Sep 022014

Startup CEO: The Online Course Part II

Startup CEO: The Online Course Part II

Startup CEO the online course offered by the Kauffman Fellows Academy is back this fall starting September 15!  As many of you know, the course is based on my book Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Your Business.

When the course first ran earlier this year, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Hundreds of students from six continents signed up, all eager to learn as much as they could about entrepreneurship and how to develop their startups.  The students worked together in teams to develop their startup ideas on the unique online educational platform NovoEd.  I was amazed at the enthusiasm of students who dove into lectures and the book and then exchanged ideas in the forums.  It was very powerful to see cohorts of students from all over the world sharing their experiences together, almost like the CEO peer group that I write about in the book.

The real power of it really hit me when I was in Brazil  this last spring at a dinner and one of the attendees approached me and told me he was one of the Startup CEO students and how much he was enjoying the course.

To bring the class to life, we began holding Google hangouts moderated by KFA VP and former CNN correspondent Rusty Dornin.  The students could write in questions live during the hangout or watch the recorded version later.  The hangouts were not only informative but fun.

Here are a few comments from students in the winter course:

The lectures and the hangouts were incredibly insightful. I’m sure I’ll avoid a good number of mistakes I would have surely made without taking this class!

“I enjoyed the high quality of the lecturers and their very practical experience and guidance. This included the excellent visiting lecturers and whilst I was unable to join the hangouts in real time (I’m in Australia) I was able to watch the recordings

In addition, Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson’s course Venture Deals  based on their popular book Venture Deals: Be Smarter than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist will begin September 29th.  Brad Feld and other celebrated investors will also be featured in hangouts for the course and Brad loves to dive into the forums.

I am looking forward to this next round and our global discussion of how to create and manage successful startups.

Sep 032013

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce- the book!), Part IV – Book Launches Today!

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce- the book!), Part IV – Book Launches Today!

My book is officially on sale on Amazon and iTunes today.  The full detailed outline is here if you’re interested, and the link to buy it is here.

This is very exciting.  I had been saying for a while that I had no idea whether 50 people would buy it or 5,000, but the publisher (Wiley) tells me we had over 2,000 pre-orders, so that’s a great start, at least.

So thanks to those 2,000 brave souls, and anyone else who buys it as well.  I hope you enjoy it and look forward to your feedback directly, via OnlyOnce, via the #StartupCEO hashtag, via a rating/review on Amazon, or via the Startup Revolution web site.

I hope to get back to more regular blogging soon.  As you hay have noted, I’ve been more quiet than usual the last six months while writing the book.  But I have lots of great posts stored up…

Jul 092013

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce- the book!), Part III – Pre-Order Now

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce – the book!), Part III – Pre-Order Now

My book, Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, is now available for pre-order on Amazon in multiple formats (Print, Kindle), which is an exciting milestone in this project!  The book is due out right after Labor Day, but Brad Feld tells me that the more pre-orders I have, the better.  Please pardon the self-promotion, but click away if you’re interested!

Here are a few quick thoughts about the book, though I’ll post more about it and the process at some point:

  • I’ll be using the hashtag #startupceo more now to encourage discussion of topics related to startup CEOs – please join me!
  • The book has been described by a few CEOs who read it and commented early for me along the lines of “The Lean Startup movement is great, but this book starts where most of those books end and takes you through the ‘so you have a product that works in-market – now what?’ questions”
  • The book is part of the Startup Revolution series that Brad has been working on for a couple years now, including Do More (Even) Faster, Venture Deals, Startup Communities, and Startup Life (with two more to come, Startup Boards and Startup Metrics)
  • Writing a book is a LOT harder than I expected!

