The Nice Guy – Hbr Case Study

HBR CASE STUDY Paul Kennedy is a good fellow who trusts people, and he’s in line to become CEO of Daner Associates. Is he tough enough for the job? The Nice Guy by Russ Edelman and Tim Hiltabiddle 7:01 AM Driving East on Clifton Boulevard Toward Downtown Cleveland Damn. I’m still stuck in traf? c.

Accident ahead? Thank goodness Larry doesn’t show up these days until 11:00 at the earliest. I can get a lot done before our one-on-one later today provided Lisa ? nalized those projections for the European of? ces yesterday. Once she’s plugged the numbers into the forecasting model, we’ll have our economic case close to perfect.

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When I show Larry the expansion plans, he’ll give me one of those arm punches and tell me how great I am. Maybe he’ll say he’s ? nally ready to pass me the baton. We could jointly announce it at the company meeting next week.

Poor Sheila. She didn’t look well this morning when I kissed her goodbye… Amy had the snif? es last night. Hope we’re not in for another winter cold. That’s two already this year. I don’t want Sheila to be sick on Friday.

We’ve got reservations at Giovanni’s. Jeez, married 15 years already. Hard to believe. Can’t wait ’til she sees the diamond studs I bought her. Note to self: Remember to buy roses.

Brakes suddenly. ] Whoa, it would be nice if you signaled, lady! Oh, I see,”Baby on Board. ” The kid’s probably crying…. I remember that time, driving Amy to day care. She dropped her bottle and screamed her head off.

Wow, Clifton’s a parking lot today. I’ll give Lake a shot. I may as well try to DANIEL VASCONCELLOS HBR’s cases, which are ? ctional, present common managerial dilemmas and offer concrete solutions from experts. february 2006 21 H B R C A S E S T U D Y • T h e N i ce G u y make some calls. Maybe Lisa’s in the of? ce already.

7:14 AM Heading Eastbound on Lake Avenue [Calls Lisa on her cell. "Hi Lisa, it’s me, Paul. Hey. I need to touch base on two things. First, how’s your mom doing? Did she have a good night?.

…Uh huh. …I see. …Wow, I’m sorry to hear that. That’s really rough. Sheila sends her love. Please let Lilly know she’s in our prayers, OK? Also, I want to con? rm that we’re all set on the expansion numbers.

I need the model for my meeting with Larry at 1:30. …What?. …Oh, I see. What time is her doctor’s appointment? … Mmmm. …Uh, no, don’t sweat it. Just do what you need to do, and I’ll ? gure When I show Larry the expansion plans, he’ll give me one of those arm punches and tell me how great I am.

Maybe he’ll say he’s ? nally ready to pass me the baton. out a way to ? nalize the data. Who was helping you out, Lynne or Aaron? … Neither? Ugh. All right, all right. Call me when you’re on your way in to the of? ce, OK? See ya.

” [Hangs up. ] Damn. This totally messes up my morning. Now I’ll have to try to hack my way through the spreadsheet before the meeting. I can’t imagine what it’s like taking care of a parent with a terminal illness. How awful.

But Lisa’s really slipping. She was such a go-getter and a great operations manager, but her focus has been shot since her mother got sick.

Last week she forgot to copy the latest Russ Edelman ([email protected] . com) and Tim Hiltabiddle ([email protected] strategies. com) are the founders of Nice Guy Strategies, a consulting ? rm in Boston.

22 spreadsheets to the network. Not cool. Work used to be a big priority in her life. But now…. I know she still loves Daner as much as I do.

It’s in her blood. She’s always telling me how much better the work environment is since I joined ten years ago. That long? I can remember so clearly when Larry ? rst told me about Daner Associates, the line he gave me. “Ad agencies are passe,” he said.

Instead, he was starting a “new media” company. The notion of leaving a great job at TRH and joining his team was the furthest thing from my mind, yet the crazy guy pitched me so hard I couldn’t resist.

And he was right. He knew that companies would need a strategic partner that could provide creative ideas in all media – print, radio, TV, and “that information superhighway I keep hearing about. “Daner was going to be that partner. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s been an incredible ride. Up from ? ve people to over a hundred, a client list that boasts some of the biggest companies in the world.

And the best part is, it’s just the beginning. Larry is still a tiger, but he’s getting a bit tired and wants to golf. I can’t blame him for that. It’s de? nitely time for him to retire. Lately I could swear he’s been doing the nudge-nudge, winkwink in my direction.

George thinks he’s in the running too, but I think he’ll be cool with reporting to me. Wonder: Once I’m CEO, should I put George in charge of our European expansion? A footprint in Europe will make us even more indispensable to our clients. It will make us a global leader, not just a domestic shop. George has done well under Larry for the past two years.

He was pretty psyched about his promotion to VP of business development. He’s great on the technical end of things, but he still needs more polish and experience with customers.

