A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Lasting Business Plan

Monday, January 16th, 2017

One of the biggest assets a small business has is its business plan, a 30-40 page blueprint for your company. Some online articles will lead you to believe that simply by having a business plan, your startup will be successful, but that’s not what these plans work to accomplish. Rather, a business plan allows you to align the team towards a common vision for the company, evaluate its feasibility as objectively and critically as possible, and attract investors. Written three to five years out, the business plan also serves as a glimpse into your startup’s future. You may not be able to guarantee immediate success just by creating one, but all of the details outlined will help to contribute to the overall success of the business in the long run.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur, make sure to include the following sections to create a business plan that lasts and takes the future of the business, along with everyone who views the document, seriously.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is the synopsis of the business plan, meant to be no longer than two pages, and includes a basic description of your business that sums up the five Ws and one H.

  • Who you and your business are.
  • What your company does and the industry it’s in.
  • When you’ll start conducting business.
  • Where you will be located.
  • Why consumers will want to pay for these particular goods or services.
  • How the business will make money. (And if you need extra funding, indicate how much and where those funds will be allocated.)

Business Description, Concept, and Strategy

Here’s where you can flesh out your business in-depth. Thoroughly note where the idea behind your business came from, what your product or service is and what it does along with what makes it unique and distinctive, where you’re at in the development stages, and your overall strategy and goals. What are the goals for your business? What kinds of steps will you take to reach them? What does the timeline for that plan look like?

Industry Analysis

The industry analysis goes in-depth on analyzing your competition. Study what their offerings are, their company background, if there are any barriers to entry, and why consumers will choose your services over theirs.[i] Indirect competition, which may not present challenges to your startup now but may later, should also be included in this section.

Market Analysis

For the market analysis, determine who your target audience is and what they need. Census data can provide insight into this kind of information. Who is in your target market? What do the demographics of your audience look like? Is your market growing? How will you attract, capture, and retain this audience? What do opportunities look like with your market?

Organization and Management

Who’s running the show at your business? From management to staff, each member of your team needs to have a biography included in your business plan along with information about their backgrounds and core responsibilities. Be mindful of the kind of business structure you have, as that will play into how you introduce your team members. A corporation, for instance, will need to include profiles on officers (CEO, COO, CFO) while a partnership will need more details about its partners.

Financial Projections

What does the cash flow look like for your business? In this section, include tables that are related to your projected profit and loss along with a sales forecast, expenses budget, your cash flow and 12-month income statement, a projected balance sheet to deal with assets and liabilities, and a break-even analysis with the revenue needed for your initial investment.[ii]

Financing Request

No modesty necessary here—lay out the cards and outline the funding you’ll require from investors for your funding request. As advised by the U.S. Small Business Administration, include both your funding request and any future financing needed in the next five years.[iii] Be sure to note how that money will be spent and the manner in which it will be spent. And what happens if your startup becomes so popular it receives an offer to be acquired? The funding request section of your business plan should include strategic financial situational plans for the future that cover areas concerning anything from debt repayment to buyout.


This information can be stored at the beginning or end of your business plan, so long as it doesn’t get neglected! Your appendix should include resumes from your startup’s team (from the aforementioned Organization and Management section), industry studies, trademark registrations, letters of incorporation, and partnership agreements, to name just a few documents.


As time progresses, you’ll likely make some edits to your overall business plan but if you start out concise and critical, you’ll find that the changes will be fairly minimal and allow you to reflect on how far your business has come from its humble beginnings.


[i] http://www.forbes.com/2007/05/09/palo-alto-software-ent-manage-cx_mc_0509businessplan.html

[ii] http://www.inc.com/guides/business-plan-financial-section.html

[iii] https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/write-your-business-plan/funding-request



Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Deborah received her Juris Doctor and Masters in Business Administration degrees from Pepperdine University in 1999. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.


Topic: Entrepreneurship, Small-Medium Businesses
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Is Dublin the Next London?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

eu-and-central-bank-in-frankfort-sizedThe pending exit of the UK from the European Union (i.e. Brexit) has created many questions around the future of London as a global financial center. London, along with New York, have been the reigning global financial centers, but London’s pending loss of direct access to the EU places its position under jeopardy. While London has been a center of finance and commerce for decades, if not centuries, much of its growth and dominant position in the current global financial system has come as the gateway to the EU, the Middle East, Africa, and beyond for banks and other financial institutions located in the U.S. and Asian countries.

Many economists and financial analysts expect the €2 trillion in Euro-denominated financial transactions and asset management currently facilitated in London to shift to financial centers inside the EU. Already, seven UK property funds have been suspended after investors rushed for the exit, which are now preventing redemptions and have begun listing UK properties for sale.

London made an ideal global financial center and gateway for the U.S. and Asian countries for multiple reasons including a well-developed and efficient common law based legal system, lower than EU average corporate tax rate (UK:20% vs EU:22.09%), educated English speaking workforce (English is the dominant language in finance), navigable labor laws (especially compared to other EU countries), time zone advantages, and ease of access from/to New York City.

London will remain a significant financial center as long as the Pound is one of the globally accepted reserve currencies and a gateway for significant non-Euro denominated financial transactions, which is likely, but its role as a dominant global financial center will be diminished. So the boding question is, where is the next global financial center for the EU? Spreading core operations over multiple cities is not an efficient model for financial firms.

