Great entrepreneurs keep the basics front and center. Some of the best ideas and opportunities flame out when leaders lose sight of this basic reality.
Curate talent. Most CEOs understand that team matters. They have an intuitive sense for attracting talent. They understand what it takes to assemble a team of excellence. They recognize this as a core strategic imperative. And they know how to excite, energize and motivate while making the entire team feel like a true owner with a real stake in the vision.
So tap your network-including those around the Board table-to direct you to talent. Be bold. And yet never lose sight of the fact that as a company grows its needs will change and you will likely need to reallocate resources or reprioritize. The best have a knack for embracing change.
Communicate. All constituents require good communications. It seems obvious but often it is lost on hard driving CEOs focused intensely on day to day survival. The best way to erode confidence and squander goodwill is to lose sight of this basic tenet. Bring senior management into the Board room of your venture backed company. Get them to participate and experience the dialogue. And beyond core management, employees should be given a sense of ownership through communication of key performance metrics. Keep in mind that employees traded cash compensation for equity, gave up relative job security and embraced long grueling hours and are entitled to have at least a basic understanding of how the company is performing.
The Board most certainly requires solid information and actual communication beyond the periodic deck. Good communication inoculates the CEO. While it may seem like a needless use of time given the exigencies of business at the time a healthy engagement with the Board-whether in one-on-ones, formal meetings or social settings- is essential to generating critical support and buy-in, and facilitates coalition building. Think of it as a way to build goodwill that you will be able to bank upon in the future. You will better understand how far you can take an approach and gage risk tolerance. It allows you to avoid the backlash that invariably comes with surprise and lack of information. And you might pick up a good idea along the way.
Mind the math. And yes math matters. While few emerging growth companies are cash flow positive in the early days every CEO needs to keep an eye on cash burn. Manage it. Stay ahead of it. Allow for contingencies. Don't assume things will go according to plan. Build a cushion. It may seem like common sense or a cliche but do whatever it takes to extend the runway and control burn. And be prepared to take immediate action in the face of a threat to limit damage. Delay due to wishful thinking, misguided beliefs or just ineffective management can be devastating. Do not be hesitant to draw upon the expertise of key Board members or other advisors.
Drive to execution. But no matter what you do, drive to execution. Stay focused. Do whatever it takes to get to the next valuation plateau so that you will be able to attract the next round of capital. Don't be afraid to pivot. Listen to the feedback from the markets and team. Leverage yourself. Stay passionate. Repeat.