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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09/24/20

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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08/25/20

Leadership Revisited — You Can Do This

This blog post is a revisit of something I wrote some time ago. It was one of the most heavily trafficked posts I have ever written though not at the time I wrote it. I have revised some things.

I have been a CEO for 33 years, before that an Army officer for five years, before that a cadet at VMI for 4 years, and most recently a CEO coach for 8 years. I grew up in a military family.

In business, I have founded private companies and grown them to some recognizable success; and, I have run a public company. My endeavors have been entrepreneurial and I have done a few turnarounds.

I have a lot of experience with both the theory of leadership and the practice of leadership. I have taught leadership. I have developed leaders both in the military and in business.

I have coached good and bad CEOs. I have helped bad CEOs become good CEOs. I have helped good CEOs become great CEOs and I have shepherded them to the pay window.

I have been in the leadership game a long time and at depth.

There is a huge difference between learning from an observer and learning from a practitioner. It is the difference between reading a book and lab work.

You can sit in an airplane in first class for 1,000,000 miles, but you still don’t know how it feels to take off and land a 737. [I have about 3,000 hours flying Bonanzas and find that flying analogies are very comparable to the startup business.]

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07/10/20

Breathing Life Back Into A Company

If you are the CEO of a startup, a small business, or a medium business, you are currently dealing with a unique situation — how do you re-invigorate an enterprise that has been rocked by three distinct issues:

 1. COVID19 on a personal, human scale;

 2. Externally imposed economic and workplace restrictions and impacts based on COVID19; and,

 3. The public backlash from racial issues related to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I will call this last one the Black Lives Matter issue.

These things taken together are likely to have created a negative impact on your company at the individual, granular level and at a business survival level.

There are a few companies who have prospered in the COVID19 environment, but who are still impacted by the BLM impact.

I think that most CEOs would agree that there will be changes, perhaps huge changes, on the other side of these impacts. That is, of course, if y’all survive to emerge on the other side.

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04/7/20

The Gratification Of Personal Development, CEO Transformation

There is nothing as gratifying in my CEO coaching than watching hardworking CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs blossom and develop.

Right now is a time whereat a CEO is exposed to the business friction of the COVID19 saga. In this friction, one finds the revealed strength of CEOs. Frankly, not everyone has it while everyone needs it.

When you see a CEO with whom you have worked blossom and rise to the occasion, it is extraordinarily gratifying and just makes you want to sing Hosanna!

Amongst the characteristics I see with this subset are the following:

 1. The CEOs who undergo transformation to a higher level of performance in times of crisis have done the work, day in day out over a protracted period of time. There are no overnight success stories. Sorry.

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03/14/20

CEO, Founder, Reassurer

In times of crisis in business, the military, government those for whom you have responsibility will look to you for reassurance and guidance. It is part of the job. It is one of the most important parts of the job. You, amigo, are the reassurer.

Here is the big thing: Your people will only remember 5% of what you tell them, but they will remember 95% of how you told them and how it made them feel.

This is the part of the job that is called being the Reassurer-in-Chief.

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01/13/20

Listening Until The . . . . . End

I was with a pal of mine named Charlie — no, his name is not really Charlie — and I received a call from a former CEO coaching client who is a big deal these days. BIG DEAL.

I say to Charlie, “Let me talk to this guy.” We’re sitting under a grape arbor at a restaurant drinking expensive latte that Charlie insisted on rather than good, old fashioned black coffee. Charlie has forgotten more about the CEO business than I will ever know and I was at it for 33+ years.

I start listening to the guy, the CEO — giving off the vibe of his hair on fire. Burning hair has a distinctive odor you can smell if you have 5G cell service.

“Take your time and tell me exactly what the problem is,” says I. I listen for a long time with a few “got it” type comments thrown in.

When the CEO finishes, I ask, “What else?” He remembers a few other things.

During this convo, I have whipped out my notebook and pen and taken some notes. I am sipping on my latte under the grape arbor — a pergola. The sun is on my face, a slight breeze is cooling me, I am alive and well in Austin By God Texas. Life is good. My CEO, a former client, has called me with a problem and I think I can help him. Is this a great country or what?

“What else?” I ask. He adds one last thing.

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12/20/19

Grading CEOs After the Pay Window Closes

Merry Christmas, y’all, from Austin By God Texas where it is cold and gray.

So, several years ago, a CEO who I had advised for a few years and who had taken his company to the pay window asked me, “What kind of a CEO was I?”

He didn’t mean in a Performance Appraisal way, but more as a final, historic debrief of his entire tenure. [His bank account suggested he’d been a good CEO.]

It was an easy conversation because the guy was crackerjack and I told him so.

The conversation went on and he wanted to know, “How did I develop along the way?”

That was a deeper conversation and I agreed to go back and consult my notes rather than give him a saccharine, off-the-cuff, in-the-light-emanating-from-the-pay-window reply.

When I did consult my notes, we had a very useful conversation: useful to him because it validated some things he was thinking, and useful to me because I had a good chance to see what impact I might have had on his journey.

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