Several EU cities are existing global financial centers, albeit smaller than London, that may vie for London’s Euro business including Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Zürich, and Dublin. Below is a brief analysis of each city:

  • Frankfurt: The European central bank is located there and several international banks have indicated they are looking to expand there, but Frankfurt is a far smaller city than London and labor laws in Germany are widely seen as more onerous than those in the UK. Additionally, a civil law based legal system, a higher corporate tax rate (29.72%), and non-native English speaking country, makes it a less attractive alternative to London.
  • Brussels: Similar to Frankfurt from a legal system, labor laws, corporate tax rate (33.99%), and language vantage, Brussels is a major center for international politics, servicing as the de facto capital of the EU, as well the headquarters of NATO. This is not necessary favorable for finance and business, as the city’s political focus creates a battle with other industries for talent, real estate, investment, and local government attention.
  • Paris: While the French government has announced plans to attract bankers from London, the high corporate tax rate (33.33%), complex civil law system, rigid and often burdensome labor laws, and the Toubon Law mandating the use of the French language in the workplace and business deter from the attractiveness of Paris. That being said, the City of Light is a high-profile, large cosmopolitan city on par with London that is an attractive place to live, drawing abundant talent.
  • Amsterdam: A very livable city where English is an official language and is compulsory in the Dutch secondary education system, makes Amsterdam attractive for international businesses. While the corporate tax rate (25%) is lower than many of the other existing EU global financial centers, the city lacks space to grow, has a civil based legal system, and strict labor laws that highly favor employees.
  • Luxembourg: A sizable player in private banking and investment fund management, it has a reputation for secrecy and as a tax haven. While now compliant with OECD standards on exchange of information, the negative reputation remains. A relatively high corporate tax rate (29.22%), lack of English as an official language, civil law based legal system, and rigid labor laws are drawbacks. The second smallest city on this list, London is estimated to have 200,000 more finance workers than Luxembourg’s total population, so it is not in a position to grow in any meaningful way, especially considering its historically low unemployment rate.
  • Zürich: While very livable like Amsterdam, the smallest city on this list has the highest cost of living in the EU and second highest in the World. This cost would only increase if it were to absorb finance jobs from London, which could make it hard to attract talent and keep labor costs under control. Zürich has a very favorable corporate tax rate (17.92%) and well established banking and financial institutions, though it has very little room for growth with significant competition from other industries such as insurance and R&D. While English is commonly spoken, it is not an official language. Switzerland uses a civil based legal system and has rigid labor laws similar to the other EU countries already profiled.
  • Dublin: While smaller than London, Dublin is the closest surrogate on many significant factors including a well-educated, native English speaking work force, common law legal system (originally based on English common law), and more employer friendly labor laws than most EU countries and similar to London’s. Dublin has some unique advantages over the other cities on this list including very low corporate tax rates (12.5%), an International Financial Services Center, which offers a high concentration of financial services companies (and trained staff), plus (if they are still available) some unique “offshore” tax advantages, and it is accessible via relatively short flights from New York City. Additionally, Dublin is a highly livable cosmopolitan city with cultural similarities to London, and strong existing business and government working relationships with the U.S.. The attractiveness of Dublin has made the current office space market tight but land exists for development and growth.

Based on this analysis, Dublin is in the best position amongst existing EU global financial centers to take advantage of UK’s Brexit and the potential loss of Euro-based business conducted in London.

While it is unlikely Dublin will ever achieve the size and scope of London as a global financial center, Dublin now has a unique opportunity to grab a more prominent position in the global economy and bring more prosperity to the city and to Ireland. Only time will tell, but I’m rooting for Dublin and the land of my ancestors.


Tax rates sources from KMPG website: https://home.kpmg.com/xx/en/home/services/tax/tax-tools-and-resources/tax-rates-online/corporate-tax-rates-table.html

Topic: Economics, European Union, Finance
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This Collection of Tools Will Improve Your Business Writing Skills

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Writing for business is a specific skill that needs to be honed over the course of your career. Many people think they don’t need to develop their skills, as they already have enough skill to get by day to day, but developing those skills pays dividends. Here are the best online tools that you can learn a lot from, and use in your everyday work.

  1. Hemingway Editor

This app is a great tool if you want to improve your spelling and grammar. Simply paste your work into the text box, and it will highlight any errors in your work. It will highlight different types of errors in different colours, meaning you can see at a glance what skills you need to work on.

  1. Email Excellence

Sending the perfect email is an art unto itself, and sometimes you need a little help to get it right. These email templates will help you craft the perfect email every time, with templates for requests for action, delivering information, and even delivering bad news.

  1. BoomEssays

Nothing is less professional than writing a report that’s full of errors, but when you’re rushed off your feet, who’s got time for proofreading? These online writing professionals can help. Send your important documents to them, and they can proofread and edit them, sending you back high quality texts every time.

  1. Scrivener

If you like to wring the most out of every spare moment, this app could be for you. Scrivener is a downloadable text editor which can be used on laptops and desktops, as well as portable devices. Even if you’re on the train or waiting in traffic, you can make the most of the time and get working.

  1. Wridea

Ever have a brilliant idea, only to forget it, or lose the napkin you’d scribbled it down on? It will never happen again with this app. Write your ideas down in it, and then save them so you can access them easily later. You can even send ideas to your colleagues, which can be really useful when working on group projects.

  1. Readability Test Tool

Your writing is only as good as the people who can read it. If your work isn’t being recognised by the right people, put it through this app. It’ll score it on several readability scales, allowing you to amend it as necessary.

  1. Essayroo

Any good manager knows that they key to getting everything done is delegation. Whether it’s a paper, an email campaign, or a presentation, this writing service can help. Simply send them what they need to get started, and they can deliver high quality work, quickly.

