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Steve Blank The Elves Leave Middle Earth – Sodas Are No Longer Free
Sometimes financial decisions that are seemingly rational on their face can precipitate mass exodus of your best engineers.

We Hired the CFO
Last week as a favor to a friend, I sat in on a board meeting of a fairly successful 3½ year-old startup. Given all that could go wrong in this economy, they were doing well. Their business had just crossed cash flow breakeven, had grown past 50 employees, just raised a substantive follow-on round of financing and had recently hired a Chief Financial Officer. It was an impressive performance.

Then the new CFO got up to give her presentation – all kind of expected; Sarbanes Oxley compliance, a new accounting system, beef up IT and security, Section 409A (valuation) compliance, etc. Then she dropped the other shoe.

“Do you know how much our company is spending on free sodas and snacks?” And to answer her own question she presented the spreadsheet totaling it all up.

There were some experienced VC’s in the room and I was waiting for them to “educate” her about startup culture. But my jaw dropped when the board agreed that the “free stuff” had to go.

“We’re too big for that now” was the shared opinion. But we’ll sell them soda “cheap.”

Unintended Consequences
I had lived through this same conversation four times in my career, and each time it ended as an example of unintended consequences. No one on the board or the executive staff was trying to be stupid. But to save $10,000 or so, they unintentionally launched an exodus of their best engineers.

This company had grown from the founders, who hired an early team of superstars, many now managing their own teams. All these engineers were still heads-down, working their tails off, just as they had been doing since the first few months of the company. Too busy working, most were oblivious to the changes that success and growth had brought to the company.

The Elves Leave Middle Earth – Sodas Are No Longer Free
One day the engineering team was clustered in the snack room looking at the soda machine. The sign said, “Soda now 50 cents.” The uproar began. Engineers started complaining about the price of the soda. Someone noticed that instead of the informal reimbursement system for dinners when they were working late, there was now a formal expense report system. Some had already been irritated when “professional” managers had been hired over their teams with reportedly more stock than the early engineers had. Lots of email was exchanged about “how things were changing for the worse.” A few engineers went to the see the CEO.

But the damage had been done. The most talented and senior engineers looked up from their desks and noticed the company was no longer the one they loved. It had changed. And not in a way they were happy with.

The best engineers quietly put the word out that they were available, and in less than month the best and the brightest began to drift away.

What Happened?
Startups go through a metamorphosis as they become larger companies. They go from organizations built to learn, discover and iterate, to predominately one that can execute adroitly having found product/market fit.

Humans seem to be hard-wired for numbers of social relationships. These same numbers also define boundaries in growing an organization – get bigger than a certain size and you need a different management system. The military has recognized this for thousands of years as they built command and control hierarchies that matched these numbers.

Wake Up Call
The engineers focused on building product never noticed when the company had grown into something different than what they first joined.

The sodas were just the wake-up call.

As startups scale into a company, founders and the board need to realize that the most important transitions are not about systems, buildings or hardware. It’s about the company’s most valuable asset – its employees.

Great companies do this well.

Lessons Learned

Be careful of unintended consequences when you grow
Recognize the transition boundaries in company size
Preserve and manage an Innovation Culture
business  culture  startup 
1 hour ago by tomshen
Ninety Days – Rands in Repose
When you accept a new job, you don’t know who you are going to work with, what you are going to be doing, and how much (or little) you’re going to like it. Call everyone you want. Ask their opinions. Trust the fact that a good friend referred you for the gig. Revel in the idea that the company has a good pedigree, but don’t delude yourself that in a smattering of interview hours that you’re going to have anything more than a vague hint of your new life.

Try this. Tell me about your best friend. Give me a bulleted list of five noteworthy things you think I should know about your best friend. Got it? Read it out loud. Does this do justice to your best friend? I hear you when you say, “He’d do anything for me”, but why is that? Why is he protective of you? What’s the story behind the bullet? That’s what I want to know.

