February 16, 2017

Reboot – Where do a company’s Values come from, and where do they go?

I’ve written a lot over the years about Return Path’s Core Values (summary post with lots of links to other posts here).  And I’ve also written and believe strongly that there’s a big difference between values, which are pretty unchanging, and culture, which can evolve a lot over time.  But I had a couple conversations recently that led me to think more philosophically about a company’s values. The first conversation was at a recent dinner for a group of us working on fundraising for my upcoming 25th reunion from Princeton.  Our guest speaker was a fellow alumnus who I’ve gotten to know and respect tremendously over the years as one of the school’s most senior and influential volunteer leaders.  He was speaking about the touchstones in his life and in all people’s lives — things like their families, their faith, the causes they’re passionate about, and the institutions they’ve been a part of.  I remember this speaker giving a similar set of remarks right after the financial crisis hit in early 2009.  And it got me thinking about the origins of Return Path’s values, which I didn’t create on my own, but which I obviously had a tremendous amount of influence over […]


March 9, 2015

The Value of a Break

The Value of a Break I’ve written before about our sabbatical policy as well as my experience with my first sabbatical five years ago. I just got back from another sabbatical. This one wasn’t 100% work-free, which breaks our rule, but after a few false starts with it, when I realized a few weeks before it started in January that I either needed to postpone it again or work on a couple of things while I was on a break, I opted for the latter.  The time off was great. Nothing special or too exotic. A couple short trips, and lots […]


May 27, 2009

Book Short: Entrepreneurs in Government

Book Short:  Entrepreneurs in Government Leadership and Innovation:  Entrepreneurs in Government, edited by a professor I had at Princeton, Jim Doig, is an interesting series of mini-biographies of second- and third-tier government officials, mostly from the 1930s through the 1970s.  The book’s thesis is that some of the most interesting movers and shakers in the public arena (not elected officials) have a lot of the same core skills as private sector entrepreneurs. The thesis is borne out by the book, and the examples are interesting, if for no other reason than they are about a series of highly influential people […]


October 8, 2007

Impact of a Leader

Impact of a Leader I had an interesting moment of clarity the other day around the impact of a leader that’s not from the business world but that does have lessons for the business world.  This may take a couple of minutes to set up, so bear with me. One of my extracurricular activities is raising money for Princeton from fellow alumni.  For this effort, we use two basic metrics to track success in any given year’s campaign:  participation (what % of alumni give) and dollars (how much $ we raise). While dollars raised are escalating year over year as […]


June 6, 2007

The 80 Percent Rule (Not the 80/20 Rule)

The 80 Percent Rule (Not the 80/20 Rule) I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said about the Republican Party that there are a lot of people in it with a lot of different views, but that as long he agreed 80% with someone, he was solidly “with them.”  The older I get, the more I find this to be a great rule of thumb. Certainly in politics, it must be true.  In a two-party system that handles an infinite number of issues, you’re never going to agree 100% with someone.  You just have to get close.  That’s why it […]