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?

Source v sink

There are concepts in thermodynamics which are defined as a “heat source” or a “heat sink.” A source supplies heat to a thermodynamic process while a sink removes heat.

In much the same way, startups and their entrepreneurs face energy sources and energy sinks — things or people which supply energy or consume energy in the entrepreneurial process.

Endless demands

Being an entrepreneur and birthing a startup is a constant confrontation between limited means and unlimited requirements (wants). It is like being a teenager and asking your father for money.

In that environment, the founder has to decide which things to pursue to accomplish her Vision in a Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture framework.

In making those decisions, an entrepreneur impacts the energy balance of the enterprise and herself. Every enterprise has an energy balance meter. It shows rising v falling energy.


The reality is that there is not enough energy available on the planet to accomplish everything a founding CEO desires to do. Thus, the issue of prioritization is paramount to success. The first thing a CEO has to do is to decide what she intends to actually do. Again, prioritization.

Pro tip: You CAN’T do everything, so be judicious in what you decide to do. Make damn sure it advances the Vision, your Vision. That is the real test — does this advance the Vision?

Another reality is that there are people (and processes) who are energy sinks — consumers of energy — within your organization. It is easy to say, “Get rid of them.” It becomes difficult to do when that person is a genius software engineer or a wizard marketer.

Nonetheless, a CEO has to apply this lens to the organization. Ask yourself, “Who/what is consuming energy and who/what is generating energy?”

Energy, Entrepreneurial Energy

If we are to trade in the currency of energy, then we should focus on the following guiding principles:

 1. Energy is never a steady state. It is either growing or being consumed. If you are idle, energy is still being consumed.

 2. Some people or processes generate energy.

 3. Some people or processes consume energy.

 4. Some people or processes leverage energy.

 5. Monitoring energy, identifying the generators of energy, identifying the consumers of energy, leveraging energy — these are leadership functions.

Real world it, Big Red Car

OK, let me give you some examples”

 1. Hiring is endless and tiresome. What can a CEO do?

A CEO can use an outside recruiting service, use a process like Take The Interview.

It does not take away the necessity to hire people face-to-face, but it does reduce the number of faces you have to see to make a great hire.

 2. Board meetings are interminable and become an “all hands” exercise. They last forever and accomplish very little.

Improve prep by finalizing all docs a week ahead of time, deposit them in a DropBox style file, circulate them digitally, have a clean agenda with the identity of presenters and time budget for each item, call boardmembers before the meeting, follow the agenda, use written Corporate Resolutions to document appropriate decisions, organize into appropriate committees, let the committees do more of the heavy lifting, follow up with boardmembers after the meeting, keep clean minutes.

You may already see a theme emerging from the primordial slime — get organized, stay organized, execute in an organized manner.

 3. The company is misaligned with people doing what they want to do rather than advancing the Vision of the founder. Pro tip: The Power of Alignment, read it. [Follow that link to a used copy for $0.87 plus shipping. No excuses, y’all. Read the damn book.] Old School approach to alignment which is an eye opener.

Check, double check, re-check your Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, OBJECTIVES, Values, Culture and have an off site meeting to focus on what you want done.

Make damn sure that individuals are focused on their assigned OBJECTIVES and that they know their Performance Appraisal is going to be based on the OBJECTIVES they actually accomplish, not whether they made a really cool GIF.

When done well, this is also a huge energy multiplier, something that uses the mechanical advantage of community to leverage energy.

4. Do the heavy lifting as it relates to personnel — get rid of the brilliant guy who is causing all the infighting. Do it. It has to be done.

Give yourself a stern talking to and say, “I need to do a better job of hiring. I can do a better job of hiring. I will do a better job of hiring. No more energy sinks.” Laugh maniacally and have a latte while saying, “This stuff is hard, but so am I.”

We will not solve all the problems of the world today. But, you have a good frame of reference with which to evaluate your enterprise and its demands on entrepreneurial energy.

 1. Identify the energy sources and sinks in your enterprise. Be brutally honest.

 2. Prioritize them — killers to toe fungus scale.

 3. Write them down.

 4. Fashion a solution to the killers. Just a scribble at first. Sometimes all that is required is to identify it for what it is and stop doing it. [Want to lose weight? Stop eating six cheeseburgers a day. Voila!]

 5. In the next month, make a firm commitment to yourself to deal with three of the killers. You can do this.

 6. Do it. Rinse. Repeat.

If you get stuck, call me. You may need someone who has done this to nudge you along and to show you the signs. But, let me promise you one thing — YOU CAN DO THIS and if you don’t there will be a long term cost.

