Tag Archives: Talent

How Do You Expand Your Large Client Base? Six Strategies

Situation: The CEO of a service company sees that 20% of their business is serving large corporate customers. These accounts have proven to be more profitable than smaller clients. Their objective is to increase the large corporate client base from 20% to 60% of their business. How do you expand your large client base?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Emphasize the differences and unique talents of the firm in comparison with the competition. Trust in the company’s abilities and act like a big-league firm.
  • Top shelf prices for services are not an issue for large clients; in fact, they expect quality firms to have high prices. Find the “clinch” price – where the client says, “you’re expensive, but because of your special talents you’re the firm that we will choose.” Compliment this with the firm’s ability to utilize lower cost outsourced services to offer an appealing overall cost of services. Clients will pay a premium for top shelf when they need it but will like the fact that routine needs can be met within their budgets.
  • Use the lessons from Blue Ocean Strategy to create advantages for the company’s services that existing firms don’t or can’t offer because of their structures and cultures.
  • Highlight the company’s high-touch culture, with great personal service. This provides a welcomed relief from the typical client experience with service firms.
  • Create buzz around the company’s leadership. Focus on speaking opportunities. Enhance the references to the company’s leadership on the company web site, including a listing of upcoming speaking engagements that are open to potential clients or individuals interested in the company’s expertise.
    • During speaking engagements to local groups on topics of high interest, build an educational library of edited flash content that hits the high points of the talks – not the full talk, but the most important 2-3 minutes on a given topic.
    • Add a library of these short videos on the company website.
  • By charging premium prices for select services, while sourcing research and expertise from personnel in lower cost geographies, the company will generate additional profit. Allocate some of these profits to community outreach to further enhance the company’s reputation and buzz. Be the firm that gives back.

How Do You Create an Effective Staff Back-up System? Three Recommendations

Situation: A CEO has a staffing issue. The company has four product areas but only three strong leads. There are no back-ups for these leads. The CEO feels that the company can’t afford full-time back-ups and is concerned that the presence of back-ups may threaten the leads. How do you create an effective staff back-up system?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are two problems, not one.
    • The leads may not be great managers and may not even like managerial responsibility.
    • The company has one administrator with support from the leads.
    • The company’s vulnerability is having an effective lead leave and taking their key core team members with them. This would create a significant hole in the company’s offering.
    • Change the structure – put manager administrators at top and let the leads do what they love to do. Fit the jobs of the leads to their skills and talents.
  • Hire the best #2s that can be found to back up the effective leads. Replace the less effective lead with a new lead.
    • Replace current team members who aren’t as good with new staff. This will provide the funding for the new people.
    • Then separate managers from architects in terms of role. This does not mean a change of compensation, or necessarily even titles. It means aligning roles with talents. It will also mean that individuals will be happier in their roles and will be less likely to leave.
    • Don’t do this all at once, but in gradual stages to avoid panic and allow individuals the time to adapt to their new roles. Act as a coach adjusting the whole team to a new playbook.
  • Consider adjusting the compensation structure to retain the key leads.

How Do You Engage People in a New Offering? Eight Points

Situation: A founder has created a new social media offering. The concept is to attract individuals with complimentary interests and have them engage each other for mutual benefit as a better source of information and connections. Implied trust is an important component of these connections. How do you engage people in a new offering?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • People are willing to experiment with a new social media offering – in this case because they like to help others. It makes them feel good and they like the role of helping others.
  • People are always seeking good talent. If this does a better job helping them to find good talent, they will try it out.
  • Hiring managers prefer to pass on a resume of someone known to them because a bad referral could reflect badly on them. Strengthen this aspect of the offering through information gathered from participants.
  • A small pool is a negative. Broaden the pool to include those who are looking to step up their careers. Think of this as people-to-people direct hiring and use a social approach with broad appeal. This will increase the number of people willing to play.
  • Be the place where people can come to help others. Add additional tags – help to build confidence and get inspiration. Getting a job happens as a consequence.
  • The element of trust and relationship is important to many – 40% of early users of the current network express this. Assure that the value proposition is also attractive to the 60% who are not concerned about this.
  • The network will build on the energy from the emotional play.
  • Expand the options for how people can help. Investigate allowing trusted referral relationships within the system. Allow people to refer trusted people in their own networks. This can include people who “I would trust to refer good people.”

