Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

This is the season when our family and many, many others celebrate the greatest gift of all, the Christ child. We are blessed in so many ways.

To our friends, we wish you a season of peace, joy and love. May you share your gifts with others so that we all benefit and are enriched.

We look forward to the next year with great optimism and hope that you will be part of our business family.

Have a wonderful holiday.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

“How’s that working for you”

By John Maver

“How’s that working for you” is often asked by Dr Phil to his guests. While in most cases, it is meant to lead the reinforcement that their behavior is incorrect, it also is a way of actually getting feedback.

Writing these posts as a one way communication is very much like talking to oneself. That can be okay unless you find yourself say “Huh?” a lot.

The objective is to share relevant information in a manner that is helpful to the readers. I can only tell that if I hear from you.

So I am asking two things.

First, comment on the posts and let me know your thoughts. Go back to the earlier ones and check out those ideas too. I welcome your feedback and any ideas or additions that you have. That could lead to new posts that might be helpful to you as well as others. I’ll write back to you. This means that you should check back often to see the new posts and the new ideas. You never know which one will be THE ONE that can explode your business forward.

Second, pass on this site to others so that they too can benefit from the ideas. I have found during my years in business that while the specific execution of an idea may not be transferable, the basis of the idea generally is and it can be of great benefit to others. It provides fresh and creative thinking to different industries. The abundance mentality really works.

Thanks for reading and let me ask…

“How’s this working for you?”

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Summary - CEO Tips I wish I’d had when I started.

By John Maver
Part of a presentation to the Renaisance Forum for CEOs

CEO Tips I wish I’d had when I started. As I said at the beginning, I learned from first hand experience supplemented by a lot of reading. I had some great role models in my life and they were helpful too. Most taught me what to do. Some taught me what not to do so you can learn from everybody. I’ll bet that you had some of both in your career too.

There are many other tips that can be added in subsequent wrings but these are the most important in my experience.
1 What’s my job? What am I responsible for?
2 It’s the people. It’s all about the people.
3 The roadmap to your vision.
4 Who are you? What is the brand YOU?
5 “What’s in it for me” – Your Customer
6 Stick with what you are good at.
7 Do it. Just do it!

I’d offer you one more tip. It comes from consulting with the many clients I have been fortunate to assist.

Invest in an expert to accelerate your progress. If you don’t have the right one(s) in your company hire a consultant. The ROI is substantial.

“Recognize the skills and traits you don’t possess and hire people who have them.”
Howard Schultz – Starbucks

Why do I recommend this? It would be easy to say that since I am a business acceleration management consultant and business advisor, it is self serving. Yes, in a way it is. But it is more than that. Your responsibility as a CEO is to lead. To set the direction and to incorporate the learning such as that above into your operations. One of the tips is to stick to what you are good at. For those areas that are not your core competency, get the right person to help. That may or may not be me. So it is really self serving FOR YOU!!

Make the investment to secure a good business advisor. Do it today. Let me know if we can help.

Remember, there is no rewind button on business or life.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

CEO Tip 8 Do it. Just do it!!!!

By John Maver
Part of a presentation given at the Renaisance Forum for CEOs

This is a great Nike slogan that reached a lot of people and established Nike’s reputation in athletic wear. But it is much more than that. It is a call to action. To actually employ the employees and the leadership teams in the culture that has been created. To capitalize on the capital you have invested and the brands created. To be meaningful to your customers, to fill their needs and to do it through your significant strengths. You just have to do it. A good plan in the market has a far better chance of successful impact than a great plan still being developed

“The thing that keeps me awake in this business is the speed at which you have to move.”
Robert Nardelli CEO Home Depot

Many CEO’s get to the top based on their success at making decisions. However, once at the top there is the realization that the decisions are different. At all other levels in the company on important decisions all you could say is no to the project. If you agreed with the idea or recommended project, it went up the line to the next level of authority for their concurrence. Now, at the CEO level, you're it. You make that “Yes” decision. The final decision is yours!

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Wayne Gretzsky

But there can be a reluctance to actually make that decision. It can be seen in some of the following actions:
* Paralysis by analysis.
* Do more research.
* Send it to a committee for further study.

All of these are delays in the decision making process and all cause the company’s progress to slow or stall. Often times they come under the umbrella thought of “We will do this when things settle down.” Guess what?? Things never settle down. So get on with it and start driving your business forward.

“Get out of your own way … Your success depends on it.”
Bill Gates Microsoft

How are you doing?

Are you poised for action or are you treading water at the moment?

What is keeping you from driving ahead?

Think about getting some professional consulting help to be a catalyst for you and your team.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Saturday, December 15, 2007

CEO Tip 7 “Stick with what you are good at.”

By John Maver
Presented at the Renaissance Forum for CEOs

“Core Competency is an area of specialized expertise that is the result of harmonizing complex streams of technology and work activity.” CK Prahalad and Gary Hamel

That definition by the initiators of this concept is a little tough for me so let me offer this thought. “Stick with what you are good at.” A core competency is something that a firm can do well, provides customer benefits, is hard for competitors to imitate and can be leveraged widely to many products and markets. Clearly these provide a competitive advantage…if you stick to them and use them. Funny, how one has to add that last line in there because so many companies stray and engage in what is known as strategic creep. The result is that they end up far a field from their real core competencies and they pay the price.

Your strategic plan should identify your core competencies and how to use them most effectively. Most fall into three overall categories of strategic focus. They are low price, technological advantage and customer service. Within each of those are many more specific core competencies that enable the company to deliver on that particular strategic focus.

"Modern business theory suggests that most activities that are not part of a company’s core competency should be outsourced.” Alex Meinhoff

Here is an example from the sports world of what can happen when you don’t do this and I know that all of you have seen similar examples.

