Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Helping Others for an Energy Boost

We all have energy swings. Highs and lows. It’s unavoidable, especially if you live in startup land.

Here’s a tip: In periods of low energy, pushing pause on your own issues, life, and focus to think about someone else is a powerful way to break the hold of low energy.

Two ways I’ve found to make this happen, than can be useful to you as well.

A Mastermind Group

For me, this is my EO Forum.  I have to admit that there are some months where I look at that 4-hour commitment and just think there is no way I can find 4-hours to make that meeting happen. I dread the meeting and worry about all the things that are going to unravel if I go off the grid for that long in the middle of a week day.   But inevitably what happens, every single time is that I go into that [very] structured meeting, turn on my brain to help 7 other entrepreneurs with equally heavy loads, and leave re-centered, re-focused, and energized about my own situation.

The strangest thing is: most of the time, my business isn’t the center of attention. Yet my business receives the benefit of me taking time to focus on others.   If entrepreneurs haven’t found a Mastermind group, I recommend making that a top priority in 2015.  

Mentoring Someone Else

Mentor-mentee relationships are great. In the same spirit as a mastermind group, you take time to focus on someone else’s situation. You think about how they can get from point A to point B. Not only will you find satisfaction in sitting down on a regular basis to think about another person, but when they grow and succeed, you get the parental-ish joy of having played a part. 

Startups are hard as hell. When you’re in the grind and need a boost, take some time to think about where you can go to give some energy to someone else. That usually ends up coming back in a big way. 

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Your Energy is Best Spent on These Two Activities

I received a lot of notes about the Hard as Hell post on Monday. It seems I struck a chord with CEOs.  I thought a follow-up post on how I “lean in” would be helpful.

What specific tasks can you do during the day when you feel beat up? Where can you get energy?  For me, it comes from two places: 1) talking to prospects and customers and 2) working heads down on the product itself. 

Talking to Customers.  There is nothing more energizing than selling to someone who sees value in what you need.   Having good question after good question that pulls you through a demo of your product is awesome.   When you start to feel like you’re slowing down, go find some customers to spend time with. Ask them how they’re using your product. Or if they aren’t, just ask them how they do their jobs. Ask them what tools they are using.   Consider it a challenge to get as much information from your target customer as possible.  Information feeds ideas, feeds product.

Designing / Tinkering / Playing with Product.  For tech entrepreneurs and non-tech entrepreneurs, thinking about what value you deliver to the customer should be a great way to keep your head in the game.   Even though you can’t expect to “build it and they will come,” the inverse could also be true: “if it sucks, there’s no point in trying.”     For me, this isn’t as much expanding design and ideas on what our startup can do, rather it’s imagining new use cases, new ways to describe it, new examples and user stories. 

It’s important to keep moving when building a company. Just be sure you are moving on the right things.   Don’t let yourself fall back into low-impact activities.

Trust that any time you are spending with customers and in/on your product is high-impact, high-value time spent.

Ordinary People Have No Imagination

Let’s start this post by defining who is included in the categorization of “ordinary people.”

If you are an entrepreneur, ordinary people includes: everybody.  

Yes, even other entrepreneurs.

In your universe, in your corner of industry, with your product, your market opportunity, and your vision— you have superpowers. You have the vision and you are the expert.  Everybody else is ordinary compared to you when it comes to your vision.

So here’s what you need to learn quickly about these other people… the ordinaries:   They have inferior imaginations compared to you.   I continue relearning this lesson daily.  

You spend your days telling people what you’re building, how you’re building it and why you’re building it. You draw it on whiteboards and bar napkins. You use multiple metaphors. You mix the metaphors. You layer the metaphors. You even tell personal stories to build up the vision. But still, people never imagine the vision as clear as it is in your head. 

That is, until you show them something.  Give them something to play with.  Or walk them through a demo of something in action.  Even if it is mocked up screen shots or a clickable prototype.   This is the only true way to describe a product to someone and make it “click.”    This is why we work so hard to win “Demos” with customers. We don’t win slide presentations or meetings, we win the opportunity to show off a product or results.

This week, I learned this truth yet again.   With Voxa Alerts invites going out  and users getting their hands on it, I see the lightbulbs going off.   I’m getting notes with compliments and praises about how brilliant our idea is.   Of course, I want to respond and say “Yeah duh. I’ve been telling you this idea for 6 months now.”  But instead, I’m getting more value out of the “Cool. Now that you’ve seen it, what else do you think it could do?”

And that’s how you help ordinary people work through their lack of imagination. 