He is feisty, though–always willing to take on anything. And he’ll challenge Larry at the drop of a hat. I’m surprised Larry puts up with it and doesn’t chop him off at the knees. Still, when it comes to people, Larry can really be so hard-nosed. His take- no-prisoners attitude is understandable when bidding on business but not when it comes to people. Like when Larry said Lisa’s become a liability lately; he even hinted about replacing her.

Ugh. Lay off Lisa? I can barely think the words, let alone say them to her. She’s always been my right arm. She usually knows what I’m thinking even before I do. Sure, Jim or Andrea could eventually handle the role of operations manager, but there’s a steep learning curve. Note to self: Have another heart-to-heart with Lisa to discuss the possibility of reducing her workload for a while–or maybe see how she’d feel about taking a leave of absence that would let her focus on her mom.

I really want the old Lisa back. 7:38 AM Passing Edgewater Park on the Shoreway This traf? c is ridiculous. If I leave by 6:00, I’m golden.

But if I wait until after 6:30 to wake Sheila and the kids on my way out, I’m hosed. At least today I get to see an amazing sunrise.

Bonus. Man, I could jog faster than this. I remember all those brainstorming jogs with Larry along the lake. It was great to compare notes and talk about the future. For an old guy, he did pretty well – up until his heart attack three years ago. I almost lost it last week when he said that he was going to start jogging again – and he’s aiming to run the Boston Marathon in April.

Please, Larry, stick with golf and sailing! It’ll be fun to blow him away with the strategy and the numbers.

It’s been a ton of work preparing for this, but now we’re ready. We can mobilize quickly once he gives us the green light. I’m a little surprised that he’s stayed away from our recent planning sessions. I thought he’d want to provide some feedback and direction.

Perhaps it’s his way of pulling back and empowering me before handing me the reins. So, the million-dollar question is: What will he say? I think I know the answer. He’ll love the bottom line–that he can golf and sail as much as he wants. He’ll like his new chairman-only role so that he can step away from the dayHarvard business review

H B R C A S E S T U D Y • T h e N i ce G u y to-day operations. And he’ll admire the return to the origins of the company in which staff development programs become an integral part of Daner’s growth strategy.

7:51 AM Exiting at West 45th Street Could this traf? c be any more annoying? Maybe I’ll have better luck on Detroit. Better call Justin back – he left that obscure message. Hope I don’t have to run more interference with printing the Shef? eld job. [C[Calls Justin. ]Justin, it’s me, Paul.

Yeah, I got your message. Fill me in. … OK, call Randy and push back …. No, I’m not stepping in yet. This is your baby. It’s your job.

Between you and me, I’m not totally ruling out compromise, but you need to push back. Remind them how much business we’ve given them over the years, and remember we’re talking about a big chunk of change here. Besides, they should have caught the mistake. You can do this, Justin. Keep me posted. ” I can’t believe this.

More problems? Abbe Printing had to redo the whole thing because of their mistake, and now that rep Randy is trying to convince Justin that Daner should split the cost of the reprint with them? Forget it! I can’t stand it when people try to take advantage. I grew up in a print shop, for cryin’ out loud.

Gimme a break! Justin does have a point, though. The murky print specs Lisa prepared on that job created a bit of a gray area in terms of culpability, but still – we give Abbe dozens of jobs a year. Over $2 million in revenues, I’ll bet! We could be hardnosed on this.

Sticking us with a bill like this just doesn’t feel right. Still…maybe there’s room for compromise. I know that Randy is a good guy, and besides, they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty for us many times. I really don’t want to torch that vendor relationship. a little after the kids go to school….

OK, put Quinn on, but make it quick….

Hey, Quinn, good luck with the test today. I know you’ll do great. Finish eating, and I’ll see you tonight for baseball practice…. Yes, I’ve got all the equipment…. No, I don’t think Tommy should try to pitch; he’s a great out? elder.

We’ll talk tonight, OK? Let me speak to Amy real quick…. Oh, all right, put me back on with Mommy…. Hi hon. … What? …No, I can’t pick up the dry cleaning. I passed it ten minutes ago.

And I’m already late to the of? ce…. All right, love ya. I’ll talk to you later – remember to give Amy a kiss, OK? Feel better. Bye. ” Note to self: Talk to Tommy’s dad about why I’m keeping him in the out? ld tonight – gotta ? gure out a nice way to let him know that his kid is talent challenged as a pitcher. in college.

They were so proud when I ? nally got my MBA…. I can’t wait to run this company. I’m going to show Larry, the team – damn, the world–where Daner can go! Note to self: Get tickets for a game this season, and take all the managers. And grab four for the family, too. I want to start making it a tradition with Sheila and the kids. 8:22 AM Pulling into the Parking Lot, Warehouse District This is crazy.

By the time I get into the of? ce, I’ve spent over an hour commuting.

I’ve got to have Lisa – or someone – look into of? ce space on the West Side. We’d all appreciate a reduced commute, easier parking, and more room and amenities. Remember to mention it to Larry, too. 8:16 AM Turning on West 3rd Street, near Public Square There’s the stadium.

