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Top CxO Issues - May 2014

Brought to you by THE CxO FORUM; below is a snapshot of the Top Issues discussed by CEOs, COOs, CFOs and business leaders during May 2014:

Business performance and opportunities

  • Business growth - Managing growth into a new market segment; What does the business need to look like to service growth opportunities?; Seizing opportunities created by industry-level changes; How to retain focus in a business during a period of substantial growth; Duplicating a business model in new markets - how do you get your corporate DNA into a different location?
  • Business acquisitions - Acquiring businesses in Asia; Dealing with the emotional drivers of stakeholders when acquiring a company; Funding organic growth vs. growth via acquisitions; Good opportunities to buy businesses at the moment
  • Revenue and cash flow - How to improve a company's revenue performance and improve its connection to the outside market; Driving diversity in income - through multiple clients or products; Dealing with working capital constraints; Maintaining work in progress during periods of slow demand; Debt collection problems can be time consuming - outsourcing is an alternative to be considered; Cash flow tightening - some customers slower to pay, some looking shaky
  • Strategic direction - Internal company challenges faced when finding ways of communicating concerns about the need for changes in strategy; Being innovative with new products/services and moving into new markets to offset the reduction in bottom-line revenue; Re-evaluation of business model for the future when market dynamics change; Diversification through joint ventures and partnerships
  • Budgets for 2013/14 - Flat or down in most cases; Identifying business expectations, predictions and key drivers for the year ahead; Most taking a conservative approach but a few are optimistic; Setting clear parameters, often with guidance from the Board; Looking for return on investment as a main guide

Business confidence and conditions

  • Carbon tax - Speculation on the impact of the carbon tax; All consumers will end up paying significantly more; Reports that maximum increase allowed by ACCC for carbon tax is 2.7%; Mining companies delaying projects and laying off staff; Is the objective of the carbon tax about reducing carbon emissions or is it more about income redistribution?; How to cost the impact of the carbon tax in forthcoming budgets; Some resistance to accepting price increases from suppliers - expect to absorb costs; Danger that passing on small increases will only encourage customers to shop around
  • Two / three speed economy - Growth figures are not reflective of the real world - some businesses booming, some flat lining while some in deep trouble. Deep differences between states
  • Business uncertainty - Choppy business conditions in Australia, with a mix of positives and negatives; Lack of confidence resulting from cash flow issues and clients not making decisions; Keys to and importance of resilience during difficult trading periods - need for substance and clear signals to staff and other key stakeholders; General feeling that this difficult period has some way to go - but business is still to be had out there
  • Global markets - Global economic environment deteriorating further - USA stalling, Europe worse, China slowing along with India, NZ doing better; China becoming more inflexible as costs rise - eg. minimum order quantities; Europe emerging as an alternative to China - higher quality, lower cost, more flexible

Staff performance and management

  • Managing performance - When to fire and when to manage; Managing an existing long-term, high performing employee who is behaving badly
  • Salary, bonuses and incentives - Retaining staff through salary increases - 5 - 10% for the most vulnerable staff; Bonuses and other approaches to incentive payments to staff and management; Managing disappointed expectations over bonuses and salary; Pros and cons of bonuses - creates expectation
  • Staff development - Ensuring staff observe documented procedures; Encouraging operational staff to delegate; Building capacity in your people; The power of mentoring - "Really good people make me look fantastic"; Formal training vs. informal development; Providing 'space' for the individual to grow/develop; Honouring the talent, attitudes, skills etc. of others
  • Employee engagement - Engaging staff beyond the pay packet; Identifying and nurturing career prospects and job satisfaction of key talent within the organisation; What to do when an employee resigns; Trying to keep an employee who has resigned; How to retain valuable and experienced members of the team; How profiling and other HR tools can assist in management and employee relationships
  • Recruitment - Recruiting for cultural mix and skills mix is challenging - especially in growing businesses; Challenges of getting the best staff - firstly having the courage to move non-performing staff out of the organisation; Many businesses adjusting their staffing levels to accommodate current reduced activity levels; The extent to which pre-employment psychological testing is worthwhile; Finding the right person for the job, particularly with the appropriate skill set
  • Working from home - Almost 1/3 of the workforce could work from home four days a week if there was good IT infrastructure and the OH&S laws were easier; Importance of setting work from home rules from an OH&S policy viewpoint


  • Managing a Board - Identifying when to push a Board - and when to just do as directed; Importance of the Board showing leadership and making the hard decisions; Tactics implemented to enhance executive accountability; Managing inter-company diplomacy
  • Change management - Managing oneself during a change management process; Changing a recently 'totally disconnected' organisational culture brought about by recent 'survival' focus - both operationally and fiscally; Change management challenges in categories that are experiencing disruptive change
  • Life-long learning - Balancing online learning with day-to-day pressures; Leadership is a life-long journey - Be clear on your values, understand compromise, a leader is a thought leader, not a decision maker; How adults learn
  • CEO career - How long to stay as a CEO? As long as you are adding and receiving value to the organisation; Moving into directorships; Managing upward can be more difficult than down - understanding your superior's management style and personality is essential to allow tailoring of communications to achieve positive decisions; Valuing the current leadership in the business when introducing a new partner

Sales and marketing

  • Getting found online - Are we doing enough to attract clients through the Internet rather than old fashioned methods?; How to keep websites current and relevant - particularly for Google. Sites must have good content and be updated at a minimum on a monthly basis, re-marketing - revisiting website hits that didn't amount to sales.


  • Social media - Social media has become a more useful tool for business over the last twelve months; Effectively managing social network exposure - a company policy is vital; Social media is transforming decision making through the public's ability to respond instantly to issues, increased demand for transparency and access to information; Use of SM for brand awareness and customer engagement; Care should be taken with all messages put on any social media platform to ensure it isn't damaging to the business' reputation; Important to maintain up-to-date involvement on any social media once started
  • Technology changes - Responding to technological change may require a re-visit of traditional offering - in some cases, massive fundamental change is required; Developing new technologies in the carbon emission space




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