Part 1: Preparing Your Business for Q4
“When this pandemic hit, it was a shock to everybody,” says Sheldon Harris, a coach at CEO Coaching International. “But what caused some companies and leaders to freeze up in the light of this challenge actually inspired others to new levels of creativity and ingenuity.”
That combination of outside-the-box thinking and decisive action is what separates companies that are still struggling from companies that are back to making BIG happen as we head into Q4. Sheldon recently moderated a panel with some of his CEO Coaching International colleagues to discuss the kinds of innovative leadership strategies we’re seeing from our top-performing clients.
Joining Sheldon were:
- Rafe Wilkinson, a serial entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience leading organizations that achieved great success in digital marketing, retail convenience, contract security, and healthcare consulting.
- Stephen Bebis has been a CEO for the last 30 years at multi-billion dollar firms including Home Depot and Golf Town.
- Jason Reid is a lifelong entrepreneur who spent most of his career in the construction industry driving major sales during housing markets of all shapes and sizes.
- Mike Marchi, a senior business executive with a history of improving financial and operational performance resulting in increased shareholder value. Mike’s experience includes leadership roles in public, private equity and family-owned privately-held global corporations including General Electric, Citibank, Kohler, American Standard, Grohe, Lixil and SK Capital.
1. Control your online sales pivot.
“The most successful companies that we coach are the ones where the CEOs have really dove into the sales process,” says Jason Reid. “We’re probably going to be stuck in this situation for 12 to 24 months. You have to change your sales process, and that requires great leadership. The companies I coach that are doing much better than they were pre-Covid got there because the CEO decided, ‘I’m diving into the sales process. I’m going to help change this. I’m going to help figure out how we’re going to make this happen. My sales manager is part of the process, but I’m going to lead from the front.’”
For most CEOs, the key to that process is managing your online pivot. Not all of your salespeople are going to be as comfortable on Zoom as they are pounding the pavement or wining and dining prospects. The companies that are ahead of the curve used lockdowns and downtime to invest in better technology and in retraining their sales teams to use that tech effectively.
“Shifting from a 100% outside sales force to a majority inside sales force requires a lot of tough decisions,” says Rafe Wilkinson. “A lot of effective new training needs to be put in place. New skills need to be found. Most companies aren’t eliminating their outside sales force, but they’ve reduced it down to just a few very successful rainmakers, and then they drive everything internally on the phone and e-mail databases. It’s not been easy, but it’s an incredibly courageous move which is showing dividends early on.”
2. Reapply your core competencies.
The pandemic is reminding CEOs that effective sales strategies aren’t really about a product or service. They’re about meeting customer needs. And as needs have changed during the pandemic, smart companies are changing those strategies as well.
“I coach a CEO who is in the travel business,” says Stephen Bebis. “When Covid hit, his revenue went to zero. Instead of putting his head in the sand, we talked about, what business are you really in? You’re in the sales business, you’re helping companies drive your top line through travel incentives. How can we pivot to generate sales during this crisis? We pivoted into product incentives. His real core competency was helping companies achieve their sales goals, we just shifted into products. And he is actually rocking it with this new pivot.”
Notes Sheldon Harris, “One of my clients, Steve Kizy, the CEO of Midway Dental Supply, lost his entire marketplace. It’d be very easy for CEOs in that situation to cut all your sales staff. But he rallied his sales team and said, ‘We’re going to keep the same sales targets we already had, where are we going to find the sales?’ They went and found a whole new vertical they could get into, and a market, and literally within a matter of four weeks they replaced all the sales they lost. The good news is, now that dental offices are reopening, Steve is experiencing record growth as a result of that synergistic move.”
One of Mike Marchi’s clients works in another industry that’s been hammered by Covid-19: food service. “His business dropped 90% in one week,” Mike says. “One of the adjacent markets that actually was doing quite well was grocery stores. In fact, the demand for food for grocery stores was exceeding their supply. So he was able to enter that market and recoup a lot of the business that he had lost from restaurants and fast food. He also leveraged his PPP funds to keep his employees onboard and do cleaning, training, and PM work. Within nine weeks business came back to pre-Covid levels as restaurants started to do carryout.”
3. Widen your talent search.
In any business environment, the best investment a CEO can make is in manpower. Heading into Q4, CEOs have never had more access to more top talent.
“It’s a great opportunity,” says Stephen Bebis. “Now that a lot of businesses are learning how to operate digitally and virtually, the pool of executives has opened dramatically. I coach a company here in the Northeast, where we were able to find a top-notch executive in New York. Now that we’re kind of used to that virtual world, we found a really top-notch executive who’s available. And secondly, the bricks and mortar guys are really suffering and laying off great people who are very talented, and unfortunately are in the wrong segment today that’s not growing as e-commerce is growing. We’re able to tap into some of these executives very effectively.”
In some cases, the only thing that’s standing between CEOs and exceptional hires is the CEO. If you’ve been resisting the move to a decentralized virtual workspace, you’re only cutting your company off from valuable resources, some of which might be available at a discount.
“One of my clients is in IT,” Mike Marchi says, “and he has learned that now he can hire anybody almost anywhere in North America. Everybody’s very comfortable with working from home now. Even if he’s in an expensive market, he can go to a less expensive market, hire some of the best IT programmers, and then just have them connected via Zoom. And that’s been huge.”
Jason Reid has also noticed an emerging talent pool for companies that haven’t been sitting on their hands during the pandemic. “I think a lot of the companies we coach are taking advantage of the fact that many of our competitors are frozen,” he says. “You’ve got all these A players within these organizations who are looking for someone to tell them where they’re heading and CEOs are saying, ‘I don’t know.’ It is so easy to take A players away from your competitors right now. In fact it’s never been easier. Now is the time you should be going out there and grabbing the best talent in your industry and taking them for your own. Because they’re all dying looking for someone to lead them right now. And there are not enough leaders.”
What kind of leadership is top talent responding to right now? In Part 2, our coaches discuss three ways that the best CEOs are keeping their remote teams positive, motivated, and focused on making BIG happen in Q4.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs, and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 600 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 40 countries. Every coach at CEO Coaching International is a former CEO or President that has made big happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $1 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight and nine figure exits. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for three years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 59% during their time as a client, more than five times the national average. For more information, please visit: https://www.ceocoachinginternational.com
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