At this point, the best thing I can do to encourage you to read/buy is to share the full and final table of contents with you, sections/chapters/headings.  When I get closer in, I may publish some excerpts of new content here on Only Once.  Here’s the outline:

Part I: Storytelling

  • Chapter 1: Dream the Possible Dream…Entrepreneurship and Creativity, “A Faster Horse,” Vetting Ideas
  • Chapter 2: Defining and Testing the Story…Start Out By Admitting You’re Wrong, A Lean Business Plan Template, Problem, Solution, Key Metrics, Unique Value Proposition and Unfair Advantages, Channels, Customer Segments, Cost Structure and Revenue Streams
  • Chapter 3: Telling the Story to Your Investors…The Business Plan is Dead. Long Live the Business Plan, The Investor Presentation, The Elevator Pitch, The Size of the Opportunity, Your Competitive Advantage, Current Status and Roadmap from Today, The Strength of Your Team, Summary Financials, Investor Presentations for Larger Startups
  • Chapter 4: Telling the Story to Your Team…Defining Your Mission, Vision and Values, The Top-down Approach, The Bottom-Up Approach, The Hybrid Approach, Design a Lofty Mission Statement
  • Chapter 5: Revising the Story…Workshopping, Knowing When It’s Time to Make a Change, Corporate Pivots: Telling the Story Differently, Consolidating, Diversifying, Focusing, Business Pivots: Telling a Different Story
  • Chapter 6: Bringing the Story to Life…Building Your Company Purposefully, The Critical Elements of Company-Building, Articulating Purpose:  The Moral of the Story, You Can Be a Force for Helping Others—Even If Indirectly

Part II: Building the Company’s Human Capital

  • Chapter 7: Fielding a Great Team…From Protozoa to Pancreas, The Best and the Brightest, What About HR?, What About Sales & Marketing?, Scaling Your Team Over Time
  • Chapter 8: The CEO as Functional Supervisor…Rules for General Managers
  • Chapter 9: Crafting Your Company’s Culture…, Introducing Fig Wasp #879, Six Legs and a Pair of Wings, Let People Be People, Build an Environment of Trust
  • Chapter 10: The Hiring Challenge…Unique Challenges for Startups, Recruiting Outstanding Talent, Staying “In-Market”, Recruitment Tools, The Interview: Filtering Potential Candidates, Two Ears One Mouth, Who Should You Interview?, Onboarding: The First 90 Days
  • Chapter 11: Every Day in Every Way, We Get a Little Better…The Feedback Matrix, 1:1 Check-ins, “Hallway” Feedback, Performance Reviews, The 360, Soliciting Feedback on Your Own Performance, Crafting and Meeting Development Plans      
  • Chapter 12: Compensation…General Guidelines for Determining Compensation, The Three Elements of Startup Compensation, Base Pay, Incentive Pay, Equity              
  • Chapter 13: Promoting                …Recruiting from Within, Applying the “Peter Principle” to Management, Scaling Horizontally, Promoting Responsibilities Rather than Swapping Titles               
  • Chapter 14: Rewarding: “It’s the Little Things” That Matter…It Never Goes Without Saying, Building a Culture of Appreciation
  • Chapter 15: Managing Remote Offices and Employees…Brick and Mortar Values in a Virtual World, Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees
  • Chapter 16: Firing: When It’s Not Working…No One Should Ever Be Surprised to Be Fired, Termination and the Limits of Transparency, Layoffs

