08/18/19

CEO Shoptalk — The Founder’s Tale

In the life of the successful startup is a slightly disorganized story of its founding. It is a powerful story. It provides a keen insight into the who, what, when, why, where, how of the company. It is a story of creation. Only one person can tell it with an authentic voice.

It is a tale told best by the founder, hence the name: The Founder’s Tale.

It is a story that is the glue that binds people to the company and makes them want to follow the leadership. If you want to lead a pride of lions, then you have to tell the story of how you formed a pride.

Image result for images of lions packs

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08/17/19

CEO Shoptalk — Counting Coups

As a leader, it is imperative that the company you build and lead is energized from within by taking a moment to celebrate victories. In history, this is called “counting coups.”

The other day I was advising a client and we got to the issue of rewarding accomplishments and behavior.

“Why is this important?” the brilliant CEO asked.

“Because you will get more of whatever behavior your recognize and reward. Reward good performance — more good performance,” said your Big Red Car.

We wandered into a discussion as to how the military did it with a formal awards program wherein an individual was formally recognized by having their exploit written up, memorialized in a citation, and symbolized by a bit of colored ribbon they would wear on their uniform forever. These awards in the military are given in front of one’s unit often at a parade. It is very public moment.

The US Army Distinguished Service Cross second only to the Medal of Honor. Only given for valor.

One of my platoon sergeants when I was a young lieutenant had been awarded a DSC. Every payday we wore our green uniforms with ribbons. Every payday I would have him tell the story of how he won the Distinguished Service Cross to my platoon. We were counting coups.

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08/15/19

Reading With Skepticism And Perception

The other day I read an interesting blog post by a former client of mine, Anthony Bucci, former co-founder and CEO of Revzilla. He was an early client and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him as he scaled Revzilla into a powerhouse eCommerce business. He blossomed into an excellent CEO and monetized the company in a world class exit. Pay window.

His blog post which you can find here is excellent. He is taking a summer breather, focusing on his five bambinos.

Summa Read, Summa Listen by Anthony Bucci, former CEO Revzilla

Anthony, who I have never called “Fredo,” gives you a nice cross section of the current literary offerings and podcasts of those who are seeking knowledge at the inspirational C-suite level. All good books.

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08/14/19

Recruitment v Seduction

A professional recruiter who I have advised — real pro — put up an article on Twitter that caught my interest. It discusses the essence of recruitment failures and why they happen. It takes a long time to get to the nub of things, but it is filled with wisdom.

I had also been building a file to write about this and they both came together at the same time. I take an earthier view of things having been in hiring mode for more than three decades.

I have always maintained that a good CEO is always recruiting and that recruitment is a seduction — meaning you want to create a reaction in the target that they want to work at your company rather than you need them to fill a job. Perhaps, overly subtle, but it is the way I think and I always had good luck in hiring.

Here’s a hiring challenge for you.

Image result for images room full of candidates

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08/12/19

The Condors In My Gut

Bit of warm weather in the ATX which makes me get out and do my outside chores first thing before the sun sets things ablaze. Going to be 103F today, but I don’t believe it.

Get a call from a CEO, who says, “I have this burning in my gut all the time. Butterflies and napalm.”

Nice turn of a phrase. I laugh to myself because I never laugh at CEOs. Not a good practice, ungentlemanly.

So, he continues, “Does it ever get better? You were a CEO for 33 years, when did it all settle down and the flaming butterflies took a vacation?”

I wanted to comfort him, but I always speak the truth, so I hesitated for a second.

“They never go away,” I said in my most comforting Saint Michael the Archangel voice. “You know how sometimes when we discuss one of the List of Horribles and I tell you, ‘Sorry, that’s normal.’?”

The List of Horribles

“Yes, you also say the only normal people are the ones we don’t know very well. I get that,” says the CEO. “When did the flaming butterflies go away and everything was peaceful, calm, and you didn’t lay awake in bed thinking about things? Tormented by things?”

“Sorry, amigo,” I said. “They never go away. In fact, what you see as butterflies, flaming butterflies even. They become condors. Big, vicious condors with enormous talons that rip your guts apart while they are bathing in acid. On bad nights, you can feel their talons slicing and the acid flowing into your abdomen. When you scale, your problems scale with you.”

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07/25/19

CEO Shoptalk — Knowing WHY

Long time ago, I got a call from a CEO, says, “Wow, that worked like a champ. Thanks.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, so we chatted. Apparently, he had had a problem and I had told him to look at something on The Musings of the Big Red Car website, he did, he applied it, and it worked. Problem solved. Bravo!

