Last updated: June 14

Decision support for CEOs – a case study (& checklist) 

Prevent unwanted surprises by gauging trust early in the relationship. Don’t let your guard down or dismiss your spidey senses when something doesn’t feel right during a transaction.

Feeling uneasy during a negotiation, when hiring a new team member, or vetting a new job offer can produce anxiety (many people feel this way). If you are the CEO, it may feel isolating, with no functional peer in the organization to confide in.

A man walking amidst an empty courtyard alone

In an episode on our podcast, Robin Dreeke joined us to discuss building rapport through trust and relationships.

According to him: 

“A gut feeling can be a very good thing because if someone had a bad gut feeling, there was likely a lack of transparency and understanding. When you ask clarifying questions, you should have very quick clarifying answers.

In other words, when we start interacting with someone, we're naturally establishing a baseline of what normal dialogue is. And then when you're seeking clarification in certain areas on those good questions, the other person should have the same tempo of conversation, dialogue, and answers that they were having when we were just talking about the weather. But what happens is if there's obscuring, if there's avoiding, if there's lack of clarity, if they're over complicating, if their tempo changes, that is saying we have something unhealthy going on here and that's what gives us that ‘I don't have a good feeling about this’. Pay attention to it.

And what’s really good is once you can identify what's giving you that feeling, you know what exactly happened at that moment, what question you asked that gave you that feeling, now you have a great opportunity to address it with that individual.”

Two men having a serious conversation sitting at a table across from one another

Case Study

 Thank you to JR in Northern Europe for submitting this scenario for review (note: certain facts have been fictionalized to protect the identity of JR and his prospective client).

JR is a global supply chain leader having served as the Chief Procurement Officer for several of the largest multibillion-dollar companies in the world. Now in retirement from the corporate world, he serves as a private consultant, delivering advisory services for companies working in the global transportation of hazardous goods.

Here is his story:

“I’ve been in touch with a business in the inventory management field in the renewable energy market vertical. The company claims to have a proprietary cloud-based solution that alerts potential energy companies of excess inventory available for a significant discount. The inventory lots are often too small to sell by the companies themselves, but also use valuable warehouse space.

They claim they can cut valuable warehouse wasted space by 22%, thereby freeing space for more critical inventory. The company is currently running a pilot and has developed an app. Now they require a marketing campaign to onboard potential customers. Optimizing ‘warehouse space’ is nothing new, and there are a lot of ways to do it, however, this is expected to function anonymously and seamlessly via an app.

I signed an NDA (as I’ve done with some others). They want me to help them connect their idea with bigger players because I have dozens of connections in every major center around the world. I’ve met with the CEO several times. Their interest in me is also because of my prior experience with setting up supply chain relationships between businesses and other 3rd parties.

My experience tells me that in order to access other companies’ warehouse databases, we need to have written contracts and comply with each company’s data policies, not to mention to be GDPR compliant for the E.U. As the first point of order, I advised them to arrange a data privacy and policy lawyer to draft boilerplate contracts in compliance with GDPR regulations, since I believe their service will require contracts with all participants.

The problem I’m having is getting this startup to share with me the nuts and bolts of exactly how this is going to work on the technical level. I’ve communicated that it will be very challenging for me to make connections (let alone sell others on the concept) if I can’t explain how it works. Right now, this is like a ‘black mystery box’ that works like magic.

The CEO is afraid of going into detail with me based on a bad experience with someone else who they claim to have compromised proprietary info even after signing an NDA. I said ‘if I can’t wrap my head around the inner workings, it will be impossible for me to engage other companies on the concept’. It’s the technical side of their proof of concept that they’re not revealing.

So far, I’ve taken distance and have lost interest; however, we are scheduled to connect again soon. They also claim they don’t need anyone’s permission for their cloud-based solution to function! This is new to me, and also why I’m losing interest.

There are public and private data pools, and data mining can only go so far. They will not gain access to private booking networks to my knowledge. This is what I’ve told them, and so I hit a wall and walked away. They’re still interested in me helping them, even with potentially helping to run the company, but I don’t know how to when I don’t understand the inner workings of the product or service.

I’ve put in about 10 hours of my time so far, and have said if I’m to proceed further, it will be for hourly compensation, and we will need a written contract in place detailing exactly what they want me to do for them. It’s been a dog and pony show so far, and of course, there’s no sales activity yet. Business development is the next step.”

An image depicting a fork in the road implying a decision must be made

My response (Maureen Farmer): 

“From my point of view, for a business relationship to be successful, there must be trust and transparency. I see you have extended professional consulting services for their benefit without consideration.

And they’re not being transparent with you.

Every new business relationship must involve due diligence by both parties and your request for product information is more than appropriate.

The CEO is asking you to leverage your distinguished relationships built on an entire career of impeccable performance and character. Are you willing to compromise your reputation (personal brand) when the other party is not forthcoming?

Your prospective client’s experience with the party who compromised their intellectual property is not your problem. It is up to your prospect to deal with that problem, such as seeking a legal remedy.

On your end, additional due diligence would include a product demonstration so you can accurately assess the suitability for making those connections they are asking from you. Your offer to honor an NDA demonstrates your faith and commitment to confidentiality.

You have a number of options for moving forward. One is to refuse any further communication until they agree to your professional service fees. The other option is to run the other way. Serve companies that match your values and ethics.”

Like, Know, Trust Model WESTGATE

Garry Ridge, CEO of the WD-40 company said, “We talk to everybody about our values. And if you were to go on our career site, and look at the career items we have, the first thing that shows up are our values. And it basically says if these don't align with you, don't call us. Because you won't be happy here. We use our values to make every decision we make.

I say that anybody in the company can make any decision they want, anywhere, anytime, as long as they use our values as the guiding star. That's all we ask them to do is use our values as their decision-making tool.”

What is your advice for JR?

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About executive resume writing author 

Westgate - Maureen Farmer

Maureen Farmer is the Founder & CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc., an international personal branding and career consulting firm delivering premier executive branding and career consulting services for high-profile leaders. Author of The CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives, Maureen believes that when we’re doing work aligned with our values, everyone wins. Using the law of attraction to identify quality employers utilizing the hidden job market is a cornerstone of her career management strategy.

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