  1. Verbix

The English language is difficult, even for native speakers. This app helps you conjugate verbs, and when you start using it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

  1. Stoodle

Want to learn more about business writing skills? This app allows you to attend classes in real time from your computer. After the class has ended, it’ll be saved on your account so you can access it at any time. You can even connect with other users using its social platform.

  1. Pro Writing Aid

If you need to proofread quickly, paste your work into this app. It’ll instantly underline the issues with your work, allowing you to amend them and move on. It’s perfect if you’re approaching deadline!

These are just some online writing tools that can give your business writing skills a real boost. Try them out for yourself, and you’ll see just how much they will improve, and how quickly. Get ahead at work, today.

About Gloria Kopp

Gloria Kopp is a web content writer and an elearning consultant from Manville city. She graduated from University of Wyoming and started a career of a creative writer. She has recently launched her Studydemic educational website and is currently working as a freelance writer and editor.

Topic: Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Small-Medium Businesses, Women and Business
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New Issue of the Graziadio Business Review Posted

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Welcome to a new issue of the Graziadio Business Review. This issue includes a variety of articles written by knowledgeable authors that we believe you will find informative, insightful, and engaging.

Hiring Disabled Workers

Bringing the Whole Community into the Workforce


One of our most underserved and underutilized groups is the community of disabled persons. Too often their ability to constructively contribute to society and the recognition of their need to do so is overlooked. In this article Michael Cafferky discusses the economic, social, and moral obligation to be more inclusive of disabled persons in the workforce.


The Benefits of Mindfulness in Leading Transformational Change

Managing Ambiguity

transformation shutterstock_293450465 smConditions such as globalization, rapidly accelerating technological advancement, and economic turmoil have rocked the business world in recent years, driving a corresponding shift in both the pace and nature of organizational change. As a consequence, organizations find themselves undergoing transformational change more frequently than in the past.


Revitalizing Organizational Identity to Spark Turnaround

Four Factors That Contribute To an Organization’s Identity

Identity is an important acartoon shutterstock_210479080 smallspect of the organization that can help it attract human, financial, and other resources critical for success. Over time, and especially in times of organizational decline, important identity attributes can atrophy, leaving the organization misaligned with its current and future competitive demands. This article proposes a model for examining and revitalizing identity attributes as needed to support organizational turnaround and avoid organizational death.


“Live Your Life in Crescendo”

Moral Insights for Leaders from Stephen R. Covey

Isitting-in-front-of-treen July of 2012, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, one of Time Magazine’s 25 “most influential Americans,”[1]passed away—about four months after a head injury suffered while riding his racing bike.[2] Covey was 79 years of age, and his regimen of personal fitness, which led to his death, reflected his commitment to what he often cited as the four key elements of his life: mental, spiritual, emotional and physical good health.[3] Covey was still at it in his efforts to maintain physical fitness, although he was nearing the end of his eighth decade of self-improvement—a quest for excellence that he sought in all areas of his personal life.


“Mr. Watson, Come Here!”

How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing Healthcare!

“Mr. Watson, come here.” These immortal words uttered by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10, 1876 ushered in a new era in communication technology. Fast forward to May 1997 when another seminal technological event occurred: IBM’s Deep Blue defeated the world’s chess champion, Mr. Garry Kasparov, in a rematch by the score of 3-½ to 2-½. This was the first time a computer program had
defeated a reigning world chess champion under tournament conditions. The results sent a tremor through the chess world, and even more importantly, through the artificial intelligence universe. If machines could beat the chess champ, what else could they accomplish?

When you are finished with these articles, you might be interested in looking through our archives, book reviews, and videos.

If you have questions, comments, or would like to submit an article, please contact Nancy Ellen Dodd at: nancy.dodd@pepperdine.edu.

Topic: Change Management, Engagement, GBR News, Human Resources, Innovation, Knowledge Management, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Technology, Uncategorized

4 Key Ingredients To Family Business Success

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

The Right Planning Can Limit Discord When Personal And Professional Roles Mix

At the office, Alex Sutherland calls his boss by his first name, Ken.

After business hours, he calls him “Dad.”

“I have two relationships with him and it’s important to have some separation between when I am in my role as his employee and when I am in my role as his son,” says Alex, a wealth advisor with LifePlan Group, an independent Registered Investment Advisory firm.

“Sometimes I do slip up and call him Dad at work. I think the clients kind of like that, though.”

The difficulty of trying to manage a dual relationship is something common with those who work in family businesses. It’s easy to allow the personal to seep into the business and to allow business issues to creep into what should be private time.

But there also are advantages.

“Having a father-son relationship in the business is extremely powerful when working with clients,” Alex says. “They get a feel for who we are and they want to know why we teamed up. It’s important to share that story because I think it creates a closer bond between us and the clients.”

The Sutherlands say they have found ways to address the thorny issues that arise when family and business mix:

  • Separate personal from professional. In any business, challenges and disagreements will happen. “It’s important that each person understand that these are business feelings, not personal ones,” Alex says. “For example, when I make a mistake at the office and am coached on how to improve, I know that Ken is discussing who I am as an employee, not as a son.”
  • Keep communication open. In any venture, communication is critical even without family issues. Adding the family dynamic emphasizes the need for communication even more. “Ken and I are constantly talking about each of our goals and aspirations so we are on the same page and there are no surprises or unknown motivations,” Alex says.
  • Talk honestly about frustrations. “Not everything is going to go smoothly and there will be frustrations,” Ken says. “Talk it out. But make sure you do it behind closed doors and not in front of other members of your staff.”
  • Celebrate successes together. The Sutherlands say it’s easy to become bogged down in what each person in the relationship isn’t doing or could do better. They say it’s important to stay focused on the big picture and to celebrate the accomplishments. “Remember that it’s a privilege to work and build a business with a family member,” Alex says. “Approach it that way.”

