Varnell Consulting
William G. Varnell
Career Consultant
For those who choose to manage their careers
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Executive Coaching: Success Stories

Here are some Executive Coaching Success Stories of past clients:

Paul: CEO growing his business, changing his role

Paul, a long-established CEO ask me to help him grow his business.

His goal was a 50% increase in business (both revenue and profit) over a two-year period. He wanted to try to make this happen even in poor economic times.

We met several times in order for me to fully understand his particular situation. Because he had grown up in the firm he knew how to do every job and had become the go-to person on every question. He also had over thirty (yes, 30) direct reports and basically had no time to spend on growing the business.

His strategy (growth of 50% in just two years) was clear. We began to discuss a mix of tactics and focused on a combination of organic growth and an acquisition opportunity. I was able to get Paul to see that his role had to change and to embrace that new role.

As the acquisition began to fall into place we evaluated the staff in the firm being purchased in light of Paul’s overall strategy. We developed a new organizational model and chart leveraging the best people in each organizations and established Paul with five direct reports. The acquisition provided an opportunity to use the new organization as the basis for discussion of the future and justify the reorganization. We eliminated some redundant positions and gave Paul a fresh platform supporting his new role.

We developed clear, concise goals and accountabilities for each direct report (three were to grow revenue, one was to increase profits, and the third was to keep score and report widely on results).

Paul’s new role focused on the results needed from the five key staff, identifying and resolving major barriers to success and challenging his staff to find solutions. I also taught Paul how to tell people that they needed to discuss small issues directly with their bosses. This was a hard lesson but armed with a script Paul succeeded.

We challenged the five direct reports to form their own Operating Committee and focused that group on working together to grow the business and solve the business problems that came along.

Over time, a second acquisition opportunity came into play and new goals (doubling the business in three years) were put into place.

Paul’s role has changed. He is much more involved in the external parts of the business giving it more of a public presence, he is focusing his management energy almost entirely on results, and he is able to travel more with his family.

Alice: Chief Executive changing the culture

Alice relocated from another part of the country to become the chief executive at a large non-profit. She had been brought in to change the organizational culture, improve operating results, and increase charitable giving.

Because she was new to the area she had no in-place network of peer executives to support her and she asked me to provide some transitional help as well as executive coaching. The coaching part focused on the political minefields that often surround the stakeholders and staff at non-profits. Because she had been hired to change the culture this was especially complex.

We meet regularly and I provide her a sounding board and have became her trusted advisor. Topics ranged from finance to personnel, to Board and employee politics. Several times our sessions became an opportunity for Alice to blow off a bit of steam, identify an underlying issue, and then map out a course of action.

In this particular assignment I have also been asked to counsel with a few of her staff and help them understand that the changes she is making are at the behest of the Board and provide staff with a larger picture context. We selected these staff carefully as our goal was direct communication with few in order to leverag the ensuing informal communication throughout the organization.

The cultural changes, performance improvements, and operational changes are well underway and mostly installed. Alice has started her fourth year as chief executive. Board and stakeholder feedback is very positive, especially about her “business-like” approach. Day-to-day operations are smoother and more responsive to client needs and expectations. Fund raising is more successful.

Maryanne: Senior executive creating major change

Maryanne is a long-term client being coached in her third role and second company. Over time she has grown from being a marketing resource in a divisional setting to the head of marketing for a large, multi-national firm.

Her current firm has put a stake in the Americas and intends to grow organically and via acquisition. The marketing challenges are substantial and include making new acquisitions work, rebranding the firm locally and nationally, and coordinating the marketing effort to operational changes intended to differentiate the firm in its many marketplaces.

Maryanne and I have “strategy days” where we map out what she wants (and needs) to accomplish and then think about the right mix of talent to focus on the issues. More importantly we discuss the internal (local and at the European headquarters) politics and how she might best keep up to speed with her boss and the overseas group as well.

Our discussions about work are in the form of discussing strategy, then structure, and then people. Maryanne has grown as an executive. She no longer thinks first about the people at hand (a major mistake many of us make) and trying to plan around the status quo. She now steps back, sees the big picture and figures out how to get the desired result.

At the level Maryanne functions jobs and bosses change with regularity. Mindful that marketing leaders have only average two-year job expectancy, we are actively planning for her next position. We discus meetings that she might attend, presentations to be make and people to network with as part of preparing for the next role.

Mack: Consultant targeting his business, articulating value

Mack is an independent consultant working is a business growth consultant in an engineering space. His target companies need strategic and tactical assistance in order to grow from small (say $2 – 5 million) and attain critical mass positioning the company for explosive growth. Typically his clients reach critical mass at about $25 million.

My executive coaching with Mack is focused on keeping his view of his clients clear. His clients are self-staring CEOs who have stared a business and have done everything needed by the start-up. I have helped Mack develop a process helping him understand the needs of his clients.

In order to understand his business opportunity I have coached Mack to learn if this is a revenue growth client, a new product introduction client, a client merely in need of marketing, or a client who needs to understand how production limits might limit growth.

Mack and I regularly meet to discuss prospects and lay out his strategy for approaching the client, establishing project scope, and determining the best pricing approach. In many ways this engagement makes me Mack’s combination business manager and COO.

Sally: First time as a member of senior staff

Sally is the head of marketing and communications for a large, worldwide firm. This is her first time as a member of the senior staff.

Her firm, like many multi-nationals is far flung and the CEO and other senior staff members are stationed across the globe. In fact, Sally is the only senior staff person in this area and she has no peer level colleagues near by.

Sally’s issues are interesting and we have focused on the following:

  • How do I pull everyone together effectively to get agreement on the marketing and communications strategy?
  • How do we successfully communicate key corporate and personnel issues to a diverse employee population spread across five continents?
  • How do I manage a boss who is not nearby and not readily accessible?
  • How do I position myself to be marketable locally when the CEO turns over and the new CEO may want to replace me?
  • How do I find a peer support group when there are no senior level people nearby?

This is an overall interesting engagement. Our meetings are usually divided between, “I have this business issue we need to discuss…” and “I have a professional development concern to talk about…”.

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