Many startups these days are started by young, technical or product founders who are in the idealistic phase of their lives and careers.
Thus I hear many talk about “radical transparency” when virtually every experienced operator in my inner circle talks knowingly about that naiveté. It’s not that I don’t love idealism – I was young once, too! – it’s just that the more experience you get in your career the more you come to realize certain truths.
One of the most common refrains I hear is, “I want to have a company with no politics. You know, no bullshit.” Ok, I ad-libbed the last bit.
But there is no such thing as “no politics” since we’re human beings and we’re genetically wired for politics. It’s called social interaction and understanding peoples’ motives, what makes them tick, who they don’t get along with, what rivalries exist, etc. is a very important part of being a leader.
It’s why I wrote a post outlining why the job of a CEO is often “chief psychologist” – especially if the company grows beyond 20 employees.
And it’s why many early-stage companies blow up. We spend all our time as an industry talking about “growth hacking,” “design principles,” or “product/market fit” and not enough about the most important skills for success – people management. It’s why I called out the importance of “executive coaches” in this post.
One of the questions I’m most often asked by CEOs is how to hire sales people.
I’ve written a lot about recruiting and hiring at startups including my controversial post on whom not to hire and my rapid response to the flame war. I’ve also written extensively on sales and on which sales execs to hire and how to think about the different kinds of sales leaders.
Recently I wrote the first post in a series on board meetings, entitled, “Why You’re Not Getting the Most out of Your Board,” which focused on the need to prepare properly, set good objectives and discuss mostly strategic topics.
Even if you follow this game plan meticulously your board meeting can be taken off course by well-intentioned board members who lead you down a rat hole.
Here’s how it happens …
1. Topic Creep
You start out your board meeting and a well-meaning board member who read your deck noticed a detail she didn’t understand on page 18, “Bob, I noticed that your margins in Canada declined from 48% to 46% while your margin in Mexico is up by 4%. Can you please explain the discrepancy?”
I call this “topic creep” and it is killing your board meeting. It might be useful for Sally to know the answer to this but it isn’t the most valuable use of the time you spend together as a board.
Most board meetings are “update meetings” where management downloads its status to a group of investors. These outside board members spend most of the board meeting trying to reacquaint themselves with the company’s business and critical issues.
This is hardly ideal and some simple changes could help management avoid both issues. Put simply, the majority of board meetings becomes an exercise in management trying to reassure investors that “we’re doing a good job” and for investors to sounds smart so they can prove that “we’re adding value.”
Both of the functions are a waste of time. So most board meetings become bored meetings.
I’ve attended more than 150 board meetings in the last few years alone. Every time I think to write a post about this I figure the most recent board meeting I’ve attended will think it’s about them so I don’t bother. So I’m going to write a series of board meetings posts unrelated to anybody or maybe an amalgamation of them all. These posts are not about any individual company even though they’ve all heard me say these things often.
Without DogVacay my Thanksgiving would have been ruined. That’s a fact. And I’m not an investor. I just had to tell this story. It’s a great one about entrepreneurship, friendship and the collaborative economy that is helping families in need across the world.
Every year my family meets in San Diego for Thanksgiving. My 3 siblings & I make the trek to spend 4-5 days with the 9 grand children, my mom, my cousin and few other very close family members. It’s the one time per year that my entire family decompresses and spends high-quality time together under one roof. We rent a house through HomeAway and all stay under one big roof.
This year the night before the journey my brother got a call from the person who had committed to watch his dogs that she wasn’t able to watch them after all. Panic ensued as we couldn’t bring the dogs to San Diego and my brother’s three kids look forward to this great trip all year.