Read the following two case studies and answer the questions related to the cases. The combined length of your answers to the two case studies should be 8-10 pages single spaced. In answering the questions, provide responses of the same quality level as an experienced consultant.
“The New Vice President (Parts A, B, C, and D).” Answer the questions at the end of each part (A,B,C,D). See below for the case study and questions.
“First Community Financial.” Answer the questions at the end of the case study. See below for the case study and questions.
THE NEW VICE PRESIDENT
When the new president at Mid-West U took over, it was only a short time before the incumbent vice president announced his resignation. Unfortunately, there was no one waiting in the wings, and a hiring freeze prevented a national search from commencing.
Many faculty leaders and former administrators suggested that the president appoint Jennifer Treeholm, the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, as interim. She was an extremely popular person on campus and had 10 years of experience in the role of associate vice president. She knew everyone and everything about the campus. Jennifer, they assured him, was the natural choice. Besides, Jennifer deserved the job. Her devotion to the school was unparalleled, and her energy knew no bounds. The new president, acting on advice from many campus leaders, appointed Jennifer interim vice president for a term of up to three years. He also agreed that she could be a candidate for the permanent position when the hiring freeze was lifted.
Jennifer and her friends were ecstatic. It was high time more women moved into important positions on campus. They went out for dinner to their every-Friday-night watering hole to celebrate and reflect on Jennifer’s career.
Except for a brief stint outside of academe, Jennifer’s entire career had been at Mid-West U. She started out teaching Introductory History, then, realizing she wanted to get on the tenure track, went back to school and earned her Ph.D. at Metropolitan U while continuing to teach at Mid-West. Upon completion of her degree, she was appointed as an assistant professor and eventually earned the rank of associate based on her popularity and excellent teaching.
Not only was Jennifer well liked, but she devoted her entire life, it seemed, to Mid-West, helping to form the first union, getting grants, writing skits for the faculty club’s annual follies, and going out of her way to befriend everyone who needed support.
Eventually, Jennifer was elected president of the Faculty Senate. After serving for two years, she was offered the position of associate vice president. During her 10 years as associate vice president, she handled most of the academic complaints, oversaw several committees, wrote almost all of the letters and reports for the vice president, and was even known to run personal errands for the president. People just knew they could count on Jennifer.
Answer the following questions:
1. At this point, what are your predictions about Jennifer as the interim vice president?
2. What do you predict will be her management/leadership style?
3. What are her strengths? Her weaknesses? What is the basis for your assessment?
Jennifer’s appointment as interim vice president was met with great enthusiasm. Finally the school was getting someone who was “one of their own,” a person who understood the culture, knew the faculty, and could get things done.
It was not long before the campus realized that things were not moving and that Jennifer, despite her long-standing popularity, had difficulty making tough decisions. Her desire to please people and to try to take care of everyone made it difficult for her to choose opposing alternatives. (To make matters worse, she had trouble planning, organizing, and managing her time.)
What was really a problem was that she did not understand her role as the number-two person at the top of the organization. The president expected her to support him and his decisions without question. Over time the president also expected her to implement some of his decisions – to do his dirty work. This became particularly problematic when it involved firing people or saying “no” to old faculty cronies. Jennifer also found herself uncomfortable with the other members of the president’s senior staff. Although she was not the only woman (the general counsel, a very bright, analytical woman was part of the group), Jennifer found the behavior and decision-making style to be different from what she was used to.
Most of the men took their lead from the president and discussed very little in the meetings. Instead, they would try to influence decisions privately. Often a decision arrived in a meeting as a “fait accompli.” Jennifer felt excluded and wondered why, as vice president, she felt so powerless.
In time, she and the president spent less and less time together talking and discussing how to move the campus along. Although her relations with the men on the senior staff were cordial, she talked mostly to her female friends.
Jennifer’s friends, especially her close-knit of longtime female colleagues, all assured her that it was because she was “interim.” “Just stay out of trouble,” they told her. Of course this just added to her hesitancy when it came to making tough choices.
As the president’s own image on campus shifted after his “honeymoon year,” Jennifer decided to listen to her friends rather than follow the president’s lead. After all, her reputation on campus was at stake.
