Archive for the ‘Change Agent’ Category

22 Ways To Make Email — and Slack — Not Suck

26 April 2018

--If what Alexander Graham Bell invented in 1876 was email – and if the technology invented 95 years later was the telephone – the immediacy of a telephone call would have been seen as an improvement over the delayed back-and-forth communication of email.

Most of us either misuse email ourselves, or we get buried in emails sent by others who misuse email. And many of us hoped that implementing Slack would solve the email problem, but it hasn’t  Until all of our suppliers and customers also use Slack — and untill we know when to use Slack and when not to — we still have a need to make email efficient. And we need to use Slack efficiently!

Here’s a collection of 22 tips on how to make email — and Slack — efficient. I contend that, if each of us followed all 22 tips, we’d… (more…)

Six Tips to Demystify Hiring a COO for a High-Growth Company

13 April 2018

Executive Recruiters sometimes say the most difficult C-Suite search is finding the right COO. Even agreeing on the job description can be a battle! It doesn’t need to be so hard!  Here are 6 tips to demystify the process.

  1. Understand Why It’s Difficult: A problem is easier to solve if you understand the root cause.  The COO role differs from all other C-Suite roles for one reason: while other C-Level jobs are defined in relation to the work to be done, the COO’s role is mostly defined in relation to the CEO as an individual.  From company to company, the role of COO is hugely varied, depending on (a) the needs of the company and, even more importantly, on (b) the strengths — and the desires — of the particular CEO.
  2. Pick One of the 7 Types of COO’s: The first requirement is to pick the “type” of COO needed.  There are as many as seven different “types” of COO’s as listed later. Each of these different types arises from the different motives behind creating the position in the first place.  Once you agree on these motives, picking the type is easy.
  3. NOW Tackle the Job Description: Only after you’ve agreed on your motive for hiring a COO — and you’ve picked the type – can you now create the COO’s job description; which things will s/he do (and which things will the CEO still do.)  Define the COO’s role to be complimentary to the particular CEO.  Define the roles so the CEO can focus on the things at which s/he excels and, hopefully, enjoys.
  4. Agree on Decision Making Authority: One of the toughest things to determine is which decisions the CEO is now going to relinquish to the COO. You’ll not be able to attract a top-notch COO if this is not discussed in advance.  Define clear decision-making “rights” for the COO, with explicit and reasonable lines of demarcation between CEO and COO decision making responsibilities.
  5. The Last Remaining Hurdle: Throughout the recruiting process you need to determine two more things:
    1. Establishment of Trust— The most important aspect of a successful CEO-COO relationship is the establishment of trust.  Trust begins with the CEO coming to terms with why a COO is even being added to the C-Suite.  The CEO must then convey the “why” to any prospective COO.
    2. Respect— The CEO and COO must have mutual respect. They need to recognize and appreciate the skills each brings. And they must be completely open with each other. This is the “chemistry” that people often speak of and it must be determined before the COO is hired.
  6. A Short-Term Alternative – an Interim COO: The process or specing and then hiring a COO can be daunting, particularly if it takes a long time for the CEO and the Board to work through all the above.  If that’s the case – and if you have immediate needs — you might consider bringing in a seasoned Interim COO while you work through the process.  This should NOT be a “try-and-buy” situation, but rather someone who can be an extra set of hands to “get stuff done” while the CEO and the Board work through the process.  In addition to getting stuff done, a good Interim COO can help you get through the above process more quickly.

Seven Different COO Roles

As noted earlier, the different types of COO’s arise from the different motives behind creating the position in the first place.  Note: In some companies, the COO could play two roles at the same time.

Seven Types of COO’s:

  • Executor.  Execute strategy; deliver day-to-day results.
  • Change Agent.  Lead a specific strategic imperative, such as a turnaround, a major organizational change, or a planned rapid expansion.
  • Mentor.  Mentor a young or inexperienced CEO (often a founder). As the CEO develops, this COO role will either disappear or be heavily restructured.
  • CEO’s “Other Half.”  If CEO is the kind of person who works best with a partner.
  • Heir-apparent.  To groom—or test—a company’s CEO-elect.
  • Important Team Player.  Promote to the COO role an executive considered too valuable to lose.

What I Do:  I am a professional Interim CEO or COO.  Since 2000 I have been asked 24 times by investors and/or board members to jump into a company on an interim basis to help the company get started, restarted, or grow to the next level. I am an agent of change.  LinkedIn  www.linkedin.com/in/DesmondPieri

 

Workbar Gig Finished; Perfect Example of when a Founding CEO should hire an Interim COO

13 March 2018

Interim

Most startup CEO’s would love a COO but can’t afford it.  So they do the work themselves, even though “COO work” is not what they love.  My just-finished Interim COO gig at Workbar is a perfect example of where the short-term expense of an Interim COO might be the way to go.

