March 30, 2020

State of Colorado COVID-19 Innovation Response Team, Part I – A Different Kind of Startup

(This is going to be an interesting week.  I expect in a couple days, a group of friends and former Return Path colleagues and I are going to officially start a new company once initial funding closes.  I will write about that down the road, but first, this message brought to you by COVID-19.) I just returned from spending an intense two weeks in Denver.  On March 15, my long-time friend and Board member Brad Feld called me with an interesting idea.  His friend, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (who I’d met a briefly couple times over the years), had an idea of starting and rapidly scaling up a task force in the state government and wanted to tap a private sector entrepreneur to lead the effort.  After some back and forth over 36 hours, and strong encouragement from Mariquita to go help despite the pending lockdown at home in New York, I decided to jump on a plane and go do it. Here’s the description of the group, called the Innovation Response Team (IRT) that I wrote up on LinkedIn: Governor Jared Polis established the state of Colorado’s COVID-19 Innovation Response Team (IRT), and I was its initial leader to […]


March 17, 2020

New New Employee Training, Part II

Several years ago, I blogged about the training program we created for entry-level employees at Return Path, including an embedded presentation that we used to use (which I hope still works on the blog after all these years). My brother Michael, who is an experienced manager and leader in the digital marketing space, recently sent me this email that I thought I’d share along the same lines to colleagues who are new to the working world. Enjoy! I signed up to give advice on LinkedIn, and had someone just starting her first job reach out to me asking for general […]


February 14, 2020

The Beginnings of a Roadmap to Fix America’s Badly Broken Political System, part II

I wrote part I of this post in 2011, and I feel even more strongly about it today. I generally keep this blog away from politics (don’t we have enough of that running around?), but periodically, I find some common sense, centrist piece of information worth sharing. In this case, I just read a great and very short book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, that, if you care about the polarization and fractiousness going on in our country now, you’d appreciate. If nothing else, the shattered norms […]


January 23, 2020

Context

I wrote a post in 2013 entitled Debunking the Myth of Hiring for Domain Expertise vs. Functional Expertise. In it, I talk about how in hiring senior executives, sometimes you can’t get both functional expertise (great Head of X) and great domain expertise (subject matter expert in X), but that in scaling businesses, there’s another important vector to consider, which is that if your principal business challenge is scaling, then a critical thing to look for in a potential executive is experience with scaling businesses, or at least experience working at businesses of different sizes/stages. Today’s post is about a […]


January 9, 2020

Because I Can’t

I wrote a post years ago called Management by Chameleon that’s been rattling around in my brain the last few weeks. The operative quote from it is: When I first became a manager, back in the MovieFone days, I had the good fortune to have an extreme case of “first time manager”– I went from managing nobody to managing 1 person to managing something like 20 people inside 6 months.  As a result, I feel like I learned a couple lessons more quickly than I might otherwise have learned them.  The past couple weeks over the holidays, I decided to […]


December 13, 2019

Grit

I was honored this week to be in a small group “fireside chat” with Angela Duckworth, author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and to meet her and ask a question during an internal presentation at LRN. The session was also webcast, and you can look at the recording here. It’s long, but if you’re in the topic, it’s worth seeing. I want to hit on one theme here from the book and dialog, but I’ll start by sharing a 2×2 matrix (remember, I’m an ex-consultant, I think in frameworks) that we’ve used at home with […]


December 5, 2019

What Job is Your Customer Hiring You to Do?

My friend George, one of our co-founders at Return Path (according to him, the best looking of the three), has a wonderful and simple framing question for thinking about product strategy:  what job is your customer hiring you to do?  I am increasingly turning to that question as I work with our team on developing a new strategy for my new company, LRN. Even though LRN is in a different space, solving different problems for different buyers, I am finding George’s wisdom as relevant as ever, maybe even more so since I am still learning the new context. Why is […]


November 14, 2019

The Same, But Different

I’ve been to India once before, when Mariquita and I came here on holiday in 2006. We did a lot of the main tourist things – the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan, a tiger safari, Goa. And we spent a little bit of time with our expat friends Anuja and Bobby in Bangalore. At Return Path, we never had any business in India, though, so this week’s trip to see LRN’s Mumbai office was my first ever work trip to India. It has been a great week getting to meet my new colleagues in our largest office on the other side of […]


October 31, 2019

Book Short – You’re in Charge – Now What?

Thanks to my friend and long-time former Board member Jeff Epstein, I recently downed a new book, You’re in Charge – Now What?, by Thomas Neff and James Citrin.  I’m glad I read it.  But it was one of those business books that probably should have just been a Harvard Business Review article.  It’s best skimmed, with helpful short summaries at the end of every chapter that you could blow through quickly instead of hanging on every word.  The authors’ 8-step plan is laid out as: Prepare yourself during the countdown Align expectations Shape your management team Craft your strategic […]


October 24, 2019

Renewal

I posted years ago about the value of refreshing yourself every once in a while, comparable to the value of buying new running shoes even if you don’t think you need them Now that I’m three weeks into my new role as CEO of LRN, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.  It’s still true that down time between jobs helped me “sharpen the saw,” to quote Stephen Covey.  It’s also still true that spending time on outside interests like coaching baseball, playing guitar, and even a new activity of taking sculpture lessons all also help me sharpen the saw.  […]


October 17, 2019

The Nachos Don’t Have Enough Beef in Them!

(This is an excerpt from Chapter 23 of Startup CEO, “Collecting Data,” in which I write about the importance of observing and learning from customers and friends of the firm, as well as employees.) Here’s a story for you that happened 10+ years ago. I’m sitting at the bar of Sam Snead’s Tavern in Port St. Lucie, Florida, having dinner solo while I wait for my friend Karl to arrive. I ask the bartender where he’s from, since he has an accent. Nice conversation about how life is rough in Belfast and thank goodness for the American dream. I ask […]