Tag Archives: growth

13 Hacks Before Your Hire Your First FTE

Businessman with question marks running away from a big hand concept on backgroundIt’s the ultimate conundrum for a Founding CEO. Your startup is growing. You have a need to hire your first FTE (full time employee) or simply hire more FTEs to meet the growth of your company. But, you don’t quite have the recurring revenue to justify adding more staff or FTEs right now.

What do you do?

Have you considered these 13 creative ideas. Many of them come from things you have shared with me over the years.

  • Ask a family member for some short-term help.
  • Ask a friend for some short-term help.
  • Replace some of your activities with technology.
  • Hire a contractor on a project basis, for a specific, defined project. (check out www.upwork.com)
  • Prioritize your list and determine if you really need to get x done right now.
  • Hire an independent contractor (1099 in the United States).
  • Hire a contract employee for a defined time period.
  • Hire a part-time employee.
  • Hire a full-time employee with a probationary time period.  (They may start producing revenue during that time period and therefore pay for themselves)
  • Outsource a recurring activity (like answering the phone) to another company.
  • Hire an unpaid intern.
  • Hire a paid intern (and take advantage of any government funded reimbursement programs).
  • Assign some work as development opportunity for your children, niece, nephew, or your friend’s entrepreneurial pre-teen.

What has worked for you?

Does CEO vulnerability equal profitability?

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 9.53.33 PMA few weeks ago I reached out to the CEO of Porch.com to invite him as a guest on the “From Founder To CEO” podcast. My home contractor asked me evaluate him on Porch. I had never heard of the website before, but gladly created an account and gave him some high marks for the work his team performed at our home (It’s Dan Landon at Home Solutions Handyman, if you are looking for someone great in Cincinnati).

I was really impressed by the site, its mission, and the experience. Readers of this blog will not be surprised by my immediate reaction…I needed to find the leader behind this great work and get him on the show so we can all learn from him.

His team was quick to respond to the invitation. They were extremely professional, kind, accommodating, and very appreciative of the opportunity.

A few days later I saw a headline in USA TODAY that caught my attention. It read, “Porch CEO on rough year: ‘We got distracted.’” My first thought was, “Who is this CEO that is publicly announcing such a thing?” Then I realized that it was Matt Ehrlichman, my Founding CEO guest scheduled to speak with me the next day. The article was even more interesting.

The USA TODAY article went on to describe the 20% employee reduction and other challenges that Matt and his team confronted in 2015. It was a good article and I was even more excited to speak with Matt after reading it.

Why was I so intrigued and excited? In my experience as an executive coach, it’s rare for CEOs to admit mistakes. It is even more rare to publicly share those mistakes. Here are some additional quotes from my interview (episode 111) with Matt:

  • “I just want to tell our honest story…”
  • “Last year after we raised our series B…we did get distracted…”
  • “One of the things I learned this year….is to understand the power of focus…”

I was struck by Matt’s humility and his intelligence. I think Matt understands something that many of my clients experience half way through a coaching engagement. Allow me to explain.

Half way through an executive coaching experience, I encourage my CEO clients to answer these two questions for their board:

  1. What are 2-3 things that you have learned about yourself during the first half of the coaching engagement?
  2. What are 2-3 things that you want to focus on during the second half of the coaching engagement?

The point of this exercise is to get some much needed feedback from the key people in the CEO’s business life. It’s also meant to align the coaching engagement around those things that all involved believe will have a bigger impact on the CEO’s success and the business’ success.

The issue? Almost every CEO I coach asks me this question: “Are you sure I should share  this dimension of myself?” A conversation ensues. They typically are worried about truthfully sharing their limitations and the mistakes they may have made. This is a valid concern. But, I recommend they move forward anyway.

99% of the time, having integrity, being vulnerable, and sharing the “truth” elicits a response that is somewhat unexpected. For some board members it’s, “Gee, I have that problem too.” Or, they say, “I’m so glad you mentioned that because I was finding it hard to tell you.” They even say things like, “Of course, we know that, but we’re glad you recognize it. How can we help?” On one occasion the CEO’s entire board was in tears laughing so hard because the board chair had recently admitted a similar weakness to the board one week prior.

