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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Lesson #293: Don’t Be Afraid of Hiring Former CEOs as Employees

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/24/2018

The common mistake that most entrepreneurs make when setting up their management team is filling it with people that they feel are easi...




The common mistake that most entrepreneurs make when setting up their management team is filling it with people that they feel are easier to control or won’t make them look stupid.  That typically means an older, former CEO would never get a reasonable look as a direct report into the CEO of most early stage companies.  But, is that fear justified?

WHY MOST ENTREPRENEURS TYPICALLY AVOID HIRING FORMER CEOs

First, their inferiority complex kicks in.  I don’t want a former CEO to come in and identify all my shortfallings, or tell me how to do my job.  Second, they think there must be something wrong with the candidate.  Why would a former CEO be interested in this non-CEO position?  Third, they think the former CEO likes to manage others, and won’t get his or her hands dirty rolling up their sleeves with the execution work that is required.  Or, lastly, they simply conclude that an older person, simply doesn’t have the energy to put in the work required at an early-stage startup.

WHY THAT IS THE WRONG PERSPECTIVE

My immediate reaction:  that is rubbish.  Yes, there may be some candidates that could validate the above hypotheticals.  But, in recruiting, there is never a “one size fits all” perspective, as everyone is truly different, and should be assessed on an individual basis.  Have confidence in yourself, to keep your new hire in check.  Maybe the CEO just prefers the marketing tasks, and has no problem focusing on one department.  Maybe that candidate likes getting early stage businesses off the ground, and has no problem putting in the long hours required.  Don’t forget, there is only room for one CEO in a company at a time, so when CEOs are looking to make a move, they may have no choice but looking at other executive positions if the right CEO positions are not open.

WHY PAST CEOs CAN BE GREAT HIRES

First of all, only a CEO truly understands all the different areas of the business, and how they work together.  So, for example, hiring a CTO that used to wear the CEO hat, not only understands the needs of the technology department, they also know how those needs impact financial budgets, recruiting, product marketing, etc.  So, instead of having an executive that has lived in a vacuum of one department their entire career, it can often be better to find someone that has a broader vantage point when making decisions.

Secondly, former CEOs are not threats to you, they can be material assets for you.  Your business is bound to go through uncharted waters in your growth curve.  Who better to help you navigate those waters, than someone that has been there and done that before.  So, instead of taking time to assess various routes (with  potentially wasted investment dollars), now you can confidently move much faster and waste less “experimenting dollars” in the process.

Thirdly, with lots of CEOs being a jack-of-all-trades, they are great utility players to put out fires as needed in other areas of the business, for which they were not originally hired.  Maybe your COO just quit, and he or she can fill in on that role until a new person is hired.  Or, maybe your head of HR is struggling with creating the right culture or dealing with lots of employee turnover, and this person can help share how they solved those same problems in their last company.  Former CEOs often have lots of tools in their tool box, to help you fix whatever needs fixing.

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BE INTIMIDATED BY FORMER CEOs

Whose problem is it if you are worried about being intimidated by hiring a former CEO?  Yours!!  Hiring a former CEO doesn’t mean you are losing control.  You are still the boss!  Be confident in yourself and your decision making, just as before.  Only now, you have someone with experience in the office that can help you toss around new ideas . . . not hurt or impede your efforts.  They aren’t here to make you look stupid or take your job, they are here to help you.  And, if it doesn’t work out, you can always make a change down the road.  Remember, always hire people smarter and more experienced than you are.  If you are the smartest person in the room, you have a problem!!

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

To be clear, I am not saying there isn’t any justified merit to the entrepreneurs’ concerns raised above.  Those concerns are often very real for several candidates you will meet.  But, that doesn’t mean those concerns should prevent you from interviewing other candidates, who can impress upon you that those concerns are nothing to worry about.  And, more importantly, can impress upon you that you are hiring somebody with the proven skillsets who can help you take your business to the next level, having done exactly that, in a prior company.  So, don’t be afraid of hiring someone smarter or more experienced than yourself . . . that is the holy grail of hiring, when you can find them.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.



Saturday, May 5, 2018

5 Cheapest-to-Most-Expensive Options for Marketing at Trade Shows

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/05/2018

If you are a B2B marketer, industry trade shows are often the ideal meeting place to network with your industry peers, all in one centr...




