Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Four Cases When Hiring an Interim CEO Makes Sense — Even for a Young Startup!

10 October 2012

Number 4

I’ve done 10 interim CEO / interim COO gigs during the last 10 years.  In my view, there are four cases when hiring an interim CEO make sense:

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  1. For The First 3 – 18 Months of a Startup: As detailed in this post (which in turn was prompted by a post from Flybridge Capital Partners venture capitalist Michael Greeley’s) there are times when hiring an interim CEO at the formation of a startup makes sense.  Adding the experience of a senior, successful entrepreneur to the passion and vision of the founding entrepreneurs can increase the likelihood of the venture’s success.  (This is the role I played at Ember Corporation.)
  2. Helping a Founding CEO: Often, later in a startup’s life, a founding CEO can use help.  Rather than terminating the founder and “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” a better solution might be to bring in an interim COO to counsel the founder, and – in many cases – to actually (more…)
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My First Task as Interim President: Cleaning the Kitchen!

8 October 2012

In an earlier post I discussed the consistent process I take the first week of each interim CEO / COO assignment.  As noted, though my process is consistent across companies, the resultant actions taken are often quite different from company to company.  My strangest -– but in hindsight maybe my most effective –- first action was as interim COO at a $20+ million, unprofitable software company: The first thing I did was clean the company kitchen!

Little did I know that -– before the last clean mug was in the strainer -– word traveled to the company’s remote offices in London, Dubai, and Perth that there was a new kid on the block and he was taking no prisoners.  Unknown to me at the time, the foundation for a rapid turnaround was in place.

Arriving 45 minutes early that first day -– it’s amazing what you find out about a company arriving 45 minutes early on the first day –- the only employees in the office were four individual contributors having coffee in the company kitchen; a ridiculously extravagant kitchen any TopChef chef would die for.

I was told that the only available coffee cups were in the pile that filled the sink -– a pile of dirty dishes, it was noted, that was indicative of two of the company’s problems. (more…)

One Way a Founding CEO Can Survive Their VC

7 October 2012

SurvivorMany (most?) founding CEOs don’t survive their VCs.  As Galen Moore states in his Mass High Tech piece, “Venture capital investors are notorious for investing in a startup, then replacing its founder with a more-seasoned CEO from their network.”  Galen highlights four founding CEOs that have survived, though the article is a bit light on specifics as to how each achieved their success.

Here’s one way: In the last decade, I’ve seen first-hand a number of companies where a founding, first-time CEO heads the VCs off at the pass by bringing in a seasoned COO, on an interim basis, to help them through a rough patch.

It’s true that half of my ten interim assignments have been as CEO, where the VCs wanted to replace a founding CEO.  In each case I was asked to take over from a fired founding CEO and “right the ship” before an executive search for an industry-specific CEO could be undertaken.

But the other five interim assignments have been as COO, where the founding CEO themselves decided (more…)

Report: 8 Cases When VC’s / Boards Should Hire An Interim CEO

25 February 2010

The Economist recently reported that venture capitalists and boards of directors of European companies are far ahead of their US counterparts in understanding when it makes sense to hire an interim CEO.  Now, a new report out of the UK – which has perhaps the most sophisticated interim management services in the world – details eight cases when a board should consider putting in an interim CEO.

I’ve listed them below, but first three other key points from the report:

  1. Interim CEOs are not consultants; rather, they are hands-on workers.
  2. Interim CEOs are not potential employees; the good ones do interim work as a way of life (and not as a “filler” until a poor economy improves.)
  3. Interim CEOs can be taken into the confidence of a board (as an interim person has the advantage of impartiality.)

The report also talks about why younger and younger executives are turning to interim management as a way to achieve a more flexible and rewarding career.  While delivering significant benefits to the client, interim managers provide themselves with (more…)

Four Tips on Raising Venture Capital

29 November 2008

cartoon4Friends occasionally seek my advice on raising venture capital, knowing I’ve been involved with a range of VC financings – from seed, through A, B, and C rounds, to investments by a “strategic partner,” to venture debt financing, through to trade sales.

Today I pass along four sources of advice – with a bit of my own advice thrown in for good measure – ranging from advice for the person wanting to plan for all their VC rounds as they are just starting out (analogous to the plan-ahead friend seeking advice on the process of finding that perfect person to marry,) to advice for the person just days from making a big VC pitch (analogous to the last-minute friend seeking advice the night before he’s going to propose!)

So whether you’re the long-range planner or the last-minute proposer, maybe you’ll find one of these right for you.

“Raising Venture Capital for the Serious Entrepreneur” by Dermot Berkery

antiaprilfools1Dermot’s advice is for the long-range planner.  Dermot was the first person my wife Jules and I met when we landed in Ireland on the first of April 2001.  Gratefully, he didn’t immediately laugh when we told him our plan to move to Ireland without jobs – “On spec?” he asked  – with our 6, 9, and 12 year old boys.  Rather he copped on right away that this was not an April Fools Day joke.  Months later, a fellow Irish VC described Dermot thusly:  “Des, Dermot’s an oxymoron because he’s both a (more…)

Report: “Need for Interim Change Management Increases Dramatically in One Year.”

