Tag Archives: Virtual

How to You Generate a Predictable P&L? Three Solutions

Situation: The CEO of a consulting company is frustrated by lumpy revenue and profits. From quarter to quarter it has been difficult to predict either number. Unpredictability reduces options in valuation and exit exercises, as banks and acquirers favor predictability. How do you generate a predictable P&L?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The objective is to construct a revenue base built on predictability, even if this is at lower margins. Given a predictable base, the company can complement predictable revenue and profits with higher dollar and margin opportunities as they arise.
    • Analyze the projects that the company contracts for both revenue and profitability. Some projects will be bread and butter situations which are more common and predictable, but which generate less revenue and profit per project. Others will be customer crisis driven. These latter projects will have higher revenue and profit, particularly if the company is the vendor of choice; the tradeoff is that the frequency of these contracts is unpredictable.
    • If the objective is predictability, the company’s base should be built on bread and butter projects. As the company grows, focus on this base. Customer crisis projects can then be added as they arise to bump both revenue and profit.
    • The objective will be to become one of the top 2-3 outside vendors of the choicest clients. Target projects may be ongoing maintenance of older projects in the client companies’ portfolios.
  • How would this model be pursued?
    • Focus on the company’s top 5 customers. Reduce risk by optimizing customer leverage as a proven entity and offer them strategic deals.
    • The focus is long-term project based with guaranteed delivery at lower cost.
    • Identify the fear or insecurity that exists within the customer and provide sleep insurance.
    • This model works well in the new economy – get lean, manage infrastructure size and cost, and grow with the economy.
    • Alternately, identify an area where the customer may not have enough resources and provide a solution that allows them to address this without adding additional personnel or by using existing personnel more efficiently.
  • Another option is to develop a virtual office model. Provide resources for $X per month, with an evergreen provision.

How Do You Rebuild a Company? Nine Strategies

Situation: A CEO is in the process of rebuilding the firm following a period of inactivity. Historically their marketing was word-of-mouth. How do you reestablishing a network which has been dormant for a period, find new clients and communicate an updated value proposition? How do you rebuild a company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Track down and visit old customers and contacts. Let them know that you are rebuilding the company and ask for their advice and help.
  • Use LinkedIn to find and reconnect with old contacts. Have breakfast or lunch with them, even those who are retired. Reestablish old connections and ask for an update on their companies and activities.
  • Focus on your knowledge base and the results that you’ve produced historically. There are more technology choices available now than there were in the past. Help old and prospective new clients to navigate the array of choices.
  • Development assessments to show your prospects where they are and where they need to focus their effort.
  • Many have built companies on their own – without professional assistance. The results often look good on the surface but lack a solid foundation. You have the perspective and expertise to bring it all together in a coherent and cohesive strategy.
  • Rejoin professional associations and networks that you may have dropped.
  • Go virtual – use virtual assistants to manage expenses while you rebuild.
  • Do webinars, and give talks on developing and executing a successful plan.
  • Create some pro-bono or low-cost programs for charities. Your target is the Board Members who may become future clients.

Where Should You Focus – Eyeballs or Dollars? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company sells personalized content as well as a tool kit. The long-term plan is to monetize storage of personalized content. When they speak to venture capitalists, the VCs advise them to focus on just building their user base and not to worry about revenue.  What would you do? Where should you focus – eyeballs or dollars?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Take advice from venture capitalists with a grain of salt. Remember that their game is to fund companies that they like incrementally, taking a greater share of ownership of the company with each increment in funding. The more you lack revenue, the more you’re dependent upon them.
  • Gain traction by offering free content with up-sell opportunities for premium access.
  • The give-away strategy is a great model to build your initial user audience. Consider micropayment options for special features, content storage, and so forth.
  • Going slow and steady may not be the right model for this space. Company growth for a web-based platform is different from the typical bootstrap model.
  • It’s hard to get good advice for viral marketing opportunities from CEOs who have bootstrapped their companies. Look for other input. Seek the advice of CEOs who have been successful in the viral online marketing space and learn as much as you can about their business models.
  • Gaming is another opportunity – premium or virtual world sales.

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.

How are You Planning for Baby Boomer Retirements? Six Considerations

Situation: A company has a number of key employees who are nearing retirement. These employees possess software skills and company knowledge which will be difficult to replace. How are you planning for baby boomer retirements, and what advice would you have for this company?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Following the loss of investment value after the 2008 market crash, Baby Boomers may retire very differently from their parents. Many don’t have the savings to support themselves during retirement and may well work 10 years later than their parents did.
  • Brute economics will force Boomers to continue to work. However, Boomers may want to work their own hours and on their own terms as they age. The focus may switch to part-time jobs just to maintain cash flow.
  • One solution is to offer more flexible working arrangements that allow individuals to keep working but with more freedom to work as they wish.
  • To replace in-house talent, develop mentor and apprentice programs now to pass your knowledge base on to younger workers.
  • The Internet has significantly changed the picture. People considering retirement may relocate to less expensive regions but virtual employment or virtual office solutions can keep them working.
  • Rising health insurance costs and questions about the viability of Medicare under the Affordable Care Act are concerns for Baby Boomers. This is another factor that may keep them working.

What Factors Should Be Considered Starting a 2nd Office? Three Considerations

Situation: A Silicon Valley company is considering starting a second office both to reduce costs and to diversify its geographic client base. What are best practices for starting your first remote office?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Do you really need to have an office, or can your employees be virtual?
    • Look at your business model and what aspects of your business require an office. Within Silicon Valley, some companies have established local remote offices to enable staff to reduce commutes. These offices include full computer and audio-visual facilities so that remote office staff can participate in home office team meetings. There are an increasing number of cloud-based services that facilitate collaboration between widely distributed teams in different geographic areas. These include Go-to-Meeting, WebEx and Sococo. Can a model like this work for you? If so, then locating an office in a different region is not very different from a remote local office.
  • Outside of your current client base, what customer companies would you like to target?
    • Where are they located? Is there a significant geographic concentration of potential customers in other regions? This might tell you where you would want to put either a real or a virtual local office.
    • Locating an office in a location with numerous potential clients also increases the likelihood that you will find a trained and experienced local talent pool to staff your office.
  • Make sure that you analyze and understand your business model and what portions are exportable.
    • What is your culture and how much does it rely on interaction between home office and consultant staff? Avoid a situation where remote staff feel 2nd class.
    • The solution is to fully understand your model, and to manage both local and remote office staff through the model. Make it simple to monitor people and their activities.

Key Words: Office, Remote, Virtual, Business Model, Collaboration, Technology, Customer, Location, Contractor, Culture