One major issue family businesses face is preparing to pass leadership duties to a successor, which is not something they all do well. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that 40 percent of family business leaders are reluctant to pass the baton to the next generation, and 73 percent of family businesses have no succession plan.

Ken is determined to avoid any hitches with the LifePlan succession. He has been grooming Alex to take over since the younger Sutherland joined the business in 2012. Alex learned back-office procedures, sits in on most of Ken’s meetings and joins Ken for public workshop presentations where they try to attract new clients.

These days it is Alex, not Ken, who holds an initial meeting with prospective clients. Alex also has taken the lead on the firm’s technology, “bringing us very much into the digital-marketing age,” Ken says.

“Even with our existing clients, we are training them to understand that we are both available to meet their needs,” Ken says. “I find that our older clients appreciate having a younger advisor available to them. And I think they like that he will be there for them for many years to come.”


About Ken Sutherland, ChFC, CLU, MDiv

Headshot - Ken head onlyKen Sutherland has been in the financial industry for more then 25 years. He obtained his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation in 1994 and his Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation in 2004, both from The American College in Byrn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Ken has an undergraduate degree in Business from the University of Oregon and a Masters of Divinity from Luther Theological Seminary. In 2003, Ken founded LifePlan Group (www.lifeplangroup.com) in North Carolina and has continued to develop his personal approach to financial planning as a Registered Investment Advisor.

About Alex Sutherland

Headshot - Alex head onlyAlex Sutherland joined his father in the business in 2012 and brings a unique and diverse background to his work with LifePlan Group clients. He received a Bachelor of Science degree with a dual major in Mechanical Engineering and Trumpet Performance from Iowa State University of Science and Technology. He was a 2009 Corps Member for Teach for America, a non-profit organization that places teachers in low income areas across the nation. Along with Ken, Alex serves as a Registered Investment Advisor for clients at LifePlan. He continues to leverage his experience as a teacher by developing and leading financial educational workshops and presentations to clients and the public.

Topic: Communication, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Small-Medium Businesses, Work/Life Balance
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New Issue of the Graziadio Business Review Posted

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Welcome to the new issue of the Graziadio Business Review. It contains several articles written by GSBM faculty that we hope you will enjoy reading.


world videos shutterstock_296794649 thumbprintHollywood’s Digital Blind Spots: Navigating Disruptive Technologies

Creative story telling has been the core product of Hollywood. In the dogged pursuit of creative production, the business executives often fail to focus on a disruptive technology as an opportunity because it is viewed as a distraction. Devendra Mishra looks at how the entertainment system can navigate these new technologies.


world alarm thumbprintIs Cyprus the Warning Bell That Bank Deposits Are No Longer Safe?

Joetta Forsyth, Linnea McCord, and Terry Young discuss the crisis in Cyprus that puts the world community on notice that bank deposits may no longer be safe; even smaller depositors lost money in Cyprus banks. They ask the troubling question: will bank bail-ins—by depositors, creditors and bondholders—become the norm in other countries as well?


big data iStock_000046322302 thumbprintBig Data Decision Making: Is There Room for Intuition in the Era of Big Data?

How do you make managerial decisions? Do you rely on data or your intuition? Mark Mallinger and Matt Stefl provide a thought-provoking exercise to help managers assess how they make decisions and then offer guidelines for quality decision-making.


whale_flyingA Whale of a Legal Tale: The Supreme Court Decides If Sarbanes-Oxley Applies to Tossing Fish Overboard

It might be surprising that a case about a fisherman and some undersized red grouper ever reached the U.S. Supreme Court. But in fact, it came close to splitting the nine justices right down the middle. Larry Bumgardner explains how that happened and the potential repercussions.


Drone iStock_000052629782 thumbprintThe Commercial Global Drone Market: Emerging Opportunities for Social and Environmental Uses of UAVs

Initially, the U.S. has focused on drones for military purposes. Donald M. Atwater makes a case for how drones can be connected to the social and environmental objectives of businesses, including worker health and safety, customer service, market image, and innovation.



Editorial: Taking Management Education to a Whole New Level—The Era of the Play-by-Play Man!

Owen P. Hall, Jr., shows that the Play-by-Play Man sporting allegory is not a pipedream, but the new reality in enhancing learning opportunities and outcomes throughout schools of business. Today, the technology exists to transform the sleepy old classroom into a dynamic learning environment.

If you have questions, comments, or would like to submit an article, please contact Nancy Ellen Dodd at: nancy[dot]dodd[at]pepperdine.edu.

Topic: America's Financial Crisis, Business Law, Entrepreneurship, GBR News, Innovation, Investing, IT, Knowledge Management, Management, Media Industry, Small-Medium Businesses, Strategy, Technology

When You’re the Arriving Leader – Part IV of IV

Monday, October 26th, 2015

boy in fathers shoesThe first three parts of this series focused on the broader organization’s requirements to orchestrate effective executive transitions through robust processes and careful attention to bolstering key stakeholder relationships. (Part I, Part II, Part III.) Our final post is going to turn the spotlight on the arriving leader—the successor—the entrant. Yes, our first two discussions reveal just how much is not in your control. But rest assured, there is also plenty that is. There are six nearly inevitable landmines a newly arriving executive will contend with whether they arrive from within or outside the organization. Take heed as you navigate into your next new assignment.

