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If The Shoe Fits: Founder Love Is Blind

Friday, April 14th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn 1405 Chaucer enlightened us that “love is blind” and it’s been proven through both scientific and anecdotal evidence ever since.

In past centuries this referred to romantic partners and kids, but, as with most things, that, too, has changed in the Twenty-first Century.

Now researchers at Finland’s Aalto University have gone a step further.

(From the abstract) Here we tested the hypothesis that entrepreneurs’ emotional experience and brain responses toward their own firm resemble those of parents toward their own children.

Surprise, surprise — the results show that they are the same.

Anyone who has been around entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs, won’t be surprised.

In my experience the more life experience founders have the more open they are to hearing critism about their startup baby.

However, that statement comes with a caveat.

It’s not just age or experiences that makes the difference, but the kind of experience — specifically raising kids.

Travis Kalanick may be 40, but he hasn’t been responsible for the shaping of a successful human being.

Mark Zukerberg may be raising kids, but they aren’t old enough to know how they’ll turn out, let alone what they will do along the way.

Just as parents believe their kid wouldn’t bully/drink/drug/cheat/steal, founders notoriously won’t listen to criticism of their vision/business model/culture/management.

Some, not all — obviously — but the number seems to be growing

It will be interesting to see if young, data enamored entrepreneurs will embrace this research.

Those whose kids are in their teens or older don’t need data, they have, or are getting, experience.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Who Do You Ask?

Friday, February 17th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow many members of your team have been “bloodied in combat?”

How many have worked successfully through multiple economic (upturns/downturns) realities?

Who would you ask if you needed dynamic (question/discuss), as opposed to static (online postings), advice of “the been there/done that” variety to

  • land a candidate;
  • sell in a recession;
  • tweak/kill a marketing campaign;
  • beat the competition; or
  • Layoff a team member?

Don’t ask me; I’ve answered this question multiple times in varied forms.

Instead, ask millennial Tom Goodwin.

Maybe you’ll listen to him.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: The Story Behind a Great Interview Question

Monday, October 24th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at 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.

I’ve written a lot over the years about hiring, but it’s a subject that never gets old. We’re going to be looking at the subject again this week and I thought this Golden Oldie would be a good way to kick off the conversation.

Read other Golden Oldies here

https://www.flickr.com/photos/warrenski/4300670672Michael Cascio, a former executive at the National Geographic Channel, A&E and Animal Planet, who now runs M&C Media, has a favorite interview question.

Early on he asks, “What did you do in the summers during college and high school?”

Not a question most candidates are expecting, but one that stems from Cascio’s personal experience.

He worked two summers as a janitor at the Wolf Trap event venue while he was getting his MBA.

You might not expect that would be a defining experience for a “middle-class college kid headed for a white-collar life,” but it was.

Cascio says it was in that job that he learned the basics of a great career and it was his janitorial boss who gave him the best career advice.

The basics:

You have to show up every day, and on time. You have to appreciate everyone who works around you. You should acknowledge — and learn to deal with — the pecking order in the working world. You have to exert yourself in ways you may not have learned in school. And you often have to do things that have nothing — and everything — to do with your career and your life ahead.

The best advice:

“Never turn down a chance to take on more responsibility.”

The point is that it’s not just about what candidates have done, but what they learned from the experience that matters—no matter what it was.

Flickr image credit: warrenski

Entrepreneurs: How NOT to Close a Company

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/11/17/baverman/18965353/

Move Loot’s co-founders

Last month Zach Ware, managing partner of VTF Capital and founder of Shift, talked about the right and wrong way to close a company.

“There is absolutely no reason for a company to shut down overnight. That’s a result of a selfish set of decisions a founder made.”

Obviously, the founders of Move Loot weren’t listening.

They not only shafted their people,

The mood at the all-hands meeting was tense, and employees asked management to give them the heads up if things were going badly. They were told that the cuts were the move they needed, the person said of the meeting. “Three weeks later is when the hammer dropped on everyone else,” they said.

