December 28, 2005

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for CEOs

Posted in CEO, culture, Execution, management at 12:02 pm by scottmaxwell

As the year draws to a close, I thought that I would offer up my top 10 possible New Year’s Resolutions for Emerging Growth Company CEOs:

Choose the most appropriate (maximum of 3) from the list below:

  1. Customer Focus– Telephone or meet with at least 3 customers that you don’t already know each week, for 12 weeks. There is nothing like customer conversations to truly understand the perceptions of your organization (and perception is truly reality). Then, do something useful with the information!
  2. Product Focus– Choose the 1-3 most important areas of improvement to your product that you have known about for a long time (hint: ease of use is one of them), and spend the first 90 days of the year helping your product groups both building the improvements AND build the processes, organization, and staff to make ongoing improvements. Set and meet measurable progress goals by the end of Q1.
  3. Marketing Focus– Choose a (simple) message, and make sure that by the end of Q1, everyone inside your organization recites the message when prompted (this is not as easy as you think and should be measured by random prompts at the end of the quarter).
  4. Sales Focus– Put in place 1-2 new approaches that significantly improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of your sales funnel, with noticeable improvement by the end of Q1. (for example, pure channel sales can improve their online channel partner support or improve training of the partners. E-commerce distribution could put in web analytics or use what you already have to improve page abandonment or put in a program to reduce shopping cart abandonment. Telesales distribution companies could put in place or improve e-commerce. Field sales distribution could put in place telesales or telemarketing.)
  5. Service Focus– Sit with your customer service staff answering incoming customer service requests for a half day each week for 4 weeks. Use the knowledge you gain to make 1-2 significant changes (e.g., product feature, product usability adjustments, building help into your product, customer self help tools, customer service process step, etc.)
  6. Employee Focus– Take one employee to a one-on-one breakfast or lunch each week for 12 weeks (or until you run out of employeess to take out). Use the knowledge that you gain to make 1-2 significant changes by the end of the quarter.
  7. Strategy Focus– Create 1-3 initiatives from this list, make considerable progress on implementing by the end of Q1 to help increase your competitive advantage.
  8. Financial Results Focus– Take your current plan for Q1 and figure out how to outperform it by 10-15% on the bottom line in the first quarter, by raising the bar on hiring, focussing on better cost management, or getting involved in closing more sales.
  9. Execution Focus– Make sure that each of your direct reports has 3-5 major goals for Q1 with objective measures for success. Make sure that your direct reports do the same thing with their employees. Ask for a regular (at least weekly) review of progress against the activities to nail the goals as well as the results relative to objective measures.
  10. Have Fun– While nailing your goals are important, waking up every day passionate about your work is at least as important. Implement 1-3 initiatives that will improve the amount of fun that you and your employees are having (do it right and your productivity will improve as well).

Happy New Year!


  1. Dave Chase said,

    We must be on the same wavelength as I had a hat tip to you on my blog today ( for pointing out the Mashup Matrix and I had a post a couple days ago that expands on your tip #10 above (

  2. Scott, I think that’s a great list, especially point no 3.

    That’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever found playing around with software widgets.

    The tech guys who make it, never fail to lose the gift of speech when customers ask what the damn thing is supposed to do, and why on earth anybody would want to buy it.

    Which makes me upset to no end because that situation leaves an incoherent organisation.

    I think there could be a lot of demand for outsourced online courses which put the tech and the marketing guys on the same page. Is there anything like that available? Holding meetings to recite this stuff is such a waste. Everyone should learn these things on their own time.

  3. […] Boston-based VC Scott Maxwell (Insight Venture Partners) has a Top 10 list for emerging growth companies and their leadership, via Brad Feld out in Boulder. Number 5 is a good one: Service Focus- Sit with your customer service staff answering incoming customer service requests for a half day each week for 4 weeks. Use the knowledge you gain to make 1-2 significant changes (e.g., product feature, product usability adjustments, building help into your product, customer self help tools, customer service process step, etc.) […]

  4. Thanks Scott!


  5. Excellent post – especially appreciated 9

  6. scottmaxwell said,

    Daniel, I think the issues is that the tech guys are working at a level of detail that is three layers below what the top line messages are. I have not seen a good online course on getting the tech and markeing guys on the same page. My view is that most messages are either unclear, have too many points, or are otherwise too complex. Just sticking to one simple message and constantly communicating it (website, PR, sales calls, internal communications, footers of e-mail, sales colateral, ect) until it pervades the organization will help get you there.

    Separately, you could have your tech folks sitting in on some sales calls and/or taking some service calls to better understand the customer and to hear the message. This would be a good activity for lots of reasons.

    Finally, creating a tree that shows the top line messages and how the top line message disagregates into themes, then functional areas could show the tech group the map (another analogy is talking about “peeling back each layer of the onion” which is essentially each new branch level of the tree).

    hope this helps.

  7. Thank you Scott,

    It does help. I now have some things to do over the next three weeks. I like the idea of visualisation and contact between developers and customers.

    So as not to write up a confession or anything, (although, maybe other CEOs share this perspective), but I am starting to lose faith in planning, evaluating, replanning, re-evaluating, re-analysing, re-extrapolating and finally re-executing.

    I think the mistake I’ve been making so far is thinking too much (there’s goes that again). So for me, the 2006 resolution is too seriously dumb down how I do business.

    I think technology is moving too fast as to become completely useless to the people who it’s originally designed for. I think marketing messages are becoming too sophisticated for a market that wants things spelled out in ABCs. As far as marketing goes, I am going to take the time, to see my primary school English teacher and take a pointer in how to design sales literature for enterprise markets. As far attention spans go, we probably share similar audiences.

    Long live simplicity!

  8. Raza said,

    Hi Scott,

    They are so good that i just took a print out of this post and posted it on my room’s wall :).

    Thanks .

  9. Rajeev Bora said,

    They are really good and practical.

  10. satish said,

    I guess if this is followed by all employees every company would be something to reckon with. Alternatively anyone who wants to make an impact in his or her career can chant this mantra .

    neat stuff Scott.

  11. pucit said,

    Its amazing for CEOs to follow this to play their best role.:)

  12. […] few years ago I published my Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for CEOs.  The list is timeless and all CEOs would benefit by taking a look at the list and prioritizing […]

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