The mandate bait Many executives arrive with a perceived mandate to repeat past success—“You’ve turned around situations like this before and that’s what we need.” Instead of looking realistically at the current situation, executives reach back to their bag of tricks that “worked before” and begin slapping those formulas on the new environment without contextualization. Organ rejection sets in as the leader’s diagnosis turns into an indictment of the culture’s inadequacies. The organization more firmly resists, resenting the executive’s ignorance of what will and won’t work. Avoiding this trap requires deep knowledge of context—reading it and adapting to it. Become an anthropologist as you enter a new role—collect data and analyze it for insights, especially disconfirming insights that contradict biases you may be blind to. Whether arriving from inside our outside the organization, you will have incomplete lenses throughout with which to read the environment accurately, and pressure to act in advance of needed perspectives. Hit the ground learning, not running.

Intensified tapes and triggers Being aware of how others experience you is never more heightened than when you feel on display. The arrival into a new job, and all the excitement and anxiety that accompanies such a formidable change, will push buttons you may not even have known you had. Feeling perpetually evaluated and judged, your inclination to overcompensate by proving yourself, being successful as early as possible, and making great first impressions may well backfire as you make a fool of yourself. People will see right through your agenda to win their approval, affirmation, or admiration, and end up withholding it for just that reason. The resulting consequence is the tendency to hide and isolate in a desperate attempt to not be seen. Listen closely to those warning messages in your head that tempt you to over perform, misinterpret others’ views of you, wrongly assume they are loving you when they may not be, or wrongly assume they don’t like you when they may. The antidote is to ensure you are calibrating with people you can trust. Establishing early, solid connections with deep trust, investment, and openness are the best guardians against this trap. Ask for early feedback and calibrate against what you are hearing. While you may want to effect change quickly, you may first have to change yourself. To transform an organization, you have to let it transform you.

Altitude distortions How your messages are received, and how messages arrive to you, change dramatically when you near the organization’s top. Assume you now have a megaphone strapped to you 24/7. Everything you say and do is amplified and open to interpretations far from your intentions. Similarly, information you get is now sifted. People sanitize data and tell you what they think you want to hear. Unable to adapt to these distortions, many executives regain their footing by reverting to the more tangible, less ambiguous work from their old job. Executive breadth is the requirement for avoiding this trap—having the broadest possible knowledge of your organization, how its pieces fit together, and especially of how to bridge the organization’s seams where conflicts are intensified. Broader perspectives that add value lower level leaders can’t, helps new executives confidently orient to realities of higher altitudes. See the business end-to-end and connect dots others can’t, forge new working patterns that create greater cohesion, and minimize functional fragmentation. Rise above the fray, and stay there.

Power failure Most executives struggle with the larger sphere of positional, informational, and relational power afforded them by bigger jobs. While tabloids are filled with leaders who abuse that power with indulgent self-interest, the more common power failure is abdication. Executives are so fearful of wielding power that they avoid using it, especially when the risks seem high. Indecisiveness; accommodating, mediocre performance; co-dependent relationships with others to hide behind; and irresponsible uses of confidential information are just some of the symptoms of a leader who has abdicated their power. Self-protection, not self-service, is often the driver behind such fearful leaders. What they fail to grasp is the importance of the larger good their power is intended to serve. At the top of the organization your ability to right injustices, allocate resources fairly, provide access to opportunity, focus people on limited priorities, and invest in promising talent are all the privileges that accompany power, and failure to exercise it is as much an abuse of the privilege as exploiting it for personal gain. Embracing the importance of executive choice is the custodian against power failure. Constructing choices with data, appropriate inclusion of others, clear values, and full appreciation of painful trade-offs is an executive’s privileged prerogative. Executive power is intended to serve others, not to hide behind.

Time and complexity shift As the set of variables to manage expands in a broader role, the time horizon for realizing results will also increase. The accelerating dynamics of an increasingly global marketplace and advancements in technology both play into this. With all these variables, the ability to make long-term bets for future success while delaying gratification become your new reality. This can be unsettling. Not only does it place greater importance on your abilities to identify trends and proactively plan in the face of longer, more ambiguous timelines, it also reduces the immediacy of validation to which you’ve become accustomed at lower levels.

From dots to patterns One of the biggest hurdles many leaders face as they rise to the rank of executive is shifting from seeing themselves as a problem-solver to pattern recognizer. At higher organizational levels you need to see patterns in the marketplace, patterns in how your organization responds, patterns in how groups operate, and patterns in how people behave. You need to evaluate and respond to patterns at a systemic level instead of responding to a particular instance or symptom. Like the images hiding in the old stereograms of the 90s, organizational patterns sometimes don’t appear until you squint enough, and seemingly unrelated dots suddenly connect. Effective leaders have great pattern recognition skills, and over time, build pattern libraries in their minds that enable them to easily spot trends, detect shifts in the organization early, and look at issues and opportunities from a much higher altitude.

Invest the needed time to plan an effective arrival into your new assignment, assume that it will take much longer than you hope, or that others may expect, to get sustainable traction, and keep your eye on the longer term prize of truly making a difference and discovering a rewarding professional adventure. The old cliché is true—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Plan to arrive well, and the odds are much higher that you actually will.

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CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work at:www.navalent.com/about/team/ron-carucci.


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at: www.navalent.com/about/team/josh-epperson.