Each person in your new team has a story they want to tell you and it’s never a bulleted list. Some are going to freely give this story whereas others will carefully protect the fact they even have a story, but until each person you need to work with has shared this story with you (and vice versa), the interview isn’t over. The jury is out and you won’t know if this new job that you’ve begun is actually your job.


Your first job is to relax. Like the first day of school, you’re going to overcompensate in your first day, your first week. Most people do not lay their clothes out the night before they go to work. You’re doing this to calm yourself. Those clothes neatly laid out at the end of your bed are a visual reminder that you have control over this thing that you can’t control.

Relax. There’s an industry standard regarding the amount of time it takes to make a hire and it’s ninety days. New managers hate when I tell them this because they’re so giddy they’ve got a new requisition and BOY WATCH HOW FAST I CAN HIRE. Yes, yes. I appreciate your velocity, but I’m not going to worry about your hire for ninety days.

This chunk of time applies to your new job as well. You’ve got ninety days — three months — to finish your job interview. Draw an a X on a calendar ninety days from now. Make it a physical act that reminds you to relax and to listen rather than fret about what you don’t know. The new team isn’t going to trust you until you stop laying out your clothes, until you stop being deliberate.

I know you’ve done this before: you’ve had five other jobs and you have well refined people assessment instincts. Except, well, they’re biased. These instincts are based on where you’ve been and you have never been here before. My suggestion is that the less you trust your instincts, the more you’ll learn about your new job and that’s why I wrote you a ninety days list:

#1) Stay late. Show up early. You need a map of the people you work with and I find the best way to start scribbling this map is to understand people and their relation to the day. When do they get there? How long until they engage in what they do? Coffee run? Wait, no. Late arriver. Doesn’t leave until he gets something done. Makes his coffee run at 4:30pm. Doesn’t drink coffee? Really? Why? These long days of watching give you insight and they give you tools for understanding what each of your team members want.

#2) Accept every lunch invitation you get. People are stretching themselves for you the first few weeks you show up. They’re going to go out of their way to include you and no matter who they are, you’ve got to take the time to reciprocate. The lunch invite from that guy in the group you pretty sure you’ll never interact with will result in stories and you have a stunning lack of stories right now.

#3) Always ask about acronyms. It’s great that we’re all speaking English, but why is it that you’re sitting in your first staff meeting and not understanding a word? It’s because every team develops acronyms, metaphors, and clever ways to describing their uniqueness which you must understand. Cracking the language nut is absolutely essential to assessing the hand you’ve been dealt and you’re going to need to ask a couple of times.

#4) Say something really stupid. Good news, you’re going to do this whether it’s on this list or not. I’m saying it’s ok. This stupid thing that you’re going to say is going to demonstrate your nascent engagement in your job and when they stop giggling, the team is going to know you’re desperately trying to figure it all out.

#5) Have a drink. Similar to the lunch task, but more valuable. No barrier is crossed when someone invites you to lunch, but when you get the drink invite, someone is saying, “C’mon. Let’s go try a different version of honesty.” Stories are revealed over drinks, not lunch.

Warning: the next three on the list are at the bottom for a reason. These are advanced moves that you don’t want to attempt until you’ve built some confidence that if they go horribly wrong, you have some confidence that you won’t permanently damage your still developing reputation. Read on.

#6) Tell someone what to do. Everything above this list is about listening and this task involves you saying something. More importantly, it involves you telling someone what to do. I don’t know who you are telling or what you’re saying, but the goal is to exert your influence, to test your influence. More importantly, to test your knowledge of the organization and see if this thing you have to say is true. Telling is the sound of your instincts aligning to this particular organization and this thing you are saying is your first bit of inspiration. Trust it. Tell the right person and realize that everyone was waiting for you to say it.

