Tag Archives: Risk

How Do You Reduce Risk in OEM Agreements? Four Guidelines

Situation: A company is introducing a new technology. They are evaluating an OEM licensing model. They have been advised that if they go forward independently they will be perceived as a threat by OEMs, and this may inhibit their ability to form key OEM partnerships. How do you reduce risk in OEM agreements?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Consider moving forward with a mixed model – both seeking OEM relationships and also selling direct to the market. Because you will be actively entertaining OEM relationships the risk of threatening them will be reduced. In addition, this will help you convince OEMs that your market opportunity is real.
  • A purchaser of intellectual property (IP) will always try to go around your only offer is an IP license. They would rather own the IP than pay licensing fees. Therefore pursuing your own product applications makes sense to convince the market that you are more than just IP.
  • There is a risk to this strategy – being caught in the middle. You can end up seeking two clients, your own end users and the OEMs. They aren’t the same and don’t necessarily share common interests. Just be aware of this.
  • You must be able to succinctly explain your value proposition to client audiences, whether these are OEMS, end users or potential funding sources. In the case of the latter two, they also need to easily understand the critical value proposition to the end user, as well. This value proposition will be your 30 second elevator speech.

Better to Focus on Cash or IP Protection? Three Suggestions

Situation: A company is resource constrained and faced with a serious trade-off: do they focus on short term cash needs – immediate product improvements that will speed new product iterations to boost sales; or longer term strategic concerns – assuring that they have good IP protection on their technology before they launch new versions? When you are resource constrained, does it make more sense to focus on initiatives that will quickly produce cash or strategic concerns that will protect your future?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Build two timelines – one for shoring up the patent portfolio so that you can safely build and launch new IP-protected versions of your technology and one for quickly completing product improvements to speed development of new product iterations which will generate cash. Assess both the energy requirements and the dollar risks and implications of each timeline. If you do not have the resources to do both in parallel, this analysis will help you to determine your best course of action. The risk analysis of each timeline should take into account what would happen if another company were to duplicate your technology and get to market with improvements before you do.
  • As a compliment to the above exercise, ask what happens if I don’t do either A or B? Do a SWOT and investment analysis on both. Which is the greater risk – launching with insufficiently protected IP or risking not being first to market?
  • These analyses will help you assess whether it may be feasible to accomplish part or all of either task with dollars in lieu of your own resources.

How Do You Bridge a Short-Term Cash Crunch? Three Options

Situation: A technology company has grown rapidly over the last year. Two customers representing a significant share of business have temporarily reduced orders for one quarter, resulting in a cash crunch until these orders resume. How do you bridge a short-term cash crunch?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Do you feel relatively secure that once the quarter is over these orders will resume and your cash crunch will be resolved? If so, ask your bank to increase your cash line. Explain the situation, the companies involved, their order history and the expected timing until you get your next payments. A letter from each company saying that they plan to resume orders will help your case. Be aware that the bank may request a personal guarantee to substantially increase your credit line.
    • If you have to personally guarantee a line of credit extension, make sure that you see this as an acceptable risk, and that you can trust the customers to come through with their orders as promised.
  • If you produce products or subcomponents critical to these customers, ask whether they will extend a bridge loan or make a payment against future orders to assure their place in your production queue once their orders resume. You may have to escalate this request within the customer companies if you are currently dealing with purchasing personnel or lower level management.
  • Can you redeploy excess labor to other projects during the cash crunch? You will have to do this carefully so that you can rapidly redeploy these resources to priority projects once a large order comes in from one of these customers.

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

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

How Do You Negotiate a Tricky Merger? Five Thoughts

Situation: A company is considering a merger. The other firm competes with customers who account for 25% of the company’s current revenue. How do you maximize the value of this merger to the company while mitigating the negative impact on current business?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The maximum risk from the combination is loss of 25% of current revenue. The merger makes sense if you believe you will gain upside which more than counters this risk.
  • Both companies have brand equity. Maintain both brands and to continue to promote them. Maintaining both brands will buy you time to replace business which is potentially at risk.
  • Talk to customers and get their perceptions of the pros and cons of the potential combination. Ask about any concerns that they may have. Understanding the pros, cons and concerns will help you to mitigate negative fall-out.
  • Legally, in a 50/50 split, the Chairman will call the shots. You will have little recourse to counter the Chairman if he decides to fire you. This individual has built his company through previous mergers. Visit and break bread with those who were principals of these companies at the time they were merged or acquired. This will tell you a great deal about the individual with whom you entrusting your future. You will also learn what the others did during their mergers to help plan your own moves.
  • Give yourself a back door or Golden Parachute after six months if the merger does not go as you anticipate.

Key Words: Merger, Competition, Value, Mitigate, Upside, Risk, Market, Access, Brand, Equity, Customers, Pros, Cons, Concerns, Control, History, Golden Parachute

How Do You Reduce Dependence on One Large Customer? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company has been very successful, but one customer represents over 60% of their sales. To grow, the company needs to diversify its customer base. How do you reduce dependence on one large customer, and what are the risks involved?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The key to getting new customers is to dedicate time and resources to the task.
    • Consider hiring a sales professional – a commission based “hunter” who has experience landing big accounts. You may pay this person a hefty commission for brining in new business, but diversifying your customer base can be worth it.
  • If there is shared ownership of technology co-developed by the company and client and the client does not wish to pursue markets beyond its strategic focus, is it feasible to negotiate rights to pursue this business?
    • The larger client will pursue their own interests, not those of the smaller vendor. Perhaps a win-win can be worked out, but it may be difficult – particularly if the client is concerned that use of the technology in other markets could have a negative impact.
    • Caution. The easiest way for the client to defend itself from a perceived threat is to sue and bury the smaller vendor through legal expenses. Regardless of who is “legally right,” deep pockets can win through attrition.
  • Consider recreating the opportunity. Create your own adjunct proprietary product with your own software or design talent and use this to expand your horizons.
    • Be aware, the large client can still sue if they believe that your proprietary product impinges on their rights.

Key Words: Revenue, Risk, Markets, Sales Person, Hunter, Commission, Technology, Shared Ownership, Legal Suit, Adjunct, Proprietary, Rights