Great, You Saved on Executive Compensation, But to What End?

Low price is the last refuge for marketers who don’t have the patience or guts to demonstrate value for those that need it. – Seth Godin

When it comes to buying gas for your car, fertilizer for your lawn, or for that matter the price Apple pays for the copper in your iPhone, lowest price makes sense. These are the classic definition of the word commodity – something which comes from the ground and whose price rises and falls with supply and demand.

Unfortunately, we all now use the word commodity to mean much more, applying the sense of generic-ness to just about every product and service available to us. If you are marketing soap, for example, you face over 1,000 competitors on Amazon. If however you’re the marketer behind Tesla or NetJets or the Chicago Bears football team, your job is simpler. You won’t sell as much, but your product is so highly differentiated that when your customer wants you, there’s no close substitute. You are not a commodity. You are unique.

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How a New Platform is Revolutionizing Dispute Resolution (And Will Forever Change Your Contracts)

Many company owners and board members are familiar with some aspect of litigation – or at least the threat of it. The paperwork, the Zoom calls, the meetings, hearings, depositions, the back and forth, the cost—democracy might promise a jury of our peers and having your day in court, but adjudicating a dispute the traditional route is for many, impractical, long, and expensive.

Shutdowns during the pandemic made that point all the more clear. Since the start of COVID-19, the volume of disputes has increased by more than 65% for companies over $1 billion, 50% of in-house legal teams are being pressured to spend less, and 75% of corporations want new preventative dispute mitigation procedures.

“The first question is never, ‘What is every single thing we can fight about?’  The first question out of any executive’s mouth is always, ‘This is a distraction—how quickly can we get this done and behind us?’ says attorney Rich Lee, whose 15 years in the field include general counsel roles at Livevol and Civis Analytics, a data science company stemming from Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. “Nobody, when you’re on the business side, ever relishes that dragged-out fight in any form.”

That’s why Lee teamed up with two fellow general counsels and a legal operations exec to form New Era ADR, a private arbitration and mediation platform rooted in efficiency, transparency, experience, and innovation. He says their process is 90% faster and up to 90% cheaper.

“Anytime there’s a potential dispute, it’s a massive distraction,” Lee says. “It costs the company a lot of money, a lot of time, and frankly, I think the worst part that’s immeasurable is that attention that you end up devoting to navigating a potential dispute. You could be in a sales meeting and you’ll be thinking about that dispute. It’s our firm belief that it just doesn’t have to be that way.”

We spoke with the New Era CEO and co-founder about the intricacies of arbitration vs. mediation, how to de-risk your transactions, and the best ways to protect yourself from arbitrary outcomes.

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Supporting Your Team Through Tumultuous Times

When teams struggle, it affects their productivity and the company’s bottom line. As part of a research team that evaluated the effects of another “Black Swan” event, Hurricane Katrina, I can draw direct inferences from those effects to the impact of COVID-19 and the time that it will take teams to recover.

We know how important this issue is because we hear the refrain from business owners and executives every day: You’re exhausted. Your teams are exhausted. And you worry that there’s far more under the surface, things your teams are experiencing  that they’re  just not talking about.

Chances are, you’re right.

Do you know whether your team might be experiencing these effects?

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Private Equity Looks to Operational Leadership in Hyper Competitive Markets

Private equity funds are entering a new phase that requires new tactics to be successful against many alternative sources of funds. With a vast reservoir of dry powder – $1.5 trillion waiting to be deployed – PE funds seeking the whip hand will build and pivot while the economy is reinventing and reviving in 2021 and 2022. But what worked in the past won’t work in the future. Moving forward, adding value will require more attention to management fit for the purpose of rapidly transforming portfolio companies.

“Every good private equity professional will tell you that the most important factor behind a successful investment is the management team,” said Eric Jones, a partner and member of the corporate and private equity groups at Detroit law firm Honigman LLP. Jones was a speaker at the University of Michigan Private Equity Conference held virtually in September 2020 and attended by InterimExecs. “You can have even market share, but without a very strong management team, it’s not going to be sustained. The business isn’t going to grow and the investment piece isn’t going to be realized,” he said.

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The 6 Biggest Mistakes Companies Make

“Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” is a quote commonly attributed to John Kennedy as he accepted responsibility for the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The idea, however, is an old one. Roman historian and politician Tacitus said that, “This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone.”

When things are going well, it’s easy to share credit as a team. When things go sideways, buck-passing and finger-pointing rule the day. Success has many fathers, but for companies, so does failure. The thing about business is that it is always about the people, the process, and systems already in place. And those can fail over time, even at the most successful organizations. Errors, however, can actually help a business move forward – if the problem is identified and fixed. It’s how the owner and management team respond to those mistakes, misses, omissions — or even complacency — that can make all the difference.

