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The life of a Startup CEO – 3 full Time Jobs.

CEO Succession, early stage, founder, startup CEO

This post has been one of my most popular on Quora. I originally wrote it in late 2012 when asked the question – What does it feel like to be a start-up mentor? (link to original post). In it I discuss the 3 full time jobs a real startup CEO has. If you read carefully I didn’t even actually answer the question properly, but I did touch on a few truths. 

One of the points of this is to realize that maybe yu shouldn’t try to be a startup ceo; most fail at it and are miserable. They Zalsohave a lot of fear that they can’t discuss with anybody – not their team not their investors, not their spouse, not the Board of Directors. All of those people have to be held at a bit of a distance. That’s often where I come in…

Enjoy…

– – –

As a Startup Mentor to over 20 companies over 20 years, plus a few currently, I think the first question is what is the CEO going through? (See below) As thementor you need to empathize, coach, help, counsel and help the CEO develop the business.

What is the startup CEO going through?

Being the CEO of a startup is crazy, fun, very hard work, inclusive, humbling and of course can be quite rewarding. Weekends are meaningless. There is a continuous decision stream where each decision informs the next. Your mind is thinking 24 hours a day, even when you sleep.

When you’re the CEO of a startup, a real startup with product and some cash in the bank and/or revenue, there are 3 FULL TIME JOBS.

1. Raising Money – you are constantly doing this, preparing for this and thinking about this, whether it’s pre-seed, seed funding, debt, revenue, partnerships, IPO or other.

2. Managing and Properly Growing The Business – this includes several things, depending on the size of the enterprise: managing employees, administration, hiring, firing, leases, expenses, unhappy employees, fixing other problems, etc.

This piece is what often kills an otherwise great business, which justifys the case for less is more when it comes to employees and infrastructure.

3. Selling – The CEO of a startup must ABS, always be selling. You start every day working this, just like #1 above, they’re closely related. Using the CEO to close sales no matter what size the business is, is vital to success.

This piece emphasizes the importance of having an awesome, mature VP of Sales, if you can afford it; it takes a lot of pressure off and frees up the time of the CEO.

So the job of the mentor is to make sure everything progresses forward and your protege is staying out of the ditches. It requires strong mutual trust but if you have that, it can be a rewarding win-win experience.

Contact me if you’re dead serious and I can help you. The Startup CEO by Tom Nora

An ongoing discussion on linkedin about Offshore Web Development and building a team in Europe.

Jobs

This discussion began last week and has fostered some great comments and resources…

Offshore resources/Europe company for U.S. web development projects.

Startup Whisperer, Web Market Development

I’m a startup growth consultant who started a digital marketing + web development agency due to such high demand from my startup clients. I’ve used some local and some offshore resources and avoided larger outsourcing companies. I’ve found the best way to do this is to manage the projects daily.

I’m looking for suggestions on how to scale this using people in europe without adding too many “middle men”.

1. Work directly with engineers, no company involved.
2. They start by demoing their skills on my project at no cost for 1-2 days.
3. Hire them 8 hours at a time and review daily by skype, g hangout. I’ve been acting as project manager/dev manager.
4. work is mostly drupal, wordpress, seo and php/lamp.

People in the Philippines or India or eastern europe are very low cost – $7-10/hour.

I’d like to build a europe based high quality partner agency, but not sure how to build the trust required for both sides. I had a company in europe in the past and was very happy with the quality software we created.

Let me know what you think of this, and please feel free to connect.

Tom Nora

Comments

  • Hello Tom, I can answer your questions. I have been able to successfully scale three different software development service centers offshore. You are right about the need for TRUST. You absolutely have to have a person in each service center that you TRUST. You have to know that they have your back in good times and bad times. If you have that one person in each center, then you can easily scale your service center around them and go as high as you want to go. You will need managers, top notch infrastructure and of course eventually an HR team for recruiting, policy enforcement, policy making, benefits coordination and general HR duties.

    However, the first step is getting that one person you can trust. I have experience in doing this and can give you more insight if you wish.

  • To start off you should focus on working with a company that offers you direct access to engineers and is willing to work as an extended branch for your team. They keep you involved even from the early stages of the value chain including selecting the right engineers and taking direction and input on the future technical growth plan for those engineers. Most of these offshore locations will offer you the leverage to scale as per your needs as per the ample availability of technical talent and a regular pipeline with many STEM students graduating every term. You can also consider working with freelancers but providing them with the right infrastructure and support mechanism needed to produce work at par with engineers stateside would be difficult for you to manage. Also, it is not about the engineering talent only! But other support function that go with that like HR and Administrative support. For this you should focus on finding that right company which is willing to offer you transparency and keeps you in charge of your team. I would also want to mention here that you would also have to focus on building a culture in your team that represents your company’s persona with which your offshore resources can relate to and understand. This will allow you to bring more and more value out of your offshore resources.

  • If you can manage it, rather than having your unit of workforce as a person (and definitely not a “resource”, that term should be outlawed), try having your unit of workforce the “team” and have relatively stable teams that have learned to work with each other, for whom you know their strengths and weaknesses, and to whom you might be able to augment with people strong in specific skills where the work requires skills in an area that they are weak.

  • Daily reports via skype are good way to check a person skills for good times, how do you test people in bad times (assuming before they occur).
    Secondly I’d like to ask why did you stoped your company back in Europe?