If you are a B2B marketer, industry trade shows are often the ideal meeting place to network with your industry peers, all in one central place. So, incorporating trade shows into your marketing plans is often a terrific way to get in front of your target customers.  There are many ways to get the word out about your company at trade shows, with varying degrees of cost. Here are the top five options to consider, in order of cost, from least expense to most expensive.

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lesson #292: Should You Clone Yourself When Hiring?

Posted By: George Deeb - 4/25/2018

Come on, we have all thought it as entrepreneurs, at one point or another in our careers:  “I just wished I could clone myself in findin...



Come on, we have all thought it as entrepreneurs, at one point or another in our careers:  “I just wished I could clone myself in finding new employees for my business.  Nobody works harder than me.  Nobody is as smart as me.  I don’t trust anybody to make decisions or manage teams better that I do.”  Sound familiar?  But, is cloning yourself really the right solution for your hiring goals?  There are clear advantages and disadvantages of a strategy like this, so you will need to figure out if cloning yourself will help or hurt your business, based on your business’s specific needs.  Read on.

WHAT EXACTLY IS CLONING YOURSELF?

Any of you fans of the Alien movie series?  Remember in the fourth installment, Alien: Resurrection, when they manufacture a clone of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley character 200 years after her death (from DNA samples of her blood saved in storage), to go kick some alien butt again?  It is pretty much that, only for yourself, while you are still alive, building an army of lookalike “Yous” to go kick some competitors’ butts.

HOW DOES CLONING MANIFEST ITSELF IN YOUR BUSINESS?

Your clones are typically identified by you, personally or through your direction of your HR teams, during your recruiting process.  First, through the job descriptions, with every bullet point sounding like you were actually describing yourself.  Second, through the interview process, with you assessing every candidate as “is this person exactly like me”?  And, third, through the onboarding process, with you training your new “Mini Me” (think Austin Powers), to do the job exactly the way you would do the job.

THE ADVANTAGES OF CLONING YOURSELF?

There are many good reasons to try and clone yourself during your hiring process.  Looking for another similar personality that will fit with yourself and the team culture you are trying to create.  Looking for someone with exactly your same skillsets, that you trust to do the job required and potentially replace you down the road as your succession plan.  Looking for someone who is an optimist on the prospects for your business and can cheerlead that vision to your team with the same fervor and passion that you would.  As a few examples.

THE DISADVANTAGES OF CLONING YOURSELF?

For as many reasons you think cloning yourself is a good idea, I can envision an equal number of reasons cloning yourself could actually be a bad idea.  Maybe you don’t need a “glass half full” optimist like yourself, that is going to tell you everything you want to hear.  Maybe you need a “glass half empty” realist, who will bring a sense of caution to your investment decisions.  Or, you may need a similar “A-Type Personality” to lead your sales team efforts, to help jazz up potential clients.  But, maybe a “B-Type Personality” may be a better fit to manage your more introverted team of technology developers.  Or, why hire someone with your exact same experiences or vantage point, because maybe someone else can help you better identify a better process or avoid known potential pitfalls based on their different past experiences.  As a few examples.

WHAT IS THE RIGHT PATH FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

To me, the decision whether or not to clone yourself comes down to a couple key things.  First of all, what the business needs to be successful should outweigh everything else.  Let’s say you are hiring a head of finance, and one candidate has a dream resume and a track record of proven success for the position, but perhaps the personality is not as outgoing as yourself.  But, another candidate has an okay resume, but a great personality fit.  At the end of the day, who do you trust more to “have their hands on the steering wheel of your business”?  The person that has solid experience and references, or the person that could do the job, but you would rather have a beer with?  In a perfect world, you want everything you are looking for in one candidate.  But, more times than not, you will only get 80% of what you are looking for in one candidate, and you have to be careful to prioritize what of the 20% they are missing is going to do the least damage.

Secondly, it comes down to what do you need personally.  If you did a critical assessment of yourself, are you sure you really need a bunch of “Yous” running around the office.  What do people say about you in your employee reviews from your peers?  Are you creating more chaos than calm?  Are you pulling the company in different directions all the time, without a clear focus?  Maybe what you really need is the opposite of yourself.  You need your Anti-Me to help keep yourself organized, on plan and in check.  It really comes down to what you see as your personal strengths and weaknesses, and filling in any voids in your skillsets.  And, better yet, maybe it is less what you think about yourself, and more what your team thinks about you.  So, man up, ask the tough questions, and get honest feedback from your peers, when needed.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

I have tried to present both the plusses and minuses of cloning yourself in your business, and gave examples of when to do it, when not to do it.  But, if you forced me to side one way or the other on this topic, with all other things being equal, if you can find people that share your same passion, vision, energy, work ethic and skillset, good things should surely follow.  But, if you can’t find more “Yous”, that can be perfectly fine too, as greatness comes in many different shapes and sizes, and having new ideas and fresh perspectives can be equally invigorating for your business.