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
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Relational Dynamics Can Get Screwy…Even in the Best Case Scenarios – Part III of IV

Monday, October 19th, 2015

This is Part III of IV. Click here for the previous post.

Once a robust transition process has been designed, slated leaders are being developed for the role as it will be (not for what it is today), and contextual and relational opportunities have been identified and planed for. Yet one big variable remains: Leaders in the process get to come to their own conclusions and ultimately choose how they’ll behave. Leaders are also regular people. And when regular people experience the stress of being personally implicated, as is often the case during transition initiatives, they can wind up coming to illogical conclusions and behave in ineffective ways. Ironically, these people are also usually the ones who are in support of the transition at its inception.

Executive transitions: Patterns we’ve seen surface that frequently undermine redefining these critical relationships

Through the years we have seen these types of relationships be managed poorly. What follows are a few patterns, what to look for, and how to make sure they don’t undermine your transition success. Leaders get squirrely during transitions because there is so much on the line for them personally. Transitioning executives are wrestling (often unknowingly) with their diminishing influence and relevance while the new leader is eager to prove herself (usually in ways that are a stark contrast to the leadership that has been). Similarly, leaders on the team are faced with the need to shift loyalties—from their existing leader to the newly appointed leader. Some will relish the change, some will bemoan it. Left unmanaged these evolving dynamics are a recipe for disaster.

The graphic below highlights the most frequent patterns we see unfold between critical leadership relationships during such transitions. (For a detailed look at the model, see post titled “Managing Evolving Relational Dynamics of Transitioning Executives Part II of IV”) <<<<INSERT LINK TO POST>>>

Chart 3 a rev


Pattern 1: Arriving and exiting leaders lack role clarity and duel over decision rights. At the root of this pattern is what we call dueling decision rights. The transition of decision ownership between leaders doesn’t happen overnight and frequently there is confusion or disagreement about who owns what by when. When these specifics aren’t explicitly detailed on the front end, leaders end up spending more time butting heads, decreasing the quality of decisions, and slowing results. Underneath it all are opposing and often unconscious expectations. Don’t let your transitions get tripped up by dueling decision rights.

  • Clarify decision rights and leadership boundaries.
  • Clarify leadership expectations of and from the new leader.

Chart 3 b rev


Pattern 2: Arriving leader wants to prove themselves and differentiate their leadership from past regimes. At the root of this pattern is the fear that I am not going to be good enough or I am not going to fit. We have seen very competent and seasoned executives sabotage their success because they end up working so hard to try and prove a different, better, new outcome to a story that’s only in their head.


  • Help arriving leaders surface their underlying beliefs and assumptions about their entry to the role.
  • Help arriving leaders plan to manage the triggers that spark unproductive and ineffective behaviors that may arise as they assume their new role.

Chart 3 c rev


Pattern 3: Exiting leader struggles to “let go” and leave, and colludes with past significant relationships. It’s hard to let go and move on. And, at the root of this pattern is the exiting leader’s fear of obsolesce. In cases like these their promotion is usually the reward of a job well done and thus they struggle to let go of what they have helped create because they don’t want to risk…(you fill in the blank). Don’t assume that just because a leader has said they’re moving on, that they will actually do so. Behaviors speak louder than words. Collusive behavior between leadership teams and exiting leaders happens all too frequently.

  • Create ground rules about comparison of the arriving and exiting leaders; create forums for candid and honest dialogue about struggles and excitement in a “safe” environment.
  • Evaluate the team’s current/needed capability against future business requirements and create an objective starting point for the arriving leader to step in to.

Fortunately, these, and others, are all patterns that do not have to repeat themselves. Through thoughtful and intentional planning transitioning leaders can get out in front of these obstacles and create a more productive way forward.

In our next post we’ll drill down even deeper on the arriving leader and articulate how to effectively embed them in their new role and ensure success out of the gate.

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CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work at: www.navalent.com/about/team/ron-carucci.


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at: www.navalent.com/about/team/josh-epperson.

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
Tags: , , ,

Managing Evolving Relational Dynamics of Transitioning Executives – Part II of IV

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Previously we wrote about the importance of actually preparing succession candidates to become ready to lead in future roles once they assume them. [Click here for previous post] A large and often overlooked part of succession preparation includes analyzing key relationships critical for success in the role, the value that relationship creates, and a detailed plan for effectively working together. Whether meeting for the first time or modifying existing relationships, each new appointment highlights a complex network of new relationships and risks. These new relationships and risks are as varied as the succession context they surface in. Leaders must understand the implications of these variables on the process and candidate’s success.

The graphic below identifies four key leader groups and specific variables to account for. Answers to these variables can be surfaced through the following questions:

  • In what context does the “arriving leader” enter their new role?
  • In what context is the “exiting leader” departing their previous role?
  • How does the “arriving leader’s” new direct reports, peers, and other stakeholders feel about and understand transition specifics?


Leader lg

Gaining insight about what triggered the transition and how people currently feel about it is a good start. However, the arriving leader must also gain insight about the requirements that will ensure their success in the future. These questions include:

  1. What key relationships are required for success in my new assignment?
  2. What value must be created between us?
  3. What needs to change or be established between us to ensure the transition sticks?

Relationships are the fabric of successful transitions. Yet too often HR and OD professionals underestimate the vast network of relationships required to hold it all together and instead focus too narrowly on the arriving leader. Talent professionals are perfectly positioned to guide involved leaders through a process that surfaces insight about leader groups and contextual elements as well as support the arriving leader in building necessary relationships for the future. Defining the relational implications of success and shifting the organization’s mentality from one transition—the classic “baton pass,”—to a tapestry of transitions are unfortunately, frequently overlooked.

