Tag Archives: Understand

How Do You Set Expectations for an Employee? Six Suggestions

Situation: A company hired an employee one year ago. The employee is competent but slow. Even after a year on the job, other employees with similar skills and experience are able to complete the same job three times faster. What is the best way to handle this? How do you set expectations for an employee?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The most important principle governing situations like this is clarity of communications. You must clearly express your expectations, and you must assure that the employee clearly understands your expectations.
  • Assure that expectations are clearly expressed. This means what you expect in terms of performance, and firm timelines for achieving minimum requirements. You also must assure that the employee understands the consequences for failing to meet minimum requirements. The best assurance is written confirmation that the employee understands what is expected.
  • Don’t be vague or nice about your expectations, performance requirements or the consequences for failing to meet minimum requirements. This risks sending the wrong message to the employee.
  • Put the employee on a performance improvement plan to meet minimum job requirements. Monitor and document for 30-60 days and then handle according to how the employee responds.
  • If the individual can’t meet the objective, but has potential value to the company, offer the person an appropriate position at the level that the new position pays.
  • Have a second person in the room when you deliver the message. If you determine that you have to terminate the employee and the employee elects to sue, this will help your case in a judicial action.

How Do You Maintain Momentum as You Grow? Seven Factors

Interview with Ishveen Anand, CEO, OpenSponsorship.com

Situation: Emerging stage companies that get early traction must maintain momentum and strong growth. This is particularly true if the company is competing in an established industry where innovative and new solutions are not the norm. Early adopters fall back into old, comfortable habits. Filling the pipeline with new prospects takes a lot of energy. How do you maintain momentum as you grow?

Advice:

  • Find a familiar, respected example of an existing service that is similar to yours. Match.com is widely recognized. We use Match.com to describe how we connect athletes with potential sponsors. Our service is free in the early stages and focuses on introductions. It costs nothing unless the parties decide on a deal. It’s up to the parties to decide whether to go out, form a relationship, and later end up together.
  • Map the stages of a sale for your offering, and select progressive KPIs that represent these stages. For example, early on it may be users. Later it becomes messages between users. A sale is closed when messages produce deals. Once you have progressive KPIs you can focus on tipping points between the stages and facilitating movement from user to message to deal. Set metrics and timeline objectives at each stage of the transaction.
  • Closely monitor conversation rates between users, messages and deals. Watch the momentum of conversion between the stages and test interventions that positively impact this momentum.
  • Match social media channels to the personalities of each of your stages. Twitter is a great metric of sales success and LinkedIn helps us to understand the reach of OpenSponsorship. Instagram is a great tool for those selling products, so slightly less relevant to us, but still necessary. Use the appropriate channel that will best bring potential users into your sales stream. An advantage of social media channels is that these provide additional insight into your transaction stream and what users are saying about you.
  • Understand what’s right for your users. Early on you look for elements that will create buzz and feed viral growth. Target special events and opportunities which offer high visibility. For us, a big event will be the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. For another company it may be a large convention like CES or SxSW. Plan in advance and make the most of these opportunities.
  • Know your users’ seasonality. What are their peak purchase seasons? Do they have special seasons? What are their off-seasons? How can you take advantage of this knowledge to offer them new opportunities? Populate your web site with the right pages and social media marketing efforts linking to these pages to drive usage and business year-round.
  • Important pieces of momentum are staffing and investment. Early on, these seem almost like distractions to a CEO. The CEO is more engaged in the product or service being provided. However, personnel and fundraising decisions critically impact the future of the venture and must be taken seriously. Success will depend upon the CEO’s being able to move seamlessly between conversations about product and service, staffing and fundraising.

You can contact Ms. Anand at ishveen@opensponsorship.com

How Do You Optimize Your Buy/Sell Funnels? Three Strategies

Situation: A CEO is concerned that his company’s sales and marketing efforts are not effective. Too often the sales team finds a good prospect, but fails to convert them to the company’s offering. How can the company improve its sales conversion rate? How do you optimize your buy/sell funnels?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • To improve both your marketing and sales functions, it is essential to move the company’s perspective from the Sales side of the Seller’s Funnel to the Marketing side of the Buyer’s Funnel. Only by understanding your customers can you:
    • Create awareness of their needs,
    • Acknowledge interest in a solution to their needs,
    • Consider options and develop preferences among the possible solutions, and
    • Determine how to effectively communicate with them through your marketing and sales efforts.
  • In today’s world, a quality web site is essential to your business. The objective of the web site is to convince the customer that they want to talk to or do business with you. Your web site must tell them:
    • Who you are.
    • What your values are.
    • Why you are special.
    • And it must include a “call to action” – a convincing reason for them to call you.
  • To better qualify your prospective clients:
    • Develop a scripted telephone interview that can be conducted by your sales people or less expensive inside sales/marketing people to qualify prospects before you spend the time and effort for an in-person sales call.
    • Use targeted marketing programs to leverage references to prospective customers.
    • Have lots of conversations with potential customers to understand their needs. Tailor your value creation process to address these needs.

Special Thanks to Craig Olson of MXL Partners for his contribution to this discussion.