4 May 2008

Executives Online, a firm specializing in placing interim C-level executives in Europe, reports today that the demand for CEO / COO to perform Change Management has increased 220% in on one year. They attribute this dramatic increase in demand to a combination of the impact on all types of businesses of the problems in the financial markets, as well as the US recession.

This is good news for people (like me!) who specialize in interim ‘Change Agent’ type assignments.

Why I’ve Said, “No” When – On Day Ten Of Each Interim Assignment – I’m Asked To Make It Permanent

14 January 2008

ten.jpgI don’t consider myself an ‘interim kind of guy.’ But I’ve completed numerous turn-arounds in the last decade, usually as interim CEO / COO / GM. Earlier posts discussed the benefits of interim executive management from a company’s point of view, as well as from an executive’s. Another post described the process I use my first week to determine the real problems and to begin to come up with solutions.

Though each company’s situation has been different – different products, different markets, different problems, and different teams – each situation has been the same in that, somewhere around day ten, the ‘powers to be’ ask to switch the role from interim to permanent. Why do they ask? And why do I say, “No?”

They ask because – for the first time in a long time – they like what they see happening. They like the transparency of knowing what’s really going on. They like seeing that bad apples in the management team have been shown the door. And, most importantly, they like seeing key players revitalized and charged up about the company’s future. (It’s these ‘revitalized key players’ who are the foundation of any turnaround.)

So why do I say, “No?” Because, though things have changed for the better at each company, what’s not changed is the reason why the assignment was made interim in the first place. Did they want to keep open the option to sell the company? Did they want to clean the place up to attract an industry-specific, name brand CEO? Did they want to have more time before committing to significant further capital investment? At each company, the reasons for making the assignment interim in the first place have still been valid, hence my response.

Anatomy of a Turn Around: The First Five Days

16 September 2007

untitled1.jpgHaving completed a dozen turn-arounds – usually in the role of Interim CEO / COO / GM – I’m often asked, “Are there consistent actions you take the first week at each company?” to which I answer, “Yes…and no.” ‘No’ because each company is unique, with it’s own set of problems, strengths, and market constraints; therefore each company requires a unique set of actions. But ‘Yes’ because I have settled on a consistent process for the first week, a process that helps me determine the real problems and possible solutions.

That said, there is one action I always take the first day; although the companies I’ve helped turn around have been in very different industries – from electronic ink to wireless mesh to software (of many types) to heart defibrillators to video games – each company needed cash to survive. So the one action I always take the first day is… (more…)

Six Things It Takes To Be A Good Interim Executive

4 May 2007

number sixMy post, “Three Cases When Interim Executive Management Make Sense” focuses on Interim Executive Management from the company’s point of view.  An article published in the UK focus on Interim Management from the person’s point of view.

I’m still a little surprised when I find myself recommending that, under certain circumstances, companies should make interim appointments at the executive / C-level.  “Short-term” is simply not my nature.  But some of the comments in the article help explain why, for the last decade, I’ve enjoyed success in a handful of assignments both in the States and in Europe:

  1. Fixing Things Fast:  Interim executives need to enjoy fixing / changing things in a defined period of time.
  2. High-Pressure Situations:  Interim executives need to be passionate about the task at hand, with a strong ability to succeed under high-pressure situations.
  3. Hands-On Role:  Interim executives need to become an integral part of the organization; most employees open up to them, providing key support for a rapid solution.
  4. Loyalty:  Interim executives develop a keen sense of loyalty to the organization, particularly to the need to improve it.
  5. Prior Knowledge:  Interim executives bring to each organization the learnings from many other enterprises, allowing for rapid improvement.
  6. Permanent Interim:  The best interim managers are those “who do it for a living” and are not simply “between jobs.”

The article’s not particularly well written, but it’s a quick read if you are so inclined.

Monday Holidays: Ireland 6, USA 0

21 January 2007

I promised in my first post to write about areas where we Americans might consider doing things ‘the Irish way.’ Given The Economist has now reported that Ireland has the highest quality of life in the world – well ahead of our thirteenth place finish – I should get started!

One area where Ireland beats the USA hands down is on Monday holidays. Other than Memorial and Labor days, all other Monday American holidays (Martin Luther King, Presidents, Patriots, Columbus, Veterans, etc.) are not universally celebrated by government and business. Rather than making for a long weekend with family and friends, American Monday holidays have become juggling acts, where kids are out of school yet many parents are required to work. And for those Americans working in retail there never seems to be a holiday break.

In Ireland, Monday holiday weekends are true long weekends for virtually everyone in the country, including those working in retail. Six times a year Ireland has what is called a ‘Bank Holiday Weekend’ with Monday the holiday. These weekends are better than the ‘long holiday weekend’ in the States because… (more…)