Tag Archives: Support

How Do You Hire Your First Employee? Seven Suggestions

Situation:  The CEO of an early stage company has identified a person to help her as an assistant. This will be her first real employee. Prior hires have been contractors who have been paid on revenue generated. This individual’s salary will be an expense without clear association to revenue. What guidelines do you suggest as she makes this hire? How do you hire your first employee?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Create a cash flow projection to make sure that you have the cash to afford an employee.
  • If you consistently expect 40+ hours of work from this individual, consider a salaried position which will give both of you more flexibility.
  • Paychex currently handles your payroll and benefits. Work with them to make sure that all labor law compliance issues are covered. Also, consider hiring a labor law consultant to help you avoid minefields.
  • Do a background check even if you have known this individual for a long time.
  • Consider working with a professional employment organization that can provide back-office HR support for you.
  • An employee handbook is unnecessary at this point. However, think through how you will want to handle issues that may come up including vacation, benefits and paid/unpaid leave like bereavement leave. Document these for inclusion in a future employee handbook.
  • Under the current health care law employers with less than fifty employees are not required to provide health benefits without paying a penalty. This may change as the law continues to evolve.

How Do You Boost Morale in a Branch Office? Five Solutions

Situation:  A company started a new branch office last year. This office started with three people and has remained at that level with some turnover. Morale is low because the branch office team doesn’t feel supported by the home office. The CEO is concerned that this could kill the branch office if it is not fixed.  How do you boost morale in a branch office?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The problem is most likely the home office, as they assert. There have been few visits from home office personnel – particularly the company president. In addition, they are being criticized in weekly reviews for not hitting the same metrics as the company’s established operations.
  • Remediate this situation by scheduling weekly executive visits and monthly visits by the president until things are up and running and there is a track record of profitability.
  • Clarify your expectations to everyone – this is a new office running to different metrics until they establish themselves. Once they are established, they will run to the same metrics as everyone else. Coach the heads of other divisions that the new office needs support, not criticism, until they establish themselves.
  • Allow the branch office to bid low for market share until they are established in their new location for a period – at least 6-12 months. Create a different set of metrics for a start-up office, and review these during weekly sales meetings.
  • The role of management is to show the colors in the new location and manage peer feedback from established locations. Help them win! Establish start-up metrics like lunches with potential clients to establish relationships. Since the branch office is generating business for other locations, create separate general performance metrics from territory specific metrics for this office and show both in staff meetings.

Is It Time To Change Horses? Four Suggestions

Situation: A company has a business relationship with another firm. The relationship involves co-development of technology as well as marketing and other support. Portions of the relationship have worked, however, the other firm has not kept its part of the bargain in terms of marketing and support promised. What is the best way to approach the other firm to resolve this situation? Is it time to change horses?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Have you have clearly communicated to the firm both what you are pleased with about the relationship as well as your level of dissatisfaction regarding lack of marketing and other support promise? To whom has this been communicated? Are you sure that your message has gone all of the way to the top?
  • Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on the current arrangement and alternatives available to you to support your trade-off analysis before taking action.
  • Present a marketing option that will address the situation and ask whether the firm will support it as previously agreed.
    • If they say yes, have a contract ready for them to sign.
    • Negotiate other key items at same time.
    • Be sure to involve all parties on your side in the preparation, including the individual(s) who made the introductions that led to the relationship. Additional heads can bring more insight into the options that the firm and relationship offers. Bring the key parties involved to the negotiation, and be sure to prep them in advance.
  • Business relationships should be based on clearly stated deliverables and timelines. If deliverables are missed then it is time to make a business decision – either repair the situation or part ways.

How Do You Bring in a General Manager? Four Recommendations

Situation: A CEO has hired an individual who is currently working on projects for the company. The CEO likes this person and anticipates that he could eventually become General Manager. There have been a few rough spots but, overall, objectives are being met. How do you bring in a new General Manager?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Transition the individual from their current responsibilities to GM in small steps. This will allow him to develop relationships and credibility with the rest of the team. These relationships and credibility are what he will need in the more senior position.
  • Coach the individual about any behaviors that you may observe, or which may be reported to you by others within the company, which are contrary to your culture. Understand, from the new individual’s perspective, what motivates these behaviors. Encourage the individual to develop alternative behaviors that are more consistent with your culture. Be open to the possibility that some of the behavior may be addressing flaws in the current culture.
  • Maintain open communication with your key managers who will be impacted as the new individual gains responsibility. As the individual gains authority within the organization, be clear that you support your new manager.
  • Your current culture is always in flux, and will continue to change as you bring in the new GM. This will create natural resistance as people adapt to the new situation. Be patient and stick with the plan. When others complain be honest and up-front that you support the new manager, and that everyone will have to adapt.

