Category Archives: Blog

The Founder’s Mentality: 10 Key Points To Keep Growth Rolling

Let’ face it, all of you have similar characteristics. There is a mentality that Founding CEOs have that is often a recipe for success.

Chris Zook and James Allen recognized this and wrote an insightful book about it. It’s called “The Founder’s Mentality.” I like the book for many reasons.

The following ten quotes from their book strike me as key to keep growth rolling.

1 – “…the returns to shareholders in public companies where the founder is still involved are three times higher than in other companies.” Page 4

2 – “…more than four in five problems on the outside of a business trace to problems on the inside.” Page 63

3 – “Leaders in rapidly growing companies need to set aside enough time to ensure that everyone understands and feels connected to the purpose of the company, including involving them directly in shaping it.” Page 85

4 – “Because the founding team is unsure how to professionalize, they are reluctant to give the experts direction.” Page 90

5 – “…employees who feel engaged and empowered – who possess an owner’s mindset, in other words – will volunteer solutions to problems and come up with innovative ideas 3.5 times as often as those who don’t.” Page 117

6 – “…the three elements of the owner’s mindset – a bias to speed of decision and risk taking, a deeper sense of accountability, and a focus on cash flow.” Page 151

7 – “Imagine the power of an organization in which leaders at every level embraced the founder’s mentality.” Page 153

8 – “Strategic change doesn’t just start at the top. It starts with your calendar.” Page 158

9 – “Great leaders leave no ambiguity about what is important.” Page 159

10 – “Take the time to codify your key principles and use them as a compass to help chart your course.” Page 163

Which quote speaks to you?


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The Simple, Big Shift From “I” to “We” – Language Matters

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to David Hassell’s interview with me, I highly encourage you to download it here.

David created a powerful company on one simple idea. He and his team at 15Five understand that traditional organizational feedback tools often fall short of their expectations. So, they created a fairly simply business journaling tech system that takes just 15 minutes of a team member’s time to write a quick update and a supervisor just 5 minutes to read.

During our interview, David shared that his simple software is having a big impact on helping teams better communicate. Since he and his team are experts on helping teams, we both found it a bit ironic that his biggest struggle from Founder to CEO was his mental and verbal focus on his team.

Allow me to summarize what David said.

David describes feeling the weight of responsibility for growing his company until he starting changing his language. He found himself wishing that his team took more ownership for the issues and opportunities that arose as 15Five began to scale.

Rather than using “I” frequently, David started using “we” when talking about his company.

David’s own mindset shift led to a language shift which then had the effect of encouraging his team members to take more ownership for the company mission. Things started taking off from there.

It’s funny how that works. As a Founder & CEO we cling tightly to the reigns of the company we started. It’s hard to move from “I” to “we” when we have poured so much of ourselves into the company. We want others to increase their ownership attitude to equal our own. But, sometimes we don’t want to give up some of that control so as to make space for others to develop an ownership attitude.

Maybe the real “equity” (“the quality of being fair,” according to the dictionary) in a startup or growth-focused company occurs when we reduce our ownership attitude and start sharing some of that with our team members so they have the space to increase their ownership attitude.

Do you use “I” in your mind and in your language more then “we”?

Listen to David’s interview and let me know what you think.


Want more productivity?

Try some of these 63 productivity hacks from 50 Top Founding CEOs.
Download the PDF today!

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Ever Taken Advice From A LinkedIn Stranger?

A recent podcast guest, Alain Briancon, was not only a lot of fun to interview (he is quite the character) but he is also extremely insightful. I guess that comes with his many years of business and startup experiences.

During the interview he was fairly candid about his leadership blindspot. He mentions that he could have done a better job soliciting feedback and advice from others about his business model and approach to developing his company, Kitchology.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.

Alain tells the story of his shift in attitude toward this topic.

A man contacted him via LinkedIn with an unsolicited critique about his company. This man told Alain he was approaching his business wrong.

Alain engaged with him.

Alain listened.

Alain pivoted his company approach from this change encounter and it turned out to be sage advice from this LinkedIn stranger.