Integrity, Vulnerability, Truth…a powerful combination that I am privileged to witness on a weekly basis.

While this blog entry will not cite previous or original peer-reviewed research to validate this statement, my anecdotal experiences tell me that that there is a direct link between vulnerability and profitability. Why? Because when you are vulnerable it starts to build a bridge of trust between you are the people around you. For CEOs, trust is the most important currency. And, when you have that, a CEO’s job is so much easier.

Dr. Robert Cialdini knows all about this. The researcher, speaker, and author of the classic book, “Influence: Science and Practice,” reminds us of the power of sharing a weakness to better influence others. No one likes a perfect, “unrelatable” person. Getting in front of a problem, admitting your mistake, learning from it, and integrating that learning into your future plan not only builds trust, but builds confidence in you as a leader.

Back to Matt? During our interview, Matt candidly admitted the gut-wrenching decision to lay off a large number of Porch employees. But, he was honest about it, communicated the reasons, and freely admitted that it was HE who shared the largest burden of getting Porch unfocused and off track.

My guess is that Porch will continue to thrive. Matt didn’t have to publicly share his mistakes and vulnerabilities in USA TODAY nor on my podcast. But, he knew that he was setting the example for all his employees and simultaneously building trust internally and externally. I predict that because of these behaviors, Porch’s profitability will climb.

Time will tell. But, I’m betting this Founding CEO has what it takes to continue to help his team, his customers, and his partners reach new heights.

What do you think?

Hurry Up and Wait

Illustration of cartoon angry looking army drill sergeant shouting at the viewer“Hurry up, get your stuff, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” While this could easily be a quote from me getting my kids off to school in the morning, it’s actually a quote from my drill sergeant from Army basic training. Then…we…would…wait…in…line…forever…for whatever. It’s a cliche, but true. Sometimes military life is a never ending series of “hurry up and wait” scenarios.

It dawned on me last week, that the same may be said of our lives as Founding CEOs.

“…if you are building something for the long term, you’re working with the same people, working on the same problem, you kind have to learn to be a little more patient…and I’m not really that patient of a person…it’s been an interesting period of personal development for me,” admitted Danielle Morrill, CEO of Cofounder of Mattermark.

Danielle gave a revealing and candid interview on episode 108 of the “From Founder To CEO” podcast. Mattermark is one of those types of startup companies that solve big problems, but that require time and patience to build. She and her team are building what can be loosely referred to as the “wikipedia of business information.” As she points out in the interview, there really is no comprehensive, updatable, accurate, and helpful resource that attempts to catalog the world’s businesses. The opportunity is huge and so is the challenge.

We are so conditioned to read about the fast growth, game-changing, disruptive companies that seemingly emerge, grow, and become profitable in record breaking time. The truth is, most businesses take a huge amount of patience to build and grow, just like Danielle’s.

I know you know this. No one other than the Founding CEO understands this so acutely. Patience is the reality we all encounter. But, many of us aren’t so patient, as Danielle admits.

What does it mean to be a “patient” Founder & CEO?

I’d like to distinguish between the skills of “short-term patience” and “long-term patience.” Short-term patience involves things like listening long enough to your CTO so that you can understand the crux of his weekly tech issue. Short-term patience is staying focused and attentive as you sit through nine hiring interviews in one day. Short-term patience is giving your investor a week to return your phone call before you text her. You didn’t become a successful Founder without developing at least the skill of “short-term patience.”

Long-term patience, now that’s the skill of a CEO. And, it’s one of the mindset shifts that successful Founders create inside of themselves as they become a great CEO and pilot their startup to sustained success.

