Category

Leadership

When to Hire a Chief Marketing Officer

(Post 1 of 4 in the series of Scaling CMOs) Unlike some of the other teams in a startup, the marketing function often has a few people carrying out various tasks and you’ll find that there is at least a medium sized and quite busy marketing department—even at the earliest startup stages. You could operate this way for quite some time and it’s common to have a marketing team with multiple mid-level leaders well before there is a seasoned leader at the helm.  One of those leaders may be a VP of Marketing and, depending on the nature of the company, that VP is likely someone with a specialized area of focus within marketing (brand, digital, event, etc.) who has…

How to engage with Your CRO

(Post 4 of 4 in the series on Scaling CROs – other posts are, When to Hire your First Chief Revenue Officer, What Does Great Look like in a Chief Revenue Officer and Signs your Chief Revenue Officer isn’t Scaling) Assuming your CRO is on track and scaling with the company so that you’re not having to mentor or coach them, I’ve found a few ways to engage with the CRO that have been particularly fruitful. Here are a few tips on making every moment with your CRO well-spent. One of the easiest ways to carve out quality time with your CRO is during travel time, or in and around events.  Particularly if you’re a B2B company that engages with…

Book Short: New Advice from an Old Friend

In 2005, I wrote a post called Unfolding the Map in which I looked at these two seemingly opposing philosophies from successful entrepreneurs: If you don’t have a map, you can’t get lost If you don’t have a map, you can’t get where you’re going and tried to combine them when thinking about product roadmapping. The same contradiction and combination could be applied to anything, including coaching and development. That’s why I was excited to read my friend Matt Spielman’s new book, Inflection Points: How to Work and Live with Purpose. Matt worked at Return Path twice over the years — first as employee #3 (more on that in a minute) and then over a decade later as CMO. We…

Signs your Chief Revenue Officer isn’t Scaling

(Post 3 of 4 in the series of Scaling CRO’s- the other posts are When to Hire your First Chief Revenue Officer and What does Great Look like in a Chief Revenue Officer). If you’ve hired a “great” CRO (see previous post) you might think that you’re set for a long time and that the great CROs are also able to scale. Not always, and you’ll have to check to make sure that your CRO is scaling and growing as much as your company. I’ve found that there are several telltale signs that your CRO isn’t scaling and fortunately, they are easy to spot and easy to correct. First, if your CRO gravitates to being an individual contributor sales rep…

What Does Great Look Like in a Chief Revenue Officer?

(This is the second post in the series…….the first one on When to Hire your First Chief Revenue Officer is here.) If you’re looking for a great CRO, one thing you want to avoid is being “sold” by a dynamic and engaging salesperson instead of finding the best CRO for your company. Over the two-plus decades of working closely with CROs I figured out what “great” looks like and I’ve found that there are five things that great CROs do. While you might not find all these characteristics and attributes in one person, you should definitely look for them! First, a great CRO knows when to turn up the volume, and when not to.  Thinking through our metaphor/framework for enterprise…

Startup Boards:  VCs and CEOs need to do their jobs!

Was anyone else as appalled as I am by the contents of Connie Loizos’s recent article, Coming out of COVID, investors lose their taste for board meetings? The stories and quotes in the article about VCs reducing their interest and participation in Board meetings, not showing up, sending the junior associate to cover, etc. are eye opening and alarming if widespread.  The reasons cited in the article are logical—overextended VCs, Zoom fatigue, and newbie directors. Connie’s note that “privately, VCs admit they don’t add a lot of value to boards” is pretty funny to read as a CEO who has heard a ton of VCs talk about how much value they add to boards (although the good ones DO add a…

The Impact of a Good Coach

I’m pretty close to the executive coaching world. My wife Mariquita is an extraordinary CEO coach. I’ve worked for decades with Marc Maltz from Hoola Hoop, who helped me transform everything about how I lead organizations. I’ve been friends with Jerry Colonna of Reboot fame for years (I did a fun podcast with Jerry last year called “Everyone is Scalable). I’m pretty good friends with Chad Dickerson. Bolster’s marketplace helps place CEO coaches and even has a programmatic approach to coaching and mentoring called Bolster Prime. The list goes on. My friend Mitch, a fellow baseball coach, gave me a fun book a couple years ago that is a page-a-day called Coach: 365 Days of Inspiration for Coaches and Players,…

Best and Worst Practices (Plus FAQs) for Layoffs

Short of declaring failure and shutting down your company, laying off employees is the worst thing you may have to do as a startup CEO. I’ve had to lay people off on three separate occasions. It was difficult and emotional—those days were the worst of my career, and probably rank in the top 10 worst days of my life, period. This isn’t firing for cause—employees aren’t being asked to leave because of their own failings. They’re being asked to leave because the company can no longer afford to keep them. It’s not their fault. It’s a truly awful process. Some CEOs will fall into the trap of thinking that because it’s invariably messy, it doesn’t matter how you do it….

When to Hire Your First Chief Revenue Officer

(Post 1 of 4 in the series on Scaling CROs) In most startups, the founder is the first salesperson and while it may be difficult to let that go you’ll eventually scale, add sales reps, or maybe some form of a Sales Manager once there are more than a couple of reps.  In Startup CXO our Return Path CRO, Anita Absey, wrote about the journey of startup sales, from “selling on whiteboard” to “selling with PowerPoint” to “selling with PDF.” I encourage you to read that section if you’re wondering about hiring a CRO, but all of the hiring of sales reps and (possibly) a sales manager happens during what Anita calls the “White Board” stage as you’re beginning to…

Double Book Short: Framework of Frameworks

I love me a good framework. And Geoffrey Moore is the kind of good product/marketing frameworks for technology companies. Moore’s Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption is a must-read for anyone managing a larger technology organization (start reading it when you get to 200-250 people – it’s never too early to worry about disruption). More important, it’s really a companion book or coda to Escape Velocity: Free Your Company’s Future from the Pull of the Past, so if you haven’t read that one, start there and read both sequentially. Zone to Win is quite short and punchy, and it doesn’t disappoint. I can’t believe is that I never blogged about Escape Velocity before since it…

The Evolution of Feedback in Our Organizations

Across 22 years and two companies now, our system of giving performance feedback has evolved significantly. I thought I’d take a pass at chronicling it here and seeing if I had any learnings from looking at the evolution. Here’s how things evolved over the years: Written performance reviews. The first year of Return Path, we had a pretty standard process for reviews. They were more or less “one-way” (meaning managers wrote reviews for their direct reports), and they only happened annually. Written 360 reviews. We pretty quickly moved from one-way reviews to 360s. I wrote about this here, but we always felt that being able to give/receive feedback in all directions was critical to getting a full picture of your…