Jozef Opdeweegh: Why the first two weeks as a CEO of a new company are the most important

No matter if you are an entry level employee or a company’s brand-new CEO, the first day on the job can be nerve-wracking. Even so, your path to professional success begins the moment you walk through the door. Read on to discover why the first two weeks as the CEO of a company are the most important.

The recruitment process:

When considering an individual for a leadership role, the candidate is typically subjected to numerous interviews by recruiters, the board, and shareholders. Oftentimes, the final recruitment process stage involves the candidate providing example insights and an example strategic plan for the business. The candidate would then present the plan to the board, mapping out key strategic goals and proving why they (the candidate) are the best pick for the role. The audience will assess the plan and presentation through the lens of what the company may look like after three to five years under the candidate’s leadership.

The first week on the job:

Once the chosen candidate successfully passes all the hurdles and negotiated a satisfactory employment agreement, it is time for them to assume the leadership role. The first week is an important week, and longtime CEO, Jozef Opdeweegh, recommends spending those first days like this:

Day 1 – 2: Establish a vision, mission and core values/behaviors

Day 3 – 4: Map out the key drivers of success

Day 5: Draft the strategic plan

Opdeweegh says, “it is my experience the senior leadership team gathers in person to attend this 5 day-exercise. Of course, the size of that group depends on the size of the company, but I would caution against groups in excess of 40 -50 people because the ability to interact openly and effectively diminishes with an increased group size.”

Day 1-2

The first two days are really all about culture. “In the mission statement, you define the company’s current business, its key goals and the key milestones to achieve those goals,” says Opdeweegh. The vision statement describes how the company’s future state will look. And then finally, the corporate culture is defined by a set of shared core values and behaviors that will best enable the company to achieve its goals. Opdeweegh says, “it is paramount to focus on core behaviors early on: the future success of the company, and therefore your future success, largely depends on it. You cannot have a large group of associates work towards a common set of goals if they do not share a set of collective beliefs.”

Day 3-4

The following two days center on the key drivers of success. Opdeweegh suggests asking, “What do we need to focus on to be successful?” Obvious topics include financial success, and to satisfy the board, shareholders and lenders. It may sound somewhat counterintuitive, “but in my experience, many members of the senior leadership team do not necessarily have a good grasp of what the main drivers of financial success are. An extensive tutorial may be in order,” notes Opdeweegh. Topics that require discussion are historical valuation of a relevant peer group and the drivers of those valuations: compounded annual rate of revenue growth, EBITDA-margins, EBITDA-multiples, evolution of earnings per share, level of diversification across customers, geographies, industry verticals and product or service offerings and many more. “You need to ensure the leadership group acquires a sufficiently large level of financial literacy in terms of balance sheet, cash flow and P&L to allow them to monitor the financial performance of the company,” advises Opdeweegh.

Day 5

Finally, on day five, Opdeweegh says, “you should present a draft-summary strategic plan that consists of a P&L, balance sheet and the key strategic goals for the next five years.” This draft is then open for discussion with the group. At the end of day five, a subcommittee should be appointed with the specific task to develop a more detailed strategic plan within 30 days and to present that plan to the group. The executive team needs to be intimately involved in this exercise.

The 2nd week on the job

In the second week on the job, Opdeweegh recommends, “organizing a roadshow to get in front of the rest of the organization. You need to be out there and allow the associates to get to know you. You should spend time on the shop floor, demonstrating a decent level of understanding of the operational processes, but more importantly, you should interact with your coworkers.”

In your first couple of weeks on the job, and during your entire leadership tenure, it’s important to be relatable and approachable. Work to be humble, kind and authentic. You are human, and there is something very endearing about sharing stories about how you have faced challenges in the past and how you have successfully dealt with them. They need to see somebody who is fair, inclusive and open to new ideas. You are nothing more than member of the team who is there to support his co-workers. A good CEO does not find authority in his job title, but rather in tangible achievements.

6 Ways Corporate Culture Works As An Instrument To Guide A Company Through Transformation And Change

Transforming a business from its current state to a desired future state demands not only passion but also disciplined planning. In line with his view of corporate culture as a change agent, Jozef Opdeweegh outlines what such a transformation requires: a well-articulated and concise strategic plan, a message to associates detailing the future state of the company, a reassurance to the associates of their mission-critical importance, and a clear look at the company’s trajectory, including key milestones and goals along the way. Opdeweegh says, “I’m a true believer in corporate culture as an instrument to guide a company through transformation and change.”

Whether you have taken the bold decision to start your own business or have been tasked with running an existing company, the asset you are managing may well have multiple areas that deserve your special attention. For example, your business may be lacking organic growth, its leadership team may need to be recruited or upgraded, and the organization may require a couple of tangible successes to reinvigorate the team.

 

Any transformational activity is largely facilitated by a shared corporate culture. According to Opdeweegh, a Miami businessman with over 17 years of experience as CEO, Chairman and Board Member of private and public companies, “Corporate culture plays a critical role in the success of a company. The value and impact of a set of shared beliefs and behaviors can hardly be overstated when convincing a group of people to meticulously undertake a challenging change initiative.”

Opdeweegh cites 6 core behaviors that are very powerful in driving the right strategic initiatives of the organization. He encourages using one or more of these for discussion purposes as you go through the collaborative process of defining your corporate culture.

  1. Creativity: “Think outside the box and share your perspective.”
  2. Customer centricity: “The customer is central to everything we do.”
  3. Empowerment and accountability: “Push decision making down in the organization and hold people accountable.”
  4. Fairness: “Be fair and respectful in everything you do.”
  5. Openness: “Be open and open-minded, listen and allow the best idea to win.”
  6. Speed: “Make quick, analytics-based decisions.”

Opdeweegh uses a definition of corporate culture based on a commonly shared notion that a company’s culture consists of the sum of beliefs and behaviors that determine how associates and management interact with each other inside and outside the workplace, as well as with other relevant constituencies, such as customers, suppliers, the board of directors, lenders and other outside parties. Notes Opdeweegh, “Corporate culture, however, should ideally also extend to the development of a collective perspective on societal and environmental considerations, for instance, the role of the organization in the broader community, or the efforts to minimize a corporation’s carbon footprint.”

Opdeweegh adds that when suggesting a set of core values to the organization, it is important to come forward with values that are highly relevant to the corporation and its success, yet are universal in nature, and impossible to contest. Says Opdeweegh, “Nobody will object to a core value of ‘fairness.’ Nobody will raise their hand to state that they do not believe in ‘creativity.'” He notes that the process of agreeing on the most relevant core values or behaviors for an organization is an iterative and democratic process, with the ultimate end-result coming from many group sessions with a relevant diagonal slice of the company’s associates.