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If The Shoe Fits: Yea vs. Nay

Friday, May 19th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mBill “Badger Bill” Whyte, founder of W.S. Badger, with $16 million in revenue and 100 employees, is an excellent role model for any entrepreneur who wants to grow and run a successful, socially responsible business that treats its people fairly. His thoughts on the subject are succinct and simple.

“You can be financially successful and be a big jerk, or you can be financially successful and be a contributor to making the world better. I know which way I’d like Badger to move.”

Other great founder role models include Anand Sanwal of CB Insights and Marc Benioff of Salesforce, among many others.

However, if you are looking instead for a role model that represents the worst of Silicon Valley look no further than Evan Spiegel.

Spiegel’s boundless arrogance was on full show in the company’s first earnings call with analysts.

During the event, many analysts’ questions about the company were dismissed by Mr. Spiegel. None of the executives made a particularly impassioned case for why the business would be a success over the long term.

But what else would you expect from founders who already dumped much of their stock?

Spiegel, his co-founder Bobby Murphy and Snap’s largest venture investor, Benchmark, sold significant amounts of their stock when the company went public

Along with the current $2.2 billion loss is the whistleblower lawsuit claiming the pre-IPO metrics were inflated.

Malcolm Berko provided the best comment I’ve seen regarding all those who ignored the warnings in the prospectus, bought the stock, and are complaining.

When greed succeeds, everyone smiles. When greed fails, everyone wails.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If The Shoe Fits: Founders/Programmers vs. Users

Friday, April 7th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words.

This image provides a simple, easy-to-understand explanation of why apps often fail.

http://www.par2.com/ComputerFunnies/computer_funnies.htm

Note to founder/programmers, etc.

Contrary to what you may have heard (or experienced on the receiving end), users are not a necessary evil.

They pay your salary, as well as other incidentals, such as rent, electricity, pizza and beer.

Cherish them.

Image credit: Computer Funnies

If the Shoe Fits: A Continuing Train Wreck Called Uber

Friday, February 24th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mMost of the tech/business/news-consuming world has been hearing about Uber’s latest, but doubtfully its last, scandal.

Uber showcases a culture where anything goes: sexual harassment; managerial threats, including physical violence.

A culture based on the overweening arrogance and MAP of CEO Travis Kalanick and fully supported by his top management and a subservient/ineffective/actively resistant HR.

So Kalanick did what all CEOs (and politicians) do when someone shines a light in their rat hole — he announced an internal investigation led by external, high profile lawyers and made promises at an all-hands meeting.

“What I can promise you is that I will get better every day. I can tell you that I am authentically and fully dedicated to getting to the bottom of this.”

This from the guy who two short years ago called his company “Boob-er” in GQ, because it was a chick magnet.

There’s an old joke that you should never trust anyone who says “trust me.”

The same can be said about the person who proclaims their authenticity.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: Flavors of Fools

Monday, February 20th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’ve written several posts over the years about fools (links below). I thought sharing previous thoughts was apropos, since tomorrow’s post is about the importance/value of fools to every organization.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmak/2575149616/

In the past we’ve looked at fools and money, fools and management and Shakespeare’s idea that one should never underestimate someonewise enough to play the fool.”

One fool thing I haven’t addressed is the idea of suffering them gladly, as in ‘he doesn’t suffer fools gladly’.

An op-ed piece defines the saying this way,

It suggests that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standards. It is used to describe a person who is so passionately committed to a vital cause that he doesn’t have time for social niceties toward those idiots who stand in its way. It is used to suggest a level of social courage; a person who has the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks.

(If you buy the validity of the idea behind this definition I have a great deal on an orange bridge you can buy for your backyard.)

It isn’t courage this person has, but rather a lack of empathy, an abundance of arrogance and absolutely no manners.

And make no mistake, even these days manners are important; in fact, more so than ever. As Edmund Burke said,

“Manners are of more importance than laws. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.”

So before you part a fool and his money, give a fool a tool, or refuse to suffer a fool I suggest you look in the mirror, because one person’s genius is another person’s fool.

