Category

Leadership

Top 3 Mistakes Later Stage Founders Make

Last week, I blogged a podcast riff I did about the biggest mistakes early stage founders make and what to do about them. Here’s a summary of part 2 of what I said about later stage founders. Misreading Product/Market Fit or a lack of Product/Market Fit. Misread it high, and founders end up dumping money into sales and marketing too soon. Misread it too low, and you can fire a good sales or marketing team when it’s not their fault! On the high side, Product/Market Fit isn’t just coming from a healthy CAC/LTV ratio or by good early adoption. Early adoption can come from a small group of Visionaries (here I’m channeling Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Lifecycle curve from Crossing…

Top 3 Mistakes Early Stage Founders Make

I just did a podcast recording the other day for someone who asked me the biggest mistakes founders make and what to do about them. I divided my response into “early stage” and “later stage” founders. Here’s a summary of what I said about early stage founders. They cling to a “good enough person” or someone who is a good performer but a weak cultural fit because they either feel beholden to that person for their output, or worse, they’re actually afraid of losing them because they’ll miss a milestone or maybe trigger some other departure. The “what to do” of course is to have courage and make the change! I wrote an essay years ago in Brad Feld and…

When it is Time to Hire Your First Chief Financial Officer

(This is the second post in the series…the first one on How to Engage with Your CFO is here.) What comes before a full-fledged CFO?  Lots of startups have nothing more than an outsourced bookkeeper or one junior staff accountant.  Sometimes a founder or a founder’s spouse even steps in on this front.  As startups scale, they are likely to hire a more senior accountant, maybe an AR/AP/Collections staff member, or even a Controller or VP Finance. Depending on the complexity of your business you might be able to hold off on hiring a full-time CFO, but if you have any of these signs then it’s time to start thinking about bringing someone on board. One sign is intuitive, and…

Offsites in the age of COVID

I attended two offsites in the last two weeks – both great in terms of seeing people in person.  Interesting how differently they handled COVID protocols, although they were different groups with different vibes. One was a CEO conference for one of my VC’s portfolios.  There was a huge emphasis in all the pre-conference comms about COVID.  And lots of testing.  We all got mailed a very sophisticated in-house PCR test ahead of time to take and photograph/upload, complete with chemical reagents and some kind of centrifuge.  Then those of us who flew in for the event had to do an on-site rapid test before entering the opening reception and even had a side room to sit in for 15…

I’m Having a Blast at Bolster — Here’s Why

Someone asked me the other day how things are going at Bolster, the new company I started along with a bunch of long-time colleagues from Return Path last year. My visceral answer was “I’m having a blast!”  I thought about it more after and came up with five reasons why.  First, I am working with a hand-picked group of people. My co-founders, I’ve worked with for an average of 15 years – we know and trust each other tremendously. And for the most part, the same is true about our cap table. Almost everyone else at the company is also someone multiple of us have known or worked with for years. That may not last forever, but it makes things…

How to Engage with Your CFO

It’s fairly rare in a startup or scaleup that you, as a CEO or CXO (Chief [fill in the function] Officer) of any kind, will have significant one-on-one time with other members of the executive suite; instead, you’re most likely to spend time with the team in executive meetings, at offsites, or during all-company events. So, when you do get that one-on-one time it’s important to make sure that it’s not only productive, but that it builds a stronger relationship between you and the other person. As a CEO I learned that the best way to help people grow and develop, and to further develop a better understanding of each other, is to engage with them in a mix of…

Momentum and Confidence: Everything Matters

As I stared at a dugout of dispirited 14 year old boys Saturday afternoon in our tournament championship game, I found myself talking to my fellow coach Mitch about a book I’d read a few years ago (turns out 14) called Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, written by HBS professor Rosabeth Moss Kantor. While that original blog post is pretty specific to something that was going on at that point in time in my prior company, the thinking in the book about momentum and the role it plays in our psychology, about sports, about business, and about life in general, is timeless. Watching this team of teens go through ups and downs within an hour was…

Why the Startup Sales Function Starts With Whiteboards

(This post was inspired by Startup CXO and was originally published by Techstars on The Line.) In most startups, one of the founders is the first salesperson — often out of necessity as much as passion. But as startups scale they add sales reps or maybe some form of a Sales Manager once there are more than a couple of reps. But how do you know when to bring on a senior sales leader? Too soon and you have a very expensive employee, too late and your sales reps are creating their own processes and approaches. As a CEO there are several telltale signs that you need to hire a CRO, for example: You wake up in the middle of…

Five Misperceptions of the CCO Role

This post was inspired by Startup CXO and was originally published by Techstars on The Line. If you’re new to the Chief Customer Officer role, we’d like to share some advice we wish we had learned earlier in our careers. There are a few common misconceptions about customers and the service organization. If you don’t realize these as misperceptions, you can spend a lot of time dealing with issues that are not real, but perceived. We have identified five of these common misperceptions, although we are sure there are more. Misperception #1: The service organization fully controls churn (customer attrition) In a lot of organizations you’ll see the service organization be measured solely on customer churn. If you really think about…

Signs your critical functions aren’t scaling – three webinars

This is a topic we write about obsessively in Startup CXO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Company’s Critical Functions and Teams — in fact, it’s basically the whole point of the book! I’ll write some more specific posts here in the coming weeks that take some excerpts from the book, but Bolster is putting on three free and open webinars we’re calling our “Bolster-up Series” over the coming weeks that I want to share with everyone who reads StartupCEO.com. In this series, I’ll be doing short interviews with CEOs who we work with at Bolster on the different aspects of scaling specific functions, how they diagnosed those problems, and how they leveraged on-demand executive talent to solve those…

How to get the most out of working with a CEO Mentor or CEO Coach

(This is the third in a series of three posts on this topic.) In previous posts (here, here) , I talked about the difference between Mentors and Coaches and also how to select the right ones for you. Once you’ve selected a Mentor or Coach, here are some tips to get the most out of your engagement. Starting to work with a CEO Mentor is fairly easy. Give them some materials to help understand your business, and then come prepared to every session with a list of 1-2 topics that are keeping you up at night where you want to benefit from the person’s experience. Kicking off a CEO Coach engagement is more in-depth. I always recommend starting to work…