Archive for the ‘Des Pieri’ Category

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 often 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 suggest changing at each company is how meetings are handled.

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

The objective cannot 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…)

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.

Great Polaris Venture / MIT “Triumph in Tech” Event

2 March 2008

180px-wfm_stata_center.jpgLast week’s “Triumph in Tech” event at the R&D Pub in MIT’s Stata Center was a success. Polaris Venture Partners and the MIT VCPE (Venture Capital and Private Equity) Club hosted the ‘round robin’ dinner – we changed tables after each course – with the purpose of bringing together three types of people: Venture Capitalists (looking to meet this year’s top graduates); MIT Sloan School MBA students, most from the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program (looking to find a start-up that’ll hire them); and seasoned CEOs – people like me who Polaris asked to speak directly to the subject of the evening, “How Great Teams Come Together and Break Through to Success.”

Though I enjoyed talking about the teams I’ve pulled together in early-stage start-ups, turn arounds, or ‘growth-phase’ companies both here and in Europe, I enjoyed even more learning new ‘tricks of the trade’ from my contemporaries. Unfortunately I suspect some of the students did not enjoy the advice given by many of the CEOs: since start-ups don’t have the luxury to groom, you’ll not likely find a start-up willing to hire a fresh MBA grad for their executive team. So land a position – preferably in Bus Dev and / or Product Management – at a large, well run company with a strong management training program. Then come back in ten years and seek out your start-up.

This event was one of those win / win situations where all in attendance – the Polaris VCs, the MIT MBA candidates, and the CEOs – benefited.

Every CEO Facing a Series B Financing Should Follow Jeff Bussgang’s Advice

27 February 2008

series-b-big-bird.jpgEvery CEO with a Series B coming up in the next 6-12 months would be wise to use this post from Jeff Bussgang (General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, formerly known as IDG Ventures) as the ‘roadmap’ for his or her actions. Instead of learning what VCs will require from trial end error, using Jeff’s roadmap would allow a CEO to provide — on their first Series B presentation — exactly what the VC expects. And rather than waiting until the Series B time arrives, the CEO should today put a list on the wall of Jeff’s required items; then put together an action plan to obtain each item over the next six months.

Preparing a company for a Series B (which I’ve done a number of times, often in the role of interim CEO / COO) reminds me of preparing for a ‘phase review’ when I was a product manager years ago. Though some people dreaded preparing for such a phase review, I found that — if my product development program (including the go-to-market component) was under control — then providing all the data requested at a phase review was not difficult.

Similarly, for a start-up company, the data Jeff says is required for a Series B is really the data you should normally have to operate the business in the Series A phase: an accurate sales pipeline; customer references; a product road map; financial projections; market analysis / potential, etc. are really all things that should be part of your normal operations. If that’s the case, then pulling together the Series B package will be a reasonable process.

If you’re a CEO facing a Series B in the next year save yourself a lot of pain and heartache and follow Jeff’s advice.

Added 17 March 2008: IDG Ventures announced their third fund ($280 million) and a name change to Flybridge Capital Partners. Check out Jeff Bussgang’s post for the reasons why.

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 Irish Schools Do Well; Should America Adopt Them?

31 May 2007

school-bus.jpegToday school children in Ireland start their three-month long summer vacation. They enjoy a longer break than their American counterparts due to a more efficient school calendar, one of six things Irish schools do well that American schools should consider adopting.

When we moved to Ireland in 2001 from the top-notch public schools of Lexington MA (Lexington’s schools had just been selected as the best in the northeast) we were pleased to learn that the Irish schools were equally as good. The quality of public education – a key focus of the Irish government for thirty years – is one of the three factors behind the Celtic Tiger boom; in less than a decade the Irish economy became the healthiest in the EU, with the Irish now enjoying the highest per capita income in Europe. (The other two drivers of the Irish economy – a dramatic increase in the number of women… (more…)

I Miss Memorial Days of Old

25 May 2007

pano-gh2.jpgI was out walking the dog this morning and the early heat reminded me of Memorial Day holidays when I was a kid. We used to go to my uncle’s cottage in Green Harbor and somehow six families with 17 kids all fit into a three bed / one bath place! Those are some of my fondest memories.

I lament how today most American holidays have turned into shopping days. In my childhood, Memorial Day was a real holiday because everyone had the day off, including people working in retail. One of the things I miss about living in Ireland is that holidays there today are still like holidays were here when I was a kid; as noted in an earlier blog, in Ireland holidays are a day off for most everyone.

The forecast for much of the USA is for hot, true ‘first-weekend-of-summer’ Memorial Day type weather. Stay out of the mall and enjoy the heat.

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.