What’s the best way to build a good company?

Brad Feld (Managing Director at Foundry Group)
The Long Lost Myth of Capital Efficiency – Feld Thoughts

When a company can become cash flow positive on a small amount of capital (say $5m – $10m) and grow over 100% year-over-year without raising another nickel of equity, well that’s a silent killer.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why capital efficiency is critical for SaaS and subscription businesses | A Founder’s Notebook

Capital efficiency gives you time, which is critical for businesses that scale steadily but without viral growth, such as SaaS and subscription businesses.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Super successful companies – Sam Altman

They can explain the vision for the company in a few clear words. They generate revenue very early on in their lives. They keep expenses low. They are tough and calm. They make something a small number of users really love. They move fast.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Why Startups Should Train Their People – Ben’s Blog

As success drives the need to hire new engineers at a rapid rate, companies neglect to train the new engineers properly. As the engineers are assigned tasks, they figure out how to complete them as best they can. Often this means replicating existing facilities in the architecture, which lead to inconsistencies in the user experience, performance problems, and a general mess

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
The Post-YC Slump – Sam Altman

The main problem is that companies stop doing what they were doing during YC instead of relentlessly focusing on building a great product and growing, they focus on everything else. In general, startups get distracted by fake work. Two particularly bad cases are raising money and getting personal press. But the list of fake work is long.

Mark Zuckerberg (Founder & Chairman & CEO at Facebook)
How To Get Ahead: Entrepreneurial Lessons From Mark Zuckerberg

The most important thing for you as an entrepreneur trying to build something is, you need to build a really good team. And that’s what I spend all my time on… I spend probably 25 percent of my time recruiting, finding good people, both outside the company and inside the company, to put them in more impactful roles.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
The three steps to building a great company, and why most startups fail on the first step | A Founder’s Notebook

Task #1: Build a product that users love. Task #2: Figure out how you are going to grow. Task #3: Make sure you are going to stay a winner if you win. [Are the three tasks sequential? In other words, should you figure out growth only after you’ve finished building a product that users love? I think there’s overlap, but broadly speaking — yes, they’re sequential. ]

Dharmesh Shah (Co-founder and CTO of HubSpot)
Happy Birthday HubSpot! 9 Lessons From Our First 9 Years

As a startup, you need to seek that love. We don’t just want people to buy from us. We want people to love us. We want them to love what we love and respect what we do, even if they don’t buy from us. Even if they are unlikely to ever buy from us. Because what we believe is that the more people that love us, and want us to succeed, the more likely we are to do so.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Long Roadmaps – AVC

And I replied that building a great company is a combination of patience and impatience in equal doses applied unevenly. Impatient short term, patient long term.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Beating the Averages

If you do everything the way the average startup does it, you should expect average performance. The problem here is, average performance means that you’ll go out of business. The survival rate for startups is way less than fifty percent. So if you’re running a startup, you had better be doing something odd. If not, you’re in trouble.

Tomasz Tunguz (Partner at Redpoint Ventures)
Why the Bubble Question Doesn’t Matter

1. Think long term 2. Manage your cash effectively 3. Only hire the right people 4. Mitigate churn 5. Raise capital opportunistically to amass a war-chest large enough to achieve your vision

What’s the best way to be an effective leader?

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Sixteen Years Ago – AVC

Relationships are the currency of business.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Success Has A Thousand Fathers – AVC

I have a couple rules that I try very hard to live by in this regard: 1- the management team always gets the credit. VCs don’t do the dirty work and should not get the accolades when things work out. 2 – don’t gloat. it’s not becoming. humility in times of great success is a very becoming characteristic. But it’s really hard to follow these rules when things work out well. Because success doesn’t come that often, and when it does, it has a th… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The minimum requirements for giving effective feedback | A Founder’s Notebook

Note that giving your team effective feedback is not the same as coaching them,

Adam Bryant (Corner Office columnist and Deputy Science editor at NYTimes)
Adam Bryant Of The New York Times On What Makes Great Leaders Great

One [characteristic of the best CEOs I’ve met] is what I call “passionate curiosity,” which is this relentless questioning mind that I see in so many of the leaders I interview. They are really deeply engaged with the world. They are curious about people, their back stories.

