Situation: The CEO of a family-owned company has struggled to align family members with the business plan. When difficult decisions must be made, established personality patterns and family history hinder consensus on what should be done. The CEO seeks advice on whether the addition of one or more outside Board Members can help to build consensus. Can outside Board members help a struggling company?
Advice from the CEOs:
The CEO of another closely-held company brought in an outside Board member two years ago. This has added considerable focus to the Board discussions. The addition of a fresh and respected perspective has helped to clarify decisions and reduce conflicts among the founders.
First, have a conversation with the team. Give them the opportunity to straighten out things themselves. Present the addition of an outside Board member as an option. Get their support. This will make the addition of an outside Board member a company decision, rather than the CEO’s.
The experience of other companies is that compensation can range from free – a retiree who wants to help – to expensive. Arrangements and expense will depend on what the company leadership wants to achieve.
Investigate SCORE – a well-established source for outside board members for small and family businesses.
Situation: A company wants to boost their marketing through the Internet. They have had a web site for years, but the site doesn’t bring in much new business. How do you optimize visibility for your web site, and how do you boost your Internet marketing?
Advice from the CEOs:
Among search engines, despite Microsoft’s efforts to boost Bing’s presence, Google is the elephant in the room. They host 65% of search engine traffic, and represent 75% of buying activity. Google writes the rules, others copy.
As an exercise to test your web presence, go to Google and search for your company and city. See whether you appear in the local directory. If not, have your web master put your address and phone number on each page of your web site. If you can’t find yourself or easily find your contact information, others won’t be able to find you either.
Use the Google External Keyword tool – just search and you’ll find it. This will help you to tailor your key words so that potential customers will find you. Another tool is wordtracker.com. Both will show you domestic and international hit rates over the last month on different key words.
What is the optimal number of words per web page? About 250. Put your key words in your titles, in the first sentence and the last sentence of the first paragraph.
The typical web user will form a lasting impression of your web site in the first 3 seconds. Can they find information easily? Is the layout pleasant? Is it informative? Does it have the information that they’re looking for?
Hitting high on Google searches counts. Only 20% of viewers will go to Page 2 of a search, and most only go 5 hits deep on Page 1.
Stay fresh. Change SOMETHING about your site at least monthly.
Thanks to Kevin Dean of WSI NetAdvantage for his contribution to this discussion.
Situation: A company needs a strong pool of engineers in their market niche to stay ahead of the competition. Their niche is specialized with little transferability from other engineering specialties. They struggle to find local talent and relocation expenses are high. How have you recruited hard-to-find talent?
Advice from the CEOs:
If you want a mix of fresh and experienced talent and need to add 3 to 5 new engineers per year to keep up with growth and turnover, you will be hiring a new engineer every 2-3 months so you need a standardized, repeatable process that is ongoing. If you don’t have either in-house or reliable outsourced HR capabilities, you need to secure this as soon as possible.
Consider establishing a satellite office in a geographic area which has an available talent pool.
Look for areas with a top university engineering program in your field.
Look at your key competitors’ locations and see whether they are in areas with both the educational and industrial-technology base to be a candidate location.
As you develop a new geography, forge strong relationships with the university programs that can feed you the younger talent that you need. This is a win-win relationship, because universities are focused on their placement statistics and corporate support.
Get to know the professors in your specialty and explore establishing a center of study or excellence within the engineering programs.
One company works closely with Santa Clara University and developed a program that offers financial rewards for the best technical papers produced by students in their specialty. This has created a buzz around the company, helped to establish a study program in their specialty, and enables them to attract the best and brightest graduates.
As you establish a reputation for attracting the best younger talent, this can help you to attract seasoned talent that wants to work with the brightest young talent in the field.
Another option is to find 2-3 key experienced engineers who are willing to relocate for the opportunity to build a new team.