Part III: Execution

  • Chapter 17: Creating a Company Operating System…Creating Company Rhythms, A Marathon? Or a Sprint?
  • Chapter 18: Creating Your Operating Plan and Setting Goals…Turning Strategic Plans into Operating Plans, Financial Planning, Bringing Your Team into Alignment with Your Plans, Guidelines for Setting Goals
  • Chapter 19: Making Sure There’s Enough Money in the Bank…Scaling Your Financial Instincts, Boiling the Frog, To Grow or to Profit? That Is the Question, First Perfect the Model, Choosing Growth, Choosing Profits, The Third Way
  • Chapter 20: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Financing…Equity Investors, Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, Strategic Investors, Debt, Convertible Debt, Venture Debt, Bank Loans, Personal Debt, Bootstrapping, Customer Financing, Your Own Cash Flow
  • Chapter 21: When and How to Raise Money…When to Start Looking for VC Money, The Top 11 Takeaways for Financing Negotiations
  • Chapter 22: Forecasting and Budgeting…Rigorous Financial Modeling, Of Course You’re Wrong—But Wrong How?, Budgeting in a Context of Uncertainty, Forecast, Early and Often
  • Chapter 23: Collecting Data…External Data, Learning from Customers, Learning from (Un)Employees, Internal Data, Skip-Level Meetings, Subbing, Productive Eavesdropping
  • Chapter 24: Managing in Tough Times…Managing in an Economic Downturn, Hope Is Not a Strategy—But It’s Not a Bad Tactic, Look for Nickels and Dimes under the Sofa, Never Waste a Good Crisis, Managing in a Difficult Business Situation
  • Chapter 25: Meeting Routines…Lencioni’s Meeting Framework, Skip-Level Meetings, Running a Productive Offsite
  • Chapter 26: Driving Alignment…Five Keys to Startup Alignment, Aligning Individual Incentives with Global Goals
  • Chapter 27: Have You Learned Your Lesson?…The Value (and Limitations) of Benchmarking, The Art of the Post-Mortem
  • Chapter 28: Going Global…Should Your Business Go Global?, How to Establish a Global Presence, Overcoming the Challenges of Going Global, Best Practices for Managing International Offices and Employees
  • Chapter 29: The Role of M&A…Using Acquisitions as a Tool in Your Strategic Arsenal, The Mechanics of Financing and Closing Acquisitions, Stock, Cash, Earn Out, The Flipside of M&A: Divestiture, Odds and Ends, Integration (and Separation)
  • Chapter 30: Competition…Playing Hardball, Playing Offense vs. Playing Defense, Good and Bad Competitors
  • Chapter 31: Failure…Failure and the Startup Model, Failure Is Not an Orphan

Part IV: Building and Leading a Board of Directors

  • Chapter 32: The Value of a Good Board…Why Have a Board?, Everybody Needs a Boss, The Board as Forcing Function, Pattern Matching, Forests, Trees, Honest Discussion and Debate
  • Chapter 33: Building Your Board…What Makes a Great Board Member?, Recruiting a Board Member, Compensating Your Board, Boards as Teams, Structuring Your Board, Board Size, Board Committees, Chairing the Board, Running a Board Feedback Process, Building an Advisory Board
  • Chapter 34: Board Meeting Materials…“The Board Book”, Sample Return Path Board Book, The Value of Preparing for Board Meetings
  • Chapter 35: Running Effective Board Meetings…Scheduling Board Meetings, Building a Forward-Looking Agenda, In-Meeting Materials, Protocol, Attendance and Seating, Device-Free Meetings, Executive and Closed Sessions
  • Chapter 36: Non-Board Meeting Time…Ad Hoc Meetings, Pre-Meetings, Social Outings
  • Chapter 37: Decision-Making and the Board…The Buck Stops—Where?, Making Difficult Decisions in Concert, Managing Conflict with Your Board
  • Chapter 38: Working with the Board on Your Compensation and Review…The CEO’s Performance Review, Your Compensation, Incentive Pay, Equity, Expenses
  • Chapter 39: Serving on Other Boards…The Basics of Serving on Other Boards, Substance, or Style?