Adam Bryant (Corner Office columnist and Deputy Science editor at NYTimes)
Adam Bryant Of The New York Times On What Makes Great Leaders Great

There’s a quality [in great CEOs] that I call a “simple mindset,” which is the ability to take a lot of complicated information and really boil it down to the one or two or three things that really matter, and in a simple way, communicate that to people. They can figure out, “Here are the four metrics; these are the three or four things that we are going to focus on,” and do it in a way that not only makes sense for today, but is likely to make … (read more)

Jeff Jordan (General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz)
Leaving It All on the Field | Jeff Jordan

Periodic 360 feedback from the organization. If you ask people for feedback and typically respond to it in a constructive way, then they will typically give it to you. Working with a talented coach that I trusted. If world-class athletes like Tiger Woods utilized swing and strength coaches, why shouldn’t executives who aspired to improve use a management and leadership coach? Find a mentor or mentor(s). I eventually made the realization that I wa… (read more)

John W. Rogers (Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff & Secretary to the Board at Goldman Sachs)
A great teammate is a great listener

Become that rare person where people know that your word is your bond and you’re going to do exactly what you say you’re going to do.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Which is better: a CEO who tolerates mediocrity or one who throws tantrums? | A Founder’s Notebook

If I had to choose between a manager who tolerates mediocrity and a manager who throws “nutters”, I’d go for the manager who throws nutters any day. Why? Because the most successful companies are built by managers who strive for, and demand excellence. They care passionately about their product and company

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – AVC

If you are a CEO and you are feeling that uneasy head right now, look around you. Do you have the support you need from your team and your board? If the answer is no, do something about it. Because you can’t be a great leader without a great support system.
And get a coach.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – AVC

I also encourage CEOs to join a CEO support group. Meeting regularly with peer CEOs is a great way to vent with each other about the nonsense that goes on in a company, but it is also a great place to get actionable advice and learn from each other.

Ryan Howard (Founder @ Practice Fusion)
Transcript: Protecting yourself as the founder; Ryan Howard | VatorNews

Starting off, being a founder is obviously an incredibly hard job. Macro concerns from day-to-day are simply building your business, hiring a great team, fundraising to make payroll day to day and with that, the last thing you want to do is worry about getting fired from the company that you started. The reality is that, this is a quote from the founder of Sequioa, “45% of their founding CEOs and their investments are fired after 18 months.” It’s… (read more)

Scott Cook (Founder at Intuit)
Why Intuit Founder Scott Cook Wants You To Stop Listening To Your Boss | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

We teach our leaders that it’s your job to put in the systems that enable your people to run your experiments fast and cheap and to keep making them faster and cheaper. Yield as many of your decisions off to the experiment as possible.

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Ask for help (rather than try to have all the answers)

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Notes on Leadership – Ben’s Blog

The ability to articulate the vision. Can the leader articulate a vision that’s interesting, dynamic, and compelling? The right kind of ambition. Truly great leaders create an environment where the employees feel that the CEO cares much more about the employees than she cares about herself. The ability to achieve the vision. The final leg of our leadership stool is competence, pure and simple. If I buy into the vision and believe that the leader … (read more)

Brad Smith (President & Chief Executive Officer, Intuit)
Great managers ask great questions | A Founder’s Notebook

Lead With Questions Not Answers. The best leaders don’t need to have all of the answers. They surround themselves with great people, and ask the right questions. It’s not what you know. It’s the questions you ask that help you become a more effective and inspiring leader. The two greatest indicators of what we view as important are (1) how we spend our time and (2) the questions we ask.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Ideas spread inside a company due to positive energy; 8 ways to increase it | A Founder’s Notebook

At work, make time to connect with others as people. Do what you say you’re going to do. Make it bigger than your [personal interests]. Acknowledge the positives, not just the problems. Criticize ideas, not people. Be visibly and sincerely enthusiastic. Look for ways to allow others to contribute. Don’t let your expertise make others feel inferior.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Playbook

No first-time founder knows what he or she is doing. To the degree you understand that, and ask for help, you’ll be better off. It’s worth the time investment to learn to become a good leader and manager. The best way to do this is to find a mentor, reading books doesn’t seem to work as well.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startups, Role Models, Risk, and Y Combinator – Sam Altman

Here’s the secret: everyone starting a startup for the first time is scared, and everyone feels like a bit of an imposter. Even the most successful founders doubt themselves and their startups many times in the early days.

Semil Shah (General Partner at Haystack)
Sunday Conversation #1: Peter Fenton, Benchmark Capital – Haywire

Great entrepreneurs have a motivation that runs so deep that it feels insatiable, and that is infectious. It lets other people around them have that motivation. I think there’s just a profound, deep, innate motivation. A lot of what happens after the fanfare of starting a company and hiring people is, “Why are we here, what’s the purpose, and why are we doing this?”