#7) Have an argument. This is the riskiest item on the list, but potentially the most revealing. There’s a good chance when you pull a #6 that this is going to happen anyway. Again, what you are willing to argue about and who is going to be on the other side of the argument is a function of your situation. What you want to understand is how does the organization value conflict? Is it ok that you’re digging your heels in? Do others engage in the argument? Who swoops in to save the day? Can these people argue without losing their shit? Does this team argue out in the open or do they use devious passive aggressive subtlety?

You’re going to learn two valuable things during this professional battle. First, how does this group of people make a decision? Second, you’re going to have a better taste of their passion and their velocity.

#8) Find your inner circle. In your arguments, lunches, drinks, and late nights, you’re going to find kindred spirits. This is the short list of people who share your instincts. These are the ones who complete your sentences and they know your stories. These are the ones who welcome the argument because they know great decisions are made by many. Your inner circle is not exclusive because you’ll go nowhere drawing relationship boundaries among the team. This is the list of people with whom you share your raw inspiration and your stories because you know they’ll gleefully help refine them.

The discovery of your inner circle won’t happen until time has passed. You’ll instinctively be attracted to people who feel comfortable, who feel right, but they can’t be in the inner circle until they’ve passed the test of time. They’ve got to pass through the ninety day list a few times before you’ve heard enough stories to let them in.

Finishing the Interview

It’s not just that you forgot to ask key questions during your initial interview process; it’s that the person that you were walking into that interview isn’t who you are. You’re a resume, you’re a referral, and you’re a reputation.

Your job interview isn’t over until you’ve asked all the questions and heard all of the stories.

Your job interview isn’t over until you understand the unique structure that has formed around this particular group of people. It’s not just the organizational chart, it’s the intricate personalities which have settled into a comfortable, complex, communication structure.

Your job interview isn’t over until you have a framework for how you are going interact with these people and that means understanding not only their goals, but also their invaluable personal quirks. What they tell you the first week has more to do with the fact that you’re new than what they actually feel. What they tell you after ninety days is the truth.

Your job interview isn’t over until you’ve changed to become part of a new team.

Happy New Year.
advice  interview  business 
1 hour ago by tomshen
Sick systems: How to keep someone with you forever - Issendai's Superhero Training Journal
satyr, drool you bastards, bosom
So you want to keep your lover or your employee close. Bound to you, even. You have a few options. You could be the best lover they've ever had, kind, charming, thoughtful, competent, witty, and a tiger in bed. You could be the best workplace they've ever had, with challenging work, rewards for talent, initiative, and professional development, an excellent work/life balance, and good pay. But both of those options demand a lot from you. Besides, your lover (or employee) will stay only as long as she wants to under those systems, and you want to keep her even when she doesn't want to stay. How do you pin her to your side, irrevocably, permanently, and perfectly legally?

You create a sick system.

A sick system has four basic rules:

Rule 1: Keep them too busy to think. Thinking is dangerous. If people can stop and think about their situation logically, they might realize how crazy things are.

Rule 2: Keep them tired. Exhaustion is the perfect defense against any good thinking that might slip through. Fixing the system requires change, and change requires effort, and effort requires energy that just isn't there. No energy, and your lover's dangerous epiphany is converted into nothing but a couple of boring fights.

This is also a corollary to keeping them too busy to think. Of course you can't turn off anyone's thought processes completely—but you can keep them too tired to do any original thinking. The decision center in the brain tires out just like a muscle, and when it's exhausted, people start making certain predictable types of logic mistakes. Found a system based on those mistakes, and you're golden.

Rule 3: Keep them emotionally involved. Make them love you if you can, or if you're a company, foster a company culture of extreme loyalty. Otherwise, tie their success to yours, so if you do well, they do well, and if you fail, they fail. If you're working in an industry where failure isn't a possibility (the government, utilities), establish a status system where workers do better or worse based on seniority. (This also works in bad relationships if you're polyamorous.)

Also note that if you set up a system in which personal loyalty and devotion are proof of your lover's worthiness as a person, you can make people love you. Or at least think they love you. In fact, any combination of intermittent rewards plus too much exhaustion to consider other alternatives will induce people to think they love you, even if they hate you as well.

