05/9/21

CEO Shoptalk — No LSD Before Investor Meetings

Comes now the strange case of Justin Zhu, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Iterable (email marketing firm).

Justin complains of the fact that he believes he was replaced as CEO because he microdosed with LSD before a key investors’ meeting during which he says he saw “numbers and images swelling and shrinking on the screen” and that his body felt like it was melting.

Who really knows?

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04/26/21

CEO Shoptalk — Initiative

When a startup reaches year three it is no longer crawling in the crawl, walk, run continuum. It has survived the danger zone (imagine Top Gun soundtrack of Danger Zone) in which most companies fail.

“Highway to the Danger Zone, CEOs. Listen up,” says Maverick.

If it is typical, it has a well developed product or service — well beyond Minimum Viable Product — and if it is in the commerce space it may have sales of as much as $10,000,000. It is likely profitable and if the growth rate continues, it will be very profitable.

With success comes a new set of problems and many times they are related to staff. Has the staff grown at the same rate as the company? Can the staff you hired when the company was a seed run this larger and more complex enterprise? It happens all the time.

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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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10/3/20

CEO Shoptalk — Hard Conversations — How?

If you are a CEO, you will have hard conversations with your people, board, investors, shareholders sooner or later. [Love a good cliche in the morning, no?]

The nature of the conversation isn’t really important. What is important is how you prepare for it.

Pro tip: The preparation for a hard conversation will have more impact on the outcome than the actual conversation because it will set the nature of the conversation.

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09/27/20

CEO Shoptalk — All Risk Is Not Created Equal

If you are an entrepreneur, founder, CEO, you swim in a sea of risk, alternating amongst the butterfly, the backstroke, the breaststroke, and the crawl. You must do it all.

In the early days, you are a minnow (or a little mullet if you are feeling salty) and the dangerous waters of startup land are populated by voracious, big-toothed sharks, vicious sharks, all of whom want to devour you.

In these early, formative days every risk can eat you (kill you, destroy your company). [Worse, you don’t yet know the nature of risk. You are in that classic posture of not knowing what you don’t know.]

As you exit the size 2 Pampers, the list of things that can kill you begins to thin, but you add to it — you begin to take risk.

You visit risk upon yourself as you sharp elbow your way upward in the food chain. [Soon, you may become a shark.]

The big question is this — Do you understand the nature of the risks you are taking?

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09/24/20

Accounting — That Bedeviling Black Art

I took a few accounting courses in grad school. I once knew my debits versus my credits. Knew all about original issue discounts, goodwill impairment, and other such trivia.

Knew GAAP and FASB. Just showing off now.

I ran businesses for 33 years. I needed to know more about accounting so I hired good accountants, retained good accounting firms, hired a good Chief Financial Officer, got second opinions, and I studied the subject on the mean streets of the business world.

CEOs and founders need to know some accounting — financial accounting, managerial accounting, tax accounting. What I knew saved me a lot of money.

One of my interests is the progression of ratios in a graphical manner — pick a financial ratio and graph it such that you can see the trend at the bat of an eye. That tells me something.

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08/27/20

CEO Shoptalk — Taking Charge

I am sure I have written about this before, but I had chats with a number of CEO type persons over the last month such that I feel I must say it again.

In life, you do not get power, you take power. It is not a difficult concept. CEOs must take charge.

May I tell you a personal story? [I like asking things like that because it makes me seem reasonable, which I assure you I am, but I really don’t care if you give me permission. Here comes the story.]

Once Upon A Time In A Far Away Country

I was anointed by our military to conduct affairs of some considerable importance in a far away land.

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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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