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Do everything you can not to attach your self esteem to your startup (you’ll fail, but try anyway). Do the best you can every day, then step back. Work in such a way that when the dust settles you can be proud of the choices you’ve made, regardless of the outcome.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Why We Prefer Founding CEOs – Ben’s Blog

We see three key ingredients to being a great innovator: comprehensive knowledge, moral authority, and total commitment to the long-term. Great founding CEOs tend to have all three and professional CEOs often lack them.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The power of asking questions: What Warren Buffett asked Bill Gates | A Founder’s Notebook

Asking great questions is a skill, and often doesnt come naturally. Im particularly bad at it. So in discussions inside Seeking Alpha, I try to step back from making assertions, to articulating the question which the assertion was supposed to answer.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: A definition of a leader…

If you want to be a leader, go lead.

Jeffrey Minch (Entrepreneur – ‎Littlefield Advisors)
The Management Team – Guest Post From JLM – AVC

Get a mentor, a rabbi, a gray haired eminence who is willing to work with you. Golfers get swing coaches but great swing coaches work on the golfer’s head as much as his back swing. Get a professional coach.

Mitchell Harper (Co-Founder & Board Member @ Bigcommerce)
28 things I’d do differently next time around — Medium

Celebrate the good times but be brutally honest with everyone when things aren’t going well — and share your plan to get things back on track fast

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: The irrational thing about trust

We use the most basic semiotics and personal interactions to choose where to place our trust. And once the trust is broken, there’s almost no amount of transparency that will help us change our mind.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: The irrational thing about trust

Real trust (even in our modern culture) doesn’t always come from divulging, from providing more transparency, but from the actions that people take (or that we think they take) before our eyes. It comes from people who show up before they have to, who help us when they think no one is watching. It comes from people and organizations that play a role that we need them to play.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: “I”, “We” and “You”

Instead of saying “I” when you’re ready to take credit, try “we.” Instead of saying “we” when you’re avoiding responsibility, try “I.” And, every time you’re tempted to depersonalize the impact of your actions, try “you,” while looking the impacted person in the eye. Words matter.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Coercion

Real change happens because of enrollment, because it invites people in, it doesn’t use fear. Real leadership patiently changes the culture, engaging people in shared effort. It’s more difficult, but it’s change we can live with.

Unknown (who knows!?)
The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies

The secret to success in business and in life is to never, ever, ever tell a lie. Every time you overreport a metric, underreport a cost, are less than honest with a client or a member of your team, you create a false reality and you start living in it.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Leaders and Executives – AVC

Leadership is different than management. I have said that many times before on this blog and I will say it again. I believe it to be true. Leading is charisma, strength, communication, vision, listening, calm, connecting, trust, faith, and belief. Management is recruiting, retaining, delegating, deciding, communicating, and above all executing. Many CEOs do both for their companies. But getting leadership from the founder and management from a gr… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
What Are We Doing? – AVC

What I am advocating for is the value of having a clear and intelligent plan, communicating it often and often, and, most importantly, mapping that plan to each team and each person in your organization. This is pretty easy when you are five people. It gets harder when you are fifty people. And it’s really hard when you are 500 people. The communication plan is very important particularly as the size of the company grows. And making it matter to … (read more)

Tony Schwartz (CEO of The Energy Project)
If you feel compelled to do something, don’t

If you’re a fighter, step back. If you tend to flee, stay engaged. I’ve found two sorts of reflection help most. “What part of this is my responsibility?” [and] “Who is the person I want to be in this situation?” Or even more specifically, “How would I behave here at my best?”

Robert Sutton (Founder and Research Director of The Network Roundtable)
Fight Like You’re Right, Listen Like You’re Wrong and Other Keys to Great Management | First Round Review

“After people talk to you, do they come away with more or less energy?”

Laura Hale Brockway (Director of Marketing Communications at Texas Medical Liability )
7 Tips to Help You Remember Names Better

Pay attention to the person’s name when it’s said. Say the name aloud as soon as possible. Comment on the name. Associate the name with something meaningful. Form a visual association between the face and the name. Keep looking at the person’s name tag or business card.

Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia)
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

Managers have short term vision, implement strategic plans, and keep things running as they always have. Leaders take risks, have long term vision, create the strategic plans, and instigate change.

Jeff Weiner (CEO at LinkedIn)
5 Leadership Lessons Learned from Jeff Weiner | Sachin Rekhi

It’s important to constantly repeat the team’s top objectives, the decisions that are being made, the culture you are trying to establish, and anything else you want the broad team to truly internalize. It’s equally important to drive consistency in the message, even using the exact same words to really ensure it sticks.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Dumbing Things Down – AVC

At some point you have to convince people that what you are doing is important and they should join your company, buy from your company, invest in your company, and write about your company. I like to call this “dumbing things down” but it doesn’t have to involve simplification (although that is one way to do it). It could also involve creating effective analogies, describing a future state where the technology is in mass use, or some other techn… (read more)

Geoffrey James (a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author of the award-winning blog Sales Source)
All Great Entrepreneurs Have This | Inc.com

There is one thing and one thing alone that every great entrepreneur absolutely must possess: courage. It takes courage to forego the predictability of a corporate job. It takes courage to sacrifice your nest egg to your startup. It takes courage to take the risk of failure. And it takes courage — lots of it — to hand over the reins when your startup grows beyond your ability to manage it.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Confidence | A Founder’s Notebook

For me, confidence comes from thinking deeply about what we’re trying to achieve, and why that will benefit people. When you really believe in your vision, you’re confident — even when times are tough — that you’ll succeed.