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It is Not Okay to be Bad at Email

 

Cal Newport, a blogger/academic I enjoy following, wrote a post recently called “It’s Okay to be Bad at Email.”    Cal writes about finding deep study time and shares tips on not being distracted.   I love his stuff, but I have to disagree with the being bad at email post.

Here’s why.

1. Email is connective tissue of relationships.
Email isn’t a separate channel or category in life. There’s no wall separating it from everything else. Email is simply one of many ways we communicate with other people.  If I am haphazard about reading, scanning, and replying to emails, it’s not a problem that will just affect my Inbox: it affects the people on the other end of those emails.   Being someone who values relationships as a key driver to success, I don’t believe that being bad at a primary communication tool for those relationships is a sustainable approach.

2. Not all email is created equal. 
Not responding to group threads, customer service surveys, and other random junk is not the same as not responding to a customer, a prospect, a close friend, mentor, investor, or other VIP in your life.   You need tools and techniques to be sure that you filter up what is important to you.  Not making the effort to prioritize VIPs is inexcusable.

3. Sometimes you just need to respond faster.
What does “being good at email” really mean?  If you think about it hard, it will always boil down to the speed at which you respond (either by actually sending a reply, or taking appropriate action) to important messages.

Faster response to important messages = you are awesome at email.

Slower response, or no response = you suck at email.

4. Pro Tip: Being good can also include your outbound emails.
I’ve realized for my personal life that managing email successfully doesn’t just mean responding and reacting to incoming emails, but also tracking who I’ve sent emails to and if they responded or not.   Having open ended inquiries is usually a cascading problem.  In most cases, when I’ve asked someone a question, it’s because someone else down the line is waiting for me to make something happen.    See the final point, on how I manage this!

 

Advice Isn’t What You Need – Don’t Miss the Value in an Intro

Bad Advice Cartoon

When you meet someone new, how often do you have a clear expectation of what they can do for you?    Particularly when you reach out to someone and ask for a meeting, advice, or assistance: do you have a clear picture in mind of what “yes” looks like?   What is success?

I bring this up because I take many meetings with young entrepreneurs who ask for help, but after digging in, they don’t actually know what they need or what they’re asking.

Advice is cheap. Advice is readily available from every dude sitting at a bar or eavesdropping in Starbucks.     Reaching out to an individual to ask advice is nice, but plain ol’ advice probably not real value that moves the needle for you.

In my case, if you come asking my advice, you should know that I don’t know your situation any better than you. My so-called advice for you will only be as good as my own experiences, which may or may not be relevant to your situation, and in most cases may have only a single common thread with where you are.  I wouldn’t take advice from me, if I were you.

So here’s a tip: I only have one humble value-add for your trajectory. My network.

What does it look like when I offer this value to you? It looks like this:

“Mike meet Joe – you guys should get together.”

Of course there is more to my introduction than a one-liner. Usually I follow a double-opt-in process where I clear the introduction with both sides before actually making the connection.

The point is that too often we miss the value in an introduction.   We may think that we are being pawned off or we are just running in circles going from one introduction to another.

The secret is to realize that each meeting is a new relationship. Each introduction is a win. Each introduction is an entirely new network of potential introductions. And if you believe that meaningful relationships are the most important thing for your success, then pay attention to the measurement for wins.

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The Unhurried Startup CEO

 

Professional Startup CEOHave you ever watched a professional house painter work?

I’m always amazed at how fast they get things done.   Painting detailed trim, rolling, cleaning brushes… those pros can do an entire house in the amount of time it takes me personally to do a half a wall. Oh, and their quality is 50x better than mine.

But, somehow they never look hurried.  They don’t act hurried. They aren’t in a hurry. They just do their job and they are professional about it. Just so happens things move much faster.

I think Startup Entrepreneurs can be more professional about how we go about building companies. It’s a striking difference between successful serial entrepreneurs and first time startup entrepreneurs.

I’m not talking about the actual speed you move or how fast you build your company.   Speed is important. You can only be in startup mode for a certain period of time, then it’s game over.   But how fast you go and whether you feel/act rushed are two separate topics.

When you feel hurried:

- You rush through big decisions

- Your emotions are frantic… which affects your team… and your family… and your health

- Customers and investors will not be impressed with your professionalism

- You’ll lose perspective on the big picture

- You’ll exhaust yourself before the hard part of the race has begun

Unhurried is a mindset.  It is being confident that you know the plan ahead. You know the steps to take. You know how long they will take, and you know what levers and dials to push to adjust the speed of your company.