Flickr image credit: Chris Makarsky

Ducks in a Row: John Legere and T-Mobile

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016
T-Mobile un-carrier movement

*click image to read

John Legere is not your typical big company CEO. Legere is an ancient 58 year-old leading a company filled with Millennials in a market driven by them.

Perhaps he should be termed the “un-CEO,” just as he is branding T-Mobile as the “un-carrier.”

… his mission to turn T-Mobile into an Un-carrier — essentially the opposite of any other mobile company.

The interview with him is worth reading, especially if you want to learn how to compete against brands (AT&T and Verizon) that are better known and far richer and successfully lead people who are not like you.

In just four short years he has taken Deutsche Telekom owned T-Mobile from a joke to the third-largest and fastest-growing carrier in the US.

Not too shabby.

He radically changed the culture, and, as he says, “set out to solving customer pain points in an attempt to fix a stupid, broken, arrogant industry.”

And not just with talk; but with an additional million square miles of LTE and new services, such as Binge On (unlimited streaming at 480p quality from services like Netflix), forcing competitors to follow suit.

His advice to business school students is something that anybody at the helm of any company, from the the corner dry cleaner to the Fortune 5, should embrace.

“I can summarize everything you need to know to lead a major corporation. Are you prepared to write this down?” And then they get all ready. I tell them I can summarize how I succeed as a leader: Listen to your employees, listen to your customers, shut the f— up, and do what they tell you. Then I say that the genius of the marketing strategy that we’ve had in every company that I’ve ever been in, is that if you ask your customers what they want and you give it to them, you shouldn’t be shocked if they love it.

Ask your customers. Listen to your customers. Give your customers what they want.

Definitely rocket science.

Image credit: T-Mobile via BI

Entrepreneurs: Innovation in Slovakia

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

We all know that Silicon Valley people are open-minded, multi-cultural, multi-gendered, full of authenticity and not a shred of arrogance.

Just as we all know that pigs can fly.

Whereas entrepreneurs in Slovakia don’t think much of flying pigs, they saw no reason why cars couldn’t fly.

Video credit: Business Insider

Golden Oldies: Entrepreneurs: Limitations

Monday, July 25th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

CEOs, their words, actions, and egos, have been fodder for academics, coaches, consultants, pundits, the media and numerous others for decades. I’ve never believed that stardom (at any level) travels well. I wrote this three years ago and since then I believe that egos have gotten bigger even faster than CEO skills have shrunk. Read other Golden Oldies here.

superheroIn a celebrity-driven culture and considering the hype around global startup salvation, you might start believing that founders are, indeed, some kind of superhero, different from the rest of us, and worthy of adoration.

But you would be wrong.

“Throughout history, narcissists have always emerged to inspire people and to shape the future. The ones who lead companies to greatness are those who can recognize their own limitations.” –Michael Maccoby (2000 Harvard Business Review article about the pros and cons of narcissistic leaders.)

A Fortune article, with heavy input from Zachary First, managing director of The Drucker Institute, does a good job kicking holes in the idea.

Star CEOs grow dangerous when they see their success as destiny, their place at the head of the pack as the only path possible, rendering all of their choices justified. The best leaders might enjoy the red carpet, that’s fine, as long as they understand that being the best fit for the CEO job is a relative status — relative to the needs of the rest of the people in an organization at a specific moment in time.

And fame, no matter how great it may feel, does not equal infallibility.

Steve Jobs is considered a star CEO, but it’s questionable whether he would be if he hadn’t brought in John Sculley, been dumped and then come back.

While it’s not good to believe you’re the smartest person in the room it is far worse to actually be the smartest.

There are many things you can do if you want to stay grounded; here are the basics.

  • Hire people who are smarter than yourself;
  • encourage feedback and don’t dismiss it;
  • listen and hear what you’d rather not;
  • build a culture with sans fear where the messenger is never killed; and
  • don’t believe your own hype or drink your own Kool-aid.

And above all, stay aware.

Be sure to join us tomorrow for KG’s take on leadership strength, vulnerability — and asking questions.

