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9 secrets of getting stuff done in a big company

Mary Brandel | Nov. 8, 2011
Security may be a hot-button issue for business executives, but in an environment of ongoing economic uncertainty, support for security initiatives isn't always easy to come by.

In large companies, it can take some educating to get certain divisions to feel ownership. For instance, at a global manufacturer that Clark worked for, the oil refinery division had lots of interest in security, but a manufacturing division was more tuned in to keeping its factories operational.

"We had to show them that regardless of what they're protecting, they're part of the overall corporate risk," Clark says. "You're only as good as your weakest link. That is a conversation I've had multiple times because different areas didn't want to spend the funds."

5. Preview Your Plans

You usually only get one shot when you request funding, so Gunthner suggests practicing your pitch before showtime. "When I set out to sell a new initiative, I'm looking at three things: Does it make financial sense, what is the business value, and does it support the business strategy," he says. "So after doing all my homework, before officially presenting it, I present it informally to various key stakeholders so I'm not taking something out of the box they've never seen or heard of before."

By the time you make the formal presentation, you have a number of people in your corner who understand the value of what you're trying to do, he says. And if there's a lot of pushback, you need to evaluate whether it's time to move forward or go back to the drawing board. "You typically only have one chance of getting a yes, and if you get a no, you can't go back for several years," Gunthner says.

The stakeholders you gather don't need to be part of the ultimate group making the decision, he says. They just need to be people in divisions who may be affected, for example, facilities, a particular business unit, finance, legal or HR. "I try to rally as many of those people in my corner as I can so that when the day comes--whether they're in the room or not as part of the official decision making--I can say I consulted with XYZ and they're in support of it," he says.

Even if it takes weeks or months, Gunthner says he doesn't move forward with his funding requests until he gains consensus. "All it takes is one stakeholder to say, 'I don't agree,' and the thing is dead in the water," he says. "Let them shoot holes in it--you would rather know beforehand versus when you get turned down altogether."

6. Play Politics

It's also a good move to surround yourself with people who hold power in the organization, such as top money-making business areas, Clark says. "If you get them bought in, everyone else will say, 'If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us,'" he says. Does that sound cynical to security do-gooders? "That's how the business world works," says Clark.


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