Part V: Managing Yourself So You Can Manage Others

  • Chapter 40: Creating a Personal Operating System…Managing Your Agenda, Managing Your Calendar, Managing Your Time, Feedback Loops
  • Chapter 41: Working with an Executive Assistant…Finding an Executive Assistant, What an Executive Assistant Does
  • Chapter 42: Working with a Coach…The Value of Executive Coaches, Areas Where an Executive Coach Can Help
  • Chapter 43: The Importance of Peer Groups…The Gang of Six, Problem-Solving in Tandem
  • Chapter 44: Staying Fresh…Managing the Highs and Lows, Staying Mentally Fresh, At Your Company, Out and About, Staying Healthy, Me Time
  • Chapter 45: Your Family…Making Room for Home Life, Involving Family in Work, Bringing Work Principles Home
  • Chapter 46: Traveling…Sealing the Deal with a Handshake, Making the Most of Travel Time, Staying Disciplined on the Road
  • Chapter 47: Taking Stock of the Year…Celebrating “Yes”; Addressing “No”, Are You Having Fun?, Are You Learning and Growing as a Professional?, Is It Financially Rewarding?, Are You Making an Impact?
  • Chapter 48:  A Note on Exits…Five Rules of Thumb for Successfully Selling Your Company

 If you’re still with me and interested, again here are the links to pre-order (Print, Kindle).

Jun 272013

Book Short: Tales of Two Cities

Book Short:  Tales of Two Cities

Return Path is basically dual-headquartered in New York City and Broomfield, Colorado, so two recently published books which provide history and insights into the tech industry in those two cities were both of interest to me.

Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, by Brad Feld (book, kindle) came out a few months ago and is part of Brad’s Startup Revolution series which will also include my upcoming book Startup CEO, to be published this fall.  In the book, Brad uses the example of the Boulder/Denver area and a few different sectors to demonstrate a blueprint to creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem – the kind that are popping up all over the world of late.

Tech and the City: The Making of New York’s Startup Community, by Alessandro Piol (kindle only) hits on many of the same themes and topics as they relate to New York City, although the book is more of a history of the New York tech scene than a framework with examples.  The book draws heavily on quotes from Fred Wilson, like Brad, a long time friend and Board member.  One of the things the book left me thinking about was what the New York tech scene will look like in 30 years after the new Cornell-Technion campus is up and running.  That plus the current momentum of the tech industry in New York, plus the sheer commercial scale of the city, could really produce an interesting environment down the road that actually starts to rival Silicon Valley, though rival probably isn’t the right word.

All in, these two books do a good job of chronicling the industry I work in, in the two cities where I work, but they also abstract nicely to broader principles about public-private collaboration as well as sector development.

May 012013

Return Path’s Newest Board Member: Jeff Epstein

Return Path’s Newest Board Member: Jeff Epstein

I’ve written before about how much I love my Board. Well, I’m pleased to announce I have a new reason to love it – today, I’m officially welcoming Jeff Epstein to the Return Path Board of Directors. He is joining an all-star cast that includes Greg Sands, Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, Scott Weiss and Scott Petry.

I first met Jeff back in 2000 when, as CFO of DoubleClick, he and DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan agreed to invest in Return Path as our first institutional investor, along with Flatiron Partners.  He is one of the few people who have seen the company grow from its infancy to today.  Jeff has been a formal advisor to the company for more than a year, and he recently agreed to join as a director.

Jeff has all the qualities that make for an awesome board member and he’s already been an influential voice with uncommon insight and an impressive background that complements the rest of our board. As CFO of Oracle Jeff helped guide one of the world’s preeminent technology companies. He’s also served as CFO for large private and public companies including DoubleClick, King World Productions, and Neilsen’s Media Measurement and Information Group, and is a member of the boards of Priceline.com, Kaiser Permanente, Shutterstock, and the Management Board of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Jeff is currently a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners and a senior advisor at Oak Hill Capital.

Building and managing a board of directors is one of the key functions of a CEO, and the entire Return Path team benefits from a close relationship with great industry leaders. Jeff’s appointment is a perfect example. He’s steered successful organizations through many of the same decisions and challenges that we’re facing. He evaluates issues from multiple points of view – as a senior executive, as a board member, as an investor. And he’s not quiet. On our board, that’s essential. We’re a group of strong personalities—we challenge ideas, we analyze everything, and our views don’t always have to agree.

I’ve said that one secret to running an effective board is to ask for members’ opinions only when you want them. In Jeff’s case I definitely want them. So, on behalf of the board and the entire team at Return Path, Jeff, welcome!

