Sometimes It Takes A Specialist
What C-Suite Leadership Can Bring To Your Business.
by Chia-Li Chien | Mar. 14, 2013
Still full of energy, passion, talent, expertise and contacts, Baby Boomer C-Suite employees at Fortune 500 Companies are turning fifty-five and sometimes finding themselves with an attractive early retirement package too good to turn down. As a result, these corporate leaders are making themselves more accessible and available to small and mid-sized businesses more than ever before.
Of course, if you are like most privately-held business owners, you may believe you could not afford to bring this type of talent on board, are not sure what value they could bring anyway, and don’t see how a former C-Suite decision-maker can help build business value.
I had a client a couple years ago who felt the same way. At my recommendation, she brought in a former Fortune 500 sales leader part-time on a salary plus commission basis. Using that person’s connections in the company’s specialty niches, sales sky-rocketed, and the company went from $2.5 M in sales to $15 M in just two and a half years by selling back to Fortune 500 firms.
But maybe it’s not sales you need at this point in your business model, but you do need capital and investments. How does an additional capital outlay to bring on a C-Suite consultant make any sense?
Well, if they have connections to capital sources you may have never heard about or have only dreamed of, it might make sense. Fortune 500 speaks a different language than privately-held companies, and it might be at this point you need someone who speaks their language. Let me emphasize that this person cannot come in and work magic. While he or she might be a fit for your financial model, the real secret is that this person has a network that most likely extends miles beyond your own, AND, speaks the language.
Intrigued? Well you should be if you are at a point in business where you want to find out what you might not know about your company. In other words, you’ve realized you “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Bringing on C-Suite leadership can provide:
• High-level insights you and/or your team may not be able to bring to the table.
• A network of people to whom you would not otherwise have access.
• Insider knowledge of the Fortune 500 structure that could make a significant impact on your company.
• The impetus your company needs to change the pace of your growth in revenue and value.
I’ve seen it many times. A business owner may intuitively know where his or her company is going, but may not have the capability to grow as fast as they need to grow as they look to the future and plan to cash out with increased business value. Sometimes, while the owner is moving at a 100 M.P.H., the internal team is moving at more like 10 m.p.h.
And realizing that this team may still be made up of people hired when the business first started—people right out of school, family, people willing to work cheaply—may mean that they don’t get it and also have trouble “seeing the forest for the trees.”
But it’s hard to trust “outsiders,” isn’t it? Who to turn to? Who has capable hands?
My team and I often come into a privately-held business for a discovery process that can help you get a clearer overall view of your entire company, from your team to your P&L. We can help determine whether or not you might benefit from someone who can—
• Process improvement, maximization and optimization
• Provide financial structure and processes
• Uncover obscure issues that may be holding you back
• Provide leadership behavior improvement
• Uncover new and improved sales processes
• Reveal company spending waste and overlay
• Tell it like it is
I was once in a client situation in which the employees had shared with the owner a spreadsheet, with miles and miles of columns, showing how unnecessary purchases were dominating disappointing profit and loss figures. In the meantime, the owner was finalizing plans to enter a specific sales channel to increase sales by $100,000.
I took a look at the spreadsheet and realized that the problem was not in the numbers, but the presentation of the numbers. I put the information into an easy-to-read PowerPoint format, which revealed that cleaning up the unnecessary purchases could save the company five times the amount of money the new sales channel could bring in.
By simply repackaging the information the team had and turning the data into a decision-making tool and not just rows of numbers, the business owner realized he had more control over what was happening to his profits than he would ever have from a new sales effort into a new channel. It was a win-win for him and his team! But without the clarity of vision from an outsider, this may have never happened.
Are you, at this point considering a C-Suite outside consultant but are still scratching your head about how to afford this person? As I’ve already mentioned, this person does not have to come on board as a full-time employee. You could hire as a part-time employee or contractually. You could hire this person to join you for help for the length of a long-term or short-term project. Decide if you need this person on-site or if off-site would work. You can structure pay by:
1. Equity share % (I usually do not recommend this)
2. Negotiating for fee for a specific project
3. Long-term goals that may take 2-3 years to reach
Above all, interview and talk to a C-Suite candidate extensively. This person must be a good match to your company culture and your ethics. Are you seeking help in profits? Sales? Investments? Business development? Identify exactly what you are looking for and be confident this person meets your criteria.
It’s just a fact. Targets, goals, pressure, internal issues and personality can obscure any business owner’s view of their own company. C-Suite leadership can help clear the trees, pinpoint previously unknown challenges and/or opportunities and provide the structure you need to increase your company value.
We can help you put pen to paper and figure out whether the decision to bring a C-Suite leader is the right next move for your company. Just call or contact us to set up an appointment and get started on a discovery process that clears the view and reveals your capacity to grow your company in value.
About Chia-Li Chien
Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; Chia-Li “like JOLLY,” Succession Strategist of Value Growth Institute, dedicated to helping private business owners increase their company equity value. She is the award-winning author of the books Show Me The Money and Work toward Reward and a faculty of the American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was named a Top Small Business Resource by the New York Times You’re the Boss blog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (704) 268-9378 .