How Do You Boost Company Morale? Five Suggestions

Situation: A CEO is concerned that her #2 is being challenged by others in the company. An option is to hire a technical project manager; someone who carries the CEO’s authority and who can get things done. What are the obstacles to achieving this? How do you boost company morale?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The technical project manager must have a non-threatening role – they shouldn’t challenge the technical skills of the developers. The role is to oversee schedules, progress, and to resolve barriers – both technical and personal. The job is to get things back into shape.
  • While the business involves highly technical software, operationally it is people centered, not software centered. People centered means a team that collaborates and supports one-another. The important questions are:
    • Where do the needed people skills come from?
    • How do the model and reality transition to a people centered business?
    • Look for someone who can nurture talent. People skills are more important for this role than technical skills, with the caveat that individual must be able to understand technical challenges.
  • An option is a 3rd party within company to straighten this out.
    • “COO” Responsible for Technical Direction – title is important because it conveys respect.
    • The CEO’s voice and ears.
    • Run weekly meetings and is the go-to person when the CEO us traveling.
    • The focus is to manage the primadonnas and keep them focused on their jobs instead of on interpersonal conflicts.
    • This role focuses inwardly on company vs. the CEO who focuses outward on the broader vision, key stakeholders, etc.
  • The bottom line – this is your company, your vision. Make it work. The task is teaching maturity – learning to give rather than worrying about making a name for themselves.
  • Have regular lunches with each of the developers and have frank conversations with them. What’s up and what’s wrong? Listen and let them air their concerns. Talk them through these concerns, but make sure that they understand that the CEO sets the direction both for the company and the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior within the company.

How Do You Best Exploit a New Opportunity? Three Observations

Situation: A service company has developed the capacity to produce and sell a product. The CEO is considering two options for this new opportunity: create a separate entity for the new business or run the businesses in parallel under the current umbrella. How do you best exploit a new opportunity?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Option 1: Create separate entity for the new business while the existing business continues in parallel.
    • How big is the potential win? The current company competes successfully for about 10% of the market. The new capability would allow the company to potentially compete for 100% of a larger market.
    • How different are the two opportunities? The current business requires specialized talent – it is a low volume, high margin business. The new opportunity is the reverse – high potential volume but lower margin. It is a more generic market with fewer specialized needs.
    • The separate entity option provides the most flexibility. The current model already functions well. A spin-off provides an additional option without losing what already exists.
    • Bring in another individual to develop and run the new entity. It’s a different game and requires a different focus. However, it will be a great opportunity for the right person.
    • The spin-off model will be more sustainable under separate management than under the current company.
  • Option 2: Operate both businesses under a single entity.
    • This option looks like a double compromise – it alters both the company’s current strengths and the fundamental business model.
  • A long-term alternative is to look for a financial acquisition for the current company. It produces good net margins, has good cash flow, a and spins off cash. This can be valuable to a financial buyer.

How Do You Fuel Early Stage Growth? Five Suggestions

Situation: An early stage company has assembled an impressive team and has a solid service offering. The immediate challenge is bringing in clients to fuel growth. The team has the capacity but needs some creative ideas on where they should focus their efforts. How do you fuel early stage growth?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Fully utilize the team’s talents. Team members with established expertise can offer clinics featuring the company’s service offering at local colleges, business organizations and other venues to target audiences. Think about business organizations with members who would benefit from the company’s services. Also reach out to venture capitalists and the entrepreneurial market.
  • Develop a strong value proposition:
    • Go-to Organization
    • Eyeballs on the market
    • Links to highly qualified resources
    • Demonstrated expertise in your space
    • Claims tied to the top priorities of target clients
  • For start-up and entrepreneur client targets:
    • Offer a packaged set of services for a fixed fee. Be open to creative payment options to fit the financial needs of entrepreneurs.
    • Start developing a full suite of services. Start by assessing the need and developing a target list of early clients. VC portfolio companies can be a great target.
  • Build a good web-based communications interface for client use. Think of what is needed to create an attractive menu and let this drive service development.
  • Develop a separate brand for ancillary services that will complement the current offering, but which is outside of the current offering. Look at markets which would benefit from the service, including medical and nursing providers.

Do You Merge, Sell or Revive a Business? Four Areas of Focus

Situation: A company is at a crossroads. They are no longer growing as they have in past years. The CEO is assessing alternatives including a merger, selling the company or restructuring. What are the essential questions to determine whether you merge, sell or revive a business?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Do you really have the information to determine whether it makes sense to merge, sell or revive the business? The questions to ask are:
    • Is your core competency important?
    • Do you have the talent required to revive the business?
    • How much of your business is from repeat customers?
    • Is your platform still being used by a significant number of companies, and are they likely to shift their software soon?
    • If the answers are favorable, then the only remaining question is whether you have the energy and inclination to continue.
  • Having developed a profitable business model, why would you give up control or ownership?
    • Tighten up the business by focusing on the basics and turn the company around.
    • Identify where you can make money, and
    • Determine which portions of the business need to be restructured or eliminated.
    • Essential questions are:
      • Do you have a clear picture of where the profitability lies within the business?
      • Do you have a clear statement of your key competitive advantage – your “Main Thing”?
      • Can you establish a pricing strategy that pays you fairly for the value you provide?
  • Look at bench time among current employees.
    • Identify, and fully utilize the most important contributors, perhaps by giving them additional responsibilities in other areas.
    • See that all retained employees are fully utilized.
    • Eliminate those who are on the bench the most, or transform them into contractors so that you only pay for active time.
    • Utilize contractors to fill the “full service” slots that are important to your service offering but which do not contribute significantly to your bottom line.
  • Most importantly, reformat your role so that you are doing that which you truly enjoy. Your own enthusiasm and passion are the most important long-term drivers for your business, and will be the most important motivators to your staff.