For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lesson #291: Properly Classify 1099 Contractors vs. W-2 Employees to Avoid Legal Troubles

Posted By: George Deeb - 4/17/2018

Back in Lesson #30, we talked about when it is appropriate to hire employees vs. contractors .  But, often times, small businesses try ...




Back in Lesson #30, we talked about when it is appropriate to hire employees vs. contractors.  But, often times, small businesses try to permanently take the contractor path instead of hiring employees, to try to permanently avoid paying employee benefits and payroll taxes.  That can get you into a lot of trouble.  This post will help you know when staff members will legally be classified as employees vs. contractors in the eyes of the IRS, to help you avoid costly penalities down the road.  To help me with this post, I solicited the input of Maria O. Hart, a member of the employment litigation, trials, and appeals practice group at Parsons Behle & Latimer.

For most small businesses, labor is the biggest line item on their P&L statement — and it can be a vicious circle of needing employees but not being able to afford them. These businesses need employees to scale (and, in some cases, survive), but the true cost of an employee can push even the lowest paid workers off the budget. When that happens, business owners turn to 1099 contractors to fill in the blanks. But expecting these contractors (workers who aren’t entitled to the same benefits as full-time employees) to act as employees, and be treated as such, could result in a major Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violation or, at the very least, some substantial tax fraud accusations.

So, how can you comply with federal labor laws? It starts with knowing the difference between 1099 contractors and W-2 employees. It’s not black and white, but there are a few ways to determine a worker’s correct classification, as you can read at this link at the IRS website and the summary chart below from Law Gives:



 Ask yourself, do they work on site? Do you control their schedule? Do they use the company’s tools and equipment to get their job done? Do you discourage or prohibit them from taking on more jobs or other jobs in your niche or industry? Do they work more than 30 hours per week? If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you might need to consider that contractor a full-blown employee.

Misclassifying an employee as a 1099 contractor could land you in some hot water with the U.S. Department of Labor, or you may find yourself defending against an FLSA lawsuit from an unhappy employee or contractor — after all, misclassification lawsuits are on the rise. That’s because the line between employee and contractor is blurrier than ever. More and more workers are able to work remotely using their own devices and equipment. It’s a technological loophole the FLSA’s creators couldn’t have imagined when they drafted the statute in 1938 — and more business owners are falling prey to this deadly sin.

Avoid a potentially catastrophic lawsuit by classifying your workers correctly from the start and reclassifying them as needed. Know what your workers are doing and how they’re doing they’re assigned duties. Circle back frequently and perform annual audits to ensure everyone is classified as they should be. When in doubt, put yourself in their shoes. Would you feel taken advantage of if you were in their situation? And, of course, always check with your attorney or employment counsel.  Because if you don't, the price could be steep, including penalty payments plus unpaid past taxes all coming due obligations of the business and its owners (even if they think they are protected from limited liability company structures).

Thanks again, Maria, for your help with this post.  If you have any further questions on this topic, feel free to reach out to Maria at  208-562-4893 or mhart@ parsonsbehle .com.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


Friday, April 6, 2018

5 Essential Media Buys for First-Time Marketers

Posted By: George Deeb - 4/06/2018

Getting the word out about your startup business is always a challenge. But at least there are a handful of techniques you can focus on...




Getting the word out about your startup business is always a challenge. But at least there are a handful of techniques you can focus on to jump-start your early marketing efforts, all of which are available on a cost-effective basis.

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Lesson #290: Too Many Meetings Suffocate Morale & Productivity

Posted By: George Deeb - 3/30/2018

Early stage companies have many demands on an employee’s time.  From getting the product built to marketing for new customers to getting...



Early stage companies have many demands on an employee’s time.  From getting the product built to marketing for new customers to getting the capital lined up, it is a never ending battle to fit in all that work in a limited amount of time.  But, what I often see is productivity gets squeezed by early-stage entrepreneurs scheduling way too many meetings, which gets in the way of employees having enough time to do their actual jobs.  And, when productivity slows, the company’s bottom line suffers and employees start looking for the door in frustration.  Let me explain further.

