Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

Buyers for your company: How to build a great list?

by Steve Popell on June 14, 2010

In a previous post, we discussed the fact that becoming an attractive strategic acquisition candidate should begin with learning precisely what prospective buyers think that means, and how to elicit that information in a series of telephone interviews.  But, an equally important element is determining whom to interview.  This post will address that question.

The first, and most obvious, step in compiling a list of prospective buyers in your industry is simply to brainstorm with anyone who fits the following profile.

  1. Has a valid input on this topic
  2. Can be relied upon to keep totally confidential even the fact that there has been such a conversation.  The notion that your company is (or will soon be) for sale can be very destructive in the marketplace.

As long as you have complete confidence in the discretion of each individual, the more contributors the better.

The next step is to consult as many merger & acquisition databases as you can identify.  Database research can help in two distinct ways.  First, it can provide information on specific acquisitions.  Second, and as importantly, it can suggest matchups that might not have occurred to you and your colleagues.  Discussions that follow will often lead to whole new categories of prospective buyers.  The basis for this research is your company’s Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code number, along with the parameters that are most relevant, such as:

  1. That the SIC code number relates to sellers;
  2. Period of investigation (e.g. last three years)
  3. Sellers’ annual revenue range
  4. Whether to include international buyers and/or sellers

When in doubt, do not leave out any parameter, or narrow it unduly.  It is far better to have too many data points than too few.  You can always drop any that prove to be irrelevant.

The rest of this part of the process is iterative; i.e. back and forth between brainstorming and database research, until you feel that you have reached the point of diminishing returns.   At that time, shift your attention to identifying a specific executive to interview in each company.  This information should be readily available on the prospective buyer’s website.

In a relatively small company, the CEO or CFO is the most likely choice.  In a larger company, there may be an individual specifically charged with acquisitions, such as the Director (or Manager) of Corporate Development.  Since the title will vary from company to company, it may be necessary to click on the name of someone you think may have this responsibility.  His or her write-up should be very helpful in this regard, and will probably provide contact information, as well.

Once you have developed the list of companies and individuals to contact, craft a questionnaire along the lines discussed in the previous post, conduct the interviews, collate the data and, finally, analyze the results.  The product of all this effort will be the profile of the attractive strategic acquisition candidate from the perspective of the marketplace.

Good luck.

PhotoPopell This article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell. Steve has been a general management consultant since 1970. Steve is a Certified Management Consultant, business valuation expert, and inventor of ExiTrak®– a process designed to assist the privately-held company owner/manager to build an attractive strategic acquisition candidate

The next installment in the QUALITYtweet series is: 7 tips for acting on customer feedback

Here are the first fourteen posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture
  13. Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)
  14. Quality #14: Process improvement and 3E’s

#QUALITYtweet Critical Question:

You have taken your customer’s feedback; have you REALLY acted upon it?

Formal Customer Feedback is a proven tool for bringing about meaningful improvements in your business and offerings. Typical methods of collecting customer feedback include surveys, feedback forms, listening to customer in one-to-one meetings or just watching customers use your products and services. But all improvement starts when you start listening to the voice of your customers and act upon it. It is easy to analyze customer feedback and create good looking charts, but the key is to identify what feedback really means to you as a business.

A few years back, I interviewed a candidate for a process improvement position. His resume’ indicated that he had worked on designing a customer feedback collection system. I was impressed and curious to know more. Further in the interaction, the candidate revealed that his boss (Quality Manager) treated “customer feedback collection” as a task. Once feedback came in, he would send a report to the top management and strike the task off from his task list.

Collecting customer feedback and not acting upon it is a huge waste – as it might appear that you collected the feedback to make the other party feel good about it, which is flattering, but not meaningful. Smart customers will remember their feedback and take a notice when you serve them next time.

Mature organizations devise an integrated customer feedback program which includes both internal customers (people) and external ones. Internal customer feedback program ensures that you identify improvement areas from within.

