October 3, 2019

First Days

As I mentioned last week, I just started a new chapter of my career journey as CEO of LRN, a SaaS company based in New York City that provides ethics and compliance education software while advising companies on shaping values-based leadership, cultures and governance as sources of competitive advantage.

That’s all good and well, but Tuesday morning, I was also a new employee walking into his office on the first day of a new job. The last time I’d done that was when I started at MovieFone in 1995 (the first day of starting one’s own company doesn’t count!). During those same 24 years, my brother reminded me, he had graduated high school and college, had about a dozen internships, and had started 7 jobs, which is pretty normal.

I also realize that starting a new job as CEO of an existing company is pretty different than starting as any other role in a company, and that I’ve never done that before either. Not once.

So to continue my “second lap around the track” metaphor, what I really realized on Tuesday morning was that I was completely out of shape for the race I was about to start running. Having said that, I do know how to run races, so it’s just a matter of learning the new track and finding my footing. Most of what I’m going to do out of the gate is ask questions (including some dumb ones), and listen carefully to the answers. And observe. And engage.

In the spirit of OnlyOnce, I thought I would document out at a high level what my objectives are for my first 90 days, either for LRN colleagues who might be reading my blog or for longer time readers who are interested in what that playbook looks like. Beginning with the end in mind, my objective is to start 2020 with a multi-year strategic framework as well as a 2020 operating plan and budget that hopefully won’t need too much revision as we go. The key things I’ll be doing along the way are:

  • Going through whatever the standard new employee onboarding process is, including taking several of the company’s online education courses (we are an education company!)
  • Doing at least one 1:1 meeting face to face with every single colleague (this is several hundred), asking them questions about who they are, what they do, where the opportunities and challenges are in the business, what they could change if they had a magic wand, and what they want out of their new CEO
  • Meeting several of our clients/partners, hopefully not just the big ones but a representative mix of size and other key characteristics to ask their views about the company and its products and competitive landscape – and maybe even one or two former clients as well
  • Reading everything I can get my hands on – from board books and internal reports to external-facing content. The company has a vast trove of intellectual capital, and while mastering it will take years, I have to get started on that path now
  • Understanding the market and competitive landscape, the team and the culture, and thinking about how to best position the company for explosive growth going forward
  • Working on an intentional CEO transition with Dov, the founder and chairman, and continuing to build that very important relationship, as well as the partnership with Leeds Equity and the other members of the Board
  • Working on myself and my own Operating System and figuring out what I want to do the same, and differently, than I did in my previous life at Return Path

If it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes a whole company to successfully onboard a new CEO, and so far, everyone here has been welcoming and helpful in my first days.