job descriptions.
  • Succession candidates must desire the responsibility of the higher position. Don’t assume that everyone will want this. Some will be very good in their current role. Trying to force them to advance in responsibility can be counterproductive.
  • Do not assume that an outsider with a good resume and industry connections can fill the role of an insider who knows the company and its products and services.

How Do You Work With a Protector? Three Thoughts

Situation: The CEO of a company has a Director of Operations who aspires to more professional responsibility, but who is also hesitant to take on more work. This conflict in the mind of the Director poses a challenge for the CEO. How should the CEO work with this individual?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Key managers in certain roles, for example operations and finance, are naturally more conservative in their outlook. Often this is desirable for the role and is characterized as protector behavior in contrast with the ambitious entrepreneur’s builder behavior. These complimentary behaviors are essential to a successful enterprise – the builder to push the envelope and the protector to assure that the company’s resources aren’t stretched too thin.
  • Take the time to determine the source of hesitation by asking questions. Is it because the individual is meticulous and precise, or is there something else behind the hesitation? If the former, then a plan of action will enable the person to assess whether the next level of responsibility is in line with his or her expectations. If there is something else, work with the individual to define what this is and whether it is a barrier to additional responsibility or a temporary situation that can be alleviated.
  • Because this individual aspires to additional responsibility, be precise in explaining the demands of the next level position and the performance that you expect at this level. Develop a plan and objectives that will demonstrate whether the individual is ready to take on additional responsibility or not. For the meticulous, precise individual the plan will serve as confirmation of what is expected and will help him or her determine whether they are ready for more responsibility.

How Do You Gain Commitment to Plan Revisions? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company goes through an annual strategic planning process followed by an annual business planning process. At mid-year they do a review and correction. The challenge is that if the company is behind plan, the management team does not take ownership of plan revisions – it becomes “the CEO’s Plan.” How do you gain commitment to revisions in the annual plan?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Throw out your current process and start over.
    • The challenge is to gain more buy-in and accountability. This only comes if the targets come from those responsible for delivering them – both for the original plan and if any revisions need to be made.
    • Look at who you involve within the organization – can you drive involvement deeper to generate additional buy-in across the organization?
    • Hire an outside facilitator to guide you through the process instead of chairing the meeting yourself. This prevents the resulting plan from becoming “your” plan. It also changes the culture of the meeting as well as the buy-in.
  • If you use a bottom-up / top-down process, moderate the plan results with an eye to two realities:
    • Bottom-up input from the sales team is rarely more pessimistic than the CEO’s input. If it is ask what is happening.
    • Make sure that your top-down numbers are empirical and based on the best market research that you can obtain.
  • If your plans have consistently fallen short over recent years:
    • You may be baking the targets too high.
    • Consider building the revenue plan optimistically, but build the expense plan conservatively. This helps control expenses and attain profitability targets.
    • So that the two plans are not misaligned, review them more frequently – perhaps quarterly on a formal basis with monthly reviews – so that if your revenue plan is meeting targets you can adjust spending to support production and delivery.
    • It is common to have one set of numbers for sales and a different, more conservative, number for expenses. As long as you conduct frequent review and adjustment of the expense number to sales performance, this works. Many companies also use different targets for operations than what they present to the Board – with the more conservative numbers for the Board.

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 Does an Entrepreneur Evolve from Doer to Leader? Four Suggestions

Situation: A company has grown largely through the determination and energy of the founding CEO who is still the principal business development resource. The CEO wants to move from day-to-day focus to a leadership role, planning for the future. How have you evolved from principal doer to leader?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Start by developing and managing an organizational chart for the business.
    • Create the organizational chart initially by role and responsibility.
    • Match existing people to the roles. Individuals may fill more than one role, but be sure that the individuals are suited to the roles to which they are assigned.
  • Give ownership of areas of responsibility to others.
    • Make it clear for each area of responsibility that the individual assigned is now in charge.
    • Match projects or assignments with individuals’ abilities and available time.
    • Establish quarterly or annual performance objectives WITH as opposed to FOR each individual – objectives that support company objectives.
    • See that people are rewarded for their results – both soft and monetary rewards – as appropriate to the responsibility held by each.
  • While you continue as the lead of business development, hand off new clients to others as soon as you get them on-board. Let others take on the customer nurturing and maintenance roles. Establish a plan to replace yourself in this role.
  • The EMyth Revisited by Michael Gerber provides a soup to nuts recipe for moving from doer to leader of a company. Everything starts with your organizational chart.

Key Words: Leader, Doer, Role, Focus, Organizational Chart, Org Chart, People, Match, Ownership, Responsibility, Performance, Objectives, Reward, Results, EMyth, Gerber