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Return Path

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…

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…

When in Doubt, Apply a Framework (but be sure to keep them fresh!)

I’ve always been a big believer in the consistent application frameworks for business thinking and decision-making.  Frameworks are just a great starting point to spark conversation and organize thinking, especially when you’re faced with a new situation.  Last year, I read Tom Friedman’s new book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, and he had this great line that reminded me of the power of frameworks and that it extends far beyond business decision-making: When you put your value set together with your analysis of how the Machine works and your understanding of how it is affecting people and culture in different contexts, you have a worldview that you can then apply to…

Agile Everywhere, Part II

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about the Agile methodology on this blog. For those of you who are regular readers, you may remember a post I wrote about our Agile Everywhere initiative— where all Return Path teams were tasked with implementing agile practices. A little over a year later, I want to update you on our agile journey–where we are now and how we got there.  My colleague Cathy Hawley (our head of People) will write a more detailed series of guest posts  for those of you who want to get more details of our transformation process. Before we started our Agile Everywhere initiative, only our product and engineering teams were using agile. The rest of the organization…

Why You Won’t See Us Trash Talk Our Competition

We’ve been in business at Return Path for almost 18 years now.  We’ve seen a number of competitors come and go across a bunch of different related businesses that we’ve been in.  One of the things I’ve noticed and never quite understood is that many of our competitors expend a lot of time and energy publicly trash talking us in the market.  Sometimes this takes the form of calling us or our products out by name in a presentation at a conference; other times it takes the form of a blog post; other times it’s just in sales calls.  It’s weird.  You don’t see that all that often in other industries, even when people take aim at market leaders. During…

Reboot – Where do a company’s Values come from, and where do they go?

I’ve written a lot over the years about Return Path’s Core Values (summary post with lots of links to other posts here).  And I’ve also written and believe strongly that there’s a big difference between values, which are pretty unchanging, and culture, which can evolve a lot over time.  But I had a couple conversations recently that led me to think more philosophically about a company’s values. The first conversation was at a recent dinner for a group of us working on fundraising for my upcoming 25th reunion from Princeton.  Our guest speaker was a fellow alumnus who I’ve gotten to know and respect tremendously over the years as one of the school’s most senior and influential volunteer leaders.  He was speaking…

Reboot – Back to Basics

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m rebooting my work self this year, and this quarter in particular.  One of the things I am doing is getting back to basics on a few fronts. Over the holiday break, as I was contemplating a reboot, I emailed a handful of people with whom I’ve worked closely over the years, but for the most part people with whom I no longer work day in day out, to ask them a few questions.  The questions were fairly backward looking: 1.       When I was at my best, what were my personal habits or routines that stand out in your mind? 2.       When I was at my best, what were my work behaviors or routines…

You, Too, Can Take Six Weeks Off

You, Too, Can Take Six Weeks Off Note:  I have been really quite on OnlyOnce for a few months, I realize.  It’s been a busy stretch at work and at home.  I keep a steady backlog of blog topics to write about, and finally today I’ve grabbed a couple minutes on a flight to knock one out.  We’ll see if this starts me back on a more steady diet of blogging – I miss it! I’ve written in the past about our sabbatical policy at Return Path, from what it is (here) to how much I enjoyed my own (here), to how great it is when my direct reports have been on Sabbatical so I can walk a few miles…

Book Short: Scrum ptious

Book Short:  Scrum ptious  I just finished reading Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland and JJ Sutherland. This reading was in anticipation of an Agile Facilitation training my executive team and I are going through next week, as part of Return Path’s  Agile Everywhere initiative. But it’s a book I should’ve read along time ago, and a book that I enjoyed. Sutherland gets credit for creating the agile framework and bringing the concept scrum to software development over 20 years ago. The book very clearly lays out not just the color behind the creation of the framework, and the central tenets of practice again, but also clear and simple illustrations of…

Managing Up

(The following post was written by one of Return Path’s long-time senior managers, Chris Borgia, who runs one of our data science teams and has run other support organizations in the past, both at Return Path and at AOL.  I don’t usually run guest posts, but I loved the topic with Chris suggested it, and it’s a topic that I’d only have a limited perspective on!) Managing Up in a Growing, Global Workplace For many years, I thought “managing up” was a cheap way of getting ahead. I thought someone who managed up was skilled at deceiving their boss into thinking they were more accomplished than they really were. I have since learned that managing up, or managing your boss,…