Bad news. I saved the bad news for the end. This, evaluating entrepreneurial energy, has to be done twice a year. As soon as you fix one energy sink, another begins to grow. As your standards are elevated, more things pop up which would not have been noticed before.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be strong, Texas. Be a force multiplying CEO.



3 thoughts on “Entrepreneurial Energy — CEO Shoptalk

  1. A good post, a keeper.

    Yup, I’m no great expert in business management, but I’ve seen enough in business to see the problems of “energy” and “alignment” as in the book Alignment at the link given.

    I followed the link, read some of the materials on the Amazon pages, and saw the endorsement by and comments of Fred Smith, founder, COB, FedEx. From the comments, Fred has learned some of what he needed to know, found some solutions, to some management problems he had when I was at FedEx and saved his company twice.

    So, I tried to buy a “digital” copy, likely PDF, but didn’t see how to do that. For a paper copy, I already have too many books in paper.

    In my experience in organizations, both academic and business, once for a short time, on a small scale, under some special circumstances I was “energy sources” and good “alignment”. Otherwise all I saw was “energy sinks” and just awful “alignment”.

    E.g., at IBM, what I saw was L. Gerstner’s “IBM is the most arrogant, inwardly directed, process oriented company I have ever seen”, IIRC. So, there was fighting down the hall and with other divisions and ignoring the customers and the competition.

    There were cliques in vicious civil wars, lots of destructive gossip, etc.

    Really, there is an academic description for most of this “energy sink” and bad “alignment” called “goal subordination” in the fields of organizational behavior and public administration. It’s standard stuff, ubiquitous and very old.

    The fundamental problem is that, really, a lot of employees, especially middle management, see more potential for themselves pursuing their own goals, likely in conflict with the goals of the organization, instead of the goals of the organization — “goal subordination”.

    The main reason people get by with this garbage is the usual one of politics — too much stuff hidden from clear view making a lot of gossip, lying, propaganda, manipulation, clique formation, etc. possible.

    Yes, being clear about tactics, objectives, and evaluations can stop a lot of such stuff.

    But there’s another issues, at least touched on in Alignment: What the heck to do about keeping up with change, at least that, and, really, leading in valuable change?

    Actually there’s no way to get very far with leading change without getting close to, participating in, exploiting, and applying original research.

    For research, the tactics, objectives, and evaluations are more complicated but, curiously, in practice easier for research. E.g., Bell Labs knew just what the heck they really wanted — a transistor to replace vacuum tubes. Then they wanted small solid state lasers. Then, optical fibers — lit by the lasers — to replace copper. They got all three, brilliantly. Much of the key was that Bell Labs research management was good enough for those accomplishments.

    There are other good examples of research management and productivity.

    But, there are also plenty of cases of office politics, goal subordination, energy sinks, and poor alignment in some research and academic organizations. I’ve seen some really bad cases.

    IMHO, in the end, management, from the top down to fairly close to the bottom of the organization chart, needs to understand the threats and symptoms, stay well informed on the cliques, gossips, internal fighting, etc., and, when sick cases are observed, give a warning and have the pruning shears ready and be willing to use them — “SNIP”.

    E.g., commonly there is a lot of loose talk about “low performers” and “high performers”. My experience says that low and mediocre performers are the smart ones because they see too clearly that a “high performer” is regarded by all their management chain up to and including the CEO and COB as a big threat, a protruding nail to be beaten down.

    So, an organization that wants high performance needs to encourage, provide safety for, and reward “high performers”. If a CEO does that, then the full management chain down to some non-management worker bee high performer will be drinking like a fish, Pepto-Bismol, stomach anti-acid, beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, etc., trembling in their sleep, boots, etc. So, be it: Clear out that deadwood, groom some high performers for more authority, etc.

    Uh, that a brilliant person is also likely to be an “energy sink” and a problem of “alignment” is just a common gossip, slander mediocre performers use to defend themselves from a high performer!

    Or, necessarily the best performer will be unique, just some one person, and, then, everyone else can naturally gang up against that person. That unique person can be and should be respected but usually they won’t be much liked. In that case, being respected is likely sufficient and much more important than being liked which is likely not necessary.

    • I agree. A keeper post.

      I guess that both you are me are the only freaking weirdos to see the wisdom thrown around here.

      Now back to watching MSNBC where they tell me how hateful white people are.

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