They shafted their customers

Customers have accused Move Loot on Twitter of taking their money and failing to deliver items. Other sellers remain frustrated that the marketplace closed with no warning, leaving them in a lurch when trying to move out. The phone number that it had given out on Twitter for customer support now has a voicemail saying that phone support is no longer available.

As for their investors, I have no sympathy for them. Who gives four kids, with little-to-none business, let alone operational, experience combined, $22 million dollars with no built in accountability?

Founders owe it to all their stakeholders to be responsible.

If you recall, the three most successful startups in the world, Apple, Google and Facebook, all brought in seasoned management talent in order to give the founders time to gather experience and learn.

Contrary to Silicon Valley’s attitude, running a company takes skill; it isn’t learned from a book, but from experience, as opposed to throwing it at the wall to see what sticks.

Or in Valley lingo, ‘move fast and break things’.

But, as some ex employees point out,

 “At some point you realize how expensive it is if you break things every day. There has to be a little discipline.”

Of course, that would involve not only taking responsibility, but acting responsibly, too.

I heard a great line on a Bones rerun.

There’s a major difference between an entrepreneur and a con artist: an entrepreneur believes in the dreams he’s selling.

But then, so do pathological liars.

Image credit: Move Loot (via USA Today)

The Story Behind a Great Interview Question

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/warrenski/4300670672

Michael Cascio, a former executive at the National Geographic Channel, A&E and Animal Planet, who now runs M&C Media, has a favorite interview question.

Early on he asks, “What did you do in the summers during college and high school?”

Not a question most candidates are expecting, but one that stems from Cascio’s personal experience.

He worked two summers as a janitor at the Wolf Trap event venue while he was getting his MBA.

You might not expect that would be a defining experience for a “middle-class college kid headed for a white-collar life,” but it was.

Cascio says it was in that job that he learned the basics of a great career and it was his janitorial boss who gave him the best career advice.

The basics:

You have to show up every day, and on time. You have to appreciate everyone who works around you. You should acknowledge — and learn to deal with — the pecking order in the working world. You have to exert yourself in ways you may not have learned in school. And you often have to do things that have nothing — and everything — to do with your career and your life ahead.

The best advice:

“Never turn down a chance to take on more responsibility.”

The point is that it’s not just about what candidates have done, but what they learned from the experience that matters—no matter what it was.

Flickr image credit: warrenski

Does experience matter when hiring?

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Post from Leadership Turn

When a bit of serendipity, no matter how small, drops into your life it’s a wise move to notice and appreciate it.

experience.jpgLast week our channel editor sent a reminder that today was theme day (when participating Biz Channel bloggers all write on the same subject) and the subject was “Does Experience Matter?”

A day later I read a fascinating article based on Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard’s co-authored paper titled Unpacking Prior Experience: How Career History Affects Job Performance about the dangers in hiring dominantly based on experience.

Obviously a post match made in heaven.

Experience is good, right? Not always.

I remember 30 years ago arguing with managers who wanted to fill their position with a person doing the same job at their competitor—and I’m still arguing.

It’s a mindset best described by the catch-phrase “buy IBM”—meaning making a decision that your boss couldn’t argue with. This was/is especially true in hiring.

The smartest engineering vp I ever worked with had a different attitude. He said “Find me someone who fits our culture and already knows at least two [software] languages and I’ll hire her. If s/he’s learned two s/he can learn more.” He never worried if the experience was directly applicable.

Few managers would move to an identical job at a competitor, yet they look for candidates to do that same thing.

Experience in general has enormous value, but by holding out for direct or exact experience you can shoot yourself in the foot.

“A senior human resource manager told the research team, “We tried to hire from our competitors and paid a premium for the experience — but those hires were the least successful.” Another manager quoted in the paper said: “People are weighed down by the baggage they bring in.””

So the next time you’re hiring look first at the candidate’s MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™), then at talents, then skills, then experience—the experience that shows that the person knows how to learn and enjoys the challenge.

What do you look for when hiring?

Your comments—priceless

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