Advice Redux — CEOs Only

Big Red Car here working on a few wire taps, wait, no I’m not. I’m getting ready to give y’all some free advice.

We talked about advice a lot in the past few years, but it’s probably alright to update our thinking just a little, why not?

So, CEOs need advice from time to time. Why, you ask? Because a lot of startup CEOs are in their twenties and do not have a deep font of life experience upon which to draw to develop their own thoughts. This is not fatal. This is just being young and being young is good. Most of the time.

Experience is expensive. Renting experience — advice — is cheaper. Plus, you can get someone who’s been a CEO for two or three decades to lend you their advice.

Big takeaway — get advice from someone who has actually been a CEO.

Not your dentist, your shrink, some accountant (unless it’s accounting advice), father-in-law (unless he’s an experienced CEO), not a lawyer (unless it’s legal advice), not a VC (unless it’s pitching or funding advice and even then someone who has been seated n your side of the table may be more helpful) — someone who has been a CEO.

Why, Big Red Car? Advice?

Just because you had great tickets at a boxing match, bit of blood sprayed onto you and your date in the premeditated cleavage ball gown, it does not follow that you know what’s going to happen or what it feels like if you strip off your tux and get into the ring with the heavyweight champion of the world.

Just because one has flown a million miles in first class does not mean you can offer good advice on how to land a 727.

Just because you watched the Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan six times, does not mean you know what it’s like to be in combat.

OK, Big Red Car, we get it. Stop with the freakin’ examples — boooooooooring.

What’s the downside on this advice thing, Big Red Car?

In the business world, the entire enchilada is divided between those who provide money (usually OPM – other people’s money) and those who consume money (that would be you, dear CEO persons).

In that subdivision lies the prejudices we all bring to the party. The biases we seek to confirm by our actions. Let me give you an example, may I?

CEO: “How much runway do I really need when I seek funding?”

VC: “Six months, my good man. Six months and then come back and we’ll give you another six months. Cheerio, my good man!” The VC then turns to his assistant, smiles, and orders a few more short leashes.

Experienced CEO: “Try to get twenty-four months. May take a little dilution in the process, but nobody ever went out of business because they had too much runway. Plus, those promises of future funding? Well, you know what I’m going to say.”

Is the VC wrong? Hell no. He is acting in his own self-interest. He wants the CEO on a short leash — it’s called control. It is the voice of control. Control, given up by a CEO, may strangle a business.

Is the experienced CEO always right? Hell no. He is, however, advocating a course of action which may accommodate a down market, a false start, an inflection, a “twice as much/twice as long” reality. His is the voice of experience and he, likely, has the scars to prove it.

In the end, it gets down to this — don’t let anyone operate on your heart who isn’t experienced. Don’t take advice from someone — however well meaning — who hasn’t actually done it, been a CEO.

Here are some other tidbits — hyperlinks — for you to consider:

Bad Advice

CEO Coaching and Advice

Taking Advice


Following up on Advice

Those are hyperlinks. Read them, if you’re inclined. [Wow, Big Red Car, that’s a lot of damn advice about advice. You feeling OK?]

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be proud you’re a CEO and started a company. Be skeptical. Be wary. Be careful.cropped-LTFD-illust_300.png


4 thoughts on “Advice Redux — CEOs Only

  1. an alternative strategy to the runway challenge:

    insist on ~6 months’ capital, with specific asks for help (ie: biz dev intro’s, PR, etc). this creates a short fuse for the investor, who now realizes:

    1. the company does well, and they won’t let me in next round (if i didn’t perform)
    2. the company doesn’t do well, because i didn’t help enough

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