Category Archives: Grow

Increase value, impact, and opportunity.

How emerging executives can achieve high-impact with key players more senior than themselves.

An up-and-coming executive engages with an important sales prospect, client, supplier, partner, or colleague on par with his or her degree of comfort and security with the other party. The more seniority the other is perceived to have relative to his/her own, the more anxiety and insecurity is induced, the less is said, and the fewer impact results from the interaction. Pushing to the highest possible level of engagement drives the best results and accelerates career progression.

It makes sense for the up-and-coming executive to think of it as climbing a staircase.

Continue reading How emerging executives can achieve high-impact with key players more senior than themselves.

Key to Operating Success in a Crisis

With baby boomers entering their last stages, Private Equity invested in senior residences ahead of the certain increase in demand as an aging population would surely seek community, comfort, support, and safety from communal living. COVID-19 changed the calculus overnight. WeWork and Airbnb represent two more niches that are forever changed…as are many more.

The time-honored formula for managing operations in crisis is simple and straightforward:

  1. Shrink to the size you can afford
  2. Prepare to grow
  3. Grow
Watch this video for an explanation of how to avoid “death by a thousand cuts” and come out strong instead in a crisis!

While shrinking to size takes force of will, it can be done by just deciding to do it. Preparing to grow is harder and takes careful thought and planning.

IntelliVen is management’s guide, especially in a crisis, to maturing operations in sync with stage of venture evolution to create maximum value in minimal time. 

In this time of crisis, we want to share what we have learned with you and your team. Join us for a FREE online session. 


The importance of executive leadership team meetings and how to run them

ELTs Are Critical to Achieving Scale 

Executive Leadership Team meetings are critical to a business achieving scale. Even with infinite grit, determination, drive, and brilliance, leadership responsibilities must eventually be assigned such that a system to keep things coming together for collective leadership attention is required.

With scale comes the need for leaders to specialize and focus their span of control. ELT meetings are for leaders to connect and align across their areas of specialization. Even the best run $20M business will plateau on the path to $50M if leaders stick with an ad hoc approach to operations and governance.

The objective of a well-executed ELT meeting is to keep leaders informed, in sync, and aligned. 

As a business succeeds and gets larger, so too will the ranks of its top leaders and of the next level of leaders to include junior partners who may be geographically remote. In the face of expansion, the leadership team needs a forum and orderly process for information to flow up to, and out from, the ELT. The insights, agreements and decisions of the ELT flow throughout the organization, and need to be based on accurate and relevant decision making information from across the organization.

Proper Planning, Having Discipline, and Respecting Each Other’s Time Goes a Long Way

Schedule ELT meetings at a regular time that will, more often than not, be safe from the myriad of possible interruptions. Early Monday mornings is usually a good choice because there are usually few distractions at the beginning of the day and the week and it gives the rest of the week to follow up on meeting assignments. Monday mornings also give team members the weekend to reflect and to contemplate agenda items.

During meetings, it is critical to be disciplined. It is especially important for every member, especially the CEO, to make a firm commitment to stay mentally and physically present. That is: show-up and do not allow emails, texts, calls or any other interruptions during the meeting. Respecting each other’s time will go a long way towards building a high-performance leadership team.

Create an Effective Agenda

The CEO owns the ELT agenda, but each ELT member is co-author in that each has the responsibility, opportunity, and the right to add items to the agenda. Consider these tips to running an effective ELT meeting:

  • Send out a draft agenda a few days ahead of the meeting and invite comment and drive preparation.

  • Schedule time in each meeting to discuss topics that come up on-the-fly.

  • Every ELT member should agree to do their best to make meetings effective and to not complain about meeting content or how it is run.

  • End each meeting with a draft agenda of next meeting and invite members to comment.

  • Keep a running list between meetings of potential topics for up-coming meetings. 

elt meeting infographic - intelliven

ELT Meeting Best Practices

Members must prepare for agenda items they are to lead. Submit materials in advance to someone assigned to gather and distribute two-days ahead of the meeting to allow time for members to read through and develop a point of view on each topic.

If it is unavoidable, reschedule or cancel a meeting, but do not make it a habit. Only the most urgent matters should disrupt the ELT process. For example, a pending merger or acquisition or an HR catastrophe might justify disruption, but not much else. 

Keep meetings to an agreed upon length; 1.5 – 2 hours is plenty of time for a well-run ELT meeting.  

Start and end meetings on time. Discipline is paramount, or chaos will reign.

Agenda topics are of two types: Routine and Non-routine.

  • Routine items: Things that are covered in every meeting with standard advance materials conveying the state of each compiled and distributed in advance:
    • Upcoming key events.

    • Metrics

    • Headcount

  • Non-routine: One to three of the most important things going on in the business should be discussed in each meeting. Those leading each discussion need to be notified well in advance and have taken the time to prepare and distribute supporting materials in advance. For example:

    • ELT member 1 – walk us through the LAP business plan.

    • ELT member 2 – walk us through the BD plan for 2020 and 2021.

    • ELT member 3 – walk us through the facilities plan.

Invite non-ELT guests to prepare and present to the ELT from time to time to give up-and-coming leaders a forum in which to shine and for them to get input directly from the top team. 

