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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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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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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01/29/19

Making Progress in the Real World of Startups

Big Red Car here on a crisp, sunny Texas winter day. It is 40F, which is bone chilling cold in the ATX.

So, the BRC is talking to a couple of CEOs and they are describing their growth curve–from founding to launch to the Promised Land. All of them have made it to the pay window, a nice arrival point.

It was an interesting discussion and one you might want to have with yourself.

In an ideal situation — something that never, ever happens — fictitious growth might look something like this. You are looking at performance over a period of time. We all want it to be high and to the right. Performance appears to increase at a uniform rate, at a steady rate. Not very realistic?

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01/8/19

Accounting Thinking for Startups

I hate accounting, but I love orderly accounts. I love it when the checkbook, the bank reconciliations, the cash receipts/disbursements journals, and the balance sheet all agree. Takes a bit of sleight of hand to make that happen, but I love it.

As a startup CEO, you need to get a good handle on how accounting works. This blog post is not going to teach you accounting, but it is going to give you the Stations of the Cross as it relates to what you do from the perspective of accounting.

Ready?

First, accounting can be a little time consuming and boring. As a CEO, never, ever, ever get involved with it. In your early days, hire an arm’s length bookkeeper and have them put your operation together on QuikBooks. [Pro tip: You could run the Pentagon on QuikBooks Enterprise, so don’t let anybody tell you it isn’t robust enough for your enterprise.]

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11/12/18

Mature Startups

Big Red Car here on another cold, rainy Monday in the ATX.

So, I’m chatting with a seasoned startup CEO, and he asks, “What is the first sign that a startup is bursting through the crawl, walk, run continuum, Big Red Car? What are the things you look for?”

Says I, “When they start their own training program, conduct offsites regularly, and have an industry leading conference as part of their marketing program.”

To which he says, “Do tell, Big Red Car. What does that mean? The industry leading conference part?”

Related image

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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.]

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04/24/18

CEO Shoptalk – Staying in Your Lane

Staying in your lane, Big Red Car? Huh?

Big Red Car here on a lovely, sunny Texas Spring day. On Earth as it is in Texas, y’all!

So, the Big Red Car talks to CEOs all the time and I am seeing an odd trend. CEOs are wandering a bit.

They wander a bit because they are successful and they wander a bit because they are not.

When they are successful, they wander because they can afford to do it. [Pro tip: We never make as many mistakes when we are broke. We can’t afford to.]

When they are struggling, they wander because they are looking for that inflection point which will put their compass on the azimuth to the Promised Land.

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04/23/18

Building a Fundraising Database

Building a fundraising database, a perfect subject for an incredibly lovely Monday morning in the ATX. Cool, crisp, sunny — ahhh, on Earth as it is is Texas!

So, you are ready to begin fundraising. You need a target list, a database of potential investors. This is true whether you are in the family & friends, angels, syndicated angels, seed funders, or venture capitalists arena. You need to identify the funders.

So, how do you do it?

In our example, I will build on ten such campaigns I have assisted entrepreneurs in the last year.

Remember, you are dealing with people whose job is to invest money. If they don’t invest money, they don’t keep their job. You, dear entrepreneur, are helping them keep their job.

 

It is hard work, but it is not a difficult task.

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09/28/17

Critique — CEO Shoptalk

Everybody needs a good critique, right? Ahhh, criticism is the breakfast of champions, no?

Big Red Car here on a cloudy Texas day. Only going to be in the low 80s today. Time to start thinking about the swimming pool, eh? Haha, Hell no. Swimming today, y’all.

So when you’re a CEO you will receive and give critiques. Makes sense, no? Performance appraisal — feedback — is the breakfast of champions.

Today, I want to get your mind right about how to receive this when it is you being critiqued. Ready?

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09/12/17

Editing for CEOs — CEO Shoptalk

Editing for CEOs, Big Red Car? Huh?

Big Red Car here on a perfect Austin By God Texas morning, y’all. Day for a long run with the top down in the 70F weather? Indeed!

OK, today, we talk about editing in the context of finally getting you to commit to writing the Strategy for your company, dear CEO. Just a first draft.

That is Strategy in the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture continuum with a side of crawl, walk, run. Whew! That is a mouthful.

Nothing is done until it is done and that means you have to edit it. So what exactly does that mean?

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09/2/17

Strategy — First Draft

Strategy — let’s get you writing that First Draft, shall we? First, let’s figure out where it fits.

Big Red Car here on a sunny, dry ATX morning. Sun is shining, but it is cool. Maybe the summer is over? Haha, you’re so silly. This is Texas. Summer doesn’t end until October 23.

OK, so I keep getting folks who don’t get where Strategy fits into the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture continuum.

I want to help y’all, so I made a picture of it for you.  Continue reading

08/30/17

Entrepreneurial Energy — CEO Shoptalk

Entrepreneurial energy, Big Red Car? What is that?

Stay with me, beloved readers, all in due time.

Big Red Car here in the ATX in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey — son-of-a-bitch. Fifty inches of rain?