Behaviorally, what does “long-term patience” look like? Here are a few questions that may be worth considering:

  • Can you stay focused on a strategic plan for more than one quarter without being convinced you need to change it?
  • Can you distinguish the difference between a “product pivot” and a “core company capability pivot?”
  • Can you give your CMO sufficient time to build a marketing funnel that really produces?
  • Can you focus on one, year long course of action and finish it until completion before you start the next stage of your growth plan?
  • Can you filter out the latest emerging technologies and latest business fads to remain focused each month without getting your team side-tracked?

There are many other questions, to be sure. “Hurry up and wait” isn’t exactly the same in the military as it is for a Founding CEO. You certainly are not waiting for anything. You are measuring, monitoring, analyzing, tracking, tweaking, nudging, and many other “ings.”

The “wait” is more about encouraging, developing, and resourcing your leadership team to take the weekly and monthly actions they need to do…without you doing the work yourself. And, that can be really hard for a Founder who started her company with the skills of taking personal action with her own energies and to-do lists. Just ask Danielle.

Are you developing your “long-term patience?”

To Scale Is To Trust

Two successful businessman showing trust, business concept sketchWhat’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks for a Founding CEO to scale her company?

Trust, Trust, Trust!

How do I know? Well, first of all, I like many Founding CEOs before me, have struggled with it.

  • How do I trust other people to build my company the way I envision it?
  • How can I trust others to do “it” the way I would do “it?”
  • How can I trust my co-founder to handle the negotiation the right way?
  • How do I trust my CTO with the launch of our new upgrade?
  • How do I trust that my investor has my best interest in mind?
  • How can I trust that our new employee will represent our company well?

These are some of the paraphrased questions I have heard from Founding CEOs on my podcast, and what I hear from you, Founding CEOs around the world, one-on-one during coaching sessions.

It really is almost impossible to grow and scale a company without trusting someone else, even an independent contractor you hired off of UpWork.

And, learning to trust, starts with you. Yep. It takes some time to understand your personal “trust points.” Those things that are important to you. Those things for which you have a bias. Those things that capture your attention more. It really starts with understanding you before you start saying things like, “I just don’t trust ‘xyz’ person.”

The challenge is time, right? You say you don’t have time for “radical self-awareness.” I understand. While becoming increasingly self-aware is one of he first building blocks of becoming a great CEO (you won’t find me minimizing its critical importance) there is something you can do to expedite the trust building process.

In fact, it’ll take just 10 minutes of your time. You don’t trust me? Keep reading.

Stephen M. Covey writes in his amazing book, “The Speed of Trust,” that there are “5 Waves of Trust.” His “First Wave” talks about the “4 Cores of Credibility.” He uses a tree metaphor to describe them.

  1. Integrity (Roots)
  2. Intent (Trunk)
  3. Capabilities (Branches)
  4. Results (Fruits)

The first two he describes as “character” based and are harder to change. The second two are described as “competence” based and are easier to build, train, coach, or develop.

When one of my CEO clients is having a hard time with a leadership team member, vendor, investor, or someone that is key to the company’s success, I have them rate that person on a trust scale of 1-5 with each of the above dimensions. “1” is “horrible” and “5” is “fantastic.” You’ll quickly diagnose what YOUR issue is with that person. And, that’s a great starting point for more questions and greater inquiry.

I often encourage Founding CEOs to do this for their entire leadership team.

Here is an example:

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.36.24 PM

  • With whom does Jane have the most trust? Ray
  • With whom does Jane have the least trust? Jennifer
  • Who may need training, guidance, or help? Emily
  • Who may have character issues? Jack
  • Why does Jane question the honesty of Jack, her Co-Founder? Hmmm.

I recognize that this is an imperfect exercise. But, if you want to scale your company, taking ten minutes to do this exercise may save you months or even years of slow, anemic, or no growth.

It’s just a start.

Your team is the single biggest catalyst to scaling your company.

Do you trust them? It starts with you.

And, oh by the way, what would they say about you? Hmmm.

Maybe you should ask them to try this on you…if you are serious about building a trusting relationship with them.

To scale is to trust.