Some practical tips that help me slow down when I realize that I feel hurried:

  • Don’t check email first thing in the morning. Start with a cup of water. Then a cup of coffee if you’re so inclined. Then read a book… one that is paper and not connected to a device that will cause you to get ADD early in the morning to check email and deal with fires.  Start the day slow.
  • Miss a weekday in the office, just because. Whether it’s working from home or just putting the phone away and playing with the kids. It’s a nice rhythm breaker to step back and grab some perspective at a time when a hurried person would say “It’s impossible to break away on a day like this!”
  • Read as much as possible, and not industry specific books.   I’ve found so much calming joy in reading big picture books and stories of successful people.
  • Tell yourself often that you are lucky to have the problems that you have. You’ve already gotten farther than most people, just by starting a company. If you happen to have a team, even a product, and maybe a little bit of money… you’re in the top 1%, so you don’t have to injure yourself trying to get ahead.  Focus and be intentional.
  • If your calendar is as crazy as mine. Don’t hesitate or feel guilty about canceling meetings that have no purpose related to your primary mission.
  • One big thing per week.   A coach of mine several years ago helped me understand the value in having one main thing to accomplish each week. Not a 50 item todo list.

One more tip: I write this blog as therapy for the very reason discussed above. It’s less expensive than a shrink :) and is effective at keeping my head clear and energy focused.  This is a great way to keep perspective and start my day unhurried. Consider writing on your own if you are so inclined.

Do whatever it takes. Just don’t be in a hurry.

 

Rogue Sales Reps

 

Going Rogue. Get it?

Going Rogue. Get it?

In sales pitches with large companies, there is a common feedback that we hear at almost every meeting. It goes something like this:

“…Getting all of our customer conversations in Salesforce.com would be great… but there are some reps who just don’t like using Salesforce and they just never will….    They are doing great and they have their own way of doing things and nobody will ever tell them otherwise.”

We chuckle at this feedback.  I often wonder if the sales leaders can hear what they are saying as they say it. Maybe I’m missing something.   I agree that a rockstar producer should be given more flexibility perhaps, but making excuses about why they don’t share information about customer conversations in your CRM seems like a stretch.

In sales, (yes, even large, complex enterprise deals that take years to nurture and caress to a close) companies benefit from predictability. Process leads to predictability.   Data is needed for a process to work.  You can’t know if you’re in step 3 or step 13 without data.  And yes, everything is a process. Even the softer side of caressing C-suite executives on the golf course, over cigars, or on a private jet to shoot birds in South America (you know who you are! #jealous)… it’s all a process that is leading to the same thing. A signature that means money will find it’s way to your company and your services will add value to a customer.

Even the big deals should be tracked. Everything should be tracked! What happens if your top producer is taken out by Dick Cheney on one of these hunting trips?   Where will you find the status of the conversation with the countless contacts at the organizations they are working? Are you going to power through their years of emails and decipher who goes what and what goes where?

With the growth and expanding importance of CRM software to companies, I stand by our position that

every 

single

tiny

piece of information about customers that you can track 

should live forever in the CRM!!

Forever and ever, amen!

 

 

 

 

Relocating and Re-Centering

 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, so it’s time to get back on the wagon!   No, I didn’t make an intentional decision to stop blogging. It started with some travel, then being down with a cold (or something), then more travel, then some more travel, and then life just accelerated over my rhythm and cadence. No good, and it’s time to get re-centered.

The first big change in life that I feel obligated to share is that the downtown connector will soon have one less vehicle on it. The Cook family is moving ITP!    It was a difficult decision for us, because as I’ve bragged about many times, life in The Bubble of Peachtree City is a magical place to raise a family.  But as one of my long time mentors says: “Time is not a limiting factor. You are the limiting factor.”

The bottom line is that investing the 2+ hours/day in the car to transition between my Voxa Family and my Life Family was more than I can continue to support.   My family will now be a mere 4 miles from the Village and lots of exciting new opportunities will come with that geographically aligned life.

In addition to that big change, I’ve noticed that with Voxa’s growth accelerating, so has my attention and focus followed. I’ve gone against the advice I’ve given to so many startup entrepreneurs.   Keep your balance.  Don’t be consumed so deeply that you stop reading, writing, and exercising.

Effective growth and success comes from perspective, creativity, and positive energy.  Focusing from the time you wake up until you hit your pillow only on one thing without taking a breath once in a while will work against your intended motion.  Eventually you will run out of steam.

