06/8/19

CEO Shoptalk — Lancing the Boil

Glorious sunny day in the ATX, y’all. So, what does “lancing the boil” mean, Big Red Car?

[Early stage, pre-MVP hamburger looking at you in the Hill Country.]

Suppose for a second you are a CEO — tough job. You have dealt with one of the List of Horribles, that compendium of distasteful things a CEO does that comes with the job and justifies the equity stake.

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06/2/19

CEO Shoptalk — Mistake Amnesia

One of the first things I do when I take on a new CEO client is to ask, “What percentage of your decisions are good?”

I get two answers: forty-five percent or ninety percent. [True.]

I ask the same question of the same CEOs some time after we’ve been working together.

I get two answers:

 1. The former 90%-ers now say, “Forty-five percent.”

 2. The former 45%-ers now say, “About the same, maybe 50%, but now I know why.”

In making decisions, CEOs are going to make a lot of bad ones. If you follow the math above, more bad decisions than good decisions.

How do you get rid of the overhang of bad decisions? Mistake Amnesia!

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05/17/19

Fountain of Youth v Fountain of Wisdom/Experience — For CEOs Only

Grayish, cool day in the ATX which gets me thinking about the journey a startup CEO makes from ignorance to wisdom — OK, you do know that’s the journey, right?

As a young leader, I knew next to nothing about everything — so I thought, but I did have an advantage as I’d been in the Army for five years and had run largish outfits. My last command was 600 men in a unit that should have been 186 (The Army was contracting form Vietnam War levels and discharging a lot of draftees. I housed, fed, trained, disciplined them until their magic date arrived — a wild bunch. What a nightmare.).

Truly, everything I ever needed to know to be a CEO I learned in that assignment, but I just didn’t know it. I was 25.

I was young and dumb. I was drinking from the Fountain of Youth and Inexperience. There was a long line to get a cup of that stuff.

Some thirty-three years later, I was filled to overflowing with wisdom and experience, so much so that today I advise startup CEOs and assist venture capitalists prying their fully funded oxen out of ditches.

I can’t quite put my finger on when I stopped bathing in the Fountain of Youth and took up station in the Fountain of Wisdom and Experience. I just know I did.

OK, it was probably five years until I even knew there was such a thing.

Read your Malcolm Gladwall Outliers to learn why it takes five years.

Outliers: The Story of Success by [Gladwell, Malcolm]

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04/17/19

The Character Traits and Skills of the Successful CEO — Accountability

Cool day in the ATX and I like it. So, we are back to talking to and about CEOs. One of the most important elements of a successful company derives from the CEO’s creation of an environment of accountability.

Accountability is a two way street — the accountability of those from on high to those they serve and those served to those on high. Let me translate that: accountability goes up, down, and sideways.

Accountability? I’m confused, Big Red Car

OK, we have different levels of accountability:

 1. The bosses are accountable to the workers.

 2. The workers are accountable to the bosses for doing their jobs and accomplishing their objectives.

 3. Everyone is accountable to their peers.

 4. The CEO is uniquely accountable to the Board of Directors.

 5. The Board of Directors is accountable to the shareholders and the CEO.

One point that is essential — it takes a long time to develop an all-encompassing environment of accountability, but there are elements of it that should be in place from the beginning. Let’s break it down.

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04/9/19

CEO — What Does a CEO Do?

An obnoxious friend of mine is constantly asking me: “What does a CEO actually do?” He does it on the page on the website whereat one may ask a question.

He then sends me irritating emails saying, “Big Red Car, you never answered my question. Do you even know the answer?”

He is a pest, but he is right I never answer him. Now, I will, but only because he has promised to buy me a steak at a restaurant of my choice — Capital Grille or Eddie V’s.

Related image

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04/2/19

C Suite Hiring Assistance

Lovely, chilly, sunny day in the ATX — a great day to discuss how a CEO obtains hiring assistance.

In the last month, I have assisted five CEOs in hiring a top flight C Suite or top management person. These are folks who are in the CTO, CMO, CFO range and in the business development, head of sales type positions.

This is where the maxim, “Hire people who are better than you” is tested. Catchy slogan, but it runs into two problems:

 1. Can you actually find such people; and,

 2. Can you afford such people?

The answer to the first question is YES. Hire lions. Do not hire cubs. Can you tell the difference? If you were going to war with someone which do you want on your side? The King of the Damn Startup Jumble.

The answer to the second question is MAYBE.