Garo Yepremian, Miami Dolphins field goal kicker, despite all of his success, is remembered by many people for an embarrassing incident in Super Bowel VII. Yepremian was sent in to kick a field goal. The field goal attempt was blocked and Yepremian managed to get to the ball. He picked it up. Rather than just fall on it he attempted to throw a pass. The ball slipped from his hands and went into the arms of Redskins cornerback Mike Bass, who returned it for a touchdown. You may recall that this was the Dolphin’s undefeated season. Yepremian’s gaff made the score 14-7 Dolphins. They hung on to win but think what could have happened.

“What it will come down to…is that we will try to do what we do best. We will go with our strengths.”
Vince Lombardi (They won 5 NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls)

Honda is known for their expertise in engines and they have expanded that core competency from lawn mowers, to outboard motors to motor cycles and to automobiles. Volvo is known for its safety core competency. Both are sticking to what they are good at.

In the 1990s, Sears Roebuck divested itself of Allstate Insurance, Dean Witter, and its real estate brokerage activities to focus on its core competency, which was retailing general merchandise.

Mercedes is divesting Chrysler and Ford is selling off Jaguar and its other luxury car businesses.

Wendy’s divested Tim Horton’s doughnuts.

Chainsaw Al Dunlop divested almost everything in his companies but that’s another story.

“Baseball was okay but let’s get back to the court with the Bulls.”
Michael Jordon

What are your personal core competencies?

What are the core competencies of your company?

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Friday, December 14, 2007

CEO Tip 6 “What’s in it for me” – Your Customer

By John Maver
Presented at the Renaissance Forum for CEOs

"What's in it for me." This isn’t just a song by Faith Hill. It is a way of life for your customers. They don’t care about you and your business issues. They are interested in what makes their life better. How can you or your product help them? Yes they want a great price and they want value but most of all they want that emotional benefit that says "This fills MY needs." It isn’t always the best product from a logical standpoint. The emotion is also important and needed. Think about it.

“People don’t want a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole.”
Theodore Levitt

Value is what the consumer says it is. This is where a brand has to walk the talk.

"It's the EXPERIENCE, stupid!" as James Carvel might have said

Customer satisfaction = Your performance / Customer Expectations

What a great simple equation of how to determine customer satisfaction. Are you under or over delivering against their expectations? Better be over delivering.

Research shows that people want:
To have you really know what they want and need
To be treated with respect and to be listened to
Not be bounced around and treated like dummies
Not be served by people who don’t know their stuff
To have products that fill those needs

Find out what customers want from you and know that what you are providing matches it. Do the research and don’t guess. Deliver what you say you will. Far too many businesses focus on ways to keep customers, only to lose sight of the fact that their product or service simply isn't what it should be. Stop talking about features and start talking about benefits. The benefits to the customer. The benefits make a customer, YOUR customer. Make yourself more valuable to your customers, become a part of their world. Give them the five star treatment and they will give you five star loyalty.

“Call it "loyalty" or "customer intimacy". Come hell or high water, get close to that customer, listen to that customer, and love up that customer for all you're worth”.
Tom Peters

How do you measure your customers’ loyalty and what are you doing to drive it ahead?

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CEO Tip 5 Who are you? What is the brand YOU?

By John Maver

Part of a presentation given to the Renaissance Forum for CEOs

As the old wise marketing guru said “ Branding is the essence of successful marketing.” Brand equity is a precious gem. While not particularly rare it can be very valuable. So how do you tap into this treasure?

Consumers and customers don’t buy products or companies they buy brands. They form relationships with brands. The performance of your company or product, what it does and how it does it, is the core identity for the brand. The brand also has a distinctive personality and character that makes an emotional and trust based connection with the customer and distinguishes it from competitive brands.

“What Is a Customer Relationship? It is an on going conversation in which the customer never thinks of you without thinking of the two of you.”
Tom Peters

What does Peters mean when he says the customer thinks of the two of you? I believe that he means that you have established such a positive relationship with that customer that they consider you to be instrumental in their business success. Therefore you are bonded and the equity you have established is very strong.

Brand equity can provide strategic advantages to your company in many ways
Indicator of quality. (Coke vs. cola.)
Command a price premium. (Intel vs. AMD)
Simplify the decision process for low-cost products. (Kleenex vs. facial tissue)
Give comfort by reducing the perceived risk. (Beringer vs. Two Buck Chuck)
Maintain higher awareness and included in most consumers’ consideration set. (Microsoft, Ipod)
Strong defense against competition.

Brand names are company assets that must be invested in, protected and nurtured to maximize their long-term value to your company. Brands have many of the same implications as capital assets (like equipment and plant purchases) on a company's bottom line, including the ability to be bought and sold and the ability to provide strategic advantages.

"What you ARE shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Your brand is not what you say you are, but what your customer thinks you are."
Steve Yastro

When people think of your company what image comes to mind?

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CEO Tip 4 Family – It’s all about the People

By John Maver

This wasn’t part of the presentation to the Renaissance Forum for CEOs but the idea is significant for you.

It follows the thoughts about the importance of people. Some people are very important and that group is family. It is critical that CEOs get a balance in life so that they enjoy and lead their families as well as their companies. How easy it is to get caught up in the work day and neglect your real responsibilities. Don’t do it. We all can make excuses that our attention is needed every moment on the business. Don’t be fooled.

I am including this note here because I just had a new grandson today. His name is John Arnold Heard and he is named after both of his grandfathers. I’ll be spending a lot of time with him.
His sister Ella Blue Heard is 2 ½ and I spend a lot of time with her as well.

My other 4 grandchildren live in the Boston or the Toronto area and I don’t see them as much as I would like and that kills me. From left to right, they are Zoe Diana Maver, Hannah Victoria Maver, Ryan Jack Clemente and Andrew Austin Maver. I need to get better at finding creative longer distance ways of contact.

My point in this other than bragging about these six fantastic kids is to say, please don’t cheat yourself. There is no rewind button on life so don’t miss out on the most important people in your life.

