Case Study: Keeping Things Going

Case Study: Keeping Things Going

The Clayton Company has grown 115 percent in the past year and 600 plus percent in the past three years. A large portion of this growth is attributable to Jan Clayton’s philosophy of hiring the best possible computer systems people and giving them the freedom they need to do their jobs.

Most of Jan’s personnel operate as a part of work teas that analyze, design, and implement computer systems for clients. The process works as follows: First, the company will get a call from a potential client indicating that it needs to have a computer system installed or special software written for its operations. Jan will send over one of her people to talk to client and analyze the situation. If it turns out that the Clayton Company has the expertise and personnel to handle the job, the client will be quoted a price. If the price is acceptable, A Clayton group will be assigned the project.

An example of a typical project is the client who called three weeks ago and wanted to purchase five personal computers for the firm’s engineering staff. The company wanted these machines hooked up to the main computer. Additionally, the firm wanted its computer-aided design software to be modified so the engineers could see their computer-generated drawings in a variety of colors, not just in monochrome. The Clayton group installed the entire system and modified the software in ten working days.

Jan realizes that the growth of her enterprise will be determined by two factors. One is the creativity and integrity of her workforce. The other is the ability to attract talented personnel. “ This business is heavily labor intensive,” she explained. “If someone want a computer system installation, that may take 100 labor hours. If I don’t have the people to handle the project, I have to turn it down. My expansion is heavily dependent on hiring and training talented people. Additionally, I need more than just hard workers. I need creative people who can figure out new approaches to handling complex problems. If I can do these two things, I can stay a jump ahead of the competition. Otherwise, I won’t be able to survive.”

To try to achieve these key factors for success, Jan has initiated three changes. First, she has instituted a bonus system tied to sales; these bonuses are shared by all of the personnel. Second, she gives quarterly salary increases, with the greatest percentages going to the employees who are most active in developing new programs and procedure for handling client problems. Third, she has retreats every six months in which the entire staff goes for a long weekend in a mountain area, where they spend three days discussing current work-related problems and ways to deal with them. Time is also devoted to social events and to working on developing an esprit de corps among the personnel.

Case Questions:

  1. In what phase of the venture life cycle is Jan’s firm currently operating? Defend your answer.
  2. How are Jan’s actions helping to build an adaptive firm? Give three specific examples.
  3. If Jan’s firm continues to grow, what recommendations would you make for future action? What else should she be thinking about doing to keep things moving smoothly? Be specific in your answer.

Other Related Questions:

  1. Identify and briefly describe four characteristics you would expect to find in a successful manager of this type of venture.
  2. What steps does Jack need to follow to successfully identify and groom a successor? Be complete in your answer.
  3. If you were going to advise Jack, what would you recommend he do first? How should he get started with his succession plan? What should he do next? Offer him some general guidance on how to handle this problem.

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