Why So Many Meetings Get Scheduled

There are many reasons to schedule a meeting.  Some are recurring meetings between bosses and their direct-reporting employees, for weekly check-ins and collaborative needs of the team.  Some are one-off meetings for non-recurring items, like annual strategic planning, putting out a client fire or team building events.  But, most get set because entrepreneurs are inexperienced and don’t know any better.  That is largely related to their not trusting the team to do their jobs or their needing to control every single decision that is made.  It is this last category that is the killer.

The Negative Impact on Employees

Employees get frustrated when a couple things happen around meetings.  First, they think it is a waste of time, and they are not even sure why they are needed in the room (so don’t invite everyone to every single meeting, only invite the ones that actually need to be there).  Second, they get frustrated they are sitting in a meeting, and not sitting at their desk getting their actual work done in a more timely fashion (so maximize their time at their desks, not yours).  Or, third, they get offended that they are not trusted to do their job, by a boss that feels they need to keep tight oversight on all of the decisions (so empower your people to make decisions without you).  All of this is a recipe for a disaster, often having employees looking for the exit, where the resulting employee turnover can be crippling to a young company needing to race full steam ahead, as quickly as possible.

Case Study

I was once getting started as an interim executive at a new client and was given a team of people to manage.  On my first day I was handed a calendar of all the weekly meetings that I needed to participate in with my team.  I looked at the long list and realized that about 40% of my time was in meetings, many of which that I deemed as unnecessary, a legacy process from a prior manager.  I didn’t have two days a week to lose in getting my job done.

So, I pulled the team together and asked what each of the meetings were trying to accomplish, and we agreed we didn’t need as many, merging many of the meetings into one.  And, I asked each of the employees to look at their own personal schedules, and to cut out any unnecessary meetings.  One of those persons said they were being included in meetings that were eating up a whopping 80% of his time each week.  I asked how he got any work done at all?  He said he didn’t!!

He said, it was mandatory that he be in those meetings, and he didn’t have a choice.  To which I replied he need to cut his meeting time down to a cap of 20% of time, shedding 75% of his meetings.  He turned white as a ghost saying that was impossible.  I dug in and said it was not only possible, but required by the end of the week.  After a bunch of rethinking his time, he prioritized only the most important meetings, cut his meeting load down to the target, and actually started getting his own work done, reversing years of complaints that he was the bottleneck to others in getting their work done.

How Many Meetings Should Be Scheduled

To me, I try to cap my recurring weekly meetings at 20% of my time.  One one-on-one meeting with each of my direct reports, one meeting with the person managing me and one meeting with my peers to collaborate on needs between departments.  That leaves plenty of other time for the one-off meetings that come up during the normal course of business, again which should be capped within this 20% framework.  This keeps me efficiently working on the most important work that needs to get done, and keeps my team efficiently working on their most important work.  And, when people start checking projects off their to-do list, they feel a sense of accomplishment, the business moves forward and a healthy vibe is maintained in the office.

Flat Organizations Thrive Best

So, my appeal to all you entrepreneurs, don’t suffocate the life out of your companies with too many meetings.  Hire smart people, trust them to do their jobs, and get the heck out of their way, so they can do the jobs they were hired to do.  You don’t have to micro manage every single decision.  Empower your team to make their own decisions in a flat organizational structure.  Even if they make mistakes, that is fine, they will learn from them.  But, the team will be moving twice as fast at getting things done, than if they were burdened with a bunch of meetings.  And, as we know, speed matters with startups.

Concluding Recommendations

Challenge yourself and every employee in your company to cap their recurring weekly meetings at 20% of their time.  That is one day a week, or 8 hours in a normal working day.  That is up to 16 thirty-minute meetings they can schedule, so plenty of slots to work with.  Yes, I said thirty minutes, efficient meetings don’t need to be longer than that.  So, that means come to the meetings organized with a set expectation on how they are going to be run each week.  And, if there is nothing new to update on this week, there is nothing wrong with cancelling meetings.  Give your team the flexibility to only do meetings that they feel are absolutely needed.

As you can probably tell, I am not a fan of scheduling too many meetings.  It often leads to combatting issues like analysis paralysis, management by committee, micromanagement, disgruntled employees and an overall loss of business productivity.  So, instead, take more of a hands-off role in managing your team, kick your business into the next gear and start getting all those unnecessary meetings off of everyone’s calendars.  You will be shocked how much more work will actually get done!!


For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.




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