Jason Lemkin (Managing Director at Storm Ventures, SaaStr.com)
Jason M. Lemkin’s answer to How do CEOs stay calm? – Quora

1. You must fake it. You cannot let anyone see you look like you are losing control. Ever. Once they see that… they will lose faith. 2. You need help. If you don’t have true help carrying the load — stop. Do almost nothing else. Recruit someone. 3. You need a break. In fact, lots of them. 4. You need someone to confide in. At least one. 5. Once the business is real, self-sustaining — you need to take a real vacation. Not just a trip where you ema… (read more)

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Startup founder psychology: Between euphoria and terror | A Founder’s Notebook

[as a CEO] you only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances both of them.

Charlie O’Donnell (Partner Brooklyn Bridge Ventures)
How to stay calm under immense work pressure — Charlie O’Donnell | A Founder’s Notebook

1. Take care of your physical self. 2. Consider the worst case scenarios and have a plan for them. 3. Always try to do your best work, but know and accept your limits. 4. Try to think as linearly as possible. 5. Don’t accept other people’s timelines as your own. 6. Be extremely protective of your time. 7. Get an assistant. 8. Reverse engineer the life you want to live. 9. Let other people in. 10. Get rid of the people and relationships that drain… (read more)

Eric Barker (Founder at StubHub)
How To Never Get Angry: 3 New Secrets From Neuroscience

How can you control emotions of anger in yourself? Here’s how: 1) Suppress rarely. They may not know you’re angry but you’ll feel worse inside and hurt the relationship. 2) Don’t vent. Communication is good but venting just increases anger. Distract yourself. 3) Reappraisal (changing the story you’re telling yourself about the event) is usually the best option. Think to yourself, “It’s not about me. They must be having a bad day. ”

What’s the best way to be a good product manager?

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers define their job and their success. Bad product managers constantly want to be told what to do.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers send their status reports in on time every week, because they are disciplined. Bad product managers forget to send in their status reports on time, because they don’t value discipline.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers create leveragable collateral, FAQs, presentations, white papers. Bad product managers complain that they spend all day answering questions for the sales force and are swamped.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers anticipate the serious product flaws and build real solutions. Bad product managers put out fires all day.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers take written positions on important issues (competitive silver bullets, tough architectural choices, tough product decisions, markets to attack or yield). Bad product managers voice their opinion verbally and lament that the “powers that be” won’t let it happen.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers think about the story they want written by the press. Bad product managers think about covering every feature and being really technically accurate with the press.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers ask the press questions. Bad product managers answer any press question.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers assume press and analyst people are really smart. Bad product managers assume that press and analysts are dumb because they don’t understand the difference between “push” and “simulated push.”

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers focus the team on revenue and customers. Bad product managers focus team on how many features Microsoft is building.

Rohini Vibha (Business Designer @ IDEO)
So you want to manage a product? — The Product Coalition — Medium

What product management is: being the heart, mind, and voice of the user; facilitating cross-functional teamwork; making product trade-offs; meeting an end-goal with fixed time and resources; leading people along a product journey; being positive and practical; making tough calls with little information. What product management is not: being the most important voice; being the only idea-generator; being a designer; being a programmer; managing QA… (read more)

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers define good products that can be executed with a strong effort. Bad product managers define good products that can’t be executed or let engineering build whatever they want (i.e. solve the hardest problem).

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager – Andreessen Horowitz

Good product managers think in terms of delivering superior value to the market place during inbound planning and achieving market share and revenue goals during outbound. Bad product managers get very confused about the differences amongst delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity.

What’s the best way to be a good manager?

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Minimize internal co-ordination costs | A Founder’s Notebook

Minimize internal co-ordination costs

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
What makes a great employee — Cameron Purdy | A Founder’s Notebook

There are three areas where VPs should ask their CEO questions: (i) Have I understood my goals correctly? (ii) Have I understood your input correctly? (iii) Can you help me solve my problems and achieve my goals?