Give your family a hug today.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

CEO Tip 3 Show me the roadmap to your vision.

By John Maver
Part 4 of a presentation given to Renaissance Forum CEOs

Strategy is about figuring out what is really important and what you can do to influence it. Businesses are a complex network of issues but there are only a few things that really make the difference in the marketplace. I have found that the majority of CEO’s with whom I speak may have a plan but most don’t have it written down. My findings are supported by the Association for Strategic Planning with 63% of companies not having a strategic plan at all. Most have simple short term plans but not much more than a half year. Your plan has to be written in order to really take hold and bring your organization in support. It must cause you to identify the key targets and the plans that will deliver them. It will harness your scarce resources and dictate how to use them most effectively. It aligns the work of your employees. It keeps you on track!

“When I am on that speedway, you had better believe that my team and I are following a written plan that we have developed for success. I am going far too fast to just wing it.” Dale Earnhardt

There are many reasons given for not taking the time to make the investment in developing a strategic plan. Most have to do with time and other priorities. Some companies foolishly believe that their industry is different. It is changing too fast for a plan to be meaningful. Not so! Believe me this is the most productive and beneficial activity you can do for your company and yourself by a long shot. You need a written plan in a format that is useable.

“You shouldn’t expect to walk into a new leadership job with an established strategic plan. Rather you should walk in prepared to lead a strategic process.” Dave Peterschmidt – CEO of Securify and previously Sybase

The Maver Management Group uses a simple one page format that clearly articulates our client's strategic plan, including the tactics that will be executed to bring the plan to life and the measures to keep the company on track. It enables the company to harness their scarce resources and deliver the goals. There are many forms for strategic planning. Find one that works for you and use it!

What is your plan?

Is it clear, concise understandable and actionable? Is it a living document that can be modified as you reach milestones or circumstances change?

Do you have a written long term plan? If not, when?

Call us if we can help you develop one.

Check back tomorrow for part 5 of the presentation.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Monday, December 10, 2007

CEO Tip 2 It’s the people. It’s the people. It’s all about the people.

By John Maver
Part 3 of a presentation given to Renaissance Forum CEOs

Work gets done through people. They create the products, the processes and the revenue. They manage the customers, they manage the resources and they activate the strategies and plans. They bring the vision alive and actualize it. They should be your most valuable resource.

“A leader is judged in terms of what others do to obtain the results he is placed there to get.” Vince Lombardi

Historically, most companies hired good people, trained them and kept them for many years. Loyalty went both ways. They followed a philosophy like these ones at Procter & Gamble and GE.

“I know that the single biggest contribution I will make to this company is helping the next generation of leaders become the best that they can be.” “My job is to unleash the creativity, initiative, leadership, and productivity of P&G people. They are the leaders who’ve delivered the results.” AG Lafely, Procter &Gamble CEO

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.” Jack Welch Ex CEO of GE

“If you leave us our money, our buildings and our brands but take away our people, the company will fail. But if you take away our money, our buildings and our brands but leave us our people, we can rebuild the whole thing in less than a decade.” Procter & Gamble CEO Richard R Dupree 1947

That philosophy is no longer the case for many companies. Meaningful development plans no longer exist, particularly for the CEO. That means you need a plan that recruits the right person for the job and moves them out quickly when they are no longer right. Half a body is worse than no body at all. It means far more work to do anything through someone who isn’t in tune and it lulls you into a false set of security since you don’t have a ready hole to fill. Plus you are paying for the full measure while only getting part. Training and development takes time and money. The “hire, admire and fire” is also quite expensive when all the costs are added in, including the loss of the intellectual capital that goes out the door each time. Be careful in your strategic selection.

“Recognize the skills and traits you don’t possess and hire people who have them.” Howard Schultz – Starbucks

In either philosophy, a critical action is selecting “A” players and having them in key positions. An “A” player is someone who consistently excels and goes beyond expectations, reinventing and improving new situations. They take initiative, and that they exhibit purposeful action. No organization can have all “A” players, but “A” players have to be in the key positions for the organization to be successful. The responsibility of the CEO is to understand which positions within the company are key positions and to insure that the business has “A” players in all key positions in the company. Then have fully functioning “B” players in the other roles to support them. Move out the “C” players to other companies and opportunities where their talents will allow them to become “A” or “B” players there.

“Life with top players is heaven! Life without top players is not life at all. It is hell!” All managers of non playoff teams

What are your people plans?

How are you nourishing them so that they deliver above average results?

Check back tomorrow for the next tip. In the meantime, answer the questions so that you can put some of these tips to use to accelerate your business.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Sunday, December 9, 2007

CEO Tip 1 What’s my job? What am I responsible for?

By John Maver

Part 2 of a presentation given to Renaissance Forum CEOs

While ultimately it can be said that the CEO is responsible for everything, there are several key leadership responsibilities that fit for CEOs of companies of all sizes. You are going to find, if you haven’t found already, that you like me are being pulled into many, many activities and issues that really can be handled by someone else. Be vigilant, because each will erode your time on the really important areas that only you as CEO can handle.

A Setting strategy and vision.
The CEO is the owner of the vision and the strategies on how to make that vision a reality. No one else in your company can play this role. The senior management team can help develop strategy. The Board and investors can approve a business plan but the CEO ultimately sets the direction.

Vision is your concept of the future of your business, how you perceive and experience the future of your company right now, in the present. A powerfully held and shared vision energizes and inspires people. Vision is the vital catalyst that multiplies the efforts people put into their work, and intensifies and enlarges the effect of those efforts. Getting big is all about how one thinks. It is just as easy to have a big dream as it is to have a small dream.

"Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil."
James Allen

“Dream Big and Kick Ass.”
Donald Trump

“It was just about a little over 30 years ago when I started Microsoft. That was based on a vision that the microprocessor, the computer on a chip, combined with great software that we saw ourselves and other companies doing, could create something magical, a tool of empowerment.”
Bill Gates

What is your vision for your company? Does it stretch you and your company or is it just comfortable?