The vast tapestry of relationships: Prioritizing relationships and clarifying the strategic value created between them

Not all relationships are created equal, in life or in business. Helping transitioning executives understand their new relational landscape in their new context will help them get traction quicker than nearly everything else that happens in their first 100 days in the role. For the purposes of this post we’ll assume that it is a double promotion. The exiting leader is being promoted to a broader, elevated role and the arriving leader is backfilling said promotion.

Entering a new role can be off balancing relationally; something further compounded by pre-existing relationships and historical interactions as is the case with internal transitions. Furthermore, working relationships can be complicated because of the role a leader is transitioning into and the role they are transitioning out of. The higher up in the organization they arrive, the wider the range of leaders who will be clamoring for their attention and thus an even greater need to prioritize certain relationships over others.

The best way to help prepare this incoming executive is by starting with the exiting executive’s analysis of their critical relationships and the strategic value created between them. In the case of an internal promotion, the exiting and entering executives could do this work together. You can’t plan for every possible relationship but there is usually a similar set of characters who should be attended to. The usual suspects are as follows.

The relationship between exiting leader and arriving leader. This is the most obvious relationship. The arriving leader needs to understand the specifics of the exiting leader’s departure as well as any specifics they must bring to the role. Here are some helpful questions to get clear on the specifics of the relational context between the arriving and exiting leaders.

  • What triggered the transition? Over what time are decision rights and other responsibilities handed off?
  • Similarly, what is known about the arriving leader? Are they an internal candidate from a different business unit or function or was the promotion directly upwards? Do they carry organizational baggage with them? Are they beloved? Feared?

The relationship(s) between the arriving leader and internal candidates not selected. Other internal candidates who were not selected for the role are often overlooked in the process, but you can be assured that they have personal feelings and beliefs about the process that will either help or hinder their ability to build deep attachment with the arriving leader.

  • How closely connected are they to the arriving leaders new role? A new reporting relationship is much different than a candidate who works in a different BU or unrelated function.
  • Was it a long, drawn out horse race for the role or was that individual the only one remotely available to backfill it? Were any of the other candidates informally “promised the role” or had they been waiting for it to open?

The relationship(s) between the arriving leader and their inherited team. The inherited team is one of the arriving leader’s greatest resources, yet their ability to create meaningful attachments with the team and help them move on from the past is what will hamstring their effective use of this precious resource and end up make it a liability in their effectiveness.

  • How deep was their attachment to the exiting leader? As a superior? Personally?
  • Are they happy with the choice? Ambivalent? Or unhappy with it?
  • The relationship(s) between the arriving leader and other strategy-enabling stakeholders. Peers and other stakeholders ought to be understood in terms of what the arriving leader must accomplish with regard to the business strategy. If there is a significant shift in strategy, critical peers and stakeholders will also need to shift. What standing stakeholder relationships no longer serve the elements of the strategy for which the incoming leader is responsible? What’s the plan to explicitly transition and redefine those relationships?
  • What relationships need to be strengthened? What relationships need to “start-up” to account for any shifts in the strategy? What’s the plan to do so?

It’s these contextual and relational nuances that have huge implications for all leaders’ success once the arriving leader is in role. Working the implications of the answers to the above questions into a thoughtful, coherent plan is a must do. The challenge is that success presumes a level of coming together and working with real people who have real emotions and most likely strong opinions about the transition and how it’s unfolding. It’s never just about the new candidate taking the job. The plan must include helping get these relationships off to a productive start. It’s the mismanaged or unmanaged relationships that create transition obstacles. By contrast, well-choreographed relational transitions are the foundation to executing effective succession decisions—take them seriously and you will see unimaginable benefits. Even when transitions are optimally designed, lead people can wind up behaving in weird ineffective ways. In the next post we’ll highlight three patterns of ineffective relational dynamics that frequently find their way into the process.

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CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work at: www.navalent.com/about/team/ron-carucci.


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at: www.navalent.com/about/team/josh-epperson.

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
Tags: , , ,

The Mechanics of Successful Executive Transitions – Part I of IV

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Are You ReadyExecutive Transitions: Confronting the myths of effective succession planning

Ask any human resources (HR) or Organizational Development (OD) professional about their company’s succession planning process, and you’ll likely hear a dozen different versions of the process. From 9-box grids with quotas, secret and non-secret hi-po lists, slates of candidates attached to the most senior jobs with various readiness-ratings—ready-now, ready in six months, etc.—and computer generated profiles complete with color pictures and career histories compiled in advance of talent calibration sessions. All the accouterment and not much else according to the HR folks we’ve spoken to.

HR: We have a pretty rigorous process in our talent calibration and we’re proud of how many ready-now leaders we have.

Navalent: That’s great—what exactly are you doing to get people “ready” to assume bigger jobs?

HR: Well, that’s where we fall short. We don’t really do great executive development.

Navalent: Then how do you know the candidates are “ready now?”

HR: Well, we know they are more ready than anyone else in the organization.


HR: It’s frustrating that all the execs show up to the conversation with everyone rated as a 9, and then we spend the entire session downgrading enough people so we only have a few real “hi-pos” left in box 9.

Navalent: What criteria do you use to determine who gets downgraded and who stays a 9?

HR: Basically, it’s whoever fights the loudest for their people.

And our favorite:

HR: We make our best choices when there’s a crisis.