Must a Family Business Always be “Family”? Five Suggestions

Situation: The CEO of a business that has been in place for several generations is frustrated by the challenges of working with family members. Relatives are involved in top positions, but frequently place personal concerns above the priorities of the business. This leads to tense situations where other family members, not in the business, will intervene to support their close relatives without appreciating the conditions facing the business. Must a family business always be “family”?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • For the business to thrive, you must match skills and talent to available positions – not just the “best” family member fit for the position.
  • Understanding that it is difficult for one family member to communicate negative news to another family member, consider hiring a consultant or HR company to evaluate and be the go-between in determining best family fit, or family/non-family choices for open positions.
  • If the company involved unionized employees, and some family member employees are union members, this may complicate your choices. Seek outside non-union counsel to help you evaluate situations and navigate solutions.
  • Hire a professional facilitator to assist in running company planning meetings which involve family members. A facilitator can approach the situation from a neutral standpoint, and does not carry the personal history of brother-sister or close relationships within the company. Choose an individual with experience with family-owned companies who can build a company vision that goes beyond personal relationships and concerns. This individual can also help navigate the operational situations facing the company.
  • Look at both your organization and ownership structure versus applicable regulations and licensing requirements. This may present new alternatives for you to consider.

How Do You Plan for Business Expansion? Five Factors

Situation: A company has built a very successful single site business, and wants to expand geographically. They are investigating where it makes sense to duplicate operations in new sites and where it makes sense to consolidate operations. The company’s secret sauce is in their system and procedures. How do you plan for business expansion?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Look at the shared services piece and the cost/benefit tradeoffs. What services are best centralized, and what are the critical on-site services that you want duplicate in remote sites?
  • Other companies use remote offices for field personnel, but centralize all shared services. Centralized shared services include invoicing and collections, financial reporting, telemarketing, anything dealing with trade names and print or trade-marked collateral, and an array of other services which would be too expensive for individual sites to duplicate, or where leaving things to the individual sites might result in inconsistency of service and erosion of the brand.
  • How do you replicate key talent? Consider whether key talent can be retained in the shared services side of the business, not the cloneable service delivery sites. Typical franchise operations have people who are difficult to replace or replicate so most do not try to include these roles in the service delivery operations.
  • You will need to provide for a sales role in your remote offices as business development will be critical to early success of new sites.
  • In the transition from “successful small” to “successful large” most businesses find that the medium stage is the most difficult. Issues to consider include:
    • Does your direction match your expertise – do you have support of individuals knowledgeable about franchising?
    • What are the margin differentials within the business? Do you want to clone the high or low-margin areas of the business? Develop profitability models for your central and remote sites, and assure that the sites will have sufficient profitability to assure their short-term success. This will make it easier to proliferate the remote sites.

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How Do Small Companies Outsource Infrastructure? Eight Ideas

Situation: Start-ups and early-stage enterprises are typically both resource and talent constrained. The CEO of a start-up asks how others successfully outsourced infrastructure cost effectively and when they were early-stage so that they could focus on critical success factors and improve their opportunity to succeed. How do small companies outsource infrastructure?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In the early stages of company development, outsource everything possible and focus our efforts only on the key functions.
  • In order to focus on the most important things first, decide what must be accomplished and when. Set priorities, establish key milestones and create a timeline to measure achievement. Celebrate your successes!
  • Identify the most important strategic foci within your business model and outsource everything else.
    • For example, use outside data centers instead of developing these yourself.
    • With the increase in Cloud-based options, early stage companies can do without the IT infrastructure that they used to need. Just be careful to safeguard your intellectual property!
  • Attend relevant meetings and functions to learn about existing and available capabilities. Look for local networking opportunities relevant to your market.
  • Incubator sites have developed in a number of high tech centers. These are designed to cover infrastructure needs at a reasonable cost so that founders can focus on product and service development.
  • Hire a virtual assistant – you can find these locally using a Google search.
  • Take advantage of lower cost labor and enlist younger, less experienced labor to manage databases and clean records.
  • Set up a wiki for information. This exchange is free and you can tailor it to your needs. It is permission-based; you can find it at pbwiki.com.