Jeffrey Pfeffer (Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business)
Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management

When a group does creative work, a large body of research shows that the more that authority figures hang around, the more questions they ask, and especially the more feedback they give their people, the less creative the work will be. Why? Because doing creative work entails constant setbacks and failure, and people want to succeed when the boss is watching.

Peter Fenton (General Partner at Benchmark)
Sunday Conversation #1: Peter Fenton, Benchmark Capital – Haywire

My partner, Bob, likes to say, “Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all. ” Being a learn-it-all means you have to be very self-effacing around what you do and don’t know, apply critical thinking, and don’t assume that what you’ve been told is right. That trait is a muscle, I think, that you have to continually work on

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Practical advice on how to train your managers | A Founder’s Notebook

Management training is the best place to start setting expectations for your management team. Do you expect them to hold regular one-on-one meetings with their employees? Do you expect them to give performance feedback? Do you expect them to train their people? Do you expect them to agree on objectives with their team? If you do, then you’d better tell them

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Being metrics-driven leads to brutal intellectual honesty | A Founder’s Notebook

Being metrics-driven leads to brutal intellectual honesty. If your success is defined entirely by how well you achieve your goals and metrics, you’ll care only about which arguments are correct and which ideas are the best, irrespective of who they come from. Getting managers to be truly metrics-driven is far harder than it seems. In my experience, it also requires significant coaching.

John Beeson (Principal of Beeson Consulting)
Let Your Team Help You Manage Your Time

A few years ago I was asked to coach an executive I’ll call Tom. I suggested that Tom give thought to four questions: 1. Where could he add the greatest value to the company in his new role? 2. What were the topics and issues he should be intimately involved in — and which could he off-load to staff? 3. How was he spending his time today — and how would he like to be spending his time six months from now in order to devote adequate time to his v… (read more)

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Playbook

Extreme internal transparency around metrics (and financials) is a good thing to do. For some reason, founders are always really scared of this. But it’s great for keeping the whole company focused on growth.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The best career advice you can give in two minutes | A Founder’s Notebook

People are most successful at what they most enjoy. “What you most enjoy” is determined by types of activities, not domain subject matter. The types of activities you enjoy are deeply related to your personality type. So find what you love doing (by thinking about which types of activities best fit your personality type), and go work for a fast-growing company doing those activities

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Can you reduce the startup CEO role to a single key talent? | A Founder’s Notebook

You can’t do everything well at once, you have to rotate your focus to whichever aspect of your business needs the most attention.

Laszlo Bock (SVP of People Operations for Google)
Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

1. Be a good coach. 2. Empower the team and do not micromanage. 3. Express interest / concern for team members’ success and personal well-being. 4. Be very productive / results oriented. 5. Be a good communicator — listen and share information. 6. Help the team with career development. 7. Have a clear vision / strategy for the team. 8. Have important technical skills that help advise the team.

Nick Mehta (CEO at Gainsight)
The Second-Timers: Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight – “Never Stop Hiring Reps” | SaaStr

You need to focus on product. You need to be sales-oriented. You need to be customer-centric. You need to be all about culture. The business model depends on all functions working in harmony.

Tony Simons (Associate Professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration)
The Integrity Dividend: Leading by the Power of Your Word

Where employees strongly believed their managers followed through on promises and demonstrated the values they preached were substantially more profitable than those whose managers scored average or lower. No other single aspect of manager behavior that we measured had as large an impact on profits

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
How Well Do You Take A Punch? – AVC

The best entrepreneurs do this well. They can take a hit and keep moving forward. And they can rally their teams to do the same thing. That latter point is so important. If the leader is down for the count, the team doesn’t have a chance. But if the leader is up and moving forward, with passion and committment to the goal, then the team will follow.

Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric)
Jack Welch’s Legacy – The Globalist

Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.

Geoffrey James (a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author of the award-winning blog Sales Source)
The No-Nonsense Business Advice You Need to Hear | Inc.com

For bosses, I think the hardest thing is letting people make their own mistakes. Resisting the desire to intervene. It’s the whole question of whether you are controlling people or coaching people. You can’t do both.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Don’t Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste – AVC

When something goes badly in your company, for many the initial instinct is to keep things under wraps as much as possible to avoid freaking everyone out. I would argue that it is better to acknowledge the crisis and use it to your advantage.
Change is hard to bring to an organization and a time of crisis is often a perfect time to make some changes that you have wanted to make for a while. It creates a perfect backdrop and context for doing tha… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How to get stuff done | A Founder’s Notebook

Be clear about what you need to get done. Go for quick wins. A “Quick Win” is a small project you can get done fast which leads to tangible results. Quick wins are crucial because you learn from successes, not from failures. Don’t let small projects become large projects before they launch. Maximize what you can get done on your own. Identify the key person you need to collaborate with, and don’t involve anyone else.

