02/6/21

CEO Shoptalk — Good v Evil (Or, The Message At Midnight From The Garden Of Good & Evil)

If you are not a CEO, stop reading and move on. CEO Shoptalk is for CEOs only and, of course, you. Because you are special and one day you will also be a CEO, so read on, Alphonse.

The other day I get into a chat with not one, but two CEOs about the same issue I spoke of the other day, Performance Appraisal.

We are discussing the performance of someone who is clearly not a superstar, but is a solid utility infielder meaning they are not going to be promoted any time soon, but they are also not going to be fired.

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02/4/21

The Bananas Foster Theory of Embellishment of Success

Other day I read a statement that said, “You can’t really learn from your success.”

The thrust of the blog post was that a good kick in the teeth is often the packaging for a well taught lesson — fair play to that. Agree completely.

But when reading the “You can’t really learn from your success” sentence, I said, “Hmmm, really?”

This is because I have learned a lot of great things from success. In fact, it is — particularly given the busted teeth, bloody split lip alternative — my favorite way to learn.

Allow me to elaborate on what I call “The Bananas Foster Theory of Embellishment of Success.”

The Banana Trade

Far away and long ago, New Orleans was a center of the banana trade in which South and Central American countries exported their bananas to the United States thereby funding banana republics.

Workers unload bananas in New Orleans. Bananas Foster, one of New Orleans’ favorite desserts, is a lasting legacy of an oft-forgotten chapter in the city’s history: the banana trade, which spawned banana republics.

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02/2/21

The Role of the CEO In Dispute Resolution

Several years ago, I was advising a fairly inexperienced CEO — a terminal condition that everybody eventually outgrows, remember that — who found himself in the midst of a dispute in the 8/10 range — meaning it would not tank the company, but it would change the speed, trajectory, and azimuth of the company’s future progress. It was important.

There was plenty of regrettable behavior on both sides and there was an important legal issue, but it was a heated and contentious confrontation made moreso by the personalities involved. These personalities were not the CEOs’, but the management of both companies.

Push led to shove and they were on the brink of paying off some lawyer’s lake house.

They had both talked to their lawyers, but no lawyers had been unleashed. It was still solvable.

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01/4/21

The $10MM Gross Revenue Reality Check

If you are a startup, I hope one day soon you get to $10,000,000 in gross revenue. If you do, I have some thoughts for you.

A caveat first — there are a great number of exceptions to what I am going to share with you, so do not fall prey to missing the difference of your situation or embracing every word I say, but there are reasons big and small as to why I hold these views.

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10/8/20

Is It Essential To Be Nuts To Be An Entrepreneur?

I was reflecting on the nature of entrepreneurs on the heels of three discussions I recently had with prospective clients. I was also thinking about my two Perfect Granddaughters — Peaceful Eadie (4 months) and Tempe the Bold (almost “fwee”).

In the discussion with the founders, we wandered into the area of what hurdles must an entrepreneur overcome and caught our heel on the notion that an entrepreneur had to develop a pretty damn thick skin, be able to hear the word “NO” in several different languages, and the benefit of the programming of an entrepreneur’s life prior to sticking their stake in the ground.

This last point was why I was thinking of Peaceful Eadie and Tempe the Bold. Their mother is an entrepreneur who co-founded a company called Weezie Towels which is savaging the luxury towel vertical.

When Momma works at the kitchen table, Tempe the Bold works alongside her with her own plastic phone and keyboard. You have never seen anything as cute as T the B fielding imaginary calls that often sound identical to her Momma’s. The probability that Tempe the Bold will become an entrepreneur like her Momma? I will let you evaluate that.

As an entrepreneur — or as a prospective entrepreneur — you are held captive to the jockey, horse, course evaluation wherein the “jockey” plays trump to the other aspects. You, of course, are the jockey.

The horse is the business engine, and the course is the market.

What does that jockey have to embrace mentally in order to become an entrepreneur and is it easier if you are nuts?

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08/21/20

Performance Appraisal As Inspiration And Motivation

Performance appraisal in small to medium companies (including startups) is one of those things that CEOs equate to going to the dentist. Not only do they not like it, they are not good at it.

There are a lot of very odd ideas at play here in the performance appraisal business — 360 degree appraisals which also fold in the guy selling flowers on the street corner — which makes the process a moving target; moving targets are notoriously hard to hit.

The message I bring you today is that a suspiciously simple, well-designed and executed performance appraisal system can be the most powerful personal tool wielded by a keen CEO for inspiration and motivation of individual team members.

It can also be clean, streamlined, and painless.

Let’s take a quick look at where performance appraisal fits within the overall schema of a company’s organizational matrix. Click on the graphic to see it at a larger scale.

Business-planning-building-blocks-graphic

What I want you to see is that performance appraisal is at the foundation level of the company’s Vision, Mission, Strategy Tactics, Objectives, Values, and Culture.

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08/16/20

Becoming Comfortable With Discomfort

I get a lot of calls from people who I can tell are uncomfortable with whatever they have called me to discuss. I can feel the vibration coming down the air waves.

A year ago, I ended a chat with a client and he said, “I constantly feel uncomfortable in my role as the CEO of my company.”

I let the dust settle for a few seconds and asked him to explain it. His explanation was perfectly reasonable and he knew exactly how he felt and why. Anybody would have felt the same.

We discussed it and then he asked me, “When does that uncomfortable feeling go away?”

I leaned into the second latte, took a sip, confronted his expectant face, and whispered, “Unfortunately, never. Part of being a leader is being comfortable with discomfort.

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