How Do You Tell a Client That They’re Wrong? Five Factors

Situation: A company’s client is furious at the service they received from the company, It turns out upon investigation that the source of the client’s difficulty arose from their own actions, not from anything done by the company or its employees. How do you tell a client that their assumptions are wrong?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Ask open-ended questions in an attempt to “clarify your understanding” of what happened. You want the client to answer these questions so that they explain the situation to themselves. Always allow them to save face in this process. Some people are better at this technique than others.
  • Try to understand the client’s experience of the problem as opposed to focusing on the problem itself. This may reveal more deep-seated challenges facing the client that are just being expressed through the current situation.
  • Email communications often complicate these conversations. Call or visit to let the client know that you are responding personally to their concern. The best communication is person-to-person through conversation. Let them vent. Peel back the onion through questioning to reveal the core problem.
  • Be honest. Not negative but simply honest. Listen to gain understanding and repeat the facts, as stated by the client, to assure that you properly understand their perspective. If you need to present your own perspective, and it differs from the client’s, do this in a neutral, unemotional tone.
  • Sometimes you will find a win-win in these discussions, and sometimes you won’t.

How Can You Reduce Costs By Consolidating Services? Four Suggestions

Situation: A small company wants to reduce costs by consolidating accounting and operational communications between remote divisions, with home office coordination. Can you more effectively reduce costs by consolidating services or is it better to set up parallel but complimentary accounting and operational communications in each division?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are a number of things that need to be considered, including:
    • Whether the existing legacy system is off the shelf with modifications or was custom designed for your operation.
    • Does the current system meet your needs, and do operators understand it? Is operational understanding diffuse or can only one or two people operate it?
  • How similar are the divisions in terms of product, customers and operations?
    • Do divisions serve distinct, non-overlapping customers with different product lines?
    • Are there important operational differences, for example are some divisions union, and others non-union?
    • On an ongoing basis, except for accounting, do divisions function as complimentary or distinctly separate businesses?
    • How complex are the product and pricing offerings? Could you consider a simple solution like QuickBooks or are there are complexities to your business model and accounting that the off-the shelf or web-based systems can’t address?
    • How much historical data from your current system is needed to support ongoing and future operations?
  • The simplest solution may be to run your current system off of a server, with multiple nodes connected to the system – a direct connection at your home office, and point-to-point lines connecting your remote offices. This will solve both your data transfer and communications needs.
    • Hire a computer consultant to set this up and assist you in establishing a link. It will cost some money, but will save you time and money in the long-run.
  • If you decide to change your accounting system, do so at the end of your current fiscal year. Trying to change accounting systems in the midst of a fiscal year creates an accounting nightmare for a small business.

How Do You Chase A Moving Ball? Three Fundamentals

Interview with Michelle Bonat, CEO and Founder, RumbaFish Technologies

Situation: Early stage companies focusing on social commerce and analytics face an unpredictable market. Nobody can accurately forecast market direction or even who the players will be in 2 to 3 years. What are best practices for chasing a moving ball?

Advice from Michelle Bonat:

  • In a rapidly evolving market it is critical to have laser-like focus on the needs of your customers. You must create value for them by understanding their needs, businesses and challenges. While technologies and markets change and evolve, human behavior is remarkably consistent over time. By focusing on rewards, sharing and customer motivations we better understand their needs. We see three fundamentals in working with customers.
  • First, focus on understanding needs versus wants. If Henry Ford had asked what customers wanted for better transportation they would have said “a faster horse.” They needed a faster way to get from Point A to Point B without getting rained on. We invent solutions that are incrementally better at addressing fundamental customer needs by leveraging technology and social commerce.
  • Second, work collaboratively with your customer. As we develop an understanding of needs versus wants, we develop an arm in arm relationship with customers and partner to evaluate solutions that work for them. We use short versus long release cycles with frequent checkpoints to assure that both sides are on the same page and that we understand the features that are most important to the customer. As a result, our customers become evangelists not only for the resulting product or service, but for us!
  • Third, go into any project with the customer’s success foremost in your mind. We focus not only on getting the solution right, but on assuring that the solution optimizes the customer’s primary objectives. That way we all share in the win.
  • The bottom line is that customers want to be treated as individuals and want their individual needs met. We honor this and make it central to our customer interactions. This way, no matter where the market goes, we will be a player.

You can contact Michelle Bonat at michelle@rumbafish.com

Key Words: Strategy, Leadership, Social, Media, Commerce, Analytics, Predictability, Unpredictability, Market, Direction, Player, Customer, Value, Needs, Wants, Behavior, Engage, Share, Understand, Technology, Social Commerce, Collaborative, Relationship, Success, Solution, Individual

Are Negative Incentives Effective? Four Perspectives

Situation: A company has been struggling to meet objectives. Financials aren’t completed on schedule, limiting the ability of the CEO to manage by the numbers. Milestones are behind schedule. The CEO was advised to consider stringent measures, including financial penalties, to force compliance to performance goals. In your experience, are negative incentives effective?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are at least three potential roots of this problem. Have your hired people who lack the skills to perform their functions? Is there a clear plan and set of priorities in place? Or are you as the CEO being consistent in your demands of the team? You need all three to meet your objectives.
  • Be sure to set SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. In addition, make sure that everyone understands how their performance impacts not only the plans of the company, but their salary and benefits as an employee. Be sure that everyone has the resources to complete what is expected of them.
  • Be careful if you are considering financial penalties, and negative incentives.
    • Many studies have shown that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement.
    • If an employee is chronically behind on deliverables, ask what is happening and why they are not getting the job done.
    • If the response is not satisfactory, and performance doesn’t improve, you are better off terminating the employee than using negative incentives.
  • Often the question is not one of motivation but one of focus. Focus has to start at the top, and has to be maintained through departmental and team leadership. Make sure that there is proper training in setting and monitoring achievement of objectives throughout your leadership team. It helps if everyone clearly understands what the company is trying to achieve.

Key Words: Objectives, Achievement, Failure, Schedule, Manage, Numbers, Penalties, Compliance, Positive, Negative, Incentive, SMART, Resources, Achievable, Motivation, Focus, Training, Great Game of Business, Jack Stack, Understand