Henry Ward (Founder & CEO at eShares)
eShares 101 — Medium

[at eShares we say… ] You will do a 1-on-1 walk with your manager every 2–3 weeks, with your manager’s manager every 4–6 weeks, and with me every 4–6 months. Go for a walk for 30-40 minutes. Have fun — this is your time. Talk about what’s on your mind. It doesn’t need to be work related.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Managers and metrics | A Founder’s Notebook

Owning a metric means taking complete responsibility for success in that metric. In Seeking Alpha, “owning a metric” means taking responsibility for the success of that metric in the medium term. Every manager reports metrics monthly, but we care about medium term success. If you miss a monthly target, the key to medium term success is to take the short term miss seriously. If you explain away your monthly metrics, you’ve thrown away their value … (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Managers and metrics | A Founder’s Notebook

It’s the CEO’s responsibility to make sure that every manager personally owns a meaningful metric. Owning a metric means taking complete responsibility for success in that metric. If you justify misses in your metric after the fact, you don’t own the metric — you’re “a best efforts guy”.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
The Scale Anticipation Fallacy – Ben’s Blog

Managing at scale is a learned skill rather than a natural ability. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing how to manage a thousand people. Everybody learns at some point

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Setting clear goals = empowerment | A Founder’s Notebook

When you give people clear goals and metrics, it releases them from being micro-managed at the task level.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Setting clear goals = empowerment | A Founder’s Notebook

In many roles, being given responsibility for a measurable goal also allows employees to manage their time as they want to. That can be particularly important for companies that want to create a culture which is attractive to people who care about family time

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Saying “no” to good ideas | A Founder’s Notebook

The job of a great manager is to focus the company’s limited resources on what’s most impactful. That means saying “no” to good ideas. Saying “no” to bad ideas is easy. It’s the good ideas that can distract and de-focus you

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
A better way to view people | A Founder’s Notebook

Try to place each person in a role where their strengths have the biggest impact and their weaknesses and flaws don’t matter.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Ones and Twos – Ben’s Blog

CEOs that [insist upon super clear goals and strongly prefer not to change goals or direction unless absolutely necessary], despite their love of action, can sometimes slow decision making in a company to a halt.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Becoming A Boss – AVC

Many artists stick to making and hire a manager to focus on their business. You can devote yourself totally and completely to the manager role and hire people to lead the making effort. The third way is to keep your hands in both efforts. To be both the maker and the manager. The challenge with that approach is you have two full time jobs and I have not seen many who can do both as well as they need to be done. I cannot and will not recommend one… (read more)

Dr. Dana Ardi (Corporate Anthropology Advisors)
MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Dr. Dana Ardi – AVC

Do away with archaic command-and-control models. Winning workplaces are horizontal, not hierarchical.Everyone who works there feels they’re part of something, and moreover, that it’s the next big thing. They want to be on the cutting-edge of all the people, places and things that technology is going to propel next.

Angela Baldonero (Senior Vice President of People and Client Success @ Return Path)
MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Angela Baldonero – AVC

My advice to you is to set your people free to focus on important, high impact work and solve challenging business problems. That’s how companies will win now.

Joel Spolsky (CEO @ Stack Exchange)
The Management Team – Guest Post From Joel Spolsky – AVC

The “management team” isn’t the “decision making” team. It’s a support function. You may want to call them administration instead of management, which will keep them from getting too big for their britches. Administrators aren’t supposed to make the hard decisions. They don’t know enough. All those super genius computer scientists that you had to recruit from MIT at great expense are supposed to make the hard decisions. That’s why you’re paying t… (read more)

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Loose/tight, thoughts on management

But mostly, we need the insight and judgment and leverage that employees bring us. All of us are smarter than any of us, and adding people can, if we do it right, make us smarter and faster and better at serving our customers. It can’t work, though, if you insist that the employees read your mind. If you have to spend as much time watching and measuring your team as the team spends working, then you might as well just do the work yourself. We fai… (read more)

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Volunteer engagement

The key elements are: An agenda, Peer support, A hierarchy of achievement, Better structures lead to better work. People who care can magnify their impact by building structures that bring in more people who care.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Tech Ops As A Metaphor For Building, Running, & Leading A Company – AVC

Blameless post-mortems are the key to learning from a tech ops crisis – fear driven organizations do not scale. Over-reacting to a crisis is likely to make it worse.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Two key questions for every manager | A Founder’s Notebook

Managers should ask themselves two simple questions: How many experiments are my team running at any moment? And How rapid is our pace of experimenting?