But, how did he know it would be so?

In this case, Alain incorporated this stranger’s advice into his own understanding of his company and came up with a new insight.

Alain said it was good and timely advice that catalyzed his own thoughts.

How do YOU know if you are getting good advice?

Here are some things you may want to consider when others are providing advice:

  • Why would they help you? What could be their motivations?
  • Do they actually know something about you and your company?
  • Do they first ask questions before they give advice?
  • Is their advice relevant?
  • Is there advice based on universal truths or dated industry knowledge?
  • Is their advice consistent?
  • What do others think of their advice?
  • Are they defensive or receptive when you probe further into their advice?

If you are the CEO of a startup or growth-focused business, be prepared to receive lots of advice.

While it’s impossible to process it all, you may want to review the above questions and create your own filtering system. One, so you don’t get bogged down with the quantity of advice. Two, so you don’t mix the golden nuggets of advice that come along…even on LinkedIn.

What helps you sort through advice?


Want more productivity?

Try some of these 63 productivity hacks from 50 Top Founding CEOs.
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The 2AM Leadership Lesson

A number of years ago I was a Second Lieutenant Military Intelligence Officer of a combat engineer battalion. I had just graduated from the Military Intelligence Officers Basic Course in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. So, when I arrived at my unit, the 44th Engineer Battalion, I had no idea what I was doing and I definitely did not know anything about being a combat engineer.

I knew the only way I would even have a shot at being successful was to spend almost every waking moment learning and working. That’s what I did. I spent a lot of time in the motor pool having others teach me about the vehicles and equipment. I interviewed almost everyone that would let me. And, I read, read, and read some more.

It helped that we went to the “field” for about two months straight. That means we conducted live training exercises with our armored personnel carriers, combat engineer vehicles, bridging platoons and other heavy equipment.

There is one night that stood out in my mind.

It was about 2 AM in the dark of early morning. My team and I had been working tirelessly to “track the battle.” The temperature was about 5 degrees below 0, Fahrenheit. I had about 4 layers of military clothing on and I was physically exhausted.

Our battalion executive officer told me that our commander was calling me on the radio.

“Broken Heart 2, this is Broken Heart 6,” he said again with a serious voice.

I ran to the radio and responded with, “This is Broken Heart 2.”

“Broken Heart 2, what is your assessment of the battle right now,” my commander asked me.

I stood there. Cold. Tired. Hungry. Incredulous.

Was he asking me MY assessment?

Why in the world would he ask me my assessment? I still didn’t know what I was doing as an intelligence officer. And, I certainly would not have volunteered my thoughts when we had real men and women conducting real movements in the dark using real equipment and munitions.

I thought about my assessment for what seemed like an eternity.

I looked at my Sergeant First Class. He looked back at me with that look that said, “Ok, now it’s your job LT. ”

I clicked the button on the radio microphone.

Out of my mouth came something. I can’t even remember what I said.

But, I remember what my commander said.

He said, “Thanks Broken Heart 2. Great assessment. I agree and will take action using your assessment.”

I felt numb at that moment. Every cell in my body wanted to call him back and say, “but I don’t know what I am talking about.”

We went on to “win the battle.” It had very little to do with my assessment, but we won, nonetheless.

What lingered with me was the absolute confidence my commander had in me and my team. He engaged me in such a way about a weighty decision that we felt like our contributions were absolutely essential.

His confidence in us inspired us to be even better.

I vowed to live up to his belief in us. I vowed to take ownership of our battalion’s mission in such a way as to approximate the responsibilities my commander had.

As a Founder & CEO, do you enlist the support of your team members this way? Do you ask for their input, when it counts?

Do you share ownership in such a way that just reminding your team of your intent (the ultimate mission of the organization) inspires them to take actions and make decisions without waiting for you?


Want more productivity?

Try some of these 63 productivity hacks from 50 Top Founding CEOs.
Download the PDF today!

You’ll also receive our ezine full of podcast updates and tips and tricks from Todd.