|Nov 06, 2013|
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|Aug 27, 2013|
Everybody wants to raise money and talk about it. One of the things that does not get talked about quite so much is the overhead of taking someone else's money. More often than not one of your investors joins your newly created board and you start having board meetings. And every time I have been advising an entrepreneur on such a thing and the first board meeting comes up panic generally sets in. "How do I prep for the meeting?"
It's a fair question for a first time entrepreneur and it goes something like this.
1. Ask the board members what they would like to see at the meeting. They typically will share with you some board meeting materials from their more advanced stage companies that you will find completely overwhelming. "They want to see what?" you and your team will exclaim. The panic will deepen. Don't fret.
2. Ask the CEOs of the investors other portfolio companies what they provide to the board for their meetings. If you were smart and did your investor diligence before you accepted that term sheet you will already have established a relationship with these folks and they will be more than happy to help. What you will find is that what they are providing to their boards is a little bit less than what the board gives to you as examples.
3. Plan ahead. The first time you prep for a board meeting it will consume quite a bit of time. It's well over a two week planning process. This process shrinks over time. I prepare the board materials for nCrowd and I can literally get them together in less then 48 hours after a few years of doing so.
4. Set a schedule. Our board meetings are the third Tuesday of every even numbered month at 2:00pm and last for 90 to 120 minutes.
5. Get the board the materials out early. At least 48 hours before the meeting. With our Tuesday board meetings my aim is to get them the materials on Friday and if I lapse they go out on Saturday morning. While the materials may change in scope and size they generally include the following.
6. No surprises. Each board member should know what is going to be discussed at the meeting and the CEO needs to understand each board member's point of view on important topics of discussion.
My number one rule on board meetings is to get in and get out quick and nobody gets hurt. Proper preparation will ensure this happens for you.Comments and Reactions Tweet
|Aug 05, 2013|
Not too long ago I was searching around the Internet for the text of MindSpring's Core Values and Beliefs. If you do that and include the guy, Charles Brewer, who wrote them in the search string you are sure to come across an article by Kyle Porter. Charles Brewer & the CV&B's, which to be frank I found somewhat shocking. Some guy, whom I happen to know, who was most likely in elementary school when Charles wrote the CV&B's, extolling their virtues and asking everyone to read a speech cause it was so enlightening it gave him chills.
And I am sharing the text of the speech as Kyle requested.
If you take the time to read the speech you may find it worthwhile. As someone who was there and heard this stuff and preached this stuff I have a unique perspective. An insider view. And I am going to tell you the most important sentence in the entire doc is on page four. It is a single word.
That is really it.
To quote from the original MindSpring business plan:
One other factor we need to mention is not exactly a core value or belief, but is a necessary ingredient for our leadership philosophy to be effective. That final all important ingredient is authenticity. If the leaders of the company do not practice what they preach, and if they do not truly in their hearts believe those things which they profess to be important, they will be ineffective. The Core Values and Beliefs will ring hollow, and will become an object of ridicule rather than a source of guidance and motivation. People have incredibly accurate bullshit meters. A false attempt at values based leadership is doomed to horrible failure.
Implementing a core values approach to business requires three things. Communicating the values, selecting people who share the values, and building the values into the structure of the organization. This requires authentic managment commitment. And that comes from the CEO.
And implementing a core values management approach starts at the beginning of a venture. And that comes from the CEO as well. Charles actually came up with the CV&B's before he started MindSpring. He just happened to stumble across the concept of offering Internet service when he had an issue getting online to research business concepts to apply the CV&B's.
To lead with values you have to start early and and you have to be authentic. You can build a nice company without those things. You just can't expect it to be purposefully values based and the end result most likely is a culture that was not intended.Comments and Reactions Tweet
|Jul 29, 2013|
So two of the largest advertising giants, Omnicom and Publicis are getting together to form a company with $23 billion in revenue to fight off the inroads from digital competition. Might be a losing battle, data based marketing is growing fast.
But beyond that the deal is being billed as a "merger of equals" for a variety of reasons. The Wall Street Journal has a nice take on how merger of equals are a tough balancing act. True that.
A long time ago I was involved with a merger of equals. EarthLink and MindSpring. A guy named Stan worked for me at MindSpring. He led our retail distribution effort. Shortly after the deal closed Stan got on a plane to meet his EarthLink counterpart. After his meeting he called me from LAX. "Lance, I'm outta here, I resign." Stan then proceeded to tell me this, and I am of course paraphrasing.
