Showing by category: Operations Leadership

The Hardest Skill To Master – Empathy
Any growing venture is hard. My last three years have been at an incredible pace with days blurring into weeks and months. It does not have to be a startup, it could be a lifestyle business, it could be a mid-size business. The faster the growth, the more extreme are the swings and tensions. It is way too easy to lose sight of what matters, end up with agenda, and kill your relationship. So how do we survive and thrive? It all starts with empathy. The more the person you should be supporting is different, the harder it is for you to relate and understand where the other person stands. You are ineffective without the empathy. So you must try to gain understanding about what is affecting[more]
Talent Arbitrage, or How I Find the Best People You Would Likely Miss
Admit it, it is hard finding talented people with a good attitude, who are not set in their own ways, and who are eager to improve their skills! Yes, we are already at a disadvantage since we don’t have the deep pockets of an IPOed company. But, we also tend to create several other self-inflicted major disadvantages: Using a fishing analogy, we “trawl” instead of using our line to fish for candidates. If your recruiting team complains about too many resumes, they either need to be re-educated or fired. We look for “Mr(s) Perfect Fit," which is just about the dumbest way to lose out on incredible talent. An unwillingness to hire people with the right foundations and mentor/t[more]
Signs It Is the Right Time to Hire an Operations Executive (COO or VP of Operations)
The day-to-day execution and administration of a business often takes an excessive amount of time, so the primary reason to augment your team with an Operations Executive is to maximize your CEO's and other co-founders' contribution to the enterprise. I firmly believe that staying true to a vision is best achieved by having a founder as CEO. It is almost always preferable over "hired guns" that can help you execute on the vision but seldom understand it as well and are often too pragmatic. That said, a management hire can be very much a champion of the vision and a true partner with the founder. Good managers are seldom unreasonable, and it takes “unreasonable people” to do the sorts o[more]
Myths Why Startups Don’t Need COOs and Operations Executives
As my regular readers know, I am a startup operations veteran with "battle scars" from 9 startups (co-founder in 2 and early employee in most). I have acquired a PhD in operations from the school of hard knocks after years of being around some very smart people and working on difficult problems. Today, I am going to address some common misconceptions about startup operations executives. Let’s get to it! First and foremost, let’s get the lingo and caveats out of the way, since many myths start and won’t die because of a substantial lack of clarity. What’s the difference between a COO, VP, Director of Operations, or GM? – Depending on where your company is based, how it[more]
What Do Operations People Do?
Your operations people are the reason customers are happy, vendors continue providing you with services, and employees have enough resources. Operations team is the "A-team" of vision logistics and their #1 mission is to take care of the organization (feed it, protect it, and maintain it). Not all small companies and startups have operations teams, since a company has to mature to have one. In addition, operations is functionally incorporated into other divisions in many companies and only officially becomes separate once the company becomes a sustainable business. “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” - Muhammad Ali That quot[more]
Being a CEO Is a Brutal and Lonely Job, But It Doesn’t Have To Be
Who gets their head "chopped" if a company can't get traction, hit their sales numbers, find enough financing, or retain their high-performers? Who has to be the chief recruiter, fundraiser, strategist, and often makes the most expensive mistakes? Who has to listen to endless opinions and filter out all that noise? The answer is simple – the CEO! As many of my friend CEOs would attest to, being a CEO is a brutally hard and very lonely job! Add family, personal relationships, and other responsibilities to the mix and you understand why CEOs yet to cross 3-0 mark are already developing gray hair. But it doesn't have to be this way. I have spent a decade and a half being part of these[more]
Building Compensation Package: Startup Equity Compensation Framework 2.0
Let me start by saying that building a total compensation package is HARD! This is an extremely important component of business planning, but many executives end up “winging” it. Instead of taking time to do the math and some modeling, we just slap something together and pray our compensation structure won’t crumble. For me personally, building an appropriate compensation package is a very hot subject, because I believe operations executives have tremendous impact potential by harnessing the power of well motivated and managed teams. Companies that take care of their employees rarely have challenges finding talent for their “constellations of stars” (see my article “Stars vs. [more]
What To Look For In a Chief Right Hand Person (COO, VP of Operations)
Last week a founder of a software development company asked what to look for in a COO on Since this is a fairly common question to me, I decided to expand upon the answer I posted and further describe what attributes a great business operations leader/professional should possess. Bit of background: I have been in operations for almost my entire career and have had some incredible mentors along the way. I spent 2+ fun years heading operations for an awesome software development company that we grew to 120+ employees by the time I had to move. It was an honor serving some of the smartest software development professionals in the market. Before that I had pleasure gr[more]
How a Foosball Table Can Kill Your Startup – part 2
Since an article I wrote in June of 2009 called “How a foosball table can kill your startup” is still sparking attention and conversation, I think the time is ripe for me to expand on the topic. Yes, I still believe that tchotchke “benefits” do nothing but waste money.  Instead, use your resources to attract new, retain your best talent, and improve your team’s happiness. Here are additional issues for us to consider: If we tracked the usage of Guitar Hero setups, foosball tables, pinball machines, etc., we would see that utilization of them is not really worth their cost and the rent we pay for the space they take up. Often the toy/activity choice we make is driven b[more]
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