Category

Startup CEO

What Does “Great” Look Like in a CFO?

Post 3 of 4 in the series on Scaling CFOs – other posts are How to Engage with Your CFO and When it is Time to Hire Your First Chief Financial Officer.)  A lot of startups have a bookkeeper, accountant, or even a spouse of a founder or employee handle the finances when they first start out, and that’s fine. But at some point you’ll want to hire a CFO and if you’re dealing with a lot of chaos it’s easy to think, “well, anybody is better than what we have now.” But I would hold off on that thinking because the CFO, a great one, will do a lot more than just manage the finances, AP, and AR. A…

How to Get Credit for Non-Salary Benefits: The Total Rewards Statement

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about some innovations we’d made in People practices around basic benefits. But that post raised questions for me like “Why do you spend money on things like that when all people care about is their salary? When they get poached by another company, all they think of it the headline number of their base compensation, unless they’re in sales and think about their OTE.” While that is hard to entirely argue against, one thing you can do as you layer in more and more benefits on top of base salary, you can, without too much trouble, produce annual “Total Rewards Statements” for everyone on your team. We did this at Return Path for several…

Open Expense Policy

I wrote a post the other day about innovating employee benefits practices, and I realized I’d never documented a couple other ways in which we have always tried to innovate People practices. Here’s one of them: the Open Expense Policy, which I wrote about in the second edition of Startup CEO in a new chapter on Authentic Leadership when talking about the problem of the “Say-Do” gap.  Here’s what I wrote: I’ll give you an example that just drove me nuts early in my career here, though there are others in the book.  I worked for a company that had an expense policy – one of those old school policies that included things like “you can spend up to $10 on a…

Innovating People Practices Through Benefits

Sometimes the work we do as CEOs, leaders, management teams is glamorous, and sometimes it’s not. But it all matters. One thing we tried to do at Bolster this past year is to really amp up employee benefits. The war for talent is real. The Great Resignation is real. Sometimes startups like ours have natural advantages in terms of attracting and retaining talent such as being made up of letting people in on the ground floor of something, having small teams so individual impact is easy to see, being mission-driven and full of creativity and purpose, and having equity to give that could be very valuable over time. But sometimes startups like ours have natural disadvantages around recruiting like having…

The Blackjack Table

I lived one of my favorite metaphors last week as we announced the closing of Bolster’s Series B financing and had our first post-round Board meeting, and I realized I’ve never blogged about it before: that raising rounds of financing is like having a good night at the blackjack table. When I go to Vegas or AC — and admittedly I haven’t done that in several years — I usually start playing Blackjack at the $5 table. It’s lightweight entertainment, low stakes, good way to warm up and remind myself how to play. If I start winning and accumulating a bigger pile of chips, I move to the $10 table. Rinse and repeat, to the $25 table and the $50…

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…

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…

Startup CXO: the Sequel to Startup CEO

As I finished up my work on the Second Edition of Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business and started working on a new startup, my colleagues and I started envisioning a new book as a sequel or companion to Startup CEO that is going to be published on June 9 with our same publisher, Wiley & Sons.  The book is called Startup CXO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Company’s Critical Functions and Teams. Simply put, the first book left me with the nagging feeling that it wasn’t enough to only help CEOs excel, because starting and scaling a business is a collective effort. What about the other critical leadership functions that are needed to…

The Tension That Will Come With the Future of Work

The Tension That Will Come With the Future of Work A lot has been written about the Work From Anywhere life that knowledge workers are leading right now due to the pandemic, and what will come next.  Fred has a great post on it, and I’m curious to see how his and Joanne’s “Home Office Away From Home” space called FrameWork does when it opens.  In that post, he references a few other posts and articles worth reading: Imagine Your Flexible Office Work Future – Anne Helen Petersen We’re Never Going Back – Packy McCormick The Future of Offices When Workers Have Choice – Dror Poleg Instead of entering the debate about what the future will look like, which no…