Answer the following questions
1. What is the major problem facing Jennifer?
2. What would you do if you were in her position?
3. Would a man have the same experience as Jennifer?
4. Are any of your predictions about her management style holding up?
When the hiring freeze was lifted and Jennifer’s position as able to be filled, the president insisted on a national search. Jennifer and her friends felt this was silly, given that she was going into her third year in the job. Nonetheless, she entered the search process.
After a year-long search, the Search Committee met with the president. The external candidates were not acceptable to the campus. Jennifer, they recommended, should only be appointed on a permanent basis if she agreed to change her management style.
The president mulled over this dilemma, then decided to give Jennifer the benefit of the doubt. He appointed her permanent provost, while making the following private agreement with her.
1. She would organize her office and staff and begin delegating more work to others.
2. She would “play” her number-two position, backing the president and echoing his position on the university’s mission statement.
3. She would provide greater direction for the Deans who report to her.
Jennifer agreed to take the position. She was now the university’s first female vice president and presided over a council of 11 deans, three of whom were her best female friends. Once again, they sought out their every-Friday-night watering hole for an evening of dinner and celebration.
Answer the following questions:
1. If you were Jennifer, would you have accepted the job?
2. What would you do as the new, permanent, vice president?
3. Will Jennifer change her management style? If so, in what ways?
4. What are your predictions for the future?
Although people had predicted that things would be better once Jennifer was permanently in the job, things in fact became more problematic. People now expected Jennifer to be able to take decisive action. She did not feel she could.
Every time an issue came up, she would spend weeks, sometimes months, trying to get a sense of the campus. Nothing moved once it hit her office. After a while, people began referring to the vice president’s office as “the black hole” where things just went in and disappeared.
Her immediate staff was concerned and frustrated. Not only did she not delegate effectively, but her desire to make things better led her to do more and more herself.
The vice president’s job also carried social obligations and requests. Here again, she tried to please everyone and often ran from one evening obligation to another, trying to show her support for every constituency on campus. She was exhausted, overwhelmed, and knowing the mandate under which she was appointed, anxious about the president’s evaluation of her behavior.
The greatest deterioration occurred within her Dean’s Council. Several of the male Deans, weary of waiting for direction from Jennifer regarding where she was taking some of the academic proposals of the president, had started making decisions without Jennifer’s approval.
“Loose cannons,” was how she described a couple of them. “They don’t listen. They just march out there on their own.”
One of the big problems with two of the deans is that they just didn’t take “no” for an answer when it came from Jennifer. Privately, each conceded that her “no” sounded like a “maybe.” She always left room to negotiate.
Whatever the problem, and there were several by now, Jennifer’s ability to lead was being questioned. Although her popularity was as high as ever, more and more people on campus were expressing their frustrations with what sometimes appeared as mixed signals from her and the president and sometimes was seen as virtually no direction. People wanted priorities. Instead, crisis management reigned.
Answer the following questions:
1. If you were president, what would you do?
2. If you were Jennifer, what would you do?
Jennifer had a few “retreats” with her senior staff. Each time, she committed herself to delegate more, prioritize, and work on time management issues, but within 10 days or so, everything was back to business as usual.
The president decided to hire a person with extensive corporate experience to fill the vacant position of Vice President of Finance and Administration. The new man as an experienced team player who had survived mergers, been fired and bounced back, and had spent years in the number-two position in several companies. Within a few months he had earned the respect of the campus as well as the president and was in fact emerging as the person who really ran the place. Meanwhile, the president concentrated on external affairs and fundraising.
Jennifer felt relieved. Her role felt clearer. She could devote herself to academic and faculty issues and she was out from under the pressure to play “hatchet man.”
As she neared the magic age for early retirement, she began to talk more and more about what she wanted to do next.
FIRST COMMUNITY FINANCIAL
First Community Financial is a small business lender that specializes in asset-based lending and factoring for a primarily small-business clientele. First Community’s business is generated by high-growth companies in diverse industries, whose capital needs will not be met by traditional banking institutions. First Community Financial will lend in amounts up to $1 million, so its focus is on small business. Since many of the loans that it administers are viewed by many banks as high-risk loans, it is important that the sales staff and loan processors have a solid working relationship. Since the loans and factoring deals that First Community finances are risky, the interest that it charges is at prime plus 6 percent or sometimes higher.