I’m looking forward to the next chapter of our lives and will work hard to keep the rhythm of reading, writing, and exercising as I locate the new center.  Time for JC to slow down to go faster.

 

Three Sins of Sales Management

Jack Daly SalesI just started Jack Daly’s book, Hyper Sales Growth , and as expected, it is solid.  Jack is the best speaker I have ever heard. I’ve probably heard him talk 4 times and every time it is powerful. His book flows like his talks, (although it’s not quite the same without all the screaming, profanity, and sweat flying as he jumps around on stage).

Jack opens the book with what I believe is the biggest thing I learned from his very first talk. The three sins of sales management that entrepreneurs make.

If you want to grow your business, you need to invest in your sales team. Duh! And to grow a sales team, you need the right sales leader.  The right sales leader can be the key to your success or the cause of your mediocrity.    Too many CEOs handle the sales management role the wrong way.

Sin #1. The CEO is the sales manager.   In this scenario, you are saying that the company only needs a part time CEO and a part time sales manager. Some of the time you will set the vision and some of the time you will be the sales manager (recruiting, coaching, training).   You can’t be both CEO and Sales manager. They are two very different jobs.

Sin #2. You promote the top sales guy to be the sales manager. In a live seminar, Jack would say something like this: “You dumb shits! You just lost your best sales person and now have a crappy sales manager.”   Selling and sales management are not the same skill set. It’s not the same personality.

Sin #3. Even worse, you promote the top sales guy to be the sales manager AND you expect him to keep selling!  Once again, Jack would let you have it for this one.   Now you have a person in your company who has the job of training the team, but is compensated for only selling their own deals.  Fail on fail.

Jack Daly is phenomenal. As it turns out, Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) in Atlanta is bringing Jack to speak at a one day sales expo. Thursday October 2 in Buckhead at the Intercontinental Hotel.  Mark your calendar.

In the meantime, if you are committing one of these sins of sales management, you better get right before Jack comes to town!

Predicting Your Crazy: Profile Your Team. DISC Profiles are Mandatory for Startup CEOs

 

“God is great. Beer is good, and people are crazy.” – Billy Currington

This is one of the best country song lyrics of all time.
As it turns out though, that people are crazy in entirely predictable ways.

A Pretty Typical Entrepreneur's DISC Profile

A Pretty Typical Entrepreneur’s DISC Profile

Early as an entrepreneur, I had a lot of exposure to personality profile systems and tools, but I never dove in.   I had an exec on my team who convinced me not to use them because he “can make the test say whatever he wants me to think is his personality style.”    That was pretty logical so I caved and we never implemented it. The part I missed is that if you want to skew the test, then the team learns about your results is helpful too! (Faked results can be even more helpful depending on some of the controls in the profiling system you use.)

My personal favorite profiles are DISC and HBDI. I’ve found DISC the most helpful in day-to-day thinking.   My own DISC profile is above, which anyone who knows me, won’t be surprised to see. I am a high “D” and high “I.” Until the last couple of years, I was a higher “I,” but lately my “D” has been coming up, so watch out, because I’m now pegged at 99, the highest possible score. :)   Also notice that extremely low “S” … meaning my preferences toward stability are pretty darn low. I love change, obviously.

DISC is helpful as an entrepreneur because you learn how people are wired to communicate. This isn’t pigeonholing anyone and you don’t make any important decisions based solely on a personality profile.  However, with a good DISC profile for your team, you will learn generally how each team member…

  • … prefers to communicate with you.
  • … prefers to communicate with each other.
  • … handles conflict.
  • … manages stress.
  • … likes to work (heads down vs. collaborative).
  • … learns the best (reading, writing, doing, talking, etc.).
  • … is best motivated.
  • … will behave in social settings.
  • … makes decisions and evaluates options.
  • … evaluates risk in their own life.

So many problems can be avoided and strengths can be leveraged when you have a solid understanding of personality profiles and each team member.

If this is new to you, here is a quick DISC 101:

  • High D’s. Decisive.  Think Donald Trump.      Characteristics:   Forceful, dariing, determined, competitive, driving.
  • High I’s. Interactive. Think Jim Carrey.  Characteristics: Persuasive, inspiring, enthusiastic, sociable.
  • High S’s. Stabilizing. Think Mother Teresa or Mr. Rogers.   Characteristics: Predictable, passive, complacent, stable.
  • High C’s. Cautious.  Think Joe Friday (“Just the Facts, Ma’am”).   Characteristics:  Perfectionist, systematic, careful, analytical.