Dec 202012

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce- the book!), Part II – Crowdsourcing the Outline

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce- the book!), Part II – Crowdsourcing the Outline

As I mentioned a few weeks ago here, I’m excited to be writing a book called Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Building and Running Your Company, to be published by Wiley & Sons next summer.  Since many readers of OnlyOnce are my target audience for the book, I thought I’d post my current outline and ask for input and feedback on it.  So here it is, still a bit of a work in progress.  Please comment away and let me know what you think, what’s missing, what’s not interesting!

1           Part One: Vision and Strategy (Defining the Company)
1.1          Setting the Company’s Agenda
1.2          NIHITO! (or, “Nothing Interesting Happens in the Office”)
1.3          Setting the Business Direction
1.4          Strategic Planning, Part I: Turning Concepts Into Strategy
1.5          Strategic Planning, Part II: Creating the Plan
1.6          Defining Mission, Vision and Values
1.7          Communicating Vision and Strategy
1.8          The Role of M&A
1.9          The Art of the Pivot
1.10       How Vision and Strategy Change over Time

2           Part Two: Talent (Building the Company’s Human Capital)
2.1          Building a Team
2.2          Scaling the Team
2.3          Culture
2.4          Interviewing
2.5          Recruiting
2.6          Onboarding
2.7          Setting Goals
2.8          Feedback
2.9          Development
2.10       Compensation
2.11       Promoting
2.12       Rewarding
2.13       Managing Remote Offices and Employees
2.14       Firing: When It’s Not Working
2.15       How Talent Changes over Time

3           Part Three: Execution (Aligning Resources with Strategy)
3.1          Making Sure There’s Enough Money in the Bank
3.2          Types of Financing
3.3          Fundraising Basics
3.4          Negotiating Deals
3.5          Pros and Cons of Outside Financing
3.6          Forecasting and Budgeting
3.7          Creating a Company Operating System
3.8          Meeting Routines
3.9          Driving Alignment
3.10       A Metrics-Driven Approach to Running a Business
3.11       Learning
3.12       Post-Mortems
3.13       Thinking About Exits
3.14       How Execution Changes over Time
3.14.1      Finance
3.14.2      Execution

4           Part Four: Management And Leadership (The How of Being a CEO)
4.1          Leading an Executive Team
4.2          Critical Personal Traits
4.3          Being Collaborative
4.4          Being Decisive: Balancing Authority and Consensus
4.5          The Value of Symbolism
4.6          Getting the Most out of People
4.7          Diving Deep without Being Disruptive
4.8          Articulating Purpose
4.9          Collecting Data from the Organization
4.10       Managing in an Economic Downturn
4.11       Managing in Good Times vs. Bad Times
4.12       Communication
4.12.1      Macro (to Your Company and Customers)
4.12.2      Micro (One-on-One)
4.13       How Management and Leadership Change over Time

5           Part Five: Boards (A Unique Aspect of the CEO’s Job)
5.1          Building Your Board
5.2          Meeting Materials
5.3          Meetings
5.4          Between Meetings
5.5          Making Decisions and Maximizing Effectiveness
5.6          The Social Aspects of Running a Board
5.7          Working with the Board on Compensation
5.8          Evaluating the Board
5.9          Serving on Other Boards
5.10       How Boards Change over Time

6           Part Six: Managing Yourself So You Can Manage Others
6.1          Creating a Personal Operating System
6.2          Working with an Executive Assistant
6.3          Working with a Coach
6.4          Finding Your Voice
6.5          The Importance of Peer Groups
6.6          Your Family
6.7          Taking Stock
6.8          Staying Fresh
6.9          Staying Healthy
6.10       Traveling

Nov 082012

Two Ears, One Mouth

Two Ears, One Mouth

Brace yourself for a post full of pithy quotes from others.  I’m not sure how we missed this one when drafted our original values statements at Return Path years ago, because it’s always been central to the way we operate.  We aren’t just the world’s biggest data-driven email intelligence company – we are a data-driven organization.  So another one of our newly written Core Values is:

Two Ears, One Mouth:  We ask, listen, learn, and collect data.  We engage in constructive debate to reach conclusions and move forward together.