How Do You Handle a Side Project? Two Considerations

Situation: An early principal of a company has done a lot of work on a product that no longer fits the company’s business strategy and focus. The CEO wants to reward this individual for past work. An arrangement could include equity plus a big chunk of whatever this individual can make marketing the product that he created. What is the best way to handle this side project?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There may be benefits to working with this individual as proposed. Letting the individual play in his own sub-market gives you an additional customer and may lead to interesting but yet unknown opportunities. Take care that this does not impact critical timelines for the company’s principal strategy.
  • A set of guidelines for this arrangement may include:

o    No grant of additional stock in the company – the opportunity to pursue the project should be sufficient incentive.

o    Keep this side project as company property.

o    Give the individual a sizable chunk of any revenue that he can gain from the product.

o    Task the individual to manage and solve technical challenges so that this does not impact company priorities.

o    Retain control of timelines and quality sign-off so that this project does not conflict with your higher priorities.

o    Give the individual sufficient support so that he is more likely to succeed.

  • Are there concerns regarding brand risk?

o    Draft an agreement to allow this project to operate cleanly and treat the principal an early small customer. Define the requirements of the project, release timelines, and branding options so that they do not interfere with the company’s larger goals.

How Do You Plan for Contingencies Post-Deal? Three Insights

Situation: A company is in the midst of due diligence for sale of the company. Chances of closing the deal are 50/50. The CEO, key staff and the Board must plan for both contingencies. How have you planned for contingencies whether a sale goes through or not?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You have to assume that the company will be a going concern. If there’s no hope for the future, there’s no power in the present. Without hope, you can’t establish a motivating vision around which to rally the team. Whether or not the sale goes through:
    • It is essential that the owners and Board make a commitment to the key employees, if not to the long term business.
    • Absent a long term commitment to the business, customer initiatives and alliances may prove difficult, because major customers will know that an offer is on the table. They want to be sure that they can count on you for ongoing needs.
  • The Board and Leadership Team must create a strategy for moving forward.
    • Key to success will be material and financial commitments from the Board to motivate the Leadership Team to stay on-board.
    • Retention plans may include:
      • Sizeable retention bonuses to the team.
      • If an employee stock-ownership program is in the works, there must be assurance that this will be put into place.
      • Rules of engagement in the case of future due diligences that will preserve the financial interests of the team.
  • For the CEO, support of the Board is crucial. It is imperative that the CEO impress on the Board how critical their support is to both the company and their own financial and fiduciary interests. If the Board fails to make commitment to the team and company moving forward, it will be difficult to create a winning strategy.

How Can You Reestablish a Key Partner Relationship? Four Suggestions

Situation: A company has a long-standing relationship with key partner which has become strained for the last 9 months due to a combination of conditions. The partner’s Board recently terminated their CEO and their management is now in flux. Is there an opportunity to reestablish the old relationship by approaching the partner’s Board and how would you go about reestablishing this key partner relationship?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • At this point, the Board of the partner is likely focused on selecting a successor to the CEO, and dealing with internal matters in the interim. It may not be timely to approach them now, as they may dismiss your entreaty as a distraction.
  • If this tactic is to work, you will need a champion within the partner to promote reestablishment of the relationship. Try to identify such a person and approach them individually instead of approaching the full Board. The champion may be a Board member or someone with whom the Board has a strong relationship. This carries less risk than approaching the full Board. If the champion is not receptive, your likelihood of success with the full Board is slim.
  • Is there a past President or senior executive of the partner company with whom you have very good relations? An individual like this can act as a quasi-third party to help you to reestablish relationships with the Board or key management of the partner company.
  • Because of the risk involved, it may be best to do this quietly through a party whom the potential champion will respect and listen to, and take the lead from the champion if this individual is supportive of your cause.

