Category

Entrepreneurship

How to Select a CEO Mentor or CEO Coach

(This is the second in a series of three posts on this topic.) In a previous post, I shared the difference between CEO Mentors and CEO Coaches. I’ll share with you here how to select the Mentors and Coach who are right for you.  First, you need to find candidates.  Whether you’re talking about CEO Coaches or CEO Mentors or both, getting referrals from trusted sources is the best way to go about this.  Those trusted sources could be your VC or independent board members, friends, fellow CEOs — or of course Bolster, where we have a significant number of Coaches and Mentors and have made it our business to vet and vouch for them. Selecting a CEO Mentor is…

The Difference Between a CEO Coach and a CEO Mentor and Why Every CEO Needs Both

(This is the first in a series of three posts on this topic.) Harry Potter was lucky.  He had, in Albus Dumbledore, the ultimate wise elder, in his corner.  Someone who could teach him how to be a better human being (er, wizard), how to be more proficient with his wand and spells, how to think strategically and defeat the bad guys. All of us would benefit from having an Albus Dumbledore in our lives.  But most of us don’t — and most of the people we’d call on to be that wise elder in our corner aren’t capable of the full range of advice and counsel that Dumbledore is.  Why work with a Coach or a Mentor?  I’ll start…

Soliciting Feedback on Your Own Performance as CEO

(Excerpted from Chapter 12 of Startup CEO) As a CEO, one of the most important things you can do is solicit feedback about your own performance. Of course, this will work only if you’re ready to receive that feedback! What does that mean? It means you need to be really, really good at doing four things: Asking for feedback Accepting feedback gracefully Acting on feedback Asking for follow‐up feedback on the same topic to see how you did In some respects, asking for it is the easy part, although it may be unnatural. You’re the boss, right? Why do you need feedback? The reality is that all of us can always benefit from feedback. That’s particularly true if you’re a…

Use Cases to Bolster Your Team: How to Leverage On-Demand Talent in Your Business

(This post was written by my colleague Bethany Crystal and originally published on the Bolster blog yesterday. While I am still trying to figure out what posts to put on this blog vs. Bolster’s blog since the blogs are pretty similar, I will occasionally run something in both places.) At Bolster, we believe that 2021 will mark the rise of the on-demand economy for executives. More than ever before, executives are seeking out roles that distinctly aren’t full-time for a variety of reasons – they’re in between full-time roles and want to stay engaged and meet a wide range of potential employers; they’re retired or semi-retired/post-exit and want to keep working, just not full-time; they’re fully employed but are looking for advisory opportunities to…

Zoomsites

(Written by both my Bolster co-founder Cathy Hawley and me) I’ve attended two remote conferences, which Cathy dubbed “Zoomsites” — one here at Bolster and the Foundry Group CEO Summit.  Both hold interesting lessons for how these kinds of events can work well. We founded Bolster two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and our founding team had not met in person after 6 months of working together. Now, luckily, we’ve all worked together for many years, so we have a lot of trust built up, and have a very strong operating system which includes full team daily standups. Still, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. If you’ve ever founded a startup, you know how impactful it can be to work side by…

What Job is Your Customer Hiring You to Do?

My friend George, one of our co-founders at Return Path (according to him, the best looking of the three), has a wonderful and simple framing question for thinking about product strategy:  what job is your customer hiring you to do?  No matter what I’m working on, I am finding George’s wisdom as relevant as ever, maybe even more so since I am still learning the new context. Why is this a useful question to ask?  It seems really simple – maybe even too simple to drive strategy, doesn’t it? It’s very easy in technology and content businesses (maybe other spaces too) to get caught up in a landslide of features and topics. In a dynamic world of competition and feature…

OnlyOnce, Part XX

I realize I haven’t posted much lately.  As you may know, the title of this blog, OnlyOnce, comes from a blog post written by my friend and board member Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures entitled You Are Only a First-Time CEO Once, which he wrote back in 2003 or 2004.  That inspired me to create a blog for entrepreneurs and leaders.  I’ve written close to 1,000 posts over the years, and the book became the impetus for a book that another friend and board member Brad Feld from Foundry Group encouraged me to write and helped me get published called Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business back in 2013. Today is a special day in…

Sometimes a Good Loss is Better than a Bad Win

I just said this to a fellow little league coach, and it’s certainly true for baseball.  I’ve coached games with sloppy and/or blowout wins in the past.  You take the W and move on, but it’s hard to say “good game” at the end of it and feel like you played a good game.  And I’ve coached games where we played our hearts out and made amazing plays on offense and defense…and just came up short by a run.  You are sad about the L, but at least you left it all out on the field. Is that statement true in business? What’s an example of a “bad” win?  Let’s say you close a piece of business with a new…

Feedback Overload and Confusion – a Guide for Commenting on Employee Surveys

We run a massive employee survey every year or so called The Loop, which is powered by Culture Amp.  We are big fans of Culture Amp, as they provide not only a great survey tool but benchmarks of relevant peer companies so our results can be placed in external context as well as internal context. The survey is anonymous and only really rolled up to large employee groups (big teams, departments, offices, etc.), and we take the results very seriously.  Every year we run it, we create an Organization Development Plan out of the results that steers a lot of the work of our Leadership team and People team for the coming year. I just read every single comment that…

You Don’t Know How to Drive a Car Because You Know How to Read a Map

I was having breakfast with the CEO of another SaaS company the other day, as I often do to network.  He was telling me about his experience working with his company’s new Private Equity owner. There are always a mix of pros and cons that come with any particular shareholder, Board member, or owners, of course.  In his case, my fellow CEO was bemoaning the 29-year old associate who acted like a know-it-all in every Board meeting.  Lots of CEOs have been there.  There’s a lot of value you can get from an associate or VP-level person at an investor who is the Master of the Spreadsheet and who has access to a lot of data about your company.  And there is…

No One Will Ever Thank You for Keeping Prices Low

I was in a Board meeting last week (not Return Path’s), when one of my fellow directors came out with this gem:  “No one will ever thank us for keeping our prices low.” When I first heard this, as is the case with most great quotes, I was drawn to its wit and simplicity. But then I started thinking – is it true?  My mind first went to retail.  Having a reputation as being a low-cost provider can be in and of itself effective marketing – if that reputation is strong enough and your selection is wide enough, at least in retail-oriented industries, customers may consistently buy from you even if you’re not ALWAYS the low-cost provider.  Wal-Mart and Amazon…