"I was involved with the merger of Babbage's Inc. and Software Etc. Never again. One merger of equals is all anyone should go through in their lifetime. What you guys should do is go to a football stadium, get all the EarthLink employees on one side and all the MindSpring employees on the other side, and get your leaders at the center of the field. Flip a coin. Winners stay and run the company, losers go home."
Stan quit. Could not talk him out of it.
As for my experience in a merger of equals I have to say that perhaps Stan and The WSJ are right. Mergers of equals have a unique set of challenges. In my mind it's better when one company acquires the other. At least that way everyone knows who is in charge.Comments and Reactions Tweet
|Jun 17, 2013|
When your former public relations agency of record reaches out to you with an infographic sponsored by a former consulting client on a recent FoG subject how can a dad say no?
Most interesting stat to me. 74% of Americans want to work from home at least part-time.Comments and Reactions Tweet
|Jun 12, 2013|
It's interesting situation. I was given a project that required my undivided attention. None of the team that I am working with is in our Atlanta office. They are literally spread across the globe. Remove me from the office, remove distractions.
I have been doing this for a week or so and my typical day looks like this. Get up in the 3:45 - 5:30am time frame and communicate with my Eastern Europe comrades. Work til 8:30 then help my teenagers get off to their summers camps/jobs for 30 minutes. Turn my attention domestically then and perhaps a little exercise or a meeting for lunch. Then back to task with the USA Eastern time zone cohorts. Wrap that up around 5, set tasks for those whose workday begins at 1:00am Eastern time, and communicate with contractors on the West Coast or those with full time gigs between 7 and 11pm. The latter which I just wrapped up before writing this post.
Not sure if it is an actual lifestyle improvement or not. I will say this, I am not getting much sleep but I put on long pants for the first time in about a week today.
Will update as we move along.Comments and Reactions Tweet
|May 01, 2013|
So last week I attended the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy Change Makers breakfast at the invite of a friend. As promised it was a moving and informative event.
The keynote speaker was Dave Moody whose firm, C.D. Moody Construction Co., is the second-largest minority contractor in Georgia (after H.J. Russell & Co.) and No. 46 in Black Enterprise magazine’s 2012 list of the nation’s 100 largest black businesses. Quite the successful guy, with quite the story. Dave was sexually abused as a child. The Penn State sex abuse scandal drove him to go public with his personal story in order to help others.
His presentation was emotional and moving. And one thing he said really stuck with me. "Always give them a way to tell you something bad." It's true with your kids and applies to business as well. You have to give your employees a way to tell you bad news and believe/support them when they give it to you.Comments and Reactions Tweet
|Mar 06, 2013|
Timely article in The Wall Street Journal today. Seems like there has been a big jump in people working from home in the U.S according to the Census Bureau.
Some 13.4 million people work from home at least one day a week. Surprised that management leads the way.
Favoriate quote "home-based workers are more likely to work from home on Fridays and Mondays, potentially extending their weekends."Comments and Reactions Tweet
|Mar 03, 2013|
People of Groupon,
After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.
You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I'm getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we've shared over the last few months, and I've never seen you working together more effectively as a global company - it's time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.
For those who are concerned about me, please don't be - I love Groupon, and I'm terribly proud of what we've created. I'm OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I'll now take some time to decompress (FYI I'm looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I'll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.
If there's one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what's best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness - don't waste the opportunity!
I will miss you terribly.
The guy does have reason to be terribly proud. My take is that moving on is the best thing for both Groupon and Mason. The guy is set and it will be interesting to see his next adventure.
Have the courage to start with the customer. Good advice.Comments and Reactions Tweet
|Mar 01, 2013|
Mayers has been raked over the coals with comparisons to Facebook and Google. Yet Google's CFO, Patrick Pichette, has said that working at home or teleworking is not the best environment for new ideas to grow and thrive and that very few Google employees work remotely.
I am with the search giant on this one. To me working at the office not only increases sharing, collaboration, and productivity it also leads to better personal career development.
While I believe that remote working can be effective in more mature companies and markets for those with individual contributor roles, it does not work well in fast growing technology companies. And for a big company that needs to wake up, eliminating remote working is the right move. According to a Yahoo insider remote working was a way for people to slack off and essentially work part time.
Before I am accused of being some management neanderthal I do believe in the concept of ROWE. I do believe in offering proven performers the flexibility to manage both their lives and their job responsibilities. I have let two first time mothers go from full-time employees to part-time job sharers. In the office.
When I have observed employees being given set times that they do not have to come into the office the result has also been the same. Decreased productivity. Because they are not working a hard as if they were in an office environment.
Remote working. Just say no.Comments and Reactions Tweet