Here are a few ideas for you to ensure that your integrated customer feedback initiative delivers what is intended to – i.e. meaningful business change:

  1. Seek feedback on overall experience: Most companies seek feedback limited to a product, service or department. Ask the right questions to gauge the overall experience including communication, systems, ease of use and pricing. With the right questions, customers will think broadly and give more constructive feedback.
  2. Acknowledge the feedback and thank them: Once customers share their feedback, acknowledge the receipt and do not forget to thank them. Make it personal. This is the starting point of post-feedback communication.
  3. Reward: A lot of companies offer discounts or freebies when customers share their feedback. This is a good way to ensure involvement and initiative. This works even better when seeking feedback from internal customers.
  4. Keep them involved: Share feedback with customers about their feedback and what you are doing about it. Most companies make the mistake of never going back to the customer after the first feedback cycle. If customer spares valuable time sharing the feedback, it is your obligation to inform them about your follow-up actions and status. In case of internal customers, you can also involve them in solution definition.
  5. Treat Customer Feedback Program as a project: This is very crucial to ensure that actions are followed through. After feedback is received, create a mini-project on improvement actions with defined deadlines and expected outcomes. Creating action log helps maintain momentum and focus on improvement actions.
  6. Ship Results: Show customers how their feedback has helped you improve your processes, delivery methods and service offerings that positively impacts their business. Implement improvement actions on your customer projects and allow them to experience change.
  7. Consider a follow-up feedback: Now that your customers have experienced improvements, consider a follow-up feedback to ensure that they acknowledge your efforts and share their comments.

Customer feedback is never a one-way street – but a two way lane that can allow your customers to become your partners in process improvement.

Interviews for Business Knowledge

by Guy Ralfe on November 25, 2009

Spill the beansRecently I was asked to step in and conduct an interview for a consulting position. My initial reaction was “not another one!”  For me interviewing seems to have such a high cost to it and also a relatively high failure rate just because people can raise their game momentarily (up to 2 hrs for an interview) but maintaining that performance over a number of months on the job is where proof of the interview and selection becomes apparent.

At the start of the interview I found my mood in the wrong place, the flow of the interview felt strained and awkward for me and I suspect as much for the candidate. I thought to myself ‘how would I like it if I was the candidate?’ If it was me taking the time out of my day to be at the interview, I would want it to be as beneficial to me as possible. I would want a fair chance to present my experiences and competencies to demonstrate the potential value for the hiring organization and I need to make an assessment if this position and company is where I want to take my career.

So then what is the purpose of the interview for the hiring organization? I needed to present the company as a possibility to the candidate, give guidance about the position in order that we can make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the candidate. I was surprised how similar both sides of the process were and really that this was just as important for our organization as it was for the candidate, we don’t want a good candidate turning us down! My mood was quickly adjusted and the interview picked up and became a far more engaging and effective interaction.

Now as the interaction developed I suddenly became aware of another possibility I had been overlooking during my previous interviews – interviews are a learning opportunity!

Most candidates that apply for a position generally get to the interview because they have some tangible experience in a domain that you are seeking to fill. Sometimes they might even come from a competitor, and because of the interview situation candidates are willing to talk more freely than they might otherwise about their experiences and previous organizations.

Now I found myself listening to the candidate, not only for his or her relevant experiences, but also the information that was being provided to describe and substantiate situations. I was suddenly aware of a whole load of information being provided in relation to how a competitor is running their operations.

Some examples of the kinds of information that can be shared are:

  • Sales cycle and licensing structures
  • Potential clients
  • Project structures and execution
  • Project and organizational staffing
  • Project methodologies
  • Charges and rates
  • Salaries and performance plan structures
  • Lessons learned in product delivery
  • Networking and references
  • Product strategy
  • etc

Often people join and attend forums to gather insight into these topics. By looking at an interview as an engagement opportunity, more than just screening candidates, you will be surprised at how much information and learning you can get – remember “knowledge is power in the knowledge age

Interviews are still costly, but if you look at them as a tool to hire candidates and a source of knowledge to evaluate and build your business with – the cost just got a whole lot less.

As a foot note for job seekers: remember you are always being interviewed, during every interaction people draw assessments of you. Many people tell stories about how they were lucky to be in the right place at the right time, the truth is that they produced the right assessment at the right time.