B Building culture.
If vision is where the company is going, values tell how the company gets there. Values outline acceptable behavior. Work gets done through people, and people are profoundly affected by culture. A great place to work can attract and retain the very best and a terrible place to work can drive away high performers. Culture is built in many ways, and the CEO sets the tone. His every action—or inaction—sends cultural messages. People take their cues about interpersonal values—trust, honesty, openness—from CEO’s actions as well.

“Culture isn’t one aspect of the game – it is the game!” Lou Gerstner – ex IBM CEO

“Good values attract good people.” John Wooden

Have you been clear on the core values and operating principles for your company? What are they?

C Team-building.
The CEO hires, fires, and leads the senior management team. They, in turn, hire, fire, and lead the rest of the organization. The CEO sets direction by communicating the strategy and vision of where the company is going. With clear direction, the team can rally together and make it happen. As the leader of the leaders, the CEO has to make them function smoothly together.

“Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence upon one another and of strength to be derived from unity.” Vince Lombardi

“Surround yourself with people of integrity and get out of their way” Hector Ruiz – CEO of AMD

How well is your team functioning and is everyone pulling their weight?

D Capital allocation.
The CEO sets budgets, funds projects which support the strategy and ramps down projects which lose money or don’t support the strategy. He considers carefully the company’s major expenditures, and manages the firm’s capital. Some CEOs don’t consider themselves financial people, but at the end of the day, it is their decisions that determine the company’s financial fate. Sound decisions are key to your profitability and long term success. No surprise here!

“Business isn't about the score of the game you played in the last quarter or the last year. It's probably about decisions you made three or five years ago, and how well you were able to adjust your course.”

John Chambers, CEO, Cisco

On what basis do you make capital decisions and how does the need for quarterly results impact your longer term thinking and plans?

“Manage your top line of strategy, people and products and your bottom line will take care of itself.” Steve Jobs - CEO Apple

Check back tomorrow for the next tip. In the meantime ,answer the questions so that you can put some of these tips to use to accelerate your business.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Saturday, December 8, 2007

CEO tips I wish I’d had when I started

By John Maver

A presentation given at the Renaissance Forum for CEOs

Today, you may be at the top of the company’s organization chart.


If you are a new CEO or have aspirations of being one, I hope you will do well and you may have learned some of these lessons already. If you have been in place for a while, this may be just a review for you and will help accelerate your business performance.

CEOs are in office for a shorter and shorter time. A Booze Allen study in the 2500 largest market cap companies has shown that in a decade the average tenure has been cut by more than 2/3rds from 9.5 years in 1995 to 4.6 in 2001 to just over 3 in 2006. What's more, the turnover is less and less at the CEO’s choosing. The non voluntary reasons for leaving have skyrocketed from 27% in 1995 to 53% in 2001 to 70% in 2006.

Why are CEOs turning over?

In about equal proportions the reasons are:
Merger driven
Performance driven
Regular Transition

Think about it. A very short time in place and only 1/3 are regular transition. CEOs had better hit the ground running and running well.

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you'd better be running." Successories

Many of us learned through on the job training. As we worked our way up to larger and larger responsibilities, we had the chance to hone the skills we learned first hand. That takes time and lots of experience. But there is another way and that is to learn from others who have gone before you and done so successfully.

Here are some CEO tips I’d wish I had when I first became a CEO. This isn’t a clipping service from the latest books. It is a summary of what I have found through my 36 years in general management to be most important, augmented by some pearls of wisdom from many other CEOs. When you have the time, read all the books. Better still; hire a smart business advisor consultant to provide the depth to these ideas.

You will note that there are some questions for you at the end of each section that relate to that section. Answer them. The only way to learn and make these tips worthwhile is to apply them to your business.

Here are the tips we will review.
1 What’s my job? What am I responsible for?
2 It’s the people. It’s all about the people.
3 The roadmap to your vision.
4 Who are you? What is the brand YOU?
5 “What’s in it for me” Your Customer
6 Stick with what you are good at.
7 Do it. Just do it!

Since this is a long presentation, I am going to split this up into bite-sized pieces of one tip at a time. Check in each day for the next tip.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas Performance Reviews

This appears to be Santa's attempt at business acceleration planning. Upgrading your company's talent pool is one way. The Maver Management Group could have showed him some others.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Friday, November 30, 2007


Tom Peters has an article today about Big Hairy Audacious Goals and how they often fail to gain support by employees because they are not clear and compelling enough. He recommends that it be renamed Clear Compelling Audacious Goals.

I buy in to the idea of the BHAG and the refinement of it as CCAG. But having the BHAG is only the start of the opportunity. It is the plan that makes the difference. The Maver Management Group has helped many clients dream the big dream. Then we put together the strategies and plans to make them a reality. Having a plan makes the BHAG realistic and able to be supported. We also make it simple and actionable so that it doesn’t sit on the shelf in a binder.

Aligning employees with the strategy is critical and Peters has written about that for years. As a leader you can’t make the dream a reality unless you have the people having the common dream.

I would be happy to share our simple framework. Send me an e-mail or give me a call. Together we can give Tom Peters another company for his new “In Search of Excellence.”

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another reason to Align Employees with The Strategic Plan

Lewis Green has written an article today Leaders Reap the Benefits of the Reality They Create. It talks about the very high number of employees, 65%, that are "job hunting". While the stated reason is salary it is much more.

The 65% number hits home with me. In many companies with whom I speak, the employees are frustrated "by management". Management is the catch all. Their dissatisfaction comes largely from not understanding or having ownership of the company’s actions. Yet they seem to be responsible for the results. What a waste of potential!

One of the articles that I have published is Aligning Employees with the Strategic Plan and the importance of doing so. My thoughts are similar to Lewis' in terms of the criticality of actually talking to the employees and letting them participate. In all of the strategic planning work my company has done, we have cascaded the plans down so that there is a buy-in and the human resources are harnessed and not driven away.