Too bad the Browns stink this year. And last year. And the year before. Damn, I really miss the old days. What a great routine we had – Mom, Dad, Gracie, and me… I…Dad always did the impossible and found a way to get tickets to the BrownsSteelers game every year.

What a blast. I miss watching the games with Dad. That’s when we bonded.

That was our time together. It was tough for both Dad and Mom to balance work and family, but somehow they did. They were always there for me.

And boy, did they love their work. What great role models. Gracie and I were forever hanging out at the plant after school and on weekends, too. The place was always buzzing, and the teamwork was amazing. The employees felt such ownership, such a sense of responsibility for each job, big or small. Mom and Dad’s formula was as relevant then as it is now.

Management 101: Treat everyone with respect and consideration – employees, clients, vendors – and you get loyalty and productivity.

They were so patient with me switching majors from art to sociology 10:52 AM Paul’s Of? ce [O[On the phone. ]You’re right, George. Cuyagen needs us. We’re clearly the best ? t for the job. But I don’t think we have quite the leverage you think we do.

I feel that they’re really price sensitive. What happens if we play it your way, refuse to lower our estimate, and then they walk and go with Dewald Media? I really hate Dewald. We’ve already lost several accounts to those guys because of their ridiculously low fees…. Yeah, I hear ya – but think of the bigger picture. We can’t afford to lose ground in biotech right now.

It’s growing, and we need to be seen as a player, not an afterthought.

Let’s ? nd a way to make the deal work and still be reasonably pro? table. Maybe we reduce our pricing to get in the door, then get back to our normal fee structure down the road? Have you discussed with them our approach for quantifying the ROI on campaigns like this? …And they’re still balking? Even with an ROI that could pass any sniff test? Unbelievable! …All right. I’ll get back to you after I’ve given it some thought. Thanks for the update. ” Sometimes George is so smug. I can’t believe that Cuyagen wants the entire deal for 60% of what we proposed.

I harvard business review 8:08 AM Crossing the Detroit-Superior Bridge [C[Calls Sheila. ]Hey honey, how are you feeling? …Oh, hon. Maybe you can sleep 24 wonder if they’re just playing hardball to see how low we’ll go or if they’re really that clueless when it comes to the costs of mounting an effective campaign of this size. They won’t get that with Dewald. But damn, we need this deal! I’d hate to lose the business, especially in this economy.

It would be a great toehold for us in biotech. George thinks they’ll ultimately go for the higher price, even with some 4:12 PM Paul’s Of? e Oh, God, please tell me that this is just a nightmare and I’m going to wake up any minute now. How could we be so far apart when I thought we were on the same page for so long? Man, I really misread the situation. So Larry hasn’t been pegging me for CEO after all. I have many of the ingredients for the job, but I’ve got to get tougher? “I’m thinking of you for number two. ” How could he? And worst of all, now he wants to consider George! What’s going on here? I need to get tougher? What in blazes does that mean? Become an absolute jerk like George? kicking and screaming.

George and Larry have a similar approach. I’ll bet if Larry saw their measly counteroffer, he’d laugh and half jokingly tell them to pound sand! Larry’s always willing to walk away. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But this one’s too important to lose.

Note to self: Try to ? nd out what other biotech companies have spent on comparable campaigns and provide Cuyagen with comparative studies. We need some leverage. 5:24 PM Heading Westbound on the Shoreway OK, Paul, pull yourself together, buddy. Let’s take stock here. So Larry isn’t convinced I’m the man – at least not yet.

Maybe I should have done a better job managing up. But I can do this job ten times better than George. There’s no comparison. I think Larry’s just been smitten by all the business George has been closing. Plus lately they’ve been drinking scotch together late into the night and telling dirty jokes. That’s never been my thing.

I’ve been a leader in this company for ten years. George has two. I’ve touched virtually every facet of Daner’s existence. He’s been focused exclusively on new business. Larry can’t deny my ability to deal with creative, operations, sales, and marketing.

Customers and vendors love me, and I know the team sees me as their natural leader, friend, and champion.

So, OK, he’s giving it more thought. Sometimes it feels like I don’t even know Larry anymore. He used to get it. What happened? Come on…. I’ve clearly demonstrated my tenacity time and time again.

I need to get meaner and tougher? What in blazes does that mean? Become an absolute jerk like George? Should I do that? Can I do that? Do I even want to? Do I still belong here? What must Paul do to land the top job? • Four commentators offer expert advice. 1:12 PM Paul’s Of? ce Let me think…. Where can I ? nd Lisa’s spreadsheets?

Which folder? Here they are. Once I get through these numbers, I’ll have Lynne call Lisa to con? rm that the ? gures are still accurate. I wonder if Lynne would be a good replacement for Lisa.

She’s smart, she does great work, and she’s quick on the uptake. I think I’ll ask her to pick up some of the slack. OK, I’ve got the forecasting model. I’ve got the expansion plans printed. I think I’m all set….

I sometimes wonder if working in the shop as a kid set the stage for this…or was it B school that made a difference? A combination of both, probably. Time to meet with Larry. Which conference room was it again? february 2006