Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Formula for SMART Growth for Technology-based Firms

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

In my experience, I have identified the following characteristics of businesses that have been successful in emerging from start-up phase into a sustained growth stage with efficient, managed growth. These fundamental characteristics of successful growth businesses include:

  • Strategy-based
  • Market-based
  • Alignment-based
  • ROI-based
  • Technology Innovation-based

Additional success attributes include a placing a priority on the following building blocks (not necessarily in this sequence):

  1. Emphasis on accountability
  2. Emphasis on action-orientation
  3. Emphasis on cash flow
  4. Emphasis on client acquisition
  5. Emphasis on client service
  6. Emphasis on empowerment
  7. Emphasis on leadership
  8. Emphasis on listening
  9. Emphasis on metrics
  10. Emphasis on perseverance
  11. Emphasis on prioritization
  12. Emphasis on quality
  13. Emphasis on relationships
  14. Emphasis on results
  15. Emphasis on root cause analysis

While formalities like organization structure, policies, and procedures are necessary to some degree for any successful business, it is imperative that there is not too much focus on certain aspects of growing a technology business that will ultimately impede growth. Based on my experience, I recommend that leaders implement:

  1. Just enough communication
  2. Just enough governance
  3. Just enough information
  4. Just enough infrastructure
  5. Just enough oversight
  6. Just enough planning
  7. Just enough process
  8. Just enough resources
  9. Just enough structure
  10. Just enough technology

Of course, any experienced business leader recognizes that maintaining a consistent focus on each of these elements is a daunting task. I will provide additional details and guidelines on each of these best practices in future blog posts. Please contact me with questions and to share best practices from your own personal experiences in growing successful businesses.

— By Jack Spain

Tips to Becoming an Effective TTO Change Agent

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Managing change within any organization today is increasingly more challenging each year. Stakeholder expectations are increasing; cycle time expectations are collapsing for all institutional processes and transactions; geographic boundaries are collapsing as a result of globalization; institutional organizational strategies are increasingly dynamic; every element of an enterprise is becoming more complex; competition is becoming more intense each quarter in every commercial sector; and our physical world is transforming into a virtual digital workplace with more extensive connectivity.


Effective change leadership is one of the most challenging and rewarding opportunities for leaders. How do Tech Transfer Office (TTO) directors effectively lead their organization through changes in the institution’s leadership; reorganizations; institutional economic challenges; or legal disputes? How can you become a champion and lead your organization in the pursuit of objectives to align with a new set of imperatives from your institution or immediate management?


I recommend five critical imperatives to position a TTO director as an effective change leader:


1.         Maintain a firm grasp of the current realities, challenges, and opportunities throughout the organization with proactive feedback loops and effective organizational controls.


2.         Ensure that the appropriate energy, priority, and focus are maintained on the change initiative until the desired results have been accomplished.


3.         Assemble the right skills and talent on the change team to ensure that your team will meet its overall goals.


4.         Set high expectations for and continuously strive to over-communicate.


5.         Establish the foundation to prepare your team to succeed with effective execution of your plan.


One of your most essential responsibilities as a leader is to maintain the appropriate focus on your change initiatives to ensure that your team is successful in achieving your goals. It is so easy and all too tempting to become distracted by the next issue to hit your desk, but effective leaders persevere to institutionalize the desired change.


Please share your lessons learned, challenges, and victories from guiding a change initiative within your institution.


—By Jack Spain

Virtual Workforce Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Laura Schoppe and I have posted several blog entries recently on the virtues of a virtual organization model, including posts on our recent NPR interview, Flex Options in the Workplace, and the benefits of a virtual team. Laura also wrote an article for Mobility Enterprise Magazine. The Fuentek virtual business model is the foundation of how we deliver consistent, high-quality, high-value services to our global clients. During the past nine years, we have recognized several key best practices and lessons learned.


Best Practices for Leaders:


1.         Establish, maintain, and communicate clear and concise expectations and accountabilities for all staff members.

2.         Maintain a focus on results, not where and when staff members are working.

3.         Develop and maintain just enough process definition along with effective training and mentoring programs for staff members.

4.         Institute an effective screening, recruiting and hiring process for prospective job candidates.

5.         Communicate proactively and on a regular basis.

6.         Invest in web-based database, collaboration and communications tools.


Best Practices for Staff Members:


1.         Have the ability and desire to work independently without the abundance of social interactions available in traditional organizations.

2.         Be self-motivated and not dependent on continual guidance, communications, and reinforcement from a supervisor.

3.         Be dependable and dedicated, and consistently deliver high-quality services on time and within budget.

4.         Establish a fully functioning home office that includes business class technology, high-speed Internet, dedicated telephone and the ability to be isolated from household distractions.

5.         Focus on maintaining strong time management skills, and clearly compartmentalizing professional and personal responsibilities.


Lessons Learned:


1.         Managing a virtual team requires increased flexibility from both staff and leaders.

2.         The virtual organization model is more appropriate with seasoned, mature and experienced staff members.

3.         Effective and highly motivated staff members typically have a strong desire for independence and a flexible work schedule.

4.         Satisfaction for both staff and leaders requires effective and continuous feedback loops to avoid surprises.

5.         Leaders must invest in funding cost-effective face-to-face interactions periodically to strengthen communication, collaboration and build trust across the entire team.


Managing a virtual organization requires less time investment day-to-day from a leadership perspective, but it does require greater focus and intensity on how you effective manage your staff.


What have been your professional telecommuting and virtual workforce experiences?


—By Jack Spain

Virtual teams are a SMART approach to running your organization

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

You can improve your enterprise’s Success by establishing and Managing a virtual team to enhance your organization’s Agility and increase staff Retention by leveraging modern, low-cost, ubiquitous Technology.

Increasingly more enterprise leaders are achieving greater success by establishing organization goals, objectives and performance metrics that empower their staff. Associates gain greater satisfaction through increased flexibility and productivity to get their job done while focusing more on results than office arrival and departure times. To achieve successful staff empowerment, leaders should establish clear goals, utilize proactive and consistent communications, and maintain trust between staff and management.

Over the past several years, technology that can support a virtual office has advanced considerably and this new technology aligns well with the current focus on enterprise environmental impact and our personal carbon footprint.

The following are just a few of the direct and indirect cost savings associated through empowering and managing virtual team:

  • Reduced commuting environmental costs (fuel, CO2 emissions)
  • Increased productive time due to reduced commuting time
  • Lower conditioned space costs (lease, electric, gas, water, janitorial, waste & recycling removal, grounds keeping, insurance, etc.)
  • Reduced infrastructure and office supply costs (computer servers, desktop/notebook computers, printers, phone systems, IT support resources, etc.)
  • Improved productivity (fewer distractions and non-essential break room discussions)


Virtual environments have moved well beyond social media and digital gaming and into the workplace within many leading organizations.

—By Jack Spain

November 2nd, 2009

The IT Leadership Pyramid

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

After several years of conducting research and developing content on a part-time basis, I recently published the book, “The IT Leadership Pyramid – Essential Leadership Imperatives for Leaders of Information Technology Organizations in the 21st Century” based on my experiences working within and supporting Information Technology organizations over the past three decades.  Copies of this books is available at

— Jack Spain

January 25th, 2009