First Community is a credible player in the market because of its history and the human resource policies of the company. The company invests in its employees and works to assure that turnover is low. The goal of this strategy is to develop a consistent, professional team that has more expertise than its competitors.
Whereas Jim Adamany, president and CEO, has a strong history in the industry and is a recognized expert in asset-based lending and factoring, First Community has one of the youngest staff and management teams in the finance industry. In the banking industry, promotions are slow in coming, because many banks employ conservative personnel programs. First Community, however, has recruited young, ambitions people who are specifically looking to grow with the company. As the company grows so will the responsibility and rewards for these young executives. In his early thirties, for example, Matt Vincent is a vice president; at only 28, Brian Zcray is director of marketing.
Since First Community has a diverse product line, it must compete in distinct markets. Its factoring products compete with small specialized factoring companies. Factoring is a way for businesses to improve their cash flow by selling their invoices at a discount. Factoring clients are traditionally the smallest clients finance companies must serve. Education about the nature of the product is crucial if the company is to be successful, since this is often a new approach to financing for many companies. First Community’s sales staff is well trained in understanding its product lines and acts as the client’s representative as they work through the approval process.
To assure the loans or factoring deals fit within the risk profile of the company, First Community must ask many complex financial questions. Many small businesses are intimidated by credit offices, so First Community handles all of these inquiries through the business development officers. The business development officers, in turn, must understand the needs of their credit officers, who are attempting to minimize the risk to the company while maintaining a friendly rapport with the client. By centralizing the client contract through educated sales representatives, First Community is able to ask the hard financial questions and still keep the clients interested in the process. A potential customer can be easily discouraged by a credit administrator’s strong questioning about financial background. Utilizing the business development officers as an intermediary reduces the fear of many applicants about the credit approval process. Thus, a sales focus is maintained throughout the recruitment and loan application process.
Internally at First Community Financial there is a continual pressure between the business development staff and the credit committee. The business development staff is focused on bringing in new clients. Their compensation is in large part dependent on how many deals they can execute for the company. Like sales staff in any industry, they are aggressive and always look for new markets for business. The sales staff sells products from both the finance department and the factoring department, so they must interact with credit officers from each division. In each of these groups are credit administrators specifically responsible for ensuring that potential deals meet the lending criteria of the organization. While the business development officer’s orientation is to bring in more and more deals, the credit administrator’s primary goal is to limit bad loans.
The pressure develops when business development officers bring in potential loans that are rejected by the credit administrators. Since the business development officers have some experience understanding the credit risks of their clients, they often understand the policy reasoning for denying or approving a loan. The business development officers have additional concerns that their loans that have potential to be financed are approved because many of the referral sources of the sales staff will only refer deals to companies that are lending. If First Community fails to help many of a bank’s referral clients, that source of business may dry up, as bankers refer deals to other lending institutions.
These structural differences are handled by focused attempts at improving communication. As noted before, the First Community staff experiences an extremely low turnover rate. This allows for the development of a cohesive team. With a cohesive staff, the opportunity to maintain frank and open communication helps bridge the different orientations of the sales staff and the administration divisions. A simple philosophy that the opinions of all staff are to be respected is continually implemented.
Since approving a loan is often a policy decision, the sales staff and the loan administrators can have an open forum to discuss whether a loan will be approved. CEO Jim Adamany approves all loans, but since he values the opinions of all of his staff, he provides them all an opportunity to communicate. Issues such as the loan history for an applicant’s industry, current bank loan policies, and other factors can be openly discussed from multiple perspectives.
Answer the following questions:
1. What coordinated mechanisms does First Community use to manage the potential conflict between its Sales and Finance/Auditing functions?
2. What qualities should First Community emphasize in hiring new staff to ensure that its functional organizational structure will not yield too many problems?
3. What are the key types of information transfer that First Community needs to emphasize, and how is this transmitted throughout the firm?
4. Why might a small finance company have such a simple structure while a larger firm might find this structure inappropriate?