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How to ensure that things get done using 3 W’s | A Founder’s Notebook

How to ensure that things get done using 3 W’s. 1. Who (is responsible) 2. What (needs to be done) 3. When (is it due)

Jack Dorsey (Co-Founder, CEO at Twitter and Square)
Jack Dorsey: The CEO as Chief Editor – YouTube

This happens in three ways: tending the team dynamic (adding/removing people), internal and external communications, and minding the money situation (getting money in the bank). That’s it.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Mark Pincus’ management advice – make everyone the CEO of something | A Founder’s Notebook

Mark Pincus’ management advice – make everyone the CEO of something. I met Mark for the first time this week. He said he still believes in the principle of “everyone’s a CEO of something”, but only when your company has fewer than 1,000 people.

Tomasz Tunguz (Partner at Redpoint Ventures)
Startup Best Practices 1 – Situational Management

High motivation, low skill: the most typical state for an employee to be in after he has been hired or promoted. He is excited and energetic but unfamiliar with the particulars of the job, or the company, or the culture. Somewhat counterintuitively, the best management technique in this situation is micromanagement… The best way to do this is by frequent check-ins, updates, and feedback. Applied this way, micromanagement provides the employee ver… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How to write a monthly report for your investors or manager | A Founder’s Notebook

In Seeking Alpha, every team leader and “metric owner” writes a monthly report. The Seeking Alpha manager’s monthly report is a Google doc shared with the whole company. It must not exceed one page. It contains four sections: (i) Key Metrics (ii) Candidly, How Successful Was I This Month? (iii) Top Things To Figure Out (iv) Goals For Next Month.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: How to deal with seams

How to deal with seams. a. There is no seam. We’ve finessed the seam so thoroughly, you can’t even tell. This doctor knows everything about the situation as seen by the last doctor, no need to worry about the handoff. You can’t tell where one part of the railing ends and the other begins. Your place in the queue and your records and your status are so clear to the next agent that it won’t matter a bit to you that there was a switch. b. There is a… (read more)

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
How Andreessen Horowitz Evaluates CEOs – Ben’s Blog

[Determine] whether or not the CEO can effectively run the company. To test this, I like to ask this question: “how easy is it for any given individual contributor to get their job done?”

Jeffrey Minch (Entrepreneur – ‎Littlefield Advisors)
The Management Team – Guest Post From JLM – AVC

Do not make changes, conduct experiments. Nobody can resist an experiment. Experiments that work well have a thousand fathers and mothers. It becomes their idea.

What’s the best way to be a good listener?

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Advice or criticism?

Here’s a simple way to process advice: Try it on. Instead of explaining to yourself and to your advisor why an idea is wrong, impossible or merely difficult, consider acting out what it would mean. Act as if, talk it through, follow the trail. Turn the advice into a new business plan, or a presentation you might give to the board. Turn the advice into three scenarios, try to make the advice even bolder…

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
When you’re given advice, here’s how to listen with an open mind | A Founder’s Notebook

In my experience, two factors enable you to listen to advice with an open mind: (i) Never forget that you are the decision maker. Whatever advice you get (and “try on”), the decision is still yours. (ii) Never give your opinion about the advice, or make a decision, on the spot. If you do that you’ll get you into an argument, and lose your feeling of being the decision maker.

Angela Ahrendts (VP of Retail at Apple, CEO of Burberry)
Asking questions to build relationships | A Founder’s Notebook

Questions invite conversations, stimulate thinking, break down barriers, create positive energy and show your willingness to understand and learn. Questions show humility, acknowledgement and respect for the past, and give you greater insights into both the business and individuals. And don’t be afraid to ask personal questions or share a few of your personal details.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How to be a better listener | A Founder’s Notebook

I frequently listen with the intent to solve the problem. So I tried [listening with intent to agree], and it worked. I’ve also found a work-around to being a bad listener: I ask questions in writing using email and Google docs. I find it easier to read and re-read than to listen.

What’s the best way to avoid common mistakes in management?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Financial Misstatements – Sam Altman

First-time startup CEOs make a lot of mistakes, mostly due to ignorance. One particularly bad one is misunderstanding or misusing basic financial terms.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Second Startup Syndrome – Ben’s Blog

Serial entrepreneurs who suffer from Second Startup Syndrome want to skip through the narrow early steps and move quickly to more exciting topics such as long-term strategy, sales and marketing, company positioning, company culture, and more. Unfortunately, when you build a house, it’s usually a very bad idea to start with the roof.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
DIY vs Delegate – AVC

