The New CEO – Meet the Right People

One of the first things that any new CEO needs to do is set up interviews with other key members of the management team.  While the CEO should already be familiar with the job descriptions for department heads and the organization and operational activities of each department the CEO should meet with the top of manager of each functional and business unit to begin to form his or her own independent opinion of the skills and talents of those persons and the manner in which they oversee and manage their units.  Among other things, the CEO should ask the other managers about any specific issues or problems they are confronting within the organization and in relations with external parties.  For example, the senior manager of the sales group may feel that the customer service department is not providing adequate support for certain important accounts.  If that is the case the CEO may need to intervene and attempt to smooth relations between the two units and assist them in develop a process to work together in a way that suits both of their goals and objectives and improves the customer’s experience with the company from the time the first contact is made by sales through the entire post-sale service and support period.  In the accounting area the discussion should cover important accounting and tax issues facing the company as well as the content and strength of accounting-related policies and procedures including internal controls and audit procedures.  With regard to external relations, the CEO may find that the manufacturing unit needs to reconfigure its supplier network in order to control the costs of procuring raw materials and ensure that components are available on a timely basis to fulfill sales orders.  In that situation the CEO will need to work with the senior management of the procurement and manufacturing units to develop and implement an appropriate vendor relations strategy.  The initial goal of these discussions is to determine how the CEO, through his or her oversight of the parent unit resources, can immediately assist and support the functional and business units.  In addition, however, the CEO should collect feedback on issues or problems that are likely to arise in the future so that they can be factored into the long-term business planning process.

As the CEO conducts the meetings with the department heads he or she should focus on certain core topics and on learning more about how the company, through its managers, actually operates.  For example, the CEO needs to go beyond documents that he or she may have received from the company to independently learn about the company’s business, including policies and practices regarding revenue recognition; the elements of revenue and expense for each product line, especially gross margins; any relevant accounting or tax issues that are likely to have an impact on the company or the industry segments in which the company competes; the content and strength of the company’s technology portfolio; and the position of the company vis-à-vis competitors in each of the company’s market segments.  When discussing issues such as revenue recognition the CEO should ask about customary practice in the industry and determine whether company practices are consistent with those used by competitors.  It is also useful for the CEO to learn as much as possible about the details of how the company’s products are developed, manufactured, distributed, sold and supported.  This usually means actual observation of the manufacturing process and attendance at sales presentations.  The CEO should also watch how employees go about their day-to-day activities and, most importantly, how their managers interact with them in communicating directions and information regarding the company and the specific tasks and duties that are being assigned to the employees.  If possible, the CEO should meet with small groups of employees from several departments to hear first-hand how they feel about the company, their managers and the challenges they are facing on a daily basis.

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