Rule 4: Reward intermittently. Intermittent gratification is the most addictive kind there is. If you know the lever will always produce a pellet, you'll push it only as often as you need a pellet. If you know it never produces a pellet, you'll stop pushing. But if the lever sometimes produces a pellet and sometimes doesn't, you'll keep pushing forever, even if you have more than enough pellets (because what if there's a dry run and you have no pellets at all?). It's the motivation behind gambling, collectible cards, most video games, the Internet itself, and relationships with crazy people.

How do you do all this? It's incredibly easy:

Keep the crises rolling. Incompetence is a great way to do this: If the office system routinely works badly or the controlling partner routinely makes major mistakes, you're guaranteed ongoing crises. Poor money management works well, too. So does being in an industry where the clients are guaranteed to be volatile and flaky, or preferring friends who are themselves in perpetual crisis. You can also institutionalize regular crises: Workers in the Sea Org, the elite wing of Scientology, must exceed the previous week's production every single week or face serious penalties. Because this is impossible, it guarantees regular crises as the deadline approaches.

Regular crises perform two functions: They keep people too busy to think, and they provide intermittent reinforcement. After all, sometimes you win—and when you've mostly lost, a taste of success is addictive.

But why wouldn't people eventually realize that the crises are a permanent state of affairs? Because you've explained them away with an explanation that gives them hope.

Things will be better when... I get a new job. I'm mean to you now because I'm so stressed, but I'm sure that will go away when I'm not working at this awful place.

The production schedule is crazy because the client is nuts. We just need to get through this cycle, then we'll have a new client, and they'll be much better.

She has a bad temper because she just started with a new therapist. She'll be better when she settles in.

Now, the first person isn't actually looking for a job. (They're too stressed to fill out applications.) The second industry always has another crazy client, because all the clients are crazy. (Or better yet, because the company is set up to destroy the workflow and make the client look crazy.) The third person has been with her “new” therapist for a year. (But not for three years! Or five!) But the explanation sounds plausible, and every now and then the person has a good day or a production cycle goes smoothly. Intermittent reinforcement + hope = “Someday it will always be like this.” Perpetual crises mean the person is too tired to notice that it has never been like this for long.

Keep real rewards distant. The rewards in “Things will be better when...” are usually nonrewards—things will go back to being what they should be when the magical thing happens. Real rewards—happiness, prosperity, career advancement, a new house, children—are far in the distance. They look like they're on the schedule, but there's nothing in the To Do column. For example, everything will be better when we move to our own house in the country... but there's nothing in savings for the house, no plan to save, no house picked out, not even a region of the country settled upon. Or everything will be better when she gets a new job, but she's not applying anywhere, she's not checking the classifieds, she has no skills that would get her a new job, she has no concrete plans to learn skills, and she doesn't know what type of new job she wants to take. Companies have a harder time holding out on rewards, but endlessly delayed raises and promotions, workplace upgrades that are talked about but never get enough budget, and training programs that are canceled for lack of money work well.

Establish one small semi-occasional success. This should be a daily task with a stake attached and a variable chance of success. For example, you need to take your meds at just the right time. Too early and you're logy the next morning and late to work, too late and you're insomniac and keep your partner up until you go to sleep, too anything and you develop nausea that interrupts your meal schedule and sets your precariously balanced blood sugar to swinging, sparking tantrums and weeping fits. It's your partner's job to get you to take your meds at just the right time. Each time she finds an ideal time, it becomes a point of contention—you're always busy at that time, or you're not at home, or you eat too early or too late so the ideal time shifts or vanishes entirely. But every so often you take your meds at just the right time and everything works perfectly, and then your partner gets a jolt of success and the hope that you've reached a turning point.

