Tag Archives: Speed

How Do You Shift Culture as the Company Grows? 12 Challenges & Countermeasures

Situation: A company has grown through its expertise consulting for other companies. For its next growth step the CEO and Board want to shift to a project basis. This entails several changes, from compensation to organization and focus. How do you shift culture as the company grows?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Risks & Challenges
    • Biggest risk – dissatisfied employees who see less billable income per hour and may not see the “more hours” part of the picture.
    • The biggest personnel challenge will be those who have been with the company for many years, and who will see the most change – maybe not to their specific practices if they can bring in business, but on the project side.
    • Communication is a critical challenge, and also the best way to avoid landmines. Put a velvet glove on the presentation of the opportunity: “This is good news – we know that the low hanging fruit is now mostly gone, and that the remaining fruit is higher; to counter this we now have more options.” Carefully prepare communications to both management and consultant team members.
    • Another potential landmine – the impact on the company’s reputation if it blows up after a year. Set appropriate expectations – the company is introducing a new program rather than a wholesale rebranding.
  • Countermeasures to Mitigate the Risks
    • Maintain a structural option that preserves the old model for those who can bring in new projects and who prefer this model. For them, the new model is just an option that can help tide them over if there are gaps between the projects that they bring in.
    • Present the project option as new opportunity. Give more senior and experienced consultants priority in choosing whether to participate or not in new project work.
    • Plan and create the ability to assess the old consultancy model vs. the new project model. This will be especially important when individuals are spending part of their time in each area.
    • Create a set of metrics for each business – the consulting and project businesses – to measure whether they are on track. Identify and monitor the drivers for each business.
    • Keep the title Consultant on consultants’ business cards – Consultant, Sr. Consultant, etc. Allow them to continue to take pride in their role.
    • Move to the new model through a planned phase-in but retain the option to adjust the speed of transition between the old and new models. This will allow sensitivity to changes in the environment.
    • Don’t consider an immediate and complete rebranding – think in terms of introducing a new product under the company’s well-known brand. Plan a gradual transition of business to the new model. Introduce the new product as a new offering. As it picks up steam, gradually move brand identification and promise to the new model.
    • For the new project model, create incentives for project performance. Show team members that while the hourly rate may be less, if they perform as a team they will share the upside through project bonuses.

What’s the Right Model for a Service Company? Four Points

Situation: The President of a professional service company and his team are considering adjustments to their business model. The alternatives under consideration are a client-centered model and a service delivery model. What’s the right model for a service company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In the client-centered model, the emphasis is on maintenance of the customer relationship by the responsible manager, with support from the group to optimize service delivery.
    • Consider the service being provided and the client’s expectations. Does the client want to have a principal point of contact – a client manager – to address their needs?
    • This model centers on the key manager creating and maintaining an ongoing relationship with the customer, including rapid response to inquiries from the customer.
  • In the service delivery model, the emphasis is on a developing and maintaining a high standard of service delivery so that multiple individuals can deliver the service rapidly and reliably.
    • As in the client-centered model, consider the service being provided and the client’s expectations. Is the customer’s principle concern functionally rather than personally oriented – for example keeping a system up and running in the fastest time with a manageable expense? In this case, the individual technician is not as important as speed of response and assurance of a quality outcome.
    • The service delivery model centers on standardized and predictable delivery of a defined service, with high responsiveness to the client’s needs. Those who deliver the service are paid variably based on their skills and assigned to deliver service consistent with their abilities. A benefit of this model is that business maintenance is not as dependent on individual service providers as the client-centered model.
  • In choosing between these models, it is important to speak with your clients and to understand their needs and priorities. Is your model a direct business to customer relationship or a business to business relationship? Is your offering perceived by the customer as a service or a product with tangible results? Is your customer more interested in meeting short-term needs or developing a long-term relationship?
  • As an example, is the customer expecting a personal, customized service and desirous of maintaining a long-term relationship? For this, a Nordstrom-like model may make the most sense – a highly personalized level of service where the relationship managers on the sales floor keep detailed records of individual customer’s tastes and past purchases and will even have items pre-selected prior to the customer’s arrival at the store.
    • This model implies that the most important assets to client development and retention will be your account managers. A business development manager may bring in a new client and then hand off that client to “one of my best managers” who will develop the long-term client relationship. The account manager will become the principal point of contact for the client; however, they will bring in other expertise or assistance to handle specific client needs. When a customer calls in, depending on the immediate need, that customer may be triaged directly to their manager or to an individual who could, for example, perform a transaction for them. Responsiveness by the manager within a defined time frame will be an important metric to monitor.

How Do You Cost-Effectively Assess Product Viability? Four Foci

Interview with Henry Chen, PhD, Founder & CEO, Cynovo

Situation: A company in a maturing market needs to gain customer feedback to guide product development. They want to optimize Alpha testing prior to investing in tooling. How do you assess product viability on a limited budget?

Advice from Henry Chen:

  • As the market for tablet devices matures, it is increasingly important to test mass market response to new product design prior to freezing product specs and investing in tooling. Our approach to vertically designed enterprise solutions focuses on four areas: going to the experts for guidance; monitoring the competition and market direction, investing heavily in prototypes, and leveraging speed to market.
  • Go to the experts; leverage their knowledge and understanding of the market to speed your own development efforts.
    • Get to know the market gurus who stay on top of the market and are knowledgeable about market direction. These are the influencers who blog, write and publicize new market innovations.
    • As a smaller company, the route to market in often through alliances.  Senior staff at large companies are a valuable resource. One option is to work through large companies’ sales teams to identify senior product people and connect with them.
  • A good place to monitor market developments is at major trade shows. Events like the Consumer Electronics Show allow you to interact with a large number of experts and to monitor both what the large companies are introducing and their product direction.
    • Trade shows are unique situations because many experts attend. Some are speakers, and others simply attend to keep up to date with latest developments.
    • Use trade shows as an opportunity to gather a panel of experts to give you feedback on your design concepts. Experts like to be on top of the market and new developments and appreciate the opportunity to provide input on new products.
  • Leverage the opinion of younger leaders and experts. In the US and in China, the average entrepreneurial founder is young – often in their low 20s. They are not as cautious as older people who worry about failure. Successful young entrepreneurs are also potential investors.
    • Give experts time to think about your product. It may take a few hours or even days for them to “get” your new concept.
  • Invest in prototypes which have a similar look and feel as actual products, though they may lack full functionality. People like to hold a product, gauge the weight, look and feel of the controls, and to contrast different model options.
  • Large companies are often hindered by internal confidentiality rules. Smaller, more nimble companies may rely on speed to market to allay confidentiality concerns. This gives them the ability to gather more feedback prior to finalizing product design.

You can contact Henry Chen at hankbybay@yahoo.com

Key Words: Customer, Feedback, Market, Maturing, R&D, Tablet, Budget, Experts, Trade Show, Panel, Young, Leaders, Investor, Prototype, Confidentiality, Speed