It seems so simple and yet so few are doing it.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Police Dogs and Recruiting

By John Maver

You may very well be asking "what does that have to do with me and the issues I face in building my team as a CEO or senior executive."

A leader is judged in terms of what others do to obtain the results he is placed there to get.
Vince Lombardi

I spoke this week with Pat Duggan, a police officer who had recently got a new police dog. He explained how they find and select the dog to get the best fit and chance of success. They used to rely on high quality German Sheppard breeders and select the dogs that looked and acted the best. After about a year it became clear as to whether the dog was a good fit or if it had to be passed on to a new owner. The track record of success was about 50%.

That has all changed. “Recruits” are being brought in from Europe where they have been specifically bred as police and guard dogs. They have had at least 2 years of training and thinning out the ranks. There is a premium cost to these high potential recruits. Here, they are tested by their handlers to select the right skills, temperament, smarts and ability to be trained for the specific needs. The handlers have very specific criteria and know exactly what for what they are recruiting. Some dogs just need to be aggressive guard dogs. Others, like the police dogs, need to have the ability to rout out suspects and capture them as well as visit schools and the elderly as part of show and tell. The track record is now 90-95%.

Oh yes, since they were trained in Europe, they speak the native language of those countries so English is their second language.

So what does that have to do with me running my company successfully? A lot, it is a great lesson in recruiting. If you are going to be successful you have to have the right people in the right jobs.

Here are some lessons:
* If you aren’t going to invest in training at your company you have to be willing to pay more to get the talent. Plan and budget for it.
* You have to know specifically for what you are looking. Create tight specs.
* You can’t afford to have less than fully operational employees. Be willing to decide quickly and cut non performers loose.
* English as a second language presents some challenges if you are to mine the talents successfully. Find a “translator” process.
* Bringing in experts to coach and train increases your chances of success. Use the pros.

One last thought. I feel a lot more comfortable knowing just how good these dogs are and that the dogs will make so few mistakes. Just be careful when you pat them.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Time to give thanks!

It is that time each year of the big sale where retailers make or break their year and a holiday where we get to eat too much turkey and watch too much football or even when we start to put up the Christmas decorations. At least there is no snow here. This is a big day!!!

For most of the year, many of us spend our time focusing on what we don’t have or of what we want or need more. That can be resources, people, market share, revenue, stock price or the financials to fund the projects that can accelerate our progress toward our goals.

Far too seldom we reflect positively on what we do have. Thanksgiving is a time to step back and see our gifts and be thankful for them. For the pilgrims it was just the fact that they had survived the winter. For us it is so much more.

You will have a number of encouragements to thank God for His bounty and I recommend that too. I really do!! We are so blessed.

In addition, perhaps this is the time once we have re-identified our gifts to determine how we can use them more productively to our advantage. That could be the positive relationships with our loyal customers, top quality products, current market position that we have earned, our core competencies or even the fantastic collection of talents we have in our people.

Take some time to think. Just think, not do. Think about what you do have and how you can make it all work more effectively for you. I know that you will benefit from the exercise. And yes exercise after the turkey will also benefit you.

Call me if I can help because I am also thankful for folks like you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Magic of Alliances

Robert Middleton has an article on his The More Clients Blog entitled The Magic of Alliances.

I added the following comment

Alliances can be magic, particularly for single proprietors or small groups which covers most of us. I have found with the Maver Management Group which does business acceleration consulting that alliances have had the following magic and benefits:

  1. They enable me to focus on my core competencies which are identifying issues and opportunities for my clients and then creating the business and strategic plans to take advantage of them to drive the business forward.
  2. Alliances extend the services I can offer to my clients.
  3. In doing so it provides a barrier to entry that insulates the clients from competition of mine.
  4. They enable me to provide more in depth knowledge in a particular industry or problem.
  5. Alliances can identify additional clients and opportunities for me with their client base.
  6. My alliances are smart people and I learn from them. They provide “summaries” of the days important topics that I can then use with my clients to show my “brilliance”.
  7. They make me a better consultant from their input on what I do and I reciprocate.
  8. They give me someone to talk with and we provide a sounding board for each other.
  9. My alliance partners are great people and I just enjoy their company

    Yes there are other reasons too but these are the main ones. Thanks for the trigger to me publishing these magic benefits.

    John Maver
    Maver Management Group

Performance Cornerstones for the 21st Century

By Cathy Hammond
Cathy Hammond & Associates

Get what you’re paying for by instituting these three proven practices.

There are three performance cornerstones proven to sustain the leadership style, culture, and best practices that grow strong businesses. Enforced together throughout your company, they form a foundation for ensuring that your people are actively engaged in achieving success.

Read the full article.
Performance Cornerstones

Monday, November 12, 2007

Aligning Employees with the Strategic Plan

By John Maver
Maver Management Group

How do you turn the vision from your strategic planning into a reality that really drives your business forward? It takes more than great strategy and implementation. Aligning everyone in your organization with your strategy is one of the most important things you can do. Alignment will make it much easier for you and your management team to lead the organization in the direction you intend. Without good alignment with the strategy, every bit of forward motion will be a struggle.

Without everybody embracing what we want to do, we haven’t got a chance. - Jack Welch - Ex CEO of GE

How do we get this alignment? Talk to your people. All of them! Involve them. Train them. Make them owners of the impact of the plans just like you are. That’s a start but there is more.

First, you have to have the right people at the top and in key positions. The key employees have to have the ability to think strategically and understand the necessity for strategic business plans. They must be capable of making decisions with strategic impact in order to be aligned with the company's strategy. This does not mean that every employee needs to be a great strategic thinker, but employees must be able to understand that their work fits into the success of the organization and how it fits in. People must understand enough of the basics of business that they can see how the strategy is going to make them better off through job security, promotions and pay increases in the future as well as making the company more successful.