Workbar is Boston’s original coworking space and has a hub-and-spoke network of 20 locations, each with a unique “four-neighborhood” design.  As interim COO, I revamped the management team of this 30-person company, implementing processes to get the company organized, focused, and in sync.  As a team, we migrated the company so it can sustain rapid growth in Greater Boston and beyond.

Whether interim or long term, it is important that the skills of a COO complement those of the CEO, as detailed in 9 Reasons Why Your Startup Needs a Mysterious, Unsung Hero..

What I Do:  I am a professional interim CEO or COO.  Since 2000 I have completed over 20 interim roles in the US and abroad, from pure startups to companies with $25 million in revenue.  I am an agent of change, helping companies get started, restarted, or grow to the next level.  LinkedIn  www.linkedin.com/in/DesmondPieri

Hate Networking? Here’s How to “Connect Without Networking”

4 March 2018

Chapter Four of Diane Mulcahy’s book, “The Gig Economy” is a must-read for anyone who needs to network – whether you’re part of the gig economy, or you’re someone in a long-term job looking for prospects. We all know the importance of our networks, but many people hate networking.

In 15 pages, Mulcahy’s, “Connect Without Networking” chapter gives step-by-step instructions on how to network in a far more effective way; a way that is more satisfying for everyone.

Some of the key points:

1. Weak vs. Strong Ties: It’s your weak network – acquaintances, not friends – that will be most important. Your weak ties will result in far more new opportunities, whether you are looking for a new gig, or for prospects for your current company.

2. Inbound Connecting: Do you dread the typical networking events with a room full of strangers and a glass of bad wine? Mulcahy tells you how to skip those events and instead apply the digital marketing approach of (more…)

9 Reasons Why Your Startup Needs a Mysterious, Unsung Hero

11 February 2018

imagesEvery business — even a startup — needs a mysterious, unsung hero, a COO.

Importance: A COO — particularly one with lots of broad exposure — knows which levers to pull to make each functional area work in a coordinated way, needed for a startup to succeed.

Don’t Wait Too Long: Most startups wait too long to hire a COO.  Hire immediately if you produce a physical product – or if the founder/CEO is immersed in building the technology. Hire when you hit product/market fit if you build digital products.

Why “Mysterious” : Per this Harvard Business Review article, the role of Chief Operating Officer is the most mysterious and misunderstood position because of the complexity and diversity of responsibilities.

Why “Unsung”? The COO always expects to be blamed, yet knows they will miss out on the praise.

Custom: Per Etsy COO, the COO role needs to be (more…)

MassChallenge – Another Successful Interim Assignment

21 January 2016

HQ Standard_VerticalI have been involved with MassChallenge since its inception, mentoring over a dozen companies.  Some went on to become cash prize winners, and most are still on-going concerns. I have also completed three interim assignments, helping MassChallenge itself by working on key operational initiatives. Most recently as Interim COO I implemented organizational changes so we could take the best practices from our Boston accelerator and apply them to the successful launch of MassChallenge UK, our first international in-country program. In 2015 we welcomed 90 startups to our London accelerator while spending $500k under budget. Based on what we learned in the UK, we created a “Play Book” to permit the simultaneous and efficient expansion of MassChallenge to multiple cities around the world, with three cities –- Jerusalem, Geneva, and Mexico City — added in 2016 vs. a plan for two cities. I once again will mentor companies in 2016.

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…)

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…)

Founding CEOs; How Not to Get Fired by Your VC

15 October 2011

When I was signing up for this year’s unConference, I was reminded how last year’s event was great because of the impromptu breakout sessions where it was fair game to discuss controversial subjects.  I wish every founding CEO could have been at last year’s session titled, “How founding CEOs can transition from visionary to leader.”  Though that was the title, it was clear from the get-go that this session was really about, “How founding CEOs can avoid getting fired before they ever make that transition from visionary to leader.”  Eric Paley and Katie Rae, the session leaders, did a great job covering this controversial subject, focusing on solutions to this common problem.

For the last decade, I have been “up close and personal” with the subject of founding CEOs getting fired.  As interim CEO at a half dozen companies I bridged the gap after a founding CEO was let go by his investors.  And as interim COO at another half dozen companies I helped the founding CEO endure the pressures of their job.  (As one founding CEO said when he called asking for help, “Des, I’m one Board meeting away from getting fired.  Can you give me a hand?”)

In last year’s unConference session, people had many reasons why founding CEOs get fired “early and often.”  The reasons that resonated with me are: (more…)