Transparency at a Silicon Valley consulting firm takes a cue from FDR
(Newark, Calif., March 1, 2010) — When times are tough, leaders need to communicate more—at least that’s what communication experts advise. Between 1933 and 1944, President Roosevelt delivered 30 evening fireside chats via radio, reassuring Americans that the country would recover from the Great Depression and then moving on to discuss the country’s involvement in World War II.
Harkening back to FDR’s playbook—but thankfully not under quite such difficult national circumstances—Kathy Ryan, CEO & CFO of RoseRyan, in January began a business version of Roosevelt’s talks.
The CEO fireside chat
These CEO fireside chats are bimonthly phone meetings meant to fill the gaps between company meetings for the firm’s distributed workforce. Nearly all the consultants at RoseRyan (www.roseryan.com)— a $10 million–revenue Silicon Valley firm that Ryan co-founded in 1993—work on-site at client offices throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
In introducing the chats, Ryan said she would cover “good news, bad news or anything in between” about RoseRyan. And that’s just what she did January 19 when she spoke for about 30 minutes with her consultants, who are the lifeblood of her business. “In my 17 years at the helm of RoseRyan, I’ve never seen as much need for communication as I do now, given the tumultuous business environment,” notes Ryan.
In her first fireside chat, Ryan announced a lot of good news for her firm of 55 consultants, and then grappled aloud with her need to hold back on restoring salaries to their pre-recession levels. The firm saw a 30% decrease in revenue last year due to the recession, and everyone took a 10–20% salary cut in May 2009.
Says Ryan, “We’re slammed with work. But will it last? I need to ensure that the significant uptick in business is sustainable and more than just our typical ‘busy season.’ I don’t want to reinstate salary levels only to have to cut them back again, and I wanted to let everyone know the mixed news on that score.”
“I saw this first chat as a way to celebrate the teamwork that’s led to new business while letting everyone know it would be premature to reinstate salaries. Let’s hope the upturn is for good, though. I’d love to see it stay and to get everyone back to normal salary levels, myself included.”
On February 23, Ryan followed up on the chat’s salary topic during a companywide meeting at the firm’s offices in Newark, California. After crunching the numbers to tease out what the recent surge in the firm’s business means, she was pleased to announce that salaries at RoseRyan will be partially restored to a 5% reduction. The next fireside chat will be held in March.
RoseRyan tackles critical finance assignments for companies at all stages, with particular expertise in cleantech, high tech, life sciences and nonprofits. The firm’s finance gurus serve as outsourced CFOs, prepare companies for IPOs and M&As, perform immaculate corporate governance work and are sought after for expert advice on emerging accounting challenges. Its roots in Silicon Valley go deep—RoseRyan has been getting high-flying companies’ financial houses in order for 17 years—and clients benefit from a vast network of partners who can help their businesses grow. Recent and current clients include Actelion, Netflix, NetApp, Ocarina Networks, Silver Spring Networks and CalCEF. Visit www.3rdarm-dev.com for more information.