As a CEO, I want my team to know my profile as well.  It helps them be prepared for my strong opinions and high-energy communication styles.

For core startup teams, it is imperative to have some of each style on your team. It is healthy and gives your team a higher likelihood of surviving the long haul when scaling changes the dynamics of growing your company.

  • D’s – generally the D’s will be the CEO and occasionally will be in a sales role. Make decisions quickly and act with “no fear” in more settings than the other profiles.
  • I’s – lots of I’s go into sales, but also do great in marketing. Great story tellers, actors, and persuaders.
  • S’s – this is your GM or COO. The checklist oriented glue that keeps the rest of the knuckleheads together. The chief rhythm officer to keep the cadence. The guy or gal who takes the plan seriously and has to be convinced if the CEO get’s a crazy idea to go “off plan.” (Ahem, ahem, which is hourly on most teams.)  My saying is this: “To an S, EVERYTHING is a big deal!”
  • C’s – You want the C’s managing the books and writing the code!  These are two things that need to be done with a perfectionist at the helm.
DISC Profiles on every desk in Dave Ramsey's building.

DISC Profiles on every desk in Dave Ramsey’s building.

Last fall I toured Dave Ramsey’s building in Nashville with my EO Forum. They have 300+ employees in the building and run an impressive operation. I was blown away to see that each team member (executive to admin) posts their DISC profile on their door or their desk as a reminder to anyone communicating with them “here is how I like to communicate.”  See pic here.  It was awesome to see that the HR folks were all high S’s and C’s while sales and marketing were the D’s and I’s.

Once you learn the DISC profiles, you will find that this knowledge finds it’s way into your day multiple times, every single day.   You will learn how to plan your communication strategies better and people all of a sudden start to make a whole lot more sense.

 

Resource Note: The free DISC Profile available on Tony Robbins site is, hands down the best free tool out there.

Bonus note:  If you lead a sales team, I highly recommend finding a trainer such as Jim Ryerson with Sales Octane to come in and help your front-line reps learn how to use DISC to communicate with their prospects and customers.   Communicating with the right style to the right person at the right time is a skill that can be learned and DISC provides the fundamentals of what they need to know.

Startup Steak and Startup Sizzle

 

Tell me your mouth Isn't watering right now.

Tell me your mouth Isn’t watering right now.

Let’s talk about Ruth’s Chris steaks.

When I think about RC, the first thing I think of is that awesome smell of butter melting on steaks when you walk into the room. It hits you in the face and is so deliciously intoxicating.

Then when the server describes to you all the features of the steak you’re about to order: where it’s from, how it’s prepared, etc, they tell you that it will arrive at your table sizzling on a 4000 degree hot plate (or whatever) covered in garlic butter.

Then when you finally get to cut into that first bite, it’s pretty much, absolutely, spot on perfect.

Every time.

I’ve never had an RC steak less than perfect.

At Voxa right now, all day long we are talking about, debating, and wrestling with our product’s steak vs. its sizzle.  No, it’s not because we have Ruth’s Chris every day for lunch… although, if any investors out there want to offer, perhaps it could become a company benefit.

It’s because every startup product has some steak and some sizzle.

Our steak is what people really buy. This is what they need. This is the point. It’s why they come to our restaurant.  If the actual steak at RC didn’t taste perfect every time then the sizzle would be a sham. It would be wasted effort, and probably would eventually cause folks to associate that smell with a bad steak. Pavlov Steak.  (Maybe I only like the sizzle because I’ve been trained Pavlov style to know that a good steak is coming.)

Startups and high-energy entrepreneurs love to talk about the sizzle. We love to promote it. Demos are best with sizzle.  Sales guys especially love to talk about features that cause the buyer to have a “Wow” reaction.

The steak at Voxa is pretty unsexy. We simply make Email to Salesforce.com work. Really work. Like bulletproof, brilliant, and automagic.  We take a really simple, annoying task and make it go away. That’s the steak. It’s a darn good steak (near perfect, I dare say), and our prospects are talking to us and buying from us because of this steak.

But….! We also have this delicious sizzle. Ahhh, the buttery delight of Natural Language Processing (NLP) for emails. The spice of automatically reading email and magically interpreting actions to do even more than just log the email in Salesforce, we will do everything else that needs to happen in Salesforce.

(Example: If today I say these words in an email to you “Voxa could be a fit” … my Voxa App has been told to interpret that to mean you are a lead for our sales team, and you will be automatically added as a Lead in my Salesforce.com account and assigned to a sales rep and probably called very soon. :)  I never had to even login to Salesforce for all this to happen, I just sent you the email and said the words.)

