Category

Management

Better Zoom Meetings

My partners and I hold weekly Monday meetings and about once a quarter, we do an extended, six or seven-hour version. Before COVID-19, we’d end the day with a dinner and a chance to socialize and decompress after a long day of portfolio updates and strategic planning. And, of course, before COVID we’d all be in person. Our discussions were lively, they were engaged and we’d often make use of whiteboards, sticky notes and other forms of interaction (we have a post card with a logo for each of our portfolio companies which we often make creative use of). They’re fun and super productive. And then COVID hit and our meetings lost their soul (and their fun, and their interest,…

Organizational Scaling

For the early part of your business you’re likely too busy to be spending a lot of time thinking about management structures, team optimization and how your business scales. You’re just getting shit done. And, even for experienced executives, making quite a few things up as you go along. The solution to many early scale challenges is to find something that works and then do more of it. That works great, right up to the point where it stops working completely. We’ve had a lot of companies go through scale challenges (I’d say typically around 100 people, but plenty of companies have muscled through that point and built 200 or even 300 person organizations without paying much attention to the…

Is your sales problem really a product problem?

Not suprisingly when companies are having issues in sales they look to their sales or and sales leadership for the source of the problem. In the cliche example (but one which happens all the time) sales will loop in marketing (“we’re not getting enough leads”, “the leads aren’t high quality enough”). But typically product is left out of this mix. To be clear, there are plenty of sales related issues that are directly attributable to poor sales processes, bad training of sales resources, poor time management, etc. But often overlooked is the role product plays in sales challenges. I’m not writing this to offer a ready made excuse for sales teams that aren’t executing but as a reminder to executive…

It’s time to get away

As we approach August, and having recently taken some time off myself (some real time off this time – more on that experience in a different post) I thought it might be a good time to talk about the importance of vacation. No – this isn’t going to be a post that waxes poetic about the importance of recharging and how the startup culture is totally fucked up in its crazy work ethic. All true, but I’d actually like to approach the question here from a purely business perspective. For years I’ve encouraged startup execs (especially CEOs but this advice flows down the chain as well) to take time away. Completely away. No checking in once a day on email….

Act Like A Leader

Act like the leader. Simple advice but I see companies not do this all the time. You’re the leader in this space – act like it. Don’t be ashamed, bashful or defensive about it. This doesn’t mean beat the “we’re the biggest player in town” drumbeat all the time. It means leverage that fact and all that goes along with it to do things that the industry leader does – highlight customers, talk use cases, get more press, hold a user conference. Act big.¬†You define the game. You are the leader, you set the rules, you define how the game is played. Don’t react. Smaller (ankle biters) can sometimes bate you into being reactive. Avoid this temptation. Stay above the…

John Mack on the inside of the financial crisis

A friend recently sent me a link to a talk John Mack gave at Wharton that I think is absolutely fascinating. I’ve read a number of books and articles about the key events surrounding the financial crisis but I find these sorts of first person accounts so much more interesting. And I think Mack is an extremely engaging person. I started my career at Morgan Stanley as an analyst in 1994 and actually had a great personal encounter with Mack that was probably my most memorable moment working in the banking industry. I was just starting my 2nd year at MS and was holed up in an empty office editing a draft of an offering document. Having undoubtably slept only…

HR as a core competency

In the world of start-ups, HR is at the bottom of the bottom of the heap of priorities most companies are working on. The vast majority of companies think about HR as a process and compliance function, outsource it to 3rd party providers (payroll, benefits, etc.) and doing their best to forget about it. If there’s any focus on HR as a function it is around recruiting (also typically outsourced and generally treated as very episodic). Sure – there’s plenty of talk about "culture" – of success, of working hard, of some other superlative that’s not particularly interesting or differentiating ("we want to hire great people and expect them to be hard working and successful!" duh) – but little real…

hiring as a core competency

Most startups spend plenty of time working on things like their product plans, requirements docs, market studies and the like. They are important aspects of running their companies and the kind of things that improve with collaboration and varied input from as well as from the iterative and inclusive process they typically require. You’d expect to find documents related to these sorts of activities on an intranet or company wiki and you’d expect that they’d be included in the occasional board package and discussed with advisors. I’d suggest companies add something else to this list: a detailed overview of how they conduct hiring. Most start-ups will tell you that hiring great people is one of the most important determinants of…

Management

It’s a VC cliche that great management trumps a great idea.  In this case there’s a lot of truth to the cliche. Over the course of my venture career I’ve been exposed to all combinations of teams and ideas and am constantly reminded of not only the power of great teams, but also of the pitfalls of poor ones.  We’ve thought about this a lot at Foundry and have pushed each other hard on investing only in people we’re ecstatic about as entrepreneurs (and resisting the temptation to "fix" management teams that are not A+ or fool ourselves into believing that an outstanding idea is more important than the people who implement it).  This last point is often missed on…