  • The good thing is, you are using Skype and hangout. There is nothing close to that.

  • The way I’ve done it when I wanted to grow an organization in China, was to start with a centralized model where I have local reck leads responsible for offshore engineers.

    While working on a release, we made sure we are building their skills in all possible roles (Dev, QA, Product Owner, Technical writers etc.).

    Our strategy was to move to a distributed model where the entire scrum team works together offshore. Once we got that to work (It took us 1-2 releases) we were able to scale up quickly and grow the offshore organization significantly.

    Startup Whisperer, Web Market Development

    Ron, Thanks for the info. This started as a tiny project, not meant to grow. In the past I’ve acquired an offshore company in China after working together for about a year, that worked well, gave us the chance to get to know each other and protected our IP.

    I guess we’ll see where this one goes.

    • million dollar question. facing the same issues with finding quality and trustworthy mates that have a common goal rather than count minutes and cents. still have hope. diamond in the rough.

    • I got to agree with you but partially. I believe quality is not limited to price or a part of world. You can find great resources in India or in any part of the world. Its like hiring a resource once you hire a great resource you never need to worry about it. So my suggestion is to find a good agency that can work with you and check them before starting work with them by giving them some small piece of work and at the price does not matter but quality does mater.

    • Tom Nora

      Startup Whisperer, Web Market Development

      Abbas and Imran, Thanks for the info. This started as a tiny project, not meant to grow. In the past I’ve acquired an offshore company after working together for about a year, that worked well, gave us the chance to get to know each other and protected our IP.

      I guess we’ll see where this one goes. Lot’s of suggestions to go ahead and try to build something.

      Yes Abbas, that’s the problem, many agencies don’t care enough about the buisness/product. Not their fault, but one of the reasons I’ve avoided that route.

Online Review Management – A Synopsis of my project with a review management startup.

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, Revenue Growth, SaaS, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

I recently completed a short term project with ReviewInc (RI), an online review management platform for businesses to mange and enhance their review process. RI is a small Los Angeles are company that’s been in business for about 3 years with a couple of major pivots under their belt.

My role was to analyze all aspects of the company and then find their unique opportunities to “take it to the next level”. It opened my eyes to the fascinating ( never thought I’d say that about reviews) details of this market segment and its ubiquity in all important Online Marketing.

RI primarily needs to accelerate revenue growth and market share in order to build new products, increase salaries to market rate and defend their position against a large number of competitors. I found several areas of excellence as well as several more that need enhancement. In the 90 period of my consulting they made many positive changes in a short time period with their minimal budget.

> The Larger Market:

The Online Review infrastructure industry is highly under exposed in the overall Internet marketing world. When most people think of reviews, they think of negative reviews people write when they’re unhappy about their service at a restaurant or tire dealership. Even expert Internet marketers are pretty unaware of the market and its details. Until recently I was fairly unaware of this market, more focused on social, dat analytics, seo, superior web development, content management and CMS design as my priorities for Online Marketing projects and conversion. But now I realize “the review piece” should be considered in any Online Marketing strategy and execution. It’s content, social, seo enhancing and is impacting a vast majority of online purchasing.

Yelp pioneered 2.0 of this industry over 10 years ago and should be given credit for that. Now the market is estimated at over $10 billion revenue per year, probably a lot more if you include all the sub-markets and service agencies using it for their business development and product lines. It’s a lot more than restaurant reviews.

Online review management systems are an established part of the web for both consumer and B2B. In the consumer markets, 86% of all customers rely on online reviews when they buy something, and 72% of all people say online reviews are their top reason for choosing a local business. For B2B, online reviews and testimonials and becoming a requirement in healthcare, automotive, government and other industries. And there’s a ton of overlap, making the line pretty fuzzy.

No matter the segment, reviews directly impact sales, market position and business health. Yelp is the giant in the industry at a $4 billion market cap, but there are over 1,000 other review companies in all segments of business and consumer markets.  Other heavy hitters are Trip Advisor, Glassdoor, Angie’s List, Edmunds.com, NewEgg.com, La Fourchette, Menu Pages, Doctor.com, Best Buy, Michelin, Cityvox Avvo, IMDB, Call a Plumber, Brad’s Deals, HotFrog Gayot.com, Rotten Tomatoes, Ripoff Report and Zagat.

It is a quickly evolving market that will continuously challenge current players, as Yelp has seen as it has lost almost 50% of its market value in the past 12 months.

> Market Segments:

Online Reviews, Review Management, Restaurant Reviews, Employer Reviews, Movie Reviews, Social Analytics, Reputation Management, Customer Service Feedback, Review Aggregation.

> Company Summary:

Saas Product launched, several Fortune 1000 customers, currently growing. Self funded to date, 10-20 employees.

> The Bottom Line:

ReviewInc. is doing a lot of things right in product innovation R&D efficiency and anticipating user needs. They will have to continue to innovate and adapt to the market and win big deals to grow to a sufficient size to be a factor in this market; they have many direct competitors. They need to be sufficiently afraid of this ruthless market and use it for motivation. As Andy Grove says “Only the paranoid survive.”

If RI wants to grow faster they will need to take the company through the chasm and make critical changes to their management team, product line and UX. Not all companies want this; they would prefer to fly under the radar, so 2015 will determine which path RI takes.