Lots of leaves in the swimming pool, lot of rain, trees down in the hood, the ATX endured nothing compared to the Coast and Houston. God bless Port A, Rockport, Corpus Christi, Houston. It will be a long recovery, but this is Texas and Texas will recover.

I particularly want to compliment Mayor Turner of Houston (all mayors), Governor Abbott, President Trump, the Texas National Guard, the Cajun Navy, and everyone who got wet in Houston serving their fellow man. Y’all are what makes Texas Texas.

Good luck, Godspeed, God bless Texas!

So, entrepreneurial energy, what is it?

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08/25/17

Writing Strategy — CEO Shoptalk

How does a new CEO write Strategy? First, she gets her mind right. Here’s how.

Big Red Car here expecting Hurricane Harvey this weekend. Likely won’t get to the ATX until Tuesday. Whoa, Nellie!

Pray for those along the Gulf Coast who will be dealing with the first hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in 2008. Governor Abbott has already designated thirty Texas coastal counties as disaster areas. The Feds are already pouring into the fray. Well played, FEMA.

So, the Big Red Car is constantly talking to CEOs about their Strategy — the Strategy for their company. It is, sometimes, a confusing and disjointed talk.

We see CEOs having no problem with Vision and Mission, but the second it turns to documenting their Strategy, things go haywire.

The objective today is to get you in the right frame of mind to write your Strategy. Not to write it, but just get into the right frame of mind to be able to write it.

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08/2/17

Flying Solo — For CEOs Only, CEO Shoptalk

Flying solo, Big Red Car? Where did that come from?

Big Red Car here on a cool and gray ATX day. Only getting to 88F today, downright cool. Hot tub tonight for the BRC? Hell, yes!

OK, so there are a number of analogies between flying airplanes and startups — takeoff, reaching cruise, landing. Startup, scale, exit?

One of the most apt analogies is the idea of FLYING SOLO.

Me, the Big Red Car, and the Bonanza with the cross country tip tanks hanging talking aviation v startup mojo. Yeah, I’m looking pretty damn RED.

In life, one doesn’t receive power, one TAKES power. Think about that for a second. Flying solo is about taking power.

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07/26/17

Training — Baron von Steuben Style for CEOs

Training again, Big Red Car? Really?

OK, dear reader, we will have one last crack at training for the CEO. Promise.

Today, we discuss Baron von Steuben. You know the Baron, right? Drillmaster of Valley Forge, no?

Get this book by Paul Lockhart. Great read. Been around for some time and it is a great book to inspire a CEO.

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07/23/17

Training — like the Rangers, training for the startup

Training table for the Big Red Car today — looking forward to a nice steak with a 10W40 mushroom sauce.  We are talking training today for both the Rangers and the startup.

So, in the continuum of crawl, walk, run — somewhere about the walk to run transformation, the startup should start thinking about training.

If you look at this picture of these sharp Rangers, the difference between them and the rest of the straight leg Army is the quality of their training. They train to their mission.

U.S. Army Rangers with the 75th Ranger Regiment make up the “honor platoon” in a funeral procession to the gravesite of Gen. (retired) Wayne A. Downing during his internment service at West Point, NY, Sept. 27, 2007.

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07/21/17

Risk — A Four Letter Word, CEO Shoptalk

Today, we talk RISK, y’all. It is a four letter word and it can be profane, if you let it.

Big Red Car here on a sunny, Texas day which will give rise to a 103F temperature during which the BRC will be hanging in the pool, floating.

OK, so today we talk about risk. Risk is what drives startups. When you overcome a risk, you wander into the Winner’s Circle and collect your winnings at the mythical PAYWINDOW.

But, what is risk? Risk is different to different people. If you are a green, first time founder/CEO, then everything is risky after you have tied your shoes (the reason why new CEOs should wear slip-ons).

If you are a fifth time, serial entrepreneur, then your view of risk is different.

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07/17/17

Rent A Ranger.COM — A Gender Norming Startup

Big Red Car here on a very bright Monday morning with a very bright new idea — Rent A Ranger.

So, the Big Red Car is a libertine of sorts. On the other hand, the Big Red Car thinks this sexual predatory climate in Silicon Valley/Alley/Gulch/Plains/Mountains, etc. is out of control.

The solution — which the Big Red Car has been all over since the start — is for an afflicted woman to send their big brother to “reason” with the transgressor. The transgressor wants this service to get him back on the straight and narrow. [OK, maybe not.]

But, Big Red Car, how about if a lady doesn’t have a Big Brother? What then?

Ahhhh, dear reader, you have identified the pain point which the Big Red Car seeks to relieve — voila — Rent A Ranger.COM at your service, mademoiselle.

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03/28/17

Board of Directors

Big Red Car here waiting for Saturday and the Final Four contests. OK, but I am getting a lot of questions about all things pertinent to a Board of Directors and how to run board meetings and how to deal with board members.

We’ve talked about this before, so let me give you some frames of reference.

Know that I’ve stolen all of this from The Boss who had a lot of boards, board members, and board meetings in thirty-three years of CEOing.

Here it is for your use.

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