11/24/19

CEO Shoptalk — Balance, Intensity

Lovely sunny day in the ATX. Ahh, on Earth as it is in Texas!

As a young, first time CEO, you may hear a lot about work-life balance. It is a worthy subject and suggests that there is some balance beam wherein work sits calmly on the left and life sits serenely on the right and it is your job to find the delicate balance between these two extremes, or, worse still, to create that balance. Good luck with that.

To which notion your Big Red Car says: Poppycock!

First, go look at my qualifier — “. . . young, first time CEO.” I am talking to you and not the serial 5X entrepreneur, who not only can achieve such balance in his/her life, but can teach the subject.

I am speaking to you if you are that young, first time CEO — slightly confused by the novelty of it all, a bit perplexed by the complexity, willing to work your way out of a jam, and with a fire in your belly that can weld titanium.

For you, go all in. Take the leap. Burn the boats. Get the tattoo. Feed the monster. Just do it.

The intensity that a young person — let’s say 22-35 — brings to an entrepreneurial, startup endeavor is similar to what I experienced in the Army upon graduation from Virginia Military Institute last century.

The last vestiges of the Vietnam War were still about (the US Embassy in Saigon would be stormed and taken in early May 1975). It was a time in which the Army was working 24/7/365 and nobody was feeling sorry for themselves or complaining. It was what was done.

Similarly, I want to urge you as a young, first time CEO to operate on a equivalent war time footing.

There are a few caveats:

 1. Exercise regularly to counter the stress.

 2. Eat right. Eat well. Drive your energy from your food.

 3. Get a physical and adhere to the doctor’s admonitions. Tell him you are an entrepreneur and that you are working some incredible hours. [Maybe he will want to invest some of his healthcare bonanza in your fledgling startup. JK]

 4. Have a written plan. Please have a written Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, and be receptive to developing a Culture.

A written plan ensures that you strike a square blow on the nail that is your business. An angled blow, a disorganized blow — bends the nail, requires remedial work, and results in a weakened nail when next you get ready to strike it. For all that is good and holy, have a written plan.

 5. Take regular cleansing vacations — not to Bali — wherein you disconnect from everything digital. Do it for at last 2 days, twice a year.

 6. Celebrate your birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and those of your parents. If you have a beloved, then get them in the mix.

 7. Go to church and learn to pray. This will turn out to be very soothing and calming. It is a skill, like learning to code.

 8. Get a CEO coach, a mentor, a gray haired eminence. This is a relief valve, and it is always helpful to have someone tell you, “Sorry, that’s normal” when the butterflies turn to condors and try to claw their way out of your acid pool of a stomach on THOSE days. Sorry. It is normal.

 9. Spend ten minutes a day writing in a diary. This will document something very important — the journey. You will look back after a year and say, “Holy smokes was I that freakin’ naive. Did I really get that much stuff done?”

If you will only do those nine things, then you can work like a whirling dervish and say, “Work balance, be damned!”

You can’t do it forever, but you can while you’re young and a first time CEO. While you’re learning your craft.

Then, guess what? You learn your craft, you become an experienced CEO and the world is all milk and honey. Unfortunately, you turn out to be lactose intolerant and it never really gets “easy” but you learn to do it.

Be well, amigo.

But, hey,  what the Hell do I really known anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Have a great week.

10/8/19

Chaos >>> Order

If you are a founder, entrepreneur, startup CEO then you are familiar with the notion of transforming chaos into order. [OK, let me say — “I hope you are.” However, we both know it is not as well ingrained as we might hope.]

If you are an “aspirin” startup — meaning the raison d’etre of your love child is to reduce the pain of mankind, the chaos is the pain and the order is the pain free — or lessened pain — environment that results thereafter.

If you are a “vitamin” startup — meaning the raison d’etre of your little bastard is to improve the quality of life, the chaos is the inferior quality of the before and the order is the higher quality plane of the after.

There is a decided “before” v “after” transformation.

Bit extreme, but it makes my point. Guy lost a lot of weight? What a magical transformation. I imagine he feels a lot better. Took those bad eating habits and created some order, no?

