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.

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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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01/3/19

Inspiration – Beginning a New Year

Big Red Car here on a brilliant, sunny Thursday in the New Year. 2019, YOUR year!

Every new year I look for inspiration and for inspiration for my clients. I always find inspiration in Churchill. Surprised?

No, the guy saved the Western World from the scourge of the Nazis at a time when the English had gotten their teeth kicked in by the Germans in France.

After he had overseen the cobbled together evacuation of the English army by pleasure boat across the Channel, he was faced with leading a scared nation whose army had left their heavy weapons in France.

Image result for images churchill

Look into those eyes. See what it looks like to stare down evil, to deliver a message to the Nazis of ultimate, complete, total, unconditional surrender.

Hitler was readying an airborne and seaborne invasion of England called Sea Lion.

So what did Churchill do?

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12/16/18

Recruiting v Hiring

Big Red Car here on a day with brilliant sunshine, bit of a chill, and off to church to pray for all of us. Glorious Sunday!

So, the other day we were talking with some overcaffeinated CEOs about hiring.

One point that was left off was the utilization of recruiting as a part of the hiring mindset.

Image result for images of lions

This is you with a candidate in recruiting mode. You are a beast, the King of the Jungle. But, hey, you knew that, right?

When the lion lays down with the lamb, the lamb is not going to get much sleep. Recruitment, back on topic.

Stop — recruiting is different than hiring.

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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?”

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