I’m not sure which of my colleagues first said this to me, but I’m going to give credit to Anita, our long-time head of sales (almost a decade!), for saying “There’s a reason God gave you two ears and one mouth.”  The meaning?  Listen (and look, I suppose) more than you speak.

This value really has two distinct components to it, though they’re closely related.  First, we always look to collect data when we need to understand a situation or make a decision.  To quote our long-time investor, Board member, and friend Brad Feld, “the plural of anecdote is not data.”  That means we are always looking far and wide for facts, numbers, and multiple perspectives.  Some of us are better than others at relying on second-hand data and observations from trusted colleagues, which means often times, many of us are collecting data ourselves to inform a situation.  But regardless, we always start with the data.

Second, we use data as the foundation of our decision-making process.  I heard another great quote about this once, which is something like, “If we are going to make a decision based on data, the data will make the decision for us.  If we’re going to use opinion, let’s use mine.”  And while I’m at it, I’ll throw in another great quote from Winston Churchill who famously said “Facts are stubborn things.”  While we do have constructive debates all across our organization, those debates are driven by facts, not emotion.

Finally, when this value says that “we move forward together,” that is the combination of the points in the two prior paragraphs.  People may have different opinions entering a debate.  Even with a lot of data behind a decision, they may still have different opinions after a decision has been made.  But we work very deliberately to all support a decision, even one we may disagree with, and we are able to do that, move forward together, and explain the decision to the organization, because the decision is data-driven.

Nov 062012

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce- the book!)

Startup CEO (OnlyOnce – the book!)

One of the things I’ve often thought over the years since starting Return Path in 1999 is that there’s no instruction manual anywhere for how to be a CEO.  While big company CEOs are usually groomed for the job for years, startup CEOs aren’t…and they’re often young and relatively inexperienced in business in general.  That became one of the driving forces behind the creation of my blog, OnlyOnce (because “you’re only a first time CEO once”) back in 2004.

Now, over 700 blog posts later, I’m excited to announce that I’m writing a book based on this blog called Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Building and Running Your Company.  The book is going to be published by Wiley & Sons and is due out next summer.  The book won’t just be a compendium of blog posts, but it will build on a number of the themes and topics I’ve written about over the years and also fill in lots of other topics where I haven’t.

The catalyst for writing this book was Brad Feld.  Brad has been a friend, mentor, investor, and Board member for over a decade.  We’ve had many great times, meals, and conversations together over the years, not the least of which was staggering across the finish line together at the New York City Marathon in 2005.  Brad started writing books a few years ago, and I’ve been peripherally involved with them, first with Do More Faster:  TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup (I contributed one of the chapters) and then with Venture Deals:  Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist (I wrote all the “Entrepreneur Perspective” sidebars).

Those are great books, and they’ve been incredibly well received by the global entrepreneurial community.  But then Brad got the bug, and now he’s in the middle of writing FOUR new books with Wiley that will all come out over the next year.  They are:

These four books, plus the two earlier ones, plus Startup CEO, are all part of the Startup Revolution series.  While I’ll continue to do most of my blogging and posting here on OnlyOnce, I’d also encourage you to check out the Startup Revolution site and sign up to be a member of that community.  I’ll be doing some things on that site as well in connection with Startup CEO, and it’s a more concentrated place to post and comment on all things Startup.  In addition, we’ll be putting a bunch of add-ons to the book on that site closer to publication time.

I hope Startup CEO becomes a standard for all new CEOs.  I don’t think I have all the answers, but at least others can benefit by learning from my 13 years of successes and mistakes!  Now all I have to do is go write the darned thing.

