12/10/18

I Did the Best I Could

Big Red Car here on a cold, sunny day in the ATX. Brrrr, 58F.

So, I’m in conversation with a trio of CEOs who have in common that they tried to fix something and didn’t quite get it fixed correctly the first time.

They came back with a longer rope and a bigger hammer and fixed it.

They were distraught that they hadn’t gotten it right on the first try.

To which your Big Red Car asked, “Did you do the best you could?”

Continue reading

11/30/18

CEO Shoptalk – Screws v Nails

Screws v nails, Big Red Car? What’s going on down there in the ATX?

Well, dear reader, it’s going to be 80F and I may have to turn the A/C back on for a few hours. How goes the weather where you are?

So, I have been reading a bit of CS Forester (The African Queen, Horatio Hornblower). This is an author from a long time ago with whom an educated person should be familiar. If you have ever aspired to be a professional soldier — guilty — then you have to read The General (written in 1936, $1.99 Kindle or free if you have Prime).

The General, a novel, is a study in the poor quality of the generalship in the British Army during World War I. It is required reading for those who must balance the authoritarian comfort zone of military leadership with a more results oriented approach.

For the enlightened reader, it is a story of leadership preparation, the failures of “the system,” leadership style, authenticity of leadership voice, and results.

The General (C. S. Forester novel) book cover.jpg

If you have been in the Army and have read this book, you understand exactly what I am saying. If not, then you are in for a treat.

Continue reading

10/26/18

Typical CEO Coaching Process

CEO coaching, Big Red Car?

Big Red Car here on a grayish morning. I wonder if the guy who has been praying for rain is happy yet?

Hey, stop praying for rain.

So, the Big Red Car gets a longish email from a pal who gives him a hard time about his subject matter on The Musings of the Big Red Car. Says he wants to hear what a typical coaching process looks like.

To get rid of him, I promise to do that.

I hang out a shingle under the name of The Wisdom of the Campfire because I like the picture of sitting next to a campfire and absorbing wisdom from others gathered next to it. It’s an easy picture as I lived it in places like the DMZ in South Korea or Grafenwohr in Bavaria when I was a young Army officer.

The Wisdom of the Campfire is the imagery of what I do. I want to be that guy at the edge of the campfire, with 33 years of CEO-ing, who can talk you through the process based not on theory, but on real world experience.

Continue reading

10/17/18

Strategy Report Card – Better Next Year

Big Red Car here in rainy and flooding Austin By God Texas. The flooding situation is getting very serious in the Hill Country to the west of Austin. Lake Travis – an enormous body of water, 30 square miles in surface area – is full to overflowing. It is at the sixth deepest depth of water since it was inundated in 1942.

Image result for images hill country flooding 2018

Floodwaters topping Max Starcke Dam on the Colorado River by Marble Falls and upstream from Lake Travis. Lake Travis is a flood control dam — thank you, Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn.

So, today we talk about planning your strategy for CY 2019.

But, first, we have to take stock of how the strategy fared in 2018. Now is the time to begin that reflection.

Here is a guideline to begin the process.

Continue reading

10/15/18

Voting Trusts

Big Red Car here on a rainy Monday in the ATX. [Whoever has been praying for rain locally – you can stop now.]

So, a founder calls me and says, “I read where you recommend a voting trust for a startup. Do tell?”

A voting trust is a good idea right from the founding of a company. It is something which should be in your founding documents:

 1. Articles of Incorporation;

 2. Corporate Bylaws;

 3. Option Plan;

 4. Founding Shareholders Agreement;

 5. Voting Trust; and,

 6. Employment Agreements.

[You do have the Big Six, right? Haha, half of y’all couldn’t find these docs even if you made them. Sorry, that was mean.]

Continue reading

10/11/18

The Founder Note Receivable

Big Red Car here musing about how founders can get paid for the uncompensated work they do in launching their business.

A startup may cycle through bootstrapping, friends & family, angels, syndicated angels, seed VC funding, Series A/B/C/D funding.

At some time, they will be able to pay themselves some kind of living wage – the question is when?

Today, the Big Red Car shares an idea whose time has come: the Founder Note Receivable.

Continue reading

10/9/18

CEO Shoptalk – Mistakes

Rainy day in paradise, so we talk about mistakes today.

If you are a CEO for more than twenty minutes, you will make a mistake. Sorry. Truth.

Mistakes fall into four general categories:

 1. Foot faults, like using the wrong fork with shellfish;

 2. Minimal consequences to someone on the team faux pas;

 3. Adverse consequences to a client or critical stakeholder; and,

 4. Burn the house down mistakes.

So what do you do?

Continue reading

10/2/18

CEO Shoptalk – Time Allocation

Time allocation is a critical consideration for the CEO of any size enterprise, but particularly for CEOs of small businesses and startups.

Big Red Car here. Been in Savannah spending time with My Perfect Granddaughter offspring of My Perfect Daughter, the red head.

So, when I am there, I get into a convo with a young C-suite type guy and we are discussing how a startup or small company CEO should allocate his time.

It is a conversation I’ve had with a million CEOs. It is a universal problem faced by all CEOs.

How does one allocate their time as the company is faced with growth in a crawl, walk, run scenario?

Continue reading

09/21/18

Decisionmaking – Quick Decisionmaking

Big Red Car here on a glorious Friday. Well, actually, it’s rainy, but it is still Friday.

So, I was in conversation with a fellow graduate of Virginia Military Institute and we were discussing, of all things, the purpose of the VMI Rat Line.

Your first year at VMI, you are systemically challenged (akin to waterboarding, but who’s quibbling about technique) to learn how to be a cadet, absorb the military regimen, and study something like civil engineering. It is a hard row to hoe.

This is called the VMI Rat Line. Other places call it “torture.” It is a system which VMI has used since 1839 and they are not even considering changing it. About 2/3s of your class will survive it. Sometimes, only half. It makes Airborne and Ranger Schools seem a little tamer.

VMI Professor of Artillery and Philosophy Stonewall Jackson standing guard over Matthew, Mark, Luke, John combat veterans of the Mexican and Civil Wars. Keeping an eye on things down range.

To which, my classmate posed the question: “Why?”

To which I answered, “To prepare novitiate Army officers to be able to make a multitude of decisions under pressure.”

He graded my answer at B+. I protested and he upped my grade to an A-.

Continue reading