We are building this sizzle now, and it’s the most fun to build, admittedly. But when we sit down each week at our sprint review and evaluate priorities and the time allocation for the week, we (so far) have landed on the decision to keep the steak first priority and keep making it a better steak. Since we are so young we spend only a fraction of our limited engineering resources on the sizzle features.  Hopefully, this percentage of time will go up as we add engineering resources.

For my startup friends dealing with this: One day you will have it all, and it will all work together in clean harmony. Sizzle adding value to your steak.  You’ll get there, but having the discipline to prioritize the steak first is an important lesson that doesn’t come easy.

 

 

Making the Upside Down Org Chart Your Reality

 

Upside Down Org ChartWhen I was an undergrad at Georgia Tech, I had the opportunity to hear the legendary Jack Welch give a talk.  There are some talks like this one where a few bullet points stand out and stick with you. One that stuck with me was about the mentality headquarters.

Jack told his people: “If you are in GE headquarters, then you are here to support everyone else on the front lines.  You should receive more phone calls than you initiate. You shouldn’t be creating work for the front lines, you should be making their jobs easier.”

Other organizations call it an Upside Down Org chart.   Put the customer at the very top, then you have sales and front-line representatives, followed by team managers, and then at the very bottom, you have the executive team. Right there at the foundation, supporting the rest of the team.

In a growing startup, the CEO has to think about the shape of this chart every day. I’ve written before about the jobs of a startup CEO.   A CEO’s main duty on a daily basis is to support the team.  When you’ve handled job #1, and made sure that the company has the financial resources to pay the right people for the right roles, then it’s time to support them.  Here are some tactical ways that I am trying to be better at supporting Team Voxa.

1. Have more unscheduled time than scheduled time.  My friend Dan Kurzius over at Mailchimp taught me this. His calendar remains largely open so that he is there to bounce around and help team members all day.  This is the one I struggle with the most and have written about it before.

2. Don’t take on tasks for yourself.   Also something I’ve written about, but still it’s hard.  When you love creating, it’s so easy to say “I’ll handle that one.”  I’ll write that marketing copy, spec that product, make that proposal, etc… but what I’m finding is that for each task I put on my plate I am hurting the company more than I’m helping the company.

3. Prioritize your team over others.    CEOs have a ton of inbound pings and requests for attention. Vendors, investors, other entrepreneurs, other commitments. It’s important to be intentional about showing the team that they come first, that they are your first priority. It will sting to turn down some of those distractions, but being there for the team is important.

4. Avoid the urge to be the one creating all the processes.   There are a ton of processes to be created in a startup. From sales processes to onboarding, to engineering/spring planning, dev ops, daily stand ups, employee onboarding… In my experience, while helping the team understand that intentional, well-designed processes for every single thing we do are extremely important, it’s not necessary that the CEO actually create them. Just that the CEO help reinforce their importance.

5. Let go. Allow failure.   If you want your team to become resilient, antifragile, and committed. It’s important that you allow them to find their own way. Let experiments happen. Let them lose deals.  By letting go, you create an entrepreneurial culture where everyone has true ownership of their role on the team.  It’s hard to watch, when it’s so easy to jump in and handle it yourself. But jumping in does nothing for helping the team member grow.

6. Understand the personality/DISC profiles of your team.   Put this in the category of “Things I wish I knew 15 years ago.”    You can learn so much about people when you have a firm grasp on DISC and the primary personality types. This will help you predict with great precision when someone is going to handle a task/project well, how it’s going to go for them, and how you can help.   We have leaned on DISC and HBDI for the teams at the Atlanta Tech Village and Team Voxa and I can honestly say I don’t know how I ever built teams without these tools before. If you aren’t doing DISC, here is the best one I’ve ever seen, and it’s free.

7. Have a core team.  As a CEO, you need an inner circle. Whether you call it  a Management Team, or Executive Team, Partners, Founders, whatever… it doesn’t matter. You need a core circle, even from the very beginning where you have added meeting cadences to be together, to evaluate your progress, to ask hard questions, to consider dramatic changes, and to keep the oxygen of ideas flowing into the company.    Be sure that each major functional area of the company is represented in your core circle — Sales, Product, Marketing, and Customer Support.

An upside down org chart is more than a cute talking point for culture. It is a leadership mindset.

Day 1 in the smallest of startups isn’t too early to start building these habits that will make your team and your company more successful… and tons more enjoyable for everyone, by the way.