Apr 192012

The Art of the Quest

Jim Collins, in both Good to Great and Built to Last talked about the BHAG – the Big, Hairy Audacious Goal – as one of the drivers of companies to achieve excellence.  Perhaps that’s true, especially if those goals are singular enough and simplified enough for an entire company of 100-1000-10000 employees to rally around.

I have also observed over the years that both star performers and strong leaders drive themselves by setting large goals.  Sometimes they are Hairy or Audacious.  Sometimes they are just Big.  I suppose sometimes they are all three.  Regardless, I think successfully managing to and accomplishing large personal goals is a sign of a person who is driven to be an achiever in life – and probably someone you want on your team, whether as a Board member, advisor, or employee, assuming they meet the qualifications for the role and fit the culture, of course.

I’m not sure what the difference is between Hairy and Audacious.  If someone knows Jim Collins, feel free to ask him to comment on this post.  Let’s assume for the time being they are one and the same.  What’s an example of someone setting a Hairy/Audacious personal goal?  My friend and long-time Board member Brad Feld set out on a quest 9 years ago to run a marathon in each of the 50 states by the age of 50.  Brad is now 9 years in with 29 marathons left to go.  For those of you have never run a marathon (and who are athletic mortals), completing one marathon is a large, great and noteworthy achievement in life.  I’ve done two, and I thought there was a distinct possibility that I was going to die both times, including one I ran with Brad .  But I’ve never felt better in my life than crossing the finish tape those two times.  I’m glad I did them.  I might even have another one or two in me in my lifetime.  But doing 50 of them in 9 years?  That’s a Hairy and Audacious Goal.

For me, I think the Big goal may be more personally useful than the Hairy or Audacious.  The difference between a Big goal and a Hairy/Audacious one?  Hard to say.  Maybe Hairy/Audacious is something you’re not sure you can ever do, where Big is just something that will take a long time to chip away at.  For example, I started a quest about 10-12 years ago to read a ton of American history books, around 50% Presidential biographies, from the beginning of American history chronologically forward to the present.  This year, I am up to post-Civil War history, so roughly Reconstruction/Johnson through Garfield, maybe Arthur.  I read plenty of other stuff, too – business books, fiction, other forms of non-fiction, but this is a quest.  And I love every minute of it.  The topic is great and dovetails with work as a study in leadership.  And it’s slowly but surely making me a hobby-level expert in the topic.  I must be nearing Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours by now.

The reason someone sets out on a personal quest is unclear to me.  Some people are more goal-driven than others, some just like to Manage by Checklist, others may be ego-driven, some love the challenge.  But I do think that having a personal quest can be helpful to, as Covey would say, Sharpen the Saw, and give yourself something to focus personal time and mental/physical energy on.

Just because someone isn’t on a personal quest doesn’t mean they’re not great, by the way.  And someone who is on a quest could well be a lunatic.  But a personal quest is something that is useful to look for, interesting and worth learning more about if discovered, and potentially a sign that someone is a high achiever.

Oct 072011

Must-Read New Blog

Must-Read New Blog

I’ve talked about Why I Love My Board a few times in the past.  I was reminded at my quarterly Board meeting and dinner this week that it’s a great and unusually strong group, and we’re lucky to have them.  Fred and Brad have both been prolific bloggers for years,and I know many of you follow their blogs closely.  Think of that as getting a taste of the input and wisdom you’d get by having them on your Board.

In a very exciting development, one of my independent directors, Scott Weiss, has now started blogging on the Andreessen-Horowitz platform.  Scott is probably our most outspoken and colorful director (and that’s saying something).  Scott just joined Andreessen-Horowitz as a partner in their fund, so he now a VC, but his experience as an operator both at Hotmail in Internet 1.0 and then at Ironport have been incredibly valuable for me as an entrepreneur, and I expect most of his posts to focus on the entrepreneur’s perspective.

Two of Scott’s first three posts, Looking Bigger and Ridiculously Transparent, are perfect examples of the value I’ve gotten out of my six year relationship with Scott as a Board member.  If you want a taste of what it would be like to have him in your corner…subscribe to his blog!

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