<![CDATA[UpperLevel Solutions - Blog]]>Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:40:39 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[A New Start]]>Thu, 20 Aug 2015 11:19:30 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2015/08/a-new-start.htmlThere are natural times throughout the year that serve as a fresh start - the beginning of a new calendar year in January, the beginning of spring.  My favorite time of year is September.  Regardless of whether you are going back to school (or have kids going back to school), it can serve as a restart button.

This is the time that businesses should be thinking ahead to their goals for next year and planning their 2016 budgets. Take some time these last few weeks of summer to reflect on what it is you want to accomplish next year - that could be for the whole company if you are an executive, or for your department, or just for you.

I encourage you to think about a wide variety of goals - not just how can we be more profitable, have more growth, and the traditional corporate goals, but also things like how can we have more fun, and how can we engage our employees and customers more?

Enjoy your last weeks of summer, and get ready to come back to work in September with a renewed enthusiasm and a view towards the future.

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and  executive leadership.





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<![CDATA[Change]]>Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:36:05 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2015/03/change.htmlChange.

It can be good or bad, but regardless - it is usually difficult. Change often involves tough decisions that need to be made about your business or your life. Shutting down a product line, reducing your staff to adjust to your new business strategy, even shutting down your business altogether, or saying goodbye to a good friend who is moving on.

Change is inevitable and it is OK to feel sad about the changes happening in your world - we are human after all.  However, take a step back and look at what good things can come from the change. Will it allow your business to grow? Will it let you follow a dream you have put on hold? Will it let you move on to a new phase of your life?

What changes have you been putting off?




Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and  executive leadership.











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<![CDATA[Dust]]>Tue, 17 Feb 2015 15:22:59 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2015/02/dust.htmlI am always amazed at how dust accumulates - around my house, in my car.  I see it as a signal - an indication that wherever the dust is gathering, it is time to give that area some attention and focus.

Sometimes it literally means cleaning up the dust, but sometimes it's deeper than that.  It could be a relationship that is stagnant, with your best friend, with your client, with your spouse. It could be a project you started to work on but other things got in the way - and there it sits. It could be the business you wanted to start, or the vacation you wanted to take (someday), or the investment in your own future you are too afraid to make. 

Stop for a moment and look around - what is gathering dust in your business and your life, and more importantly, what are you going to do about it?




Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and  executive project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com



















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<![CDATA[Making the Time]]>Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:24:46 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2014/12/making-the-time.htmlOh how I've missed this.

It has been too long since I wrote a blog!  I am finishing up a COO role at a great company - it was wonderful, but also incredibly time intensive and I did not have a lot of time to focus on my own company, or many other aspects of my life.

I also learned a very valuable lesson - in the midst of trying to do an excellent job, whether it's for a full-time role or for a client, we sometimes dive so far into what we're doing that we forget to focus on ourselves. I forgot to follow my own favorite advice - to thy own self be true.

It is with this in mind that I am refocusing on myself and my company. Whatever the next adventure may bring, I will be sure to allocate time for me - whether that is going for a walk, watching a movie with my son, or networking with potential clients.

How about you - what are you going to do to focus on yourself?  At this time of giving and focusing on others, be sure to carve out time for you.



Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and  executive project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com






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<![CDATA[Tips for Managing Global Teams]]>Tue, 03 Dec 2013 17:35:51 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2013/12/tips-for-managing-global-teams.htmlManaging a global team can be challenging - from logistics, laws and regulations, to planning around local holiday schedules and time differences, to the overall leadership of a team half way around the world. If you are finding that your company is hitting some obstacles as you expand to new countries, don't worry - you are not alone! 

This week I am honored to guest blog for Globalization Partners and their CEO Nicole Sahin, sharing my 10 tips for managing global teams. Globalization Partners was founded with the mission of changing the face of global business, by offering simplified international business solutions in an ever-expanding global marketplace. 

The first few tips are listed below, or to read the full story click here.