Second, the company must have selected a strategic basis for the company’s plans. Good strategy requires focus. There are three basic ways to satisfy customers according to strategic gurus: 1) price, 2) quality or product superiority including a host of other value-adding features, and 3) service delivery, support, follow up, etc. In a strategically focused organization, the choice has been made as to what element will be dominant and all the activities must flow from that. Clearly there will be some of all three but one will be dominant. That means the people, plans, products and processes all are going to be based on this dominant factor.

Third, buy-in, getting people to buy into a strategy means, they must to believe in it. The strategy itself has to have some credibility with them. If you have an employee who thinks the strategy isn't good, you won't have alignment no matter what you do. If the strategy is wrong, change it. If the strategy is right and the employee won’t buy in, you will need to part ways. Even if an employee performs satisfactorily, not adhering to strategy will cause basic problems and conflicts which will hinder that person's growth and the growth of the company. It's easy to get people really excited about strategy if they participated in creating it. Also people may be very excited about your strategy if they understand and believe in the concepts involved. This is one of the reasons why the Maver Management Group pushes for involvement in the strategic planning process for as many people as is practical. We cascade the overall company’s plan down through the functions and work units to the individual.

Fourth, organizational structure can greatly help or hinder strategic alignment. Most companies are function dominated and this creates “silos”. The organization is very effective within a department or division, yet lacks efficiency and flexibility in activities which require cross-departmental cooperation. This effect works well if these "silos" have been created around areas which may become separate strategic business units, but may present obstacles to integrating an acquired company, or tackling organization-wide strategic change in areas like Finance, HR or IT, which typically require cross-functional teams to succeed. Some very successful organizations have taken this concept into account by creating "matrix" organizational structures particularly in the staff functions.

Fifth, your hiring and job structure plays a role. It's very important that the way you hire, train, compensate and retain the employees you have in key strategic areas works with your strategies. Where you are hiring smart expensive people – “A” players, you want to be sure you can use the skills of those people to drive your productivity up and costs down; otherwise all you're doing is driving your cost up. A major challenge that companies face is the tendency to use “A” people in places where they should use “Bs” or even “Cs” - or vice versa. This drives costs up, and the potential for added value is lost. In fact it erodes business growth potential. There is no question that matching employees and their jobs to strategy has a big payoff.

My experience is that companies that take these few simple steps to build alignment between their employees and their strategies find greater success. In helping the San Francisco Police Department create a process that brings them quality recruits and in sufficient numbers to meet their needs, we started from scratch and created a full plan that went beyond just recruiting. We did it with the help of police personnel at all levels from first level up through the Chief, Heather Fong. The result was a plan that was enthusiastically adopted by the organization. The recruiting program run by Commander Harper’s team is dramatically improved over where it was six months ago and the results are showing it.

Next step
Do you have a written Business Plan to actually align with employees?

If we can help you accelerate your business progress by working with you to create, implement and align the plan give us a call.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leadership Responsiveness

By John Maver

Everyone has an idea of what leadership responsiveness is all about. Responsiveness usually means reaction to changing market conditions, competitive threats or opportunities. But that’s not what I mean in this article. I mean responsiveness to people. Responsiveness to people and to their ideas. Being able to harness that incredible brain power that exists both in and outside of companies.

Most executives claim to have an open door policy. Possibly, if you can get past the security guards onto the executive floor or the executive row and then past the ever vigilant gatekeeper, the administrative assistant and then find the executive not in a meeting or on the phone or even bent over the computer. The door itself may be open but the message is clear. “Not Open!”

My company does business acceleration consulting and our success is based on first hand experience at the CEO/President/General Manger level with Fortune top 10 companies down through start ups. I am amazed at how many leaders are actually becoming more and more closed off to new ideas. They just don’t seem to care and they are unaware of what they are doing.

It’s understandable that leaders can’t reply to every message, e-mail, phone call or employee note or even being available to their own employees. Leaders are busy people. They are out there leading. However, I have encountered far too many instances where leaders are insulated and miss significant opportunities to learn and grow both themselves and their business.

I’ll bet most of you have experienced the “really not open” open door policy described above. And it can get worse. Everything isolates the CEO. Beware the Emperor’s new clothes – Everyone wants to make you happy and not want to share bad news with you – Kevin Sharer – Amgen CEO. So be careful to find ways to open the door.

Let me give you a couple of examples involving external shut off.

I have been part of an executive forum group, three actually. Following a presentation created specifically for these groups, I sent personalized e-mail follow ups to each of the CEOs/Presidents with specific reference to their particular issues and opportunities that had surfaced during our discussions. I received 2 responses out of 14 and the two were from executives from the same company. A month passed and I send another personalized e-mail to all 14 again with specifics for them and this time with business acceleration article I had written for CEOs. 2 responses. One from one of the first responders and a new one. 2 out of 14 twice!

A CEO of a small company asked me for some of my materials for his use. I sent it to him later that afternoon. Response? No. Response to a follow up asking if I could help him use the materials? No! Full benefit to him and his company? No!!!

On the other hand, I commented on an article on the blog of Lewis Green, Bizsolutions ( To my surprise, I received a thank you note from him. I’ll comment again and share ideas.

This all could be construed as business etiquette and it is. But it is also a lack of openness to the awareness of new ideas and leadership unresponsiveness. It would be easy to say that this is just me. Many others are writing and commenting on this phenomenon.

Let me ask you who do you think is going to get the new ideas? Which companies are actually going to benefit from the ideas? Which executives are going to get the personal growth opportunities? Some are eventually going to get the ideas but they will pay a much higher price.

Here are some good ideas. Google lets the workers speak their minds and harvests the ideas. They have posted white boards everywhere to capture ideas, thoughts, notes, debate and even cartoons. Input is encouraged.

Corning brings in experts to help spark new ideas. Experts who have a breadth of experience are really valuable since they have ideas that have worked in other industries and have not been "siloed".