I like it when I see a founder team that is resourceful, has range, and can do a lot of this stuff themselves. I like to see them running lean and mean and spending money on the things that really matter (product!!!!!).
But at some point they need to start delegating this stuff. And first time founders often make the mistake of waiting too long to take things off their plates. For one, they like the control and insights they get from doing thing… (read more)

Sean Ellis (CEO at GrowthHackers)
Figuring Out Your Way to Startup Success

It is OK to apply pressure for better execution of things that have been figured out, but it should be applied very sparingly when trying to encourage the team to figure out the remaining unknowns.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Playbook

Most of the principles on being a good manager are well-covered, but the one that I never see discussed is don’t go into hero mode. Most first-time managers fall victim to this at some point and try to do everything themselves, and become unavailable to their staff. It usually ends in a meltdown. Resist all temptation to switch into this mode, and be willing to be late on projects to have a well-functioning team.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Ones and Twos – Ben’s Blog

When founding CEOs fail, a significant reason why is they never invest the time to be competent enough in the [process design, goal setting, structured accountability, training, and performance management] tasks to direct those activities effectively. The resulting companies become too chaotic to reach their full potential and the CEO ends up being replaced.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Becoming A Boss – AVC

When we had our USV CEO summit last fall, we kicked it off by asking each founder/CEO to open with the one thing they had learned the hard way during the year. The recurring theme was that they had to let the people they hired do the work even though they wanted to jump in and do it themselves. And as they are all going around the room telling this story over and over, I am thinking “”and I want you to jump in and do the work too””. Because these a… (read more)

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup advice, briefly – Sam Altman

Learn to manage people. Make sure your employees are happy. Don’t ignore this.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Handing Over Your Company To Someone Else To Manage – AVC

The thing we always remind entrepreneurs is that bringing in a CEO does not mean losing control of the company. In fact, bringing in a CEO is often a great way to keep control of a company if you do it well.

What’s the best way to ask for feedback?

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Anchoring can sink you

The thing is, we do this outside of negotiation, whenever we ask for insight. If someone says, “”can you review this slide deck?”” there are a bunch of anchors already built in. Anchor: there are slides. Anchor: there are six slides. Anchor: the slides have text on them. Before we can even have a conversation about whether or not there should even be a presentation, or whether the content is worth presenting, we’re already anchored into slides and … (read more)

Geoffrey James (a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author of the award-winning blog Sales Source)
A Question You Should Ask Every Day | Inc.com

I’ve used this question for decades on people I meet at work, always with excellent results:Just out of curiosity, what do you like best about your job?

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How would you feel if you were asked to write a self-evaluation like this? | A Founder’s Notebook

Here are the questions I just sent to my direct reports as the first stage of their mid-year review: (a) What’s the thing you’re best at? How much of your time is spent on it? (b) Name one thing you don’t enjoy that you’re spending significant time on. How can we eliminate the need for you to do it? (c) What is your most important work goal, and how should you / we re-organize your time to better achieve it? (d) Which person in the company do yo… (read more)

Jason Stirman (Early Twitter Employee)
How Medium Is Building a New Kind of Company with No Managers | First Round Review

When you sit across a table from someone, ask them “”Whats going on in your life?”” That will always remove more hurdles than asking them “”Whats blocking you at work?””

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The one question you wish your manager would ask you | A Founder’s Notebook

[Ask] “”what’s your biggest pain point?”” Somehow we / they never do ask.

What’s the best way to ask for a meeting?

Aaron White (Former technology entrepreneur and Co-founder of Boundless)
Want a Coffee? A Brief Guide for Neophytes | Aaron White

When reaching out to ask for a coffee meeting, be immensely specific about why you want to meet, and what you hope to get out if it. The more specific you are, the more value you’ll get from your potential coffee-partner. If you communicate a clear possible path for the conversation, coffee partners who can’t provide value will self-select out, but even then if your ask is clear, it will make it so much easier for them to forward you to the right… (read more)

Scott Britton (Co-Founder of Troops)
How To Ask Someone For a Coffee Meeting

[to send a good email …] 1. Intro context: Give the reader context of who you are and how you found them. It’s always beneficial if the context of how you “found” them demonstrates support, eg. reading their blog. 2. Specific context why you’re reaching out. 3. Recognition that they’re giving you their time: When you signal to them that you acknowledge their time is very limited and valuable, they appreciate it. It indicates that you recognize … (read more)

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Introductions and the “forward intro email”

A good forward intro email: 1. Says why you want to be introduced. 2. Includes its own context — enough about you or your startup so that the receiver understands what’s being asked. Always helpful if it includes what’s special about your startup, increases the likelihood the person will want to meet you. Attach a file if you think it makes sense (a deck, longer summary, screenshot). 3. Uses only as many words as you need — the receiver is going … (read more)