Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Succession Planning

Are you ready to pass the baton?

How much time have you spent recently preparing your organization for the future with a succession plan?
Too often I have spoken with owners of business who have given no thought to how their business continues past their time or even who should be in line for succeeding others in key positions.
There is a fine line between structuring an organization so strong back up is available for all key positions and being top heavy with management staff. While it is important to develop and maintain an organization chart that identifies potential replacements for key positions it is a plan that must be kept confidential among only a few very senior managers. Clearly if the succession plan was broadly know the group of subordinates would constantly be chafing at the bit to move up the ladder.
The succession plan should be updated regularly. Performance of employees change, new stars arise and training of key individuals to broaden their experience becomes important elements of the plan to maintain.
In small family organization succession plan may be even more important. The owner may have family members who he would wish to carry on the business but are they qualified? Are there competing siblings who vie for the role of president and how does the current owner resolve that issue?
A well-developed plan not only provides for a smooth transition when needed but also can be a critical tool in situations that result from an untimely injury, illness, or death of the owner. You do not want a vacuum created from the absence, for any length of time, of leadership in the business. A prolonged absence of an identified leader can destabilize the business and lead to losses and in extreme situation lead to the collapse of the business.
The owner or president of the business has the fiduciary responsibility to be proactive and protect the business and ensure survival is optimized. That means an active role in preparing for his/her exit and change in other key management positions.
You never know when there will be a need to pass the baton.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Management Incentives

Keeping key management personnel.

There is a key role for incentives in managing and retaining key executives for the company. Here are some reasons for and examples of how to structure effective incentive programs for management.
1.     You want to retain key management personnel for a number of reasons. High turnover destabilizes the company and can have severe effects on moral of employees and the bottom line.
2.     You want to retain high performing managers to enhance your own company’s growth potential and to keep key people from wanting to look at other opportunities.
3.     Good managers don’t expect a bonus without achievement but don’t set the bar so high as to be unachievable. That becomes a disincentive to achieve.
4.     Set goals that help improve your bottom line; just achieving new sales records is not a priority if the costs exceed the benefit. Sales executives should be just as concerned about profitable sales as the CFO.
5.     Pay executives for overachieving by sharing profits. As profits goals are exceeded rewards can continue to be major incentives if shared fairly. Reward contribution.
6.     You don’t have to give everything away in this process. Be competitive but unique and allow key employees to participate in goal setting. When they are part of setting the goals they are more likely to increase efforts to reach the bar.
7.     Conduct periodic reviews to ensure all incentive participants know where they stand. Let’s not have surprise results announced at year end….good or bad.
8.     Be completely transparent. If goals are profit based show actual revenue/profit results so that there is a clear understanding of achievements.
9.     Roll plans forward and allow incremental bonuses for achievements in consecutive years. That’s a great way to keep a key person from leaving; that extra bonus for additional achievement may be too juicy to walk away from.
10.  Stock options are often used as a tool for key employee retention. The chance to be a part of ownership can be major motivator. However recent issues in corporate governance have tended to dilute and weaken some incentives. Try to strive for balance without risking responsibilities to shareholders.
Incentives are important tool to maintain a motivated and dedicated management team and a well-designed plan can bear fruit over the long term 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Maximize Business Value

Tips for Maximizing Business Value

Burying excessive personal expenses in the business financials can lower business value!
The most popular method of valuing a business uses a multiple of earnings over a period of years. Business owners should be aware of that while attempting to reduce the bottom line with personal expenses to minimize taxes.  Though there are a number of deductions that may be added back to determine true ash flow, not all add-backs are considered legitimate by buyers or lenders.  Being too aggressive in minimizing taxes today may cost a business owner big dollars at closing.

Some businesses may need a whole new direction!
Unfortunately, there are businesses whose market has changed so drastically that their products or services how have limited demand.  And it might not be the slow economy!  Those business owners may have to consider a whole new business model and get into the research and creative thinking mode.  A good starting point is searching ideas on the internet.
“You can’t always get what you want”
The title to the 1969 song by the Rolling Stones seems to echo what the market is telling many business owners these days.  There is no question that prices for many businesses are down and for various reasons.  But if there are offers on the table a business owner must take a hard look and be realistic as to what has to change, the business or the economy for the price to “sing along” with expectations.

Leases can make or break the sale of a business
The lease terms of the business space can be a major consideration for a buyer.  For example, a retail business with a long term lease on a good location can be attractive.  But a long term lease on a business needing more space to grow could be a detriment.  Or there can be concerns for an expiring lease when the landlord might demand a large increase.  When it comes to negotiating a new lease, business owners must carefully think through the timing of their plans for exiting their business.

These tips are courtesy of Bill Sivell, VR Windsor. Please contact him for additional information on how to amximize the value of your business.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Crisis Management

Struggling to deal with a crisis management plan?

 Is your organization struggling to deal with a crisis or plans to ensure the business exposure to a crisis is minimized?  It is not uncommon to see this paralysis because managers often prefer not to deal with the situation.
Let’s look at some steps that can be taken to help build a safety net.
1.     Maintain sensitivity for even minor or seemingly insignificant events. Some could have the potential to develop into major issues that could be a blow to the business.
2.     Plan ahead with a look to long term strategies as a guide. Work out best and worst case scenarios to help prepare for unseen events.
3.     If a crisis arises act quickly; procrastinating rarely improves the situation.
4.     Create a crisis management team with a mandate to trouble shoot, identify potential problems and empower them to recommend and enact changes to protect the business.
5.     Provide strong and effective training to key employees and take steps to eliminate small issues so they don’t erupt into major problems.
6.     Explore optional solutions and look for new ground to operate from if standard solutions prove inadequate. Think outside the box for solutions.
7.     Don’t panic in a crisis situation. As the leader employees want strength. Keeping a cool head may facilitate focussing on the issues and getting a solution right.

The key to avoiding or minimizing the impact of crises that may arise is to be proactive ahead of adversity. I hope these tips provide insight into ways to fight through any situation that may arise with minimal damage to your business.