Flickr image credit: Cory Doctorow

Ducks in a Row: Pundit Poop from Graham and Kalanick

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

http://www.flickr.com/photos/spacepleb/249761636/

Background:

  • Austin passed a law requiring fingerprint-based criminal checks;
  • Uber and Lyft spent $8 million on a referendum to repeal it; and
  • lost on May 8.
  • On May 15 Paul Graham tweeted

    I will go out on a limb and say Austin has zero chance of being a serious startup hub without Uber and Lyft. (I am an investor in neither.)

Essentially, Graham, a man devoted to innovation and startups, discounted any possible innovation in ride-sharing beyond the current scenario.

(Keep in mind that this is the same guy who claimed that London’s not a startup hub because some establishments still enforce a dress code.)

Little did Graham know just how weak that limb was.

Contrary to his expectations, Austin did not reel in shock, wallow in grief or stay home.

Arcade City Austin / Request a Ride is a Facebook group that has grown rapidly in the weeks following Uber’s and Lyft’s departures. The group, which requires approval to join, is currently populated by more than 33,000 members who use the group to find rides to and from their destinations.

Beyond that effort, there is Zipcar, getme, Fare, Fasten, Wingz, zTrip, RideAustin and InstaRyde riding into town (if not already there) and all willingly complying with the required fingerprint background check.

All this should bring a note of caution to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s stated plan to avoid going public as long as possible.

“So I say we are going to IPO as late as humanly possible. It’ll be one day before my employees and significant others come to my office with pitchforks and torches. We will IPO the day before that. Do you get it?”

Amazing arrogance.

  • Graham discounts the world, the people in it and innovation itself.
  • Kalanick plans Uber’s IPO with no consideration of the economy, competitors or the speed at which things change.

Graham’s words have already come back to bite him; Kalanick’s probably will, too.

Flickr image credit: Dave Gough

Entrepreneurs: the Silly Side of Paul Graham

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

http://www.paulgraham.com/images.html via w:en:Image:Paulgraham_240x320.jpg

I’m not sure what I dislike most about Paul Graham; his arrogance, narrow-mindedness (previous link) or his misogynist mindset .

I suppose his latest comments fit the arrogance category, but I’m inclined to add a just-plain-silly category instead.

It all started with Sam Altman’s shoes, which weren’t allowed at the Ritz in London.

Shallow though this test may seem, it shows London’s not a startup hub yet. No hotel in SF could afford this rule.

— Paul Graham (@paulg) (read the thread.)

So, according to Graham, in order to be a good place for startups, a city/all businesses must drop any standards and just accept whatever.

Of course, this is the same guy who said that a city can’t be serious about startups if it doesn’t have Uber and Lyft.

Hmmm, does that mean Silicon Valley wasn’t a startup hub prior to 2009?

As I said — silly.

Image credit: Sarah Harlin via Wikipedia

Entrepreneurs: the Arrogance of Paul Graham

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

http://www.paulgraham.com/images.html via w:en:Image:Paulgraham_240x320.jpg

Paul Graham is a poster boy for many of the things wrong in Silicon Valley — unlike Y Combinator president Sam Altman.

Graham says he won’t fund people with strong accents or women with young kids or who are planning on having kids, whereas Altman believes that eliminating gender bias is very important.

It seems that Graham’s arrogance knows no boundaries.

January 27, Graham took to Twitter to condemn Shark Tank, and shows like it.

Startups: Instead of appearing on Shark Tank, spend that energy fixing whatever makes your product so unappealing you think you need to.

 Mark Cuban, a Tank investor, was not amused.

@paulg you mean like the sense of entitlement and arrogance they get when they become part of a YC class ? It’s hard to wash it out

Chris Sacca, a guest this season, chimed in.

@paulg Yeah, because a free 10-minute pitch to 7 million Americans is something every startup should turn down.

Beyond the sheer arrogance, it’s obvious Graham has never watched the show. He also doesn’t believe time should be wasted on marketing.

The entrepreneurs aren’t just in tech; they span multiple industries and many of them have already built their business and are at the point that they need not just money, but enterprise-strength expertise, which the Sharks offer.

Cuban hit it on the head when he said “arrogant and entitled.” Not to mention where he sees Y Combinator’s future.

@paulg the real question is why does a startup become part of YC any more ? The good old days of YC are just that

Read the whole thread here.

Image credit: Sarah Harlin via Wikipedia

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