Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Help Yourself, Help another Entrepreneur, Serve on a Board


In my work with Atlanta Ventures and Atlanta Tech Village, I’ve had the opportunity to help and advise many dozens of companies in 2013. It’s amazing how much you can learn by helping other people. I wrote about this over a year ago and labeled it Selfish Generosity. The idea continues to be a top 5 key to finding goodness in everything.

Sometimes startup entrepreneurs only need someone to listen to them process their issues. Just describing problems out loud, is often all they need to get to an answer.  Other times, they have a major roadblock that you can solve with one introduction for them.   The issue with most help we provide is that it is superficial and short term. We have  friends and contacts, but it takes some structure for us to take deep dives and find long term ways to help. One great idea I recommend to entrepreneurs to help yourself by helping others is to serve on a Board of another company.

In short, I agree with Brad Feld, that All CEOs should be an Outside Director for One Company. To have the big picture perspective on someone else’s companies, helps you put your own challenges and struggles in the right view.

There are so many reasons why CEOs can gain value from serving on another Board:

  • Your own Network – by participating in another group to help move another needle, you will be exposed to people that you may not otherwise encounter
  • Your own Rhythm – keeping in pace with other company board meetings, tracking their progress, will help you put your own rhythm in place for your own company and your own board
  • Your own Discipline – this is what I love most about Board meetings is the requirement to get your s**tuff together once a quarter. Financials. Progress on goals. Accountability to your action items. By learning from other companies, you can be inspired and less intimidated by focused discipline required to please a Board.
  • Fresh Ideas – All too often, we entrepreneurs dive deep into our own world and only come out for food and beer. Looking at other industries, new technologies, different team structures, other peoples’ financials can give you fuel for your own creativity that is hard to gain by reading the same blogs and Twitter Discover links

For more thoughts, I encourage you to read Brad’s post.


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