Bloomberg uses office design to keep "the queen in with the rest of the bees".

So if you are a leader or hope to be one some day, start being responsive to people. Have an actual open door policy for at least some time every week and make it known. Respond to e-mails, phone messages etc. in some way so that you stop being rude and you may actually get some ideas. Leaders interact with the people. It is only through the people that you are going to be effective in responding to new market conditions, competitive threats, opportunities.

Give me a call or drop me a note if you see the benefit in this idea.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Twelve Tough Times Tips

By John Maver

Here are twelve tips to not just survive but thrive in the midst of tough times. (They will also work when times are good.)

1. Re-examine your business plan and recheck your business fundamentals. You may be surprised at the opportunities that will be presented.
2. Do what it takes to remain profitable. Negative numbers become an excuse for almost anything and you will not only lose focus but you will lose more business.
3. Focus! Cut what's non-core. Invest in what is. Know who and what you are and BE THAT!
4. Simplify something – it will help cut costs. Complexity equals expense.
5. Look outside for good partners both as alliances and suppliers. Leverage relationships to save money or make money.
6. Do what you already know is right -- only this time, really do it. Many companies know the right path but continually choose not to take it for a variety of reasons.
7. Go talk to your customers. They are probably hurting too and want your love and leadership. They will remember you when things turn around.
8. Invest in your R&D. You'll need it. This can give you the competitive advantage when the sales start to flow again.
9. Look for technology-based efficiency. Use the Web to cut costs and boost productivity
10. Enlist your employees' support. Ask them for ideas. They are closest to the action and will have more good ideas than you could possibly execute
11. Hire a good consultant. Their experience and objectivity can show you ways to accelerate your positive business progress. The ROI can be astounding.
12. Believe in your own business and your future. There will be brighter days ahead and you want to be part of them

John Maver
Maver Management Group

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ten Tune up Ideas to Accelerate Your Business

By John Maver
Maver Management Group

Strategic plans and business plan are living documents that are meant to provide guidance for company and personal activity. They should reflect the best thinking of the company’s leaders. It is important that the plan not be put on the shelf but used effectively.

It is also important to do a tune up on your plan from time to time. Not necessarily to start from scratch although sometimes that is also necessary if things just aren’t working or there is a dramatic change that affect your company. The tune up gives you a chance to revisit the basic elements upon which your strategic and business plans were build. A six month and no more than 12 month check up and tune up is required. It will keep your plans fresh and current and more importantly will get them actually used and understood.

Here are some tune up ideas.

Know your customers
· Who are they
· What are their needs
· What are their objectives and goals
· What is really important to them
· How can you help them beyond just your product

Know your company
· What are your core competencies
· What are your weaknesses
· What are your vulnerabilities
· How good are your people

Understand and articulate clearly your company's core purpose core values.
· This is what will attract your customers and employees.

Know your competitors
· Who are your key direct competitors
o What are their strengths and weaknesses as seen by your customers
o What are their strengths and weaknesses as seen by you and are able to exploit
· Who are your indirect competitors
o What are their strengths as seen by your customers

Have clear objectives –
· Reach and dream.
· Quantify them

Develop the right strategies
· Capitalize on the learning and conclusions from the above analysis

· Be choiceful
· Assign resources

Develop clear actionable metrics
· Use them to measure progress and make better decisions

Assign owners and timing
· Responsibility and accountability

Use it.
· Make the plan available and clear to everyone in your organization
· Cascade it down through the organization so that everyone's activities are aligned to the corporate plan.
· Provide the development programs so your people have the skills to execute the plan
· Upgrade the organization to focus on higher quality people.
· Tie the rewards and recognition directly to the plan objectives and metrics.

John Maver
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management Group Consulting

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ten Ways to Strengthen Brand Equity

By John Maver
President of Maver Management Group

When the brand is a company, it is led from the top down. The CEO is the brand manager. Others have responsibility for different facets of the brand but ultimately, leadership of the company rests with the CEO. He must be zealous in guarding the way the brand is handled, positioned and utilized. One or two simple errors can destroy years of building and the CEO must remain ever watchful. It is easy to get distracted by the daily pressures, fires, and routine. Set aside time to rise above it all and specifically review your current activities to strength and protect your company brand equity.

Spend the time to decide on the right strategy – one that flows from the values of the company and creates real and lasting differentiation from your competitors. This speaks to the Core Purpose and Mission of the organization. It also reflects the tone the company wants to have in its positioning. If you have created the right strategic plan this will be easy to determine. You do have a solid strategic business plan don’t you?

Tighten the focus. Hone the brand message. Focus on qualities that set up barriers to entry. Drive to the core values and competencies required to deliver the promise. The stronger the differentiation and the stronger the brand image the higher the barriers to entry and the more loyal customers will be. Give them a reason to be proud loyal customers.

Don’t underestimate the power of symbolic communications. Visuals can have dramatic effect. Corporate brand design is important. The image gets set in your customers or clients’ minds. They come to associate you with that image and you want it to be a positive one. Think about a company. What image pops into your mind? If there isn’t one then the branding isn’t done very well.

Always set realistic expectations . . . then build a consistent track record. Under promise and over deliver. For public companies this means hitting the quarterly numbers. For private companies it means hitting the expectations of your stakeholders.

Credibility is built by public relations and executive interaction with the customers, particularly when there are few customers. They love to feel important and if you want your brand to be important it all starts with you and them. Advertising can help support and reinforce the brand position.

Educate employees on brand values and the brand promise . . . and then educate them again. There is significant synergy that can be gained from clearly outlining the company's strategy and then clearly communicating it to all employees. This harnesses resources and focuses attention on the key elements. The beauty of a simple strategic plan is that it clearly communicates to all employees not only the direction and positioning of the company but how you are planning to get to the objectives.