The conversations don’t get much better than that. The fact is, that for all of the activity devoted to future executive leadership, the results are pretty dismal. In our 10-year longitudinal study of executive transitions (Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives), which included interviews with 2700 leaders and a survey of more than 100 recently transitioned executives, 76% indicated that the formal development processes of their organization were not, or at best minimally helpful in preparing them for their executive role, 55% indicated that they had minimal, if any, ongoing coaching and feedback to help them refine their ability to perform in an executive role, and 61% said they were unprepared for the roles they assumed. It has been known for decades that somewhere between 50%-60% of executives fail within the first 18 months of their appointment, and somehow we’ve come to accept that failure rate as “normal.”

Want to take a simple test to determine if the approach your organization takes to preparing future leaders has any chance of making a lasting impact or not? Answer two simple questions:

  1. What determines where the process starts?
  2. What determines where the process finishes?

Let’s look at each one separately.

At the outset: Your organizations articulated strategy must underpin all leadership decisions

It’s astonishing how many organizations don’t tie their leadership work to their strategies. They tout great growth aspirations, launching new products, acquisition plans, turn-around investments, refined market segmentation to acquire new customers, and never once identify the leadership requirements to accomplish any of it. The closest we’ve seen is when HR identifies “most critical jobs” as priority for identifying successors, but even then, when you dig deeper to see what criteria gets a job labeled as “most critical,” it’s usually the size of the role, the iconic nature of the incumbent and the cost of the talent acquired underneath them, or an incumbent that is perceived as a “retention risk,”—all of which may, or may not, have anything to do with the organization’s most strategic aspirations.

All too often, the succession process begins with the HR forms to be completed. It begins with whatever mechanics were chosen for the approach, and whatever HR was able to convince the CEO to tolerate. More enlightened CEOs and executive teams whose talent gaps are more glaring are usually more open to having robust talent conversations, but rarely are they able to connect all of the dots between their strategy gaps and their talent gaps. And once the process becomes politicized in any way, hijacked by individual agendas and ambitions, the likelihood of ever connecting those dots is slim.

The first question a succession planning process must answer is “What are the most critical leadership requirements for delivering against this strategy, and in what jobs are those requirements most evident?” Once that is answered, you have the beginning of a succession process with teeth. From there, you can then determine the ideal profile of prospective candidates, development gaps for those candidates, and prioritize preparing those leaders with the greatest promise of meeting those requirements.

Measuring Success: A process that yields truly prepared executives

We had one client who lost their company’s number two leader (ranked simply by the size of his part of the organization, not his effectiveness) in a sudden defection—which of course could have been seen coming had anyone been looking for the right signals. They boasted that their succession planning process had proven effective because they had “a ready-now candidate ready to go, and were able to orchestrate a very smooth transition of leadership as a result.”

Six months after the successor had taken over, the organization had devolved into utter turmoil. Turns out the successor, whose previous role was running about a $1.5B business and the role he assumed totaled about $9B across multiple businesses, had demonstrated some “control issues” in his previous role. Guess what those looked like at 9x the size of the job? He had the organization so hamstrung to act that major bids were lost, product launches botched, and profits in decline. He, of course, had blame to pass around, excuses to make, and justifications for his choices. Hardly evidence of an “effective succession process.”

But it was declared effective because the organization felt they had identified a successor for the role. If you looked deeper, little had actually been done to prepare him to assume a role that much larger and more complex than the one he’d been in. Ironically, not one person was “shocked” at what unfolded. Many who reported to him in the smaller role said things like, “Could’ve seen that coming.”

An effective succession process can be considered complete when tangible investments to actually prepare leaders for future roles have been effectively executed. It’s not enough to simply list leaders you believe could take on bigger jobs as potential successors. Aggressive, robust efforts must then be made in the development and cultivation of that leader’s capability to ensure they have what is required to succeed in that role—and not the role as it is “today,” but the role as it will likely be when they assume it. If the job drives $100M in revenue today, it may well be $200M or more when they get it. If it leads an organization of 1000 employees today, that could be 2000 or more when they eventually assume it. Active and ongoing work must be done to deepen and broaden the leader’s ability, and to surface and address the hidden pathologies that will most assuredly become more pronounced as responsibilities expand, complexity multiplies, and pressure and risk intensify. Short of that, there’s really no point of putting their name on any list unless you are willing to draft their severance agreement at the same time.

In the next post in our series, we’ll take a look at the vast network of relationships that actually determine the success of any successor once chosen. Far more than just that leader and their new boss, the cast of characters actively engaged in enabling, or disabling, the success of newly appointed leaders is far more extensive than most realize.

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CarucciRon Carucci, Managing Partner of Navalent, is a seasoned consultant with more than 25 years of experience working with CEOs and senior executives of organizations ranging from Fortune 50 to start-up in pursuit of transformational change. His consulting has taken him to more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. He has consulted to some of the world’s most influential CEOs and executives on issues ranging from strategy to organization to leadership. You can learn more about Ron and his work at: www.navalent.com/about/team/ron-carucci.


EppersonJosh Epperson has spent the last decade at Navalent helping leaders and organizations overcome their most difficult business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community NGOs, privately-owned family businesses, and multi-billion dollar public corporations. Transformation of these leaders and organizations usually includes strategy articulation, organization architecture, leadership capability or a combination therein. You can learn more about Josh and his work at: www.navalent.com/about/team/josh-epperson.

Topic: Change Management, Corp Governance, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Org Behavior, Strategy
Tags: , , , , ,