What Have You Done to Manage Rapid Growth? Five Foci

Situation: A company has experienced rapid growth. This is creating stress for the staff and CEO, who finds it difficult to break away from the day to day to focus on strategy. Employees are not keeping pace with the evolving needs of the company and turnover has increased. What have you done to manage rapid growth?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first task is to improve forecasting of business growth, and the infrastructure needed to support this growth. This includes:
    • Regularly updating your sales and production forecasts.
    • Updating staff and training plans to meet growth forecasts.
    • Updating infrastructure and support plans.
    • Without these, the organization will whipsaw in response to market demands.
  • Take a critical look at your staff development plans and staff training.
    • Look at those areas that are most impacted by business growth. Determine whether you have the right managers and support in place.
    • Evaluate whether you have the right people and whether they have the skills to handle new demands of their positions.
  • Critically evaluate each now job that you take on. Assure that you have the staff and infrastructure to meet client demands.
    • Always assure that you deliver on your company’s integrity, reputation and core values.
  • In addition to addressing immediate needs, look at long-term plans strategically. Ask where you will be in 10 years. Articulate this vision in detail, and drive plans down through the organization. Make sure that everyone is on the same page, aligned with the same values, aiming at the same targets.
  • Also differentiate your vision from your mission:
    • You vision is a 10 year time frame, not one year.
    • Your mission is what you will be doing this year and in 5 years – the activities you will undertake to realize your longer term vision.
    • Fine tune your vision and mission and drive these through the organization. This will give you clarity on how you wish to do business and will help you to make hard choices as you handle rapid growth.

Key Words: Growth, Rapid, Stress, Focus, Turnover, Forecast, Infrastructure, Training, Support, Values, Staff, Development, Skill, Plan, Align, Vision, Mission

How Do You Take a Guilt-Free Vacation? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A CEO has not taken a vacation for years due to focus on the company. He knows that he needs a vacation and wants to take one. However, he feels guilty taking time off. How do you take a guilt-free vacation?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • For your general health, you need to take time off to refresh and recharge!
  • Think of the vacation as your CEO Test – have you created a team that can perform in your absence?
    • You may be amazed at the initiative that some will take given the freedom to do so. As a corollary, initiative is accompanied by risk and your employees may make some bad choices. Be patient. Congratulate them for taking initiative and coach to improve choices.
    • Stay out of touch. Don’t call in daily and see what happens. If and when you do call in, don’t solve challenges that come up – let your people solve the challenges. Keep a few notes. On your return see where you need to adjust procedures to allow employees to make independent decisions.
    • More than one CEO has found that taking 3-4 week vacations each year has had very positive results. The company actually performs more efficiently and with more energy upon their return than it did when they left!
  • To ensure that you take a vacation, schedule it in advance. Let everyone know that you are going to take it and Just Do It!
  • If you can’t take the time to plan a vacation, have your spouse or a loved one plan the vacation.
  • If you need to feel in touch during your vacation, take your laptop. You may never even use it, but it will be there as a security blanket. Once you are on vacation, let family and personal priorities rightly take precedence over your need to stay in touch.

Key Words: Vacation, Company, Focus, Guilt, Health, Refresh, Recharge, Initiative, Patience, Coach, Problems, Valuation, Performance, Planning, Priorities, Family, Stress, Support

When Do Marketing Partnerships Make Sense? Four Considerations

Situation: A company has an opportunity to form a marketing partnership with another firm. The primary potential benefit to the company from this partnership is gaining access to new customers. On the other hand, partnerships may bring complications. What is your experience with marketing partnerships, both positive and negative?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Marketing partnerships can certainly work, provided that both parties see benefit to the relationship, and both are committed to make it work.
  • Be sure to clearly define boundaries with the partner.
    • If either company can perform a particular service, whose customers are who’s?
    • Is there alignment throughout the partner’s organization regarding the partnership? Or are their conflicting priorities within different branches of that organization? Test the waters ahead of time and assess how these will potentially impact the partnership.
  • There are potential pitfalls:
    • What is the in-house/outsource attitude of the partner? If there are strong voices for in-house production or service provision, these will not be supportive of the partnership.
    • Watch the quality of the partnership over time.
      • Successful partnerships are based as much on friendly cordial relations as on business priorities. Are your business cultures and ethics compatible?
      • Who is the champion for the partnership on the other side? What will happen if the champion leaves? Is there a back up champion?
  • Build an exit strategy into the partnership that will allow you to leave gracefully and mitigate financial or good will consequences if the partnership sours.

Key Words: Marketing, Partnership, Customer, Access, Pros, Cons, Benefit, Commitment, Support, Boundaries, Priorities, Pitfall, Quality, Relations, Culture, Ethics, Champion, Exit