If you are a first time CEO, it is understandably worrisome as to how exactly you do this. In spite of this, I have seen CEOs time and again do this successfully.

All the successful first time CEOs have asked for hiring assistance from a trusted advisor, a boardmember, a CEO coach, or a mentor.

[Pro tip: Ask for help from someone who has actually done a ton of hiring as a CEO. Make sense? Do not ask a 28-year old VC novitiate on your board even if he went to Harvard, drives a BMW convertible, and has mousse in his hair. He has no idea. Get a salty CEO who has done this for a quarter of a century. A salty CEO can smell a phony.]

Do not go it alone.

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04/1/19

Believing — An Essential Leadership Skill

This is the big month for a few things — Christianity, college basketball, and CEOs. It is all about believing.

For Christians, Easter is the essence of their belief. Jesus came to Earth to atone for our sins, lived amongst us, taught, provided a living example, offered a few miracles for the disbelievers, was crucified, died, and buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father to judge the living and the dead.

If you are a Christian you believe the preceding paragraph to be a true statement. That belief — faith — is the glue that holds your life together. It is, literally, what makes you a Christ follower.

If you are a college basketball fan, next weekend is the Final Four and you believe with all your heart that your team is going to win it all.

You have had a tough time of it as the #1 seeds have been decimated — Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga — leaving only Virginia to represent the elite and the Atlantic Coast Conference. ACC had three #1 seeds and only one remains.

You — like me — have been forced to transfer your allegiance to, say, Auburn University. War Eagle!

Image result for war eagle images

[Allow me to digress for just a second, WAR EAGLE! Is that a great motto or what? I went to a military school and we never came up with WAR EAGLE! Auburn was, once upon a time, a military school, but still. WAR EAGLE!]

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03/30/19

Managing Expectations and Messaging

I wish I were not using President Donald J Trump as an exemplar for part of my blog post, as it is not intended for a political discussion, but rather for the CEO and his/her slice of capitalism.

As a CEO, two of the elements of your company that can be (must be?) managed are expectations and messaging. They are intimately related.

As a CEO, you are converting a Vision into a Mission and creating Strategy, Tactics, Objectives in a framework of Values which define a Culture.

Click on this graphic to see it at larger scale. It shows how these things are related. There is both structure and process at work here.

I often find that CEOs are comforted when they are able to see how all of these concepts are related and work together. It proves up the structural elements of your rapidly evolving process.

 

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03/15/19

Turnover — How To Miminize It

Turnover can be a costly ill. But, can be prevented? No, but it can be minimized. Here’s how.

So, I am speaking with four CEOs of small to medium-sized companies, all less than 100 employees. All the companies are in the “walk” phase of crawl, walk, run. All the CEOs are feeling salty, comfortable in their skins. Bit of wisdom starting to accumulate like barnacles.

We start talking about turnover. I listen carefully, saying nothing. I often do that. I learn a lot that way.

I also stumbled on an interesting blog post from a former client of mine at www.anthonybucci.com on the subject. Anthony was an excellent, high energy CEO who I worked with for more than a year. He took his company to the paywindow and made out very well. I always enjoyed working with him.

I came away with the notion that the issue of turnover for most companies is something they embrace AFTER it happens. Anthony’s blog post spoke to a pizza party — a cultural ritual of which I heartily approve — but it was after the fact. The individual was already on the way out.

So, here’s what I want to focus on — how do you prevent turnover? How do you minimize it?

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03/13/19

You Are All Alone

Nice warm day in the ATX after a morning of rain. Ahh, On Earth as it is in Texas! It’s SXSW time in the ATX.

As a founder, entrepreneur, CEO there are times — most of the time — when you must rely solely upon yourself. You are all alone.

Even when you are a member of a team, at times you are all alone because you are the decider.

This is not a bad thing; it is just a thing. You can relax knowing that every other founder, entrepreneur, CEO has had the same feeling.

That feeling — when the butterflies in your gut become condors and they try to slice their way out with their sharp talons. Your stomach is an acid pit and your breath is like kerosene.

It is real, but you can handle it. Learning to rely upon your own judgment is critical.

I am not counseling you to ignore advice. Solicit advice, but know that sometimes, you will jump alone.

Here is a video of a stick of paratroopers (with equipment) getting ready to jump over White Sands as part of a training exercise. Every soldier who approaches that door is a member of a team, but when they jump they make that decision alone. You as a founder, entrepreneur, CEO will make that same decision.

You got this, trust me.

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