This post is written from a slightly different perspective as it is spawned by three conversations of about a year ago wherein VCs asked me what I thought about replacing CEOs and what the ideal process might be.
As the pandemic winds down (it is, right?), persons who worked from home are returning to their original office locations. Big companies like JPMorganChase are starting to make it real.
Jamie Dimon, CEO/Chairman of JPMorganChase has made his intentions clear: “I’m about to cancel all my Zoom meetings. I’m done with it.”
This sentiment, it is time to go back to work, is becoming more prevalent.
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.
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.
Look at this baby from Airstream. What is it going to take for me to put you in this ultimate WFH rig?
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.
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.
You’re a startup on your way. You are at that magic 50+ employee level at which you start to pay attention to things like Performance Appraisal. With that level of staffing, you will find out that when the tide goes out, some folks have been swimming naked — meaning not everybody is a super star.
Sure, you remember this — click on to see larger:
If you are the CEO of a startup or small business, the months of November and December are when you must be planning what you will make happen in CY 2021 — and, yes, there will be a Calendar Year 2021 whether you plan for it or not.
You should be following a discipline something like this:
Review 2020 performance — review and discuss with your senior folks with an eye toward segregating the loser from the winners, the saints from the sinners
Based on 2020 performance, create your 2021 plan with input from your senior folks
After a careful review, publish the “preliminary” plan and sit down with your Board to get feedback
Revise the plan
Publish the plan
Brief the plan to the company and get buy in
This can take two weeks or six weeks. It should be started in November, finished in December, and published before Christmas.