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Introducing Bolster

As I mentioned earlier this summer, I’ve been working on a new startup the past few months with a group of long-time colleagues from Return Path.  Today, we are officially launching the new company, which is called Bolster.  The official press release is here. Here’s the business concept.  Bolster is a talent marketplace, but not just any talent marketplace.  We are building a talent marketplace exclusively for what we call on-demand (or freelance) executives and board members.  We are being really picky about curating awesome senior talent.  And we are targeting the marketplace at the CEOs and HR leaders at venture- and PE-backed startups and scaleups.  We’re not a search firm.  We’re not trying to be Catalant or Upwork.  We’re…

New book from Brad Feld: The Startup Community Way

My long-time friend and former Board member Brad Feld has become a prolific writer on the startup world over the years and is the person (other than me) most responsible for me getting into that scene as well. Startup CEO is part of his Startup Revolution series, which followed me writing an essay for Do More Faster, and then writing a series of sidebars call “The Entrepreneur’s Perspective” in Venture Deals. All Brad’s books are listed here. If you’re in the startup universe, I’d encourage you to read all of them. I’m excited to dive into his newest book, The Startup Community Way, which comes out this week from our same publisher, John Wiley & Sons. I’ve gotten part of…

New New Employee Training, Part II

Several years ago, I blogged about the training program we created for entry-level employees at Return Path, including an embedded presentation that we used to use (which I hope still works on the blog after all these years). My brother Michael, who is an experienced manager and leader in the digital marketing space, recently sent me this email that I thought I’d share along the same lines to colleagues who are new to the working world. Enjoy! I signed up to give advice on LinkedIn, and had someone just starting her first job reach out to me asking for general advice. I came up with the attached, and thought it might make for a good blog post on Only Once….

The Beginnings of a Roadmap to Fix America’s Badly Broken Political System, part II

I wrote part I of this post in 2011, and I feel even more strongly about it today. I generally keep this blog away from politics (don’t we have enough of that running around?), but periodically, I find some common sense, centrist piece of information worth sharing. In this case, I just read a great and very short book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, that, if you care about the polarization and fractiousness going on in our country now, you’d appreciate. If nothing else, the shattered norms and customs of the last several years should point people to the fact that our Constitution needs some revision. Not…

Context

I wrote a post in 2013 entitled Debunking the Myth of Hiring for Domain Expertise vs. Functional Expertise. In it, I talk about how in hiring senior executives, sometimes you can’t get both functional expertise (great Head of X) and great domain expertise (subject matter expert in X), but that in scaling businesses, there’s another important vector to consider, which is that if your principal business challenge is scaling, then a critical thing to look for in a potential executive is experience with scaling businesses, or at least experience working at businesses of different sizes/stages. Today’s post is about a fourth vector beyond functional expertise, domain expertise, and scaling expertise: Context, an important vector to consider as well. When I…

Grit

I was honored this week to be in a small group “fireside chat” with Angela Duckworth, author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and to meet her and ask a question. I want to hit on one theme here from the book and dialog, but I’ll start by sharing a 2×2 matrix (remember, I’m an ex-consultant, I think in frameworks) that we’ve used at home with our kids periodically. For the most part, we use it to talk to them about why they should work harder on math homework, but it’s had other use cases as well. Hopefully it makes sense on the face of it… …but essentially the framework teaches that if you are talented…

Book Short – You’re in Charge – Now What?

Thanks to my friend and long-time former Board member Jeff Epstein, I recently downed a new book, You’re in Charge – Now What?, by Thomas Neff and James Citrin.  I’m glad I read it.  But it was one of those business books that probably should have just been a Harvard Business Review article.  It’s best skimmed, with helpful short summaries at the end of every chapter that you could blow through quickly instead of hanging on every word.  The authors’ 8-step plan is laid out as: Prepare yourself during the countdown Align expectations Shape your management team Craft your strategic agenda Start transforming culture Manage your board/boss Communicate Avoid common pitfalls Ok fine, those make sense on the surface. Here…

How to Get Laid Off

How to Get Laid Off – an Employee’s Perspective One of my colleagues at Return Path  saw my post about How to Quit Your Job about 5 years ago and was inspired to share this story with me.  Don’t read anything into this post, team!  There is no other meaning behind my posting it at this time, or any time, other than thinking it’s a very good way of approaching a very difficult situation, especially coming from an employee. In 2009 I was working at a software security start up in the Silicon Valley.  Times were exceedingly tough, there were several rounds of layoffs that year, and in May I was finally on the list. I was informed on a Tuesday…

Book Shorts: Summer Reading

I read a ton of books.  I usually blog about business books, at least the good ones.  I almost never blog about fiction or non-business/non-fiction books, but I had a good “what did you read this summer” conversation the other night with my CEO Forum, so I thought I’d post super quick snippets about my summer reading list, none of which was business-related. If you have kids, don’t read Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B:  Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy unless you’re prepared to cry or at least be choked up.  A lot.  It is a tough story to read, even if you already know the story.  But it does have a number of VERY good themes and thoughts…

The Value and Limitations of Pattern Recognition

My father-in-law, who is a doctor by training but now a health care executive, was recently talking about an unusual medical condition that someone in the family was fighting.  He had a wonderful expression he said docs use from time to time: When you hear hoof beats, it’s probably horses. But you never know when it might be a zebra. With experience (and presumably some mental wiring) comes the ability to recognize patterns.  It’s one of those things that doesn’t happen, no matter how smart you are, without the passage of time and seeing different scenarios play out in the wild.  It’s one of the big things that I’ve found that VC investors as Board members, and independent directors, bring…

Normal People, Doing Wonderful Things

All three of our kids were at sleep-away camp for the past month, which was a first for us.  A great, but weird, first!  Our time “off” was bracketed by the absolutely amazing story of Come From Away.  One of the first nights after the kids left, we saw the show on Broadway (Broadway show web site here, Wikipedia entry about the musical and story synopsis here).  Then the last night before they came home, we saw Tom Brokaw’s ~45 minute documentary, entitled Operation Yellow Ribbon, which you can get to here or below. Come From Away is an amazing edge story to 9/11 that I’d never heard of before.  It’s hard to believe there’s a 9/11 story that is this…