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08/18/19

CEO Shoptalk — The Founder’s Tale

In the life of the successful startup is a slightly disorganized story of its founding. It is a powerful story. It provides a keen insight into the who, what, when, why, where, how of the company. It is a story of creation. Only one person can tell it with an authentic voice.

It is a tale told best by the founder, hence the name: The Founder’s Tale.

It is a story that is the glue that binds people to the company and makes them want to follow the leadership. If you want to lead a pride of lions, then you have to tell the story of how you formed a pride.

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07/12/19

CEO Shoptalk — The List of Horribles

Nice day in the ATX. Nice day to talk about the List or Horribles.

The List of Horribles is something which a CEO of a startup or small business WILL encounter along the way to the finish line (pay window). These things — not all, but some — will happen.

“Come on, Big Red Car, really?” you say in that skeptical voice of yours, the one your mom used to call your “whiny” voice.

“Yes, dear reader, dear CEO, many of them will happen.”

Here is you (female CEO?) dealing with the List of Horribles. The guy with the helmet head is a Venture Capitalist finalizing the negotiations of a down round.

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03/13/19

You Are All Alone

Nice warm day in the ATX after a morning of rain. Ahh, On Earth as it is in Texas! It’s SXSW time in the ATX.

As a founder, entrepreneur, CEO there are times — most of the time — when you must rely solely upon yourself. You are all alone.

Even when you are a member of a team, at times you are all alone because you are the decider.

This is not a bad thing; it is just a thing. You can relax knowing that every other founder, entrepreneur, CEO has had the same feeling.

That feeling — when the butterflies in your gut become condors and they try to slice their way out with their sharp talons. Your stomach is an acid pit and your breath is like kerosene.

It is real, but you can handle it. Learning to rely upon your own judgment is critical.

I am not counseling you to ignore advice. Solicit advice, but know that sometimes, you will jump alone.

Here is a video of a stick of paratroopers (with equipment) getting ready to jump over White Sands as part of a training exercise. Every soldier who approaches that door is a member of a team, but when they jump they make that decision alone. You as a founder, entrepreneur, CEO will make that same decision.

You got this, trust me.

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01/29/19

Making Progress in the Real World of Startups

Big Red Car here on a crisp, sunny Texas winter day. It is 40F, which is bone chilling cold in the ATX.

So, the BRC is talking to a couple of CEOs and they are describing their growth curve–from founding to launch to the Promised Land. All of them have made it to the pay window, a nice arrival point.

It was an interesting discussion and one you might want to have with yourself.

In an ideal situation — something that never, ever happens — fictitious growth might look something like this. You are looking at performance over a period of time. We all want it to be high and to the right. Performance appears to increase at a uniform rate, at a steady rate. Not very realistic?

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01/8/19

Accounting Thinking for Startups

I hate accounting, but I love orderly accounts. I love it when the checkbook, the bank reconciliations, the cash receipts/disbursements journals, and the balance sheet all agree. Takes a bit of sleight of hand to make that happen, but I love it.

As a startup CEO, you need to get a good handle on how accounting works. This blog post is not going to teach you accounting, but it is going to give you the Stations of the Cross as it relates to what you do from the perspective of accounting.

Ready?

First, accounting can be a little time consuming and boring. As a CEO, never, ever, ever get involved with it. In your early days, hire an arm’s length bookkeeper and have them put your operation together on QuikBooks. [Pro tip: You could run the Pentagon on QuikBooks Enterprise, so don’t let anybody tell you it isn’t robust enough for your enterprise.]

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11/12/18

Mature Startups

Big Red Car here on another cold, rainy Monday in the ATX.

So, I’m chatting with a seasoned startup CEO, and he asks, “What is the first sign that a startup is bursting through the crawl, walk, run continuum, Big Red Car? What are the things you look for?”

Says I, “When they start their own training program, conduct offsites regularly, and have an industry leading conference as part of their marketing program.”

To which he says, “Do tell, Big Red Car. What does that mean? The industry leading conference part?”

Related image

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