1) Globalization does not mean Americanization
US-based companies tend to think that when they acquire a company in another country they will just wrap them into their existing structure and culture –
don’t fall into this trap. Respect your international team’s culture and look
for ways to merge the two.

2)  Find a local firm to help
The best way to understand a market is to work with someone who is there – a
vendor or a partner that can support you as you build your team. In many
countries this is absolutely essential as business is all about relationships
and introductions, and going into these markets ‘cold’ will get you nowhere.

3) Find people near YOU that understand the market
In addition to your ‘on the ground’ vendor or partner, it is also extremely
helpful to have someone in your time zone that understands your new
international market when you need quick answers that may be off-hours at your
international site.  It is even better to find one that also has a network
of partners in your international countries.

See the rest of the 10 tips here.

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational
assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and  executive 
project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com
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<![CDATA[Thankful]]>Tue, 19 Nov 2013 16:46:06 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2013/11/thankful.htmlAs we head into Thanksgiving, most people pause to consider what they are thankful for in their lives. It is a time to put things in perspective and appreciate things, both big and small, that make us happy. While we tend to be thankful about things in our personal lives (and rightfully so), I would also encourage you to think about what you are thankful for in your professional life. Is it a colleague that helped you with a project, a boss who supported you through a tough assignment, a client who was appreciative of your efforts? 

It is not always easy to be thankful when things may not be going well - chances are we all have something in our personal or professional lives that we are struggling with.  Even that colleague or friend that seems to have it all is likely dealing with something you may never know. Take a minute to put your struggles aside and appreciate the things that ARE going well for you, because while everyone is likely to have a struggle or obstacle in their life, everyone also has something to be thankful for. And just as importantly, take a moment to pay it forward and let that colleague or boss, friend or relative know that you are thankful for them. Chances are you will make their day...and make them just as thankful. 

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and  executive project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com
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<![CDATA[Prepared - and Impressive]]>Wed, 13 Nov 2013 16:56:34 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2013/11/prepared-and-impressive.htmlI am a proud graduate of Bentley University, and often attend events at their Waltham campus.  While on campus between meetings, I found a little spot to get some work done at the end of the hallway on the second floor of LaCava.  As I set myself up on the couch to catch up on my email, I watched well-dressed students streaming in and out of the Career Services offices. I was so captivated by what I heard and saw that my work took a back-seat and instead I just observed.

Bentley’s theme of ‘Prepared’ is not just a marketing tag line – it is a core value of the University. This became obvious as I watched students heading to their interviews with potential employers. Not only do Bentley students have the business skills and the exposure to the latest technology and tools, they are polished – well dressed, well spoken, and professional. Having first -hand experience with the Career Services team over the past 20 years, I am aware of the amazing programs they offer students and alumni on resume writing, interviewing, and anything else related to getting a job. Their approach of engaging students as freshmen to plan out their 4 years to prepare for their first job is one of the many reasons that Bentley’s Career Services has been named one of the best in the country.

In many cases during my impromptu observation session, I could not see the student and interviewer, I could only HEAR them – which made it even more impressive. Students were confident without being cocky, proactively engaged in conversation with their interviewer, and expressed their excitement for the interview with a polished professionalism that was better than some experienced professionals I have interviewed in my career. I felt a great sense of pride that these students are representing Bentley, and that they will enter the workforce just as that theme promised – prepared.



Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm
offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and executive 
project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com

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<![CDATA[Endings and Beginnings]]>Tue, 12 Nov 2013 17:42:38 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2013/11/endings-and-beginnings.htmlMy daughter is a senior in high school this year - that means we are going through a lot of endings and the last time she'll do the things that she has loved: the last field hockey season, the last play, the last 24 hour relay. While those endings are sometimes sad, it really just means there is a whole world of beginnings waiting for her on the other side.