  • Examples:
    • Talent Management Program leader – walk us through the Talent Manager program and update us on how it is going relative to plans.

    • Researcher – walk us through the research unit’s scale model.

    • Project Manager – walk us through the implementation progress and update us on how it is going relative to plan.

  • Treat guests as guests (just because they are invited to one ELT does not qualify them to be ELT members). Coach them to prepare and to provide details on what they are doing and how it is going. This is a presentation and they need to take preparation and presentation seriously.

  • Once the organization sees how guests are involved, there will be a step-function increase in performance from the guests. It will be seen as important to be invited to present to the ELT.

Remember: discipline is paramount, or chaos will reign.

About the Author

Eric Palmer has 30+ years of outstanding success as a lead operating executive in private, public, private equity owned, and venture capital backed companies. He is particularly adept at strategy formulation, operational execution, International operations, M&A, leveraged debt, IPOs, and working with professional funders.

Other Posts by Eric Palmer

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How to increase the odds of success with a strategic acquisition or alliance

Posted 6/10/2012, Updated 9/19/2019

Most acquisitions and alliances severely underperform relative to expectations set at the time of their inception.  No matter how great they look on paper, it is always a lot harder to make things come out anywhere near where they were meant to be than it seemed at the start.  Fortunately, based on first-hand practical experience and learning from  the experience of others, there are some things that can be done to raise the odds of success.

Why Acquire or Ally

The reason for one organization to acquire or ally with another almost always boils down to one or more of the following three:

  • To obtain new products and services to sell to existing customers.
  • To secure access to new customers for existing offerings.
  • To acquire needed new resources such as technical skills, leadership, or industry knowledge.

Why Not Acquire or Ally

There are also three basic reasons for one organization to decide NOT to acquire or ally with another:

  • Most require the buyer to pay a premium price except in distressed situations in which case a bargain price is offset by high risk.
  • Integration and assimilation of people, processes and systems is time-consuming and difficult. Time and effort spent to overcome cultural differences is enormous and rarely successful.  Despite management’s best intent, the wisdom of working together on the front-line is lost, without a lot of attention from the top, in favor of protecting turf, in-fighting, and favoritism.
  • Acquisitions and alliances require alarmingly high concentrations of management attention to consider, plan, execute, launch, and nurture to success. Once the deal is done, even greater amounts of time from the most senior managers is required to plan and guide the integration of people, products, services and administrative processes which diverts management attention from other important matters.

Watch video of PeterD discussing
Alliance by Design at ab Intelliven Learning Community Session.

There are three steps to successfully acquire or ally with another operation with the intent to merge it into existing operations (i.e., as opposed to operating as a separate unit):

  • Determine whether the nature of the relationship between the two organizations is to be transactional, collaborative, innovative, or identity-shaping where who they are is literally defined by their relationship to each other.
  • Develop a picture of the way things will work when operations come together as envisioned, including:
    • A multi-year financial plan that lays out the target financials which justifies the terms and to serve as the foundation for performance goals.
    • An operating model to show who will do what to deliver the joint entity’s products and services with excellence, on time, and in budget; systematically and programmatically sell the venture’s products and services; and develop its capacity to fuel growth.
  • Assign leaders from both organizations to work together to identify issues, perform analysis and recommend actions consistent with the goals of the partnership. Success or failure to achieve targeted results must be a primary component to these individuals’ personal performance assessment and bonus compensation for the performance period.

Success Factors

Three things that dramatically improve the probability that two organizations will be successful as partners in an alliance or acquisition:

  • Mutual Clarity: It must be clear to people, particularly the leaders, in each organization why they have decided to work together (see: Mastering the Merger).  The rationale must be written down and shared with others in both organizations each from their own perspective AND from the perspective of the other.  For example, people in Organization A must be able to say why it makes sense for Organization B to have entered into the relationship as well as why it makes sense for their own organization to do the same.
  • High Stakes: There must be a lot at stake for both parties. This means there must be a lot to win if the goals are met and a lot to lose if they are not.
  • Accountable Leadership: Each organization must assign a senior person to represent the interests of their respective organization. This individual needs to be a leader who personally stands to gain or lose a great deal both from a financial, career, and professional perspective depending on the fate of the venture. Their number-one goal has to be the success of the initiative. They serve as gateways to their respective organizations to facilitate the success for their counterpart who would otherwise be in a hopeless position of having to navigate how to work effectively in an alien organization. Those assigned to this key role have to be senior, seasoned, well-regarded executives who can move mountains in their own organizations, as needed, to make things work.


Alliance Continuum

Alliance by Design

Five Stages of Organization Evolution and Key Characteristics and Concerns at Each Stage

Organizations almost always progress through five more-or-less well-defined evolutionary growth stages:

    • Concept
    • Startup
    • Credible
    • Sustainable
    • Mature.

The Five Stages of Organization

The five stages of organization are defined by key characteristics, operating agenda, economics, and key concerns as summarized below.

Concept Stage

Organization Maturity - Key Elements

A new organization starts out as an idea, or Concept. A bona fide Concept requires at least a rough outline of:

Continue reading Five Stages of Organization Evolution and Key Characteristics and Concerns at Each Stage