One of the most challenging skills to develop as a first-time entrepreneur is storytelling. Most startups I’m lucky enough to advise face this problem. They’re solving a meaningful problem and have great tech but struggle to tell their story.
One of the most significant parts they struggle with is how to show momentum and validation when they don’t clearly have them. For example, how do you show validation for your solution when you haven’t even launched it? How do you show validation for a marketplace business model when you haven’t even started selling?
That’s when you get creative and apply…
When our company grew from 30 to 60 people, I reached out to 10 CEOs of startups that grew their companies to around 500 people. I had one question: “What broke in your company as you doubled and tripled in size?” Everyone had one answer: communication. “Make sure you have 3–5 yearly goals that are communicated constantly to the entire organization,” many of them said.
We followed their advice and did just that as we grew BenchSci to over 100 people. We started 2020 with a company-wide presentation. We shared with everyone our 5 yearly goals. …
“I didn’t fly all the way here to read a report” was one of the best pieces of feedback I ever got from an investor.
We had just finished a quarterly board meeting after spending three hours reviewing the information package I prepared. “I don’t want to fly all the way here to read a report I can read myself,” he continued. “We should talk about more strategic topics and make decisions.”
I took the feedback to heart and revamped interactions with my board. …
There’s a famous Medium blog post by Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, called “Don’t Fuck Up the Culture.” In it, he writes:
After we closed our Series C with Peter Thiel in 2012, we invited him to our office. This was late last year, and we were in the Berlin room showing him various metrics. Midway through the conversation, I asked him what was the single most important piece of advice he had for us.
He replied, “Don’t fuck up the culture.”
Solid advice, to be sure. But before you can fuck up the culture, you have to build…
Disappointment results from misaligned expectations.
Most people realize this, but few are honest about its implications. And this is especially true for hiring.
I’ve tried to avoid that pitfall. In the early days at BenchSci, I interviewed everyone we hired (I stopped when we reached about 50 people). When I did, I always had a frank conversation with everyone we planned to make an offer.
The conversation centered on one theme: the likelihood that they or the company would outgrow the other. …
One of the challenges of being CEO of a growing startup is maintaining control without directly controlling everything. Once a company hits around 70 people, you must extract yourself from day-to-day operations, give your leadership team autonomy, and hold them accountable for goals.
But to do so, you need alignment, information flow, and accountability, with minimum overhead. How?
That’s where your company operating system comes in. It’s the machinery of planning, reporting, and accounting for activity. And the best way to build it is around a cadence framework.
At BenchSci, we designed our company operating system around a cadence of…
Over the past five years, I have probably worked around 80 hours a week, every week. While this was doable before kids, it became increasingly more challenging with the arrival of my first and then my second (perfect) children.
Over the years, I have asked for advice about CEO workload from founders and CEOs who have had large exits. Their responses weren’t particularly encouraging:
“How did I manage to do this with kids? Simple: I had kids after we exited.” (I got this advice from two people who built multi-billion-dollar companies.)
“There are usually five dimensions in your life: health…
How often do you give others at work and home solutions to their problems without them having asked? It’s a common habit of founders. We’re in perpetual problem-solving mode. We have a massive bias to solve problems as fast as possible, and it’s tough to control.
My experience as CEO of a company doubling each year has proven to me that sometimes this bias is bad. As your company grows beyond the founding team, it gets harder to steer the team and implement changes. …
In 2017, I was about to make our first business hire. This person was to lead one of our most important functions.
I met with our investors to run it by them. “He looks good on paper, and we are supportive, but whatever you do, don’t make him a VP,” they said.
I pushed back but agreed to follow their advice. Six months later, I understood that advice and was grateful for taking it.
Let me explain why — and a better approach.
Many first-time founders have been through this.
You need to hire someone to lead a function in…
I recently hired a Chief of Staff (CoS) to support my unsustainable growing workload. It has been one of my best decisions. Our CoS immediately returned 30 to 40 hours a month while elevating everything she took over.
Since then, other CEOs have asked me what a CoS does and if they should hire one. My answer to the second question is yes! My answer to the first is the detailed explanation below.
When deciding to hire a CoS, I sought someone to do two things:
CEO of BenchSci, husband, father and constant work in progress