This applies to all of us, regardless of whether we work at a corporation or lead our own company. We are continuously met with endings - a client ending their engagement, a co-worker leaving for another job, getting laid off. Change isn't always easy, but it is a major part of business - and life. Staying still isn't an option. And really, what fun would that be. It's natural for us to look at these endings as a 'loss', but it's important for us to look at each ending as an opportunity.  For a new job, a new co-worker and friend, a new and more profitable client. 

As we approach the end of 2013, take a look back at the endings you had this year and what ended up happening as a result. Just as importantly, think about what new beginnings you want for 2014 and what you are going to do to make sure that you get them. It's good to remember and respect the past, but don't let it hold you back. Get ready to leap into your future.

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and executive  
project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com


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<![CDATA[When to Fire Your Client]]>Mon, 28 Oct 2013 13:59:41 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2013/10/when-to-fire-your-client.htmlFiring a client is a foreign concept to many - the theory being that any work/revenue is good. That is not always the case. While every effort should be made to salvage the relationship with your client, there are some situations where the management team may determine it is better to 'fire' the client than continue with the engagement:

Time spent far exceeds your revenue
Perhaps the deal wasn't structured correctly. Maybe you underestimated your time and resources or worse, maybe the client didn't tell you the whole story and the workload is far exceeding your original agreement.  Work with your client to make corrections through change requests to update your original statement of work (always document any changes!) - if that isn't successful, take a hard look at your costs and revenues. While there may be a strategic reason to continue the engagement even at a minimal loss, usually it does not make sense to lose a significant amount of money on a deal. In addition, you need to look at your opportunity cost - the time you are spending on your revenue-losing engagement means you have less time to spend on revenue-generating engagements and new business development efforts.

They are never satisfied
This luckily is not too common, but I have seen it happen more than once.  Regardless of the fact that you are meeting all your obligations, and perhaps even going above and beyond for your client, they are never satisfied with your efforts. It may be that the client didn't truly understand the product/service they were getting, there has been a change in management at the client and the 'new' person isn't as enthusiastic as the person who originally signed the contract, or it may just be a mismatch on both sides. Engage your account manager and senior management to work with the client and understand their issues - and work together to determine if you can win the client over.

Product/service is no longer part of your strategy
Perhaps your company has decided to drop a product line or service as part of your growth and long-term strategy.  As part of this decision, you will need to review which clients are currently using the product/service and when that piece of their contract is up. The best approach is to phase out the product/service gradually over time as contracts expire, but it is possible that in order to support your growth strategy it may be worth paying a penalty for ending your engagement early. Do this with great caution and always consider your overall relationship with the client, including how many other products they utilize and how long they have been a client. Once you have committed to ending a product line, be careful not to fall into the trap of selling it 'just one more time' or keeping the support 'for just this one client' - managing and supporting one-offs can be a very expensive endeavor.

Emotional drain on your staff
If a client is berating your team, it can really wear them down - and put your company at risk of losing good employees. There may just be a personality mismatch and putting a new team on the account can make a difference - not that the first team did anything wrong, just a better personality match (try to look for this when you're doing assignments in the first place). Your team will respect you if you stand up for them to a client who is 'bullying' and being unreasonable.

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and executive
project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com

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<![CDATA[Why You Need Experts]]>Mon, 14 Oct 2013 21:16:56 GMThttp://upperlevelsolutions.com/1/post/2013/10/why-you-need-experts.htmlI am honored this month to be a guest blogger for J. Edgar Group, offering part-time CFO services for companies at all phases of growth.  An excerpt is below, or read the full story here.

You don’t want your lawyer running your finances, and you don’t want
your accountant running your operations.  They are very different skillsets
and you need experts in each area.

There is a reason people become experts. They have a certain set of skills
and a passion for what they do. Their mind works in a certain way, which has led them to their chosen field because they found they were good at it and have
found great success.

When it comes to running a business you do not need to know everything, but
you need to rely on different experts at different times in your company’s
growth. READ FULL STORY


Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and executive project leadership.

www.upperlevelsolutions.com







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