Then, I asked him the money question, “Do you know WHY that worked?” 

Image result for success images

Painful, awkward, ask-Dad-to-marry-his-daughter-style silence ensued.

“CEO, do you know WHY that worked?”

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07/12/19

CEO Shoptalk — The List of Horribles

Nice day in the ATX. Nice day to talk about the List or Horribles.

The List of Horribles is something which a CEO of a startup or small business WILL encounter along the way to the finish line (pay window). These things — not all, but some — will happen.

“Come on, Big Red Car, really?” you say in that skeptical voice of yours, the one your mom used to call your “whiny” voice.

“Yes, dear reader, dear CEO, many of them will happen.”

Here is you (female CEO?) dealing with the List of Horribles. The guy with the helmet head is a Venture Capitalist finalizing the negotiations of a down round.

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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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05/28/19

CEO Shoptalk — Perspective

Rains are coming because it’s the end of May and it’s Austin By God Texas. Like a bit of rain.

So, two CEOs are talking and we get into a chat about the difference between young/first time CEOs and experienced/serial CEOs.

I hazard the following, “Think it’s perspective.” There are a few other thoughts, but we keep circling back to perspective.

Serial CEOs know what is important — and they are better at it — because they have done it before. They made the mistakes, paid full tuition for the education.

On the heels of the Memorial Day post yesterday, I got a few emails from CEOs (former clients) who said the same thing, essentially, paraphrasing: “You were doing very different things than we were doing at the same age — early to mid-twenties. I assume it gave you a different perspective on things.”

Old lions and new lions are lions, but they have a different perspective on things.

Please note this is a nuclear lion family. They live in Llano, Texas. What is each of the lions thinking about.

Daddy lion is thinking about the checklist for the board meeting (he read the Checkist Manifesto as a cub and knows it works) and making sure the meeting docs are in the DropBox. He’s also thinking he needs to talk to those tigers in marketing to make damn sure they are following the agreed to process.

Momma lion is pondering whether Insta or FB is the way to go on marketing. She’s thinking about whether to have another cub, but is worried about the dilution if she has to raise capital.

Cub lion is thinking — “Wow, that looks cool. Maybe I should re-do my logo? Or become a B Corporation, cause that’s way cool. A blog — maybe start writing a blog.”

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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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03/13/19

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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03/7/19

Bullshitters v Doers

I have been traveling to see Baby Tempe for a few days so I have been MIA. When I travel, it gives me a good chance to think. One of the reasons I adore road trips.

Here is Baby T working the marketing end of her mother’s hot startup Weezie Towels. You will want to get over to www.weezietowels.com when you can.

It is hard to be an effective marketer when you can’t speak yet. But, she’s on the case.

So, here’s something I have been thinking about for a long time, but have never really articulated in an intelligible way — the world is filled to overflowing with bullshitters, but has only a handful of real doers.

I am going to peg the comparative percentages at 98% bullshitters and 2% doers. A pal put it at 99% v 1%, but he was always a hard grader.

Before you condemn the coarseness of my observation, let me say there is nothing inherently bad or evil about being a bullshitter, as long as you know it and make way for the doers who are ultimately going to solve the problems.

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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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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?

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08/2/18

CEO Shoptalk – Traits of Leaders

Big Red Car here on a beautiful, sunny Thursday. Ahhh, on Earth as it is in Texas, y’all.

So, I’m at church on Sunday listening to the sermon – I love and desperately need a good sermon – and it inspires me to think about some of the traits of great leaders – not “good” GREAT!

I come up with four traits which seem to separate the great from the good and the mediocre.

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05/17/18

Experience, Addressable Experience

What is addressable experience? Big Red Car?

Big Red Car here on another glorious Thursday in the ATX in which the sun shines, the breeze blows, and life flourishes. On Earth as it is in Texas, y’all.

So, I’m visiting with a gray haired eminence former CEO who is an old pal. We get on the issue of experience.

How much is enough?

How much is too much?

How much is relevant?

How much is addressable?

It was an interesting conversation. Between the two of us, we have more than seventy years of CEO-ing. That is a lot of time, a lot of experience.

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05/16/18

CEO Shoptalk — Great Startup CEO

Are you a great startup CEO?

OK, so the Big Red Car gets asked often, “Tell me, wise and red Big Red Car, what makes a great startup CEO?”

Like most things in the startup world, there is not a single, correct answer, plus the Big Red Car is lazy and doesn’t want to do the work.

But, now somebody asked the question in a way I cannot dodge. So, here goes.

What makes a great startup CEO, Big Red Car? Tell me.

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