InterimExecs surveyed interim leaders from around the world for our 2020 Interim Executives Survey. In addition to asking executives about who’s hiring them and the roles they’re taking on, we asked executives for insights into “The Biggest Mistakes Companies Make.” While their responses varied, clear themes emerged in the areas of leadership, operations, human capital, strategy, financials, and change initiatives. Focusing on these fundamentals is a good starting point for any struggling business.

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When Should You Bring in a CFO?

In every business there comes a tipping point when change is needed to get to the next stage of growth. While as a company owner or CEO, you may be adept at running the day-to-day, at some point you may start to feel that you need to be more tuned into your finances.

Maybe you have a Controller or bookkeeper keeping transactions up-to-date so you can run reports for your banker from time to time. But what happens when transactions start to get more difficult to deal with or you need more insight into financial metrics that will drive strategic decisions? If the following situations sound familiar, it may be time to start thinking about hiring a Chief Financial Officer (CFO):

  • You are growing fast and looking to acquire or attract new capital
  • Investors or financiers are requesting more sophistication in reporting
  • The company doesn’t have the internal capabilities to consistently (and accurately) close out the books every month
  • The business is facing declining revenues, stagnant growth, or rising market competition that calls for someone to provide more strategic leadership and set out a direction and action plan
  • You feel like you don’ have a full handle on the metrics and KPIs that ultimately drive the business and measure your progress
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CFO Leads Cannabis Company to IPO

The global market for legal marijuana is valued at $17.7 billion as of 2019, and Grand View Research says that number is expected to rise to $73.6 billion by 2027. A quickly evolving market, more interim and project-based executives are being called on to lead the charge.

U.S. legal marijuana market

Jon Paul started his career at Arthur Anderson in the seventies then moved to multiple Chief Financial Officer positions, before getting on the cannabis bus in 2018 when he was recruited to take San Francisco-based gummies company, Plus Products, public.

Cannabis industry newsletter Grown In interviewed Jon Paul about the challenges involved in taking a company to a listing on the Canadian Stock Exchange. 

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What is the Role of Human Resources During a Crisis?

Can “good” HR be a strategic advantage in a crisis?

Through the largest and longest bull market in history, many business leaders continued to dismiss the human resources (HR) function as an operational, and largely administrative function. HR’s activities can appear to be – and often are – disconnected from the “real work” of an organization. But effective HR leadership is so much more, and can be a strategic advantage as businesses deal with the COVID pandemic. Let’s unpeel the several roles of HR to better understand how it can contribute.

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46 Predictions on How the Pandemic of 2020 Will Change the Business World

World War II was devastating Europe. Bombs unleashed death and destruction across London. The Allies could barely secure a beach head in Normandy. Undaunted in those dark days, visionary leaders dreamed of a brighter future when the world would emerge from the deadly carnage, and imagined the structure of a post World War II world.

Businesses throughout the world now confront a different kind of mortal enemy, but equally deadly and disruptive in its own way. This microscopic virus is virtually invisible, knows no borders, and is agnostic to any demographic. It confines us all to our homes, burying loved ones dying senselessly for no cause and way too soon, and upending our work and home lives. Just as our forbearers prepared for a new world order once the terror of their present one surrendered, we now have some time to humbly roll up our sleeves and get ready for what awaits us on the other side once the pandemic is finally vanquished.

 Many of the thoughts in this article are hardly novel, and really simply continue if not accelerate existing trends. Some ideas may seem like logical outgrowths of the pandemic provided they remain emblazed in our consciousness. Others may be dismissed as unrealistic or overly dramatic and alarmist.

 No one, however, can doubt a few things. Our lives and approaches to work, our society and business will change, some for the better, others not. Like inventions, there are unintended consequences and manifestations, many of which we cannot now foresee. Finally, and most obvious as we emerge from this Act of God–  man may make plans, but God just laughs.

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Strategy Focused CEOs See Growth and Opportunity Even in Crisis

While many companies are facing new challenges and increasing volatility, we’ve found that most leaders’ responses and outcomes tend to be unique. While quarantined with COVID-19, Todd Herman, author of The Alter Ego Effect, decided to interview 29 CEOs to hear how they described their circumstances.  

Each company was experiencing a downturn. Herman analyzed each CEO’s word choice and language to see how they were reacting, noting the importance of a leader’s pronouncements: “words create reality.” He saw big differences in how executives were wired and reacted to the economic rollercoaster. His findings led him to divide the CEOs into three groups:

Fear-Focused CEOs – emotional, concerned, and overwhelmed. Tended to use negative future pacing words like ‘struggle’, ‘fear’, ‘hard’, or ‘difficult’. Spent the most time watching media or finger pointing rather than what could be done.

Unfocused CEOs – dismissive, uncertain, wait and see. Talked about getting a plan, but tended to use the word ‘plan’ in a negative or needs-based way.

Strategy Focused CEOs – take and use what’s given, focused on growth/opportunity. Positive. Spending time leaning into networks.

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