Make certain that all of your operation is consistent with the positioning and images. They must be driven throughout the total operation so that the image portrayed is consistent with that desired. For example, if part of your image is dependability, you want to insure that phone calls are returned promptly. It is more than the product that must be dependable.

Pay attention to the little things. There are so many elements that factor into the perception of the brand and having one or two small ones out of place can undermine the whole branding.

Building a great brand is a journey that is never finished. A brand is a living, breathing thing. It changes with the evolution of the company, the industry and the customers on a daily basis. The objective and basic positioning should virtually never change but the execution and fine tuning may change depending on the circumstances. Major brands and company positioning have been built and refreshed for many years with the same basic promise.

John Maver
Maver Management Group Consulting
(925) 648-7561

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Extending Brand Equity

Extending Brand Equity
by John Maver
Maver Management Group

As the old wise marketing guru said “Branding is the Essence of Successful Marketing”. Brand equity is a precious gem. While not particularly rare it can be very valuable. So how do you tap into this treasure? Here is how to make this article really pay off in gold for you. Take a piece of paper and write down your brand name(s) on it at the top. As you read this article think about the principles and see how you might apply them to your brand. Don’t look for the perfect match, just try it out. Put a checkmark on the ones that apply to you.

This is not a football story despite the headings even though the season is in full swing. It really is about pragmatic and effective ways of extending your brand equity. In some ways all products have a brand equity. The key is to identify it and then fan the flames so it ignites into a very profitable fire of profitability. It can bring with it very loyal customers who are willing to pay a premium to purchase your product. Once you have it you will want to use it to your maximum advantage and I’ll discuss several ways of doing this

Line Extensions, Flankers, End Arounds and Umbrellas
Extended use
This is the most obvious. You keep the same product name and form but use the product in a different usage area. The best example is Cow Brand Baking Soda. It is used in baking. Every new housewife gets a box as part of her bridal package and that box stayed with her until she died. Cow started promoting the product as a deodorizer in the refrigerator. Open a box and change it every 6 months. Sales skyrocketed and the brand stayed alive. Now it is used in toothpaste and many other areas as well.

Line Extensions
A line extension is defined as a product in the same basic category with the same basic end use as the parent brand. It may be in a different form than the parent. This is different than an extended use. Tide Powder laundry detergent and Tide Liquid are great examples. Procter & Gamble eventually converted all their effort from trying to establish a new brand, Era, to compete with Wisk, to making Tide Liquid a success. It has paid off and the company has a dominant market share of over 60%.

A flanker is a new brand, which uses an existing brand name to introduce into a different category than the parent brand. Examples are Clorox liquid bleach, Clorox Clean up, Clorox toilet bowl cleaner and others.

Crest dentifrice is a good example of all of these. Did you know that there are 21 forms of Crest toothpaste? They cover extended use (breath freshening, gum health and whiteness) and line extensions Kids toothpaste and sensitive teeth in paste, gel and even drops at one point. They get you from your first tooth to your last. Customer loyalty remember? It is even better if the flanker can be used as part of a system with the parent brand. Crest Toothbrushes – Crest Complete and Crest SpinBrush go with Crest toothpaste.

This is where you use a common overall name for different product with different uses.

Symantec changed Norton Antivirus into the Symantec suite or family of brands. It fits well with both the consumer and the institutional or business to business market. It is all about security.

The Ultimate umbrella This where you establish your brand well enough that it becomes synonymous with the generic. Here are a couple of examples.

Name a fast food restaurant - McDonald’s right? You will also note the branding and while hokey still serves to reinforce. McFries, McShakes

Name a facial tissue, - Kleenex started as a facial cream remover in the 1920’s. Most people no longer refer to tissues as tissues they are commonly known as Kleenexes.

Name a place to go and have coffee -Starbucks. Peets and Seattle’s Best are trying to overcome this huge hurdle. And Starbucks is now sending out many, many flankers.

The Sleeper, End around or the Borrowed Equity.
This is where you take a known brand equity and use it to support your brand because in doing so it increases the value of your brand. The lending brand is willing to do it because it increases the value of their brand too.

Dell computers - Intel inside. Intel is a master at it. It has taken a computer component and made it a mainstay. People consistently pay more for products with Intel Inside. And now Microsoft is doing it too. They are lending their “platform” and name to others for a fee.

In consumer products, Lays potato chips has borrowed the KC Masterpiece branding. It sets them apart from just BBQ chips. And for KC Masterpiece, it is free advertising, bulk product sales and a licensing fee.

Restaurants do it all the time. The bottle of Heinz catsup is the most obvious. Outback Steakhouse claims to use Hershey’s chocolate. Do you think this dessert is any chocolatier or better in some way because of Hershey’s? Of course you do and not only does it improve the quality image of Outback it also allows them to sell the dessert for more.

The low carb craze continues in the US and Atkins leads the way. It is more than just a diet. It is a way of life and Atkins is selling a lot of flankers. And others are jumping on the Atkins bandwagon. Applebee’s has Atkins entrees

Trades with a Draft Choice
Here are some others. You all know the power of Mr. Clean. One of the all time great advertising personalities. Econo Lodge has traded for Mr. Clean and is transferring his branding and using it as the standard of clean for their motels.

I have some personal experience with this. Clorox to brand the bathroom. In highway rest stops, people and women in particular want to stop at a place that is clean. Clorox is synonymous with germ free and so we branded the bathroom. Turns out we were able to increase sales at the rest stop by 23%. Clorox decided to go in another direction and Mr. Clean followed through.

There are many examples of extending brand equity. What ideas did you write down that you can you use right now to build your brand and increase your equity? Want some help? Contact me. I can help you extend your brand’s equity to accelerate your business growth and jump start the effects.

John Maver is President of the Maver Management Group. They provide business acceleration consulting to companies that enables the companies to jump start not only their planning but the results. Their success has eased the pressures on the executive team, helped them make their numbers and allowed them more time for thinking and less putting out fires and just plain doing.

John can be reached at:
(925) 648-7561