Chop up their time. Perpetually interrupt them with meetings, visits from supervisors, bells and whistles and time clocks and hourly deadlines. Or if you're partners, be glued to them at the hip, demand their attention at short intervals throughout the day (and make it clear that they aren't allowed to do the same with you), establish certain essential tasks that you won't do and then demand that they do them for you, establish certain essential tasks that they aren't allowed to do for themselves and demand that they rely on you to do it for them (and then do it slowly or badly or on your own schedule). Make sure they have barely enough time to manage both the crisis of the moment and the task of the moment; and if you can't tire them out physically, drain them emotionally.

Enmesh your success with theirs. Company towns are great at this. Everything, from the workers' personal social standing to the selection of groceries at the store, depends upon how well they do their jobs and how well the company as a whole is doing. Less enveloping companies try to tie their workers' self-perceptions in with the public's perception of their brand. People do it by entangling their successes and failures with their partners', even when they shouldn't be entangled. A full-grown adult should be able to take his meds without his partner's help, and there's only so much anyone can do to make someone eat at the right time and swallow their pills, but he still puts the responsibility for managing his meds squarely on her shoulders. The classic maneuver is to blame all your bad moods on your partner: If they weren't so _______ or if they did ______ right, you wouldn't be so stressed/angry/foul-tempered.

Keep everything on the edge. Make sure there's never quite enough money, or time, or goods, or status, or anything else people might want. Insufficiency makes sick systems self-perpetuating, because if there's never enough ______ to fix the system, and never enough time to think of a better solution, everyone has to work on all six cylinders just to keep the system from collapsing.

All of these things work together to make a bad workplace or a bad relationship addictive. You're run off your feet putting out fires and keeping things going, your own world will collapse if you stop, and every so often you succeed for a moment and create something bigger than yourself. Things will get better soon. You can't stop believing that. If you stop believing, you won't be able to go on, and you can't not go on because everything you have and everything you are is tied into making this thing work. You can't see … [more]
culture  business 
1 hour ago by tomshen
Be a Great Reader: cek.log
Learning from the Amazon 6-page document how to be a better reader.
tech  business  books 
2 hours ago by sandykoe
Ross Christifulli
Exposing your competitor's weaknesses. - Really great analysis.
people-ross-christifulli  strategy  business 
2 hours ago by daguti
Our mission is to help you sell and ship stuff directly to your fans for a fraction of the cost and effort of doing it yourself. Blackbox works like a co-op: if we all go in together, we get the cheapest pricing, the fastest shipping, and the best service. The shipping is fast. We pay your sales tax. You can customize the packaging and the inserts. It’s pretty great.

We think the future will favor independent creators selling their own products, without publishers or bloodsucking middlemen taking most of the money. In fact, we’re betting the company on it.
business  shopping 
yesterday by jasonsamuels
How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews - The Washington Post
Tech companies complain loudly that policing their platforms is impossible. Yet watchdogs claim it’s pretty easy to spot the bad actors. I call lazy bullshit on the tech companies.

ReviewMeta and Fakespot say the ease of detecting potentially fraudulent reviews makes them wonder why Amazon isn’t more stringent.
amazon  reviews  fraud  business  social 
yesterday by jefframnani
Open Source ERP and CRM | Odoo
"the best management software to run a company" - CRM, POS, timesheets, invoicing, inventory, etc etc etc
business  opensource  software 
yesterday by joem
Instagram for Fitness Coaches
I’ll share one more thing on this. The reason I would offer high ticket to someone who may even have a tight budget is because of the level of commitment.

For example, most often people don’t really need more information. They need support. But I can’t have a call every week with someone for 25$ because it’s not worth my time and it’s not painful enough if they decide to skip the call.

However, if it’s 250$ per call, they will show up every time because they don’t want to lose that money and since their biggest issue (my target client) is that they aren’t consistent enough and have mindset blocks... this actually ensures they will be successful.
coaching  online-business  business  rachel-bell 
yesterday by lwhlihu
A way to have multiple links available for use in Instagram
social  media  business  app  instagram 
yesterday by bmwrider

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