They say the first 90 days after closing a round is a decisive moment: you have 18 months to multiply the valuation and do it all over again — what’s your plan?
The other decisive moment, of course, is the 90 days leading up to the closing of a round: a moment of truth, the company stands in judgement — will it be found worthy?
The opening chapter comes immediately after the closing chapter, so it is that in your moment of triumph and exhaustion, you make the decisions and the mistakes on which you will be judged in a near future that still feels quite distant.
Every chapter has a shape which becomes known to the palm of its holder. If every chapter is divided into 18 months, its shape is not revealed until about half way through. Before that, you have to guess.
Working from what I know, to what I don’t know: I know seasons. I know that there are two seasons prime for business development: the fall season — from September 1st through November 14th — and spring, “when kings go to war” — March 14th through May 31st.
In these two seasons, the executive is internally unavailable, engrossed — entangled, committed, absorbed — by external activities: fundraising, hiring, selling. This is a vulnerable period, in which the executive is not well equipped to handle an internal attack, an attack on its “supply chain”, “base of operations,” “headquarters,” “castle.” When the executive goes to war, it is in an aggressive posture, and its defenses are weak. When you raise money from investors, or visit your client’s offices, or spend time wooing prospective hires, you are metaphorically attacking the enemy’s base, but leaving your own.
If something goes wrong at home, you have to break off your attack, retreat, come back, and deal with it — which lifts your siege of the enemy, and cancels all the momentum gained in the campaign.
An aborted campaign, at best, puts downward pressure on the company’s trajectory, but at worst, it threatens its survival. Campaign seasons are short, and a successful campaign depends on pressure mounting to an overwhelming pitch.
You can attack more aggressively, plunge deeper into enemy territory, encircle and maneuver freely if you have nothing to defend. If you don’t have to worry about your supply chain, if you don’t have to protect your castle or provide its defense, if you trust the ministers you left in charge of the administration of your kingdom and its people, then you can attack fearlessly, take more risks, use more aggressive tactics, and operate asymmetrically: greatly improving your odds of exacting a swift and decisive surrender.
So it is that putting your house in order in the winter and summer off-seasons gives you a decisive advantage in the spring and fall campaigns.
When are we? We are in the summer off-season. These are the steps I am taking to put my house in order, to prepare for the fall campaign season.
OPERATION: MUSIC. This is the master operation for the summer under which everything sits. The theme of Operation: Music is ORGANIZATION. Although we’re improving the way we organize time, information, communications, and project management, by the end of August, the broader goal is to achieve a state of maximum organization, potential energy, shih.
These are a few of its sub-operations:
1. Operation: Aurora. Every morning, daily inspiration taken from a book by a dead person is sent to the company over email: in text, audio and video format. Soon we will also send a brief video recording talking through one slide per day, with messages reinforcing our vision, strategy, culture, values and principles.
2. Operation: Warmachine. I’m operating as acting COO and Marshall as VP of Operations, so that he can put the team and systems we need in place to scale operations to 3X our current capacity by the end of this year, and 12X by the end of next year.
3. Operation: Golden Days. We are giving our people rest. We are forcing them to take paid vacations this summer. We are slowing them down from war-state to steady-state and finding a sustainable operating cadence.
4. Operation: Tentacles. I am listening; giving them a chance to talk and be heard. I am spending a lot of time with them. I am asking questions and taking notes. I am making sure that their ideas, concerns and questions are acted upon. I have implemented and am iterating on a management framework that efficiently escalates problems, gives me situational awareness, builds relationships and allows me to delegate through the hierarchy.
5. Operation: Kinsmen. We are rewarding partners. Both through salary increases, equity grants and promotions when warranted. We are making sure that our best people feel secure.
6. Operation: Gideon. We have already purged the partnership and Marshall and Erinn are in the midst of purging the agency to make sure that everyone who remains is high-performing, committed, aligned, in the right roles and set up to succeed.
7. Operation: Flying Formation. Erinn and I are doing an organizational design exercise based on honest feedback on people’s strengths and weaknesses, making reporting structure adjustments, and identifying gaps to hire for.
8. Operation: Eye Of A Needle. Erinn is upgrading our hiring system, specifically how we interview and evaluate candidates, to make it even more selective and streamlined, and result in more aligned hires that are a true fit for our culture and their roles.
9. Operation: Grand Master. We are building a unified company roadmap, integrating OKRs for Q3 across all teams, and plans for Q4 and Q1 2020. There should be one giant GANTT chart SSOT for company strategy. We are also upgrading the way we do research.
10. Operation: Glass Box. We are expanding our transparency-as-marketing efforts by scrubbing and publishing company email, Google Drive, and Zoom archives on Medium, YouTube and other social channels.
11. Operation: AGILE Company. We’ve moved the whole company to AGILE and introduced a unified company calendar to streamline meetings, systematically keep teams in sync, reduce overall load, and improve outcomes.
12. Operation: Christmas Every Week. The product and engineering teams have dramatically improved the frequency of deployments, the relevance of those deployments to Operations and Customer Success, and the underlying speed and stability of the platform. This has already resulted in “Christmas” deployment emails several times a week.
13. Operation: Super Soldier. We’ve promoted Aimee Samac to Chief of Staff, hired Novia Plummer as EA underneath her, and are building a dedicated Executive Support Team to operate as Keats, so that when the fall campaign season rolls around, I can operate like a Super Soldier by tapping into all this firepower behind me.
14. Operation: Balrog. Keats is mining the networks of all partners, agents, investors, advisors and mafia members to identify prospective hires, clients and investors, and prepare to ask for intros for the fall campaign season.
15. Operation: Stone Age. Thanks to Scott and Zach, we’re no longer in the stone age, as we’ve now integrated all of our applications into a single data warehouse and have a powerful real-time analytics platform built on top of that, which we’re empowering everyone in the company to use.
16. Operation: Panopticon. We’ve now rolled out Teramind for all agents, and so we have a constant video and metadata stream of all activity on their systems, improving our security and automation profile.
17. Operation: Pricing 3.0. Tyler is upgrading pricing, positioning, and onboarding. We’re moving to results based pricing for our core packages, with role-based positioning to match, at the end of July, although phased deployment begins this week. We’re also streamlining and improving our onboarding experience.
18. Operation: COGS Reduction Framework. Both Ric and Sebastiaan will be attacking this from different angles, but by the end of