Archive for the ‘Des Pieri’ Category

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…)

The Economist: “Why Many USA Companies Now Hire Interim CEOs.”

30 December 2009

The Economist has a great article about the type of work I’ve been doing for ten years, Interim CEO. The piece addresses why many American companies are now adopting a practice that originated in Europe, and why so many top-notch execs are enjoying these temporary CEO jobs.

The Economist postulates that “interim executives may be the wave of the future in all rich countries, as these countries evolve from what Peter Drucker called a ‘society of organizations’ into a ‘society of networks.’”

Why Companies Do It

The article details three reasons why a company might choose to (more…)

I am thankful for Tom Poole, My First Boss. One Man, Four Lessons, An Immeasurable Impact.

22 November 2009

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my first boss, Tom Poole, who died a year ago.  A quiet, unassuming Down Maine’r, as a young man Tom left the Pine Tree State first to fight for our country and then to make his mark on the business world.  In his retirement, he returned each summer to his cottage in northern Maine.

Tom taught me four lessons — about hiring, making unpopular decisions, buying a cottage (in Maine!), and taking vacations — that have had an immeasurable impact on my life and, by association, the lives of many around me.  Each lesson has its own story which, (more…)

Building on Michael Greeley’s Idea for Senior Successful Serial Entrepreneurs Joining Startups

31 October 2009

StartupI agree with venture capitalist Michael Greeley of Flybridge Capital Partners who recently stated that building companies demands great passion, vision and intelligence but “it also helps to have done it before.”  He goes on to say that what the marketplace really needs are “senior successful serial entrepreneurs” to serve on the next generation of entrepreneurs’ boards, to open up their rolodexes, and to share what worked and what didn’t work. He ends by noting that, “such mentorship is difficult to find.”

I would like to build on that suggestion; rather than having these serial entrepreneurs simply serve on boards, I suggest that in some cases they should actually serve as the startup’s interim CEO while the company is getting off the ground.

Every startup has a myriad of details and actions that need to be done. Rather than having a board member who simply advises, “You need to do this; and you need to do that,” in many cases the startup would be better served by (more…)

Three Reasons Interim Management Works

6 June 2009

Brass number 3In an earlier post, I give my view on the six things it takes to be a good interim executive.  In another, I discuss the four cases when, in my view, a business should consider interim executive management.  Today I was asked, “Why does interim management work?”  Here’s what I said.

No Ulterior Motive: For the interim executive, it’s never about “What’s in it for me?”  Or, “What’s the impact on my bonus/options/future job.”  Rather, it’s always about, “What’s best for the company?  What’s the best way to fix this up so I can move on?”

Key Players Engage: It’s never me that turns a place around.  Rather it’s key players – many of them junior managers or individual contributors – who are the ones who make the biggest impact.  (In this post I talk about how, in the first week on each assignment, I figure out who those key players are.)

Prior Knowledge: I never cease to be amazed how often I’ll use something that someone taught me, often a long time ago and / or often in a seemingly very different circumstance.  This prior knowledge from so many varied situations is key.

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My 1st Interim Assignment a Decade Ago, E Ink, Was Just Successfully Sold.

2 June 2009

Kindle2My very first interim assignment a decade ago was at E Ink, the maker of Amazon’s Kindle. I am pleased to see the company was successfully sold and will remain in Boston. Congratulations to Russ Wilcox and the great team at E Ink

Here’s what I say about E Ink in my resume:

“Reporting to the CEO, Jim Iuliano in an interim role as General Manager of a 22-person group within a 100-person Atlas Venture funded company that originated out of MIT.  Was charged with determining why divisional revenue targets had not been achieved.  Although I possessed no prior knowledge of the product space (electronic, centrally controlled signage) or the target markets (retailers and consumer package goods companies), within weeks determined that success could not be immediately achieved with the current product in the existing markets.  Created and managed four SWAT teams which rapidly conducted exhaustive research to find a new market opportunity for the Company’s technologies, the Ink-In-Motion line which is still in use today.  Currently, E Ink’s technology is the display in the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader wireless reading devices.  Eink was sold for over $215 million.”

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What Makes a Good CEO? You May Be Surprised.

27 May 2009

DullDavid Brooks’ NY Times Op-Ed piece, “In Praise of Dullness” provides data from numerous studies as to what does – and does not – make a good CEO.  He reports that traits that are NOT associated with being an effective CEO include many things that seem counterintuitive, including: strong people skills, being a good listener, a good team builder, an enthusiastic colleague, a great communicator.   He contends that warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as CEOs. 

Rather Brooks reports that organized, dogged, anal-retentive, and slightly boring people are more likely to thrive as CEOs!  Studies show that traits which correlate well with CEO success include emotional stability and conscientiousness; being dependable, making plans, and following through on those plans.  He concludes with, “The CEOs that are most likely to succeed are (more…)

“Tell me again, Des, why we’re cleaning the office before the client visits tomorrow?”

11 May 2009

Mr. CleanWe have an important potential client visiting tomorrow so I’ve lassoed the troops and we just cleaned the office.  One of the younger guys asked, “Des, this company will be buying our technology, not our office space.  So tell me again why we’re cleaning the office before they arrive.”  To which one of the other guys said, “Tell them your story Des.”  Here goes. 

My first job out of school was working for a large computer company. A few years into the gig, I had an assignment on the New England District staff, one of five guys working for the District manager who managed two dozen Branches.

One of our tasks was for the District Manager and his staff to go to each branch once a year and do an all-day review of everything:  sales forecasts, accounts receivable, quality of service, installations, inventory etc.  The first time I did one of these reviews, when we arrived at the office, I headed straight for the conference room for the presentations to begin.

But the boss said, “No, Des, we start in the back room at the loading dock, (more…)

Three Things to Demand Before Going to Any Business Meeting

16 February 2009

meetingoneDuring my first day of each interim CEO / COO assignment, inevitably I’m invited to what I’m told is an important meeting.  And inevitably I refuse.  Agreeing with the points made by University of Chicago professor Reid Hastie in his NY times article, “Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time,” one of the first things I change at each company is the plethora of ineffective meetings.

1231The tactic I use is simple; I refuse the very first meeting to which I’m invited – no matter how important the subject may appear – by stating that I’ll only even read meeting invitations that include three things.  1.  The objective we will achieve by the designated end time.  2.  The agenda we’ll rigidly follow during the meeting.  3.  The homework required of each attendee before the meeting starts.

The objective can’t be “to discuss…”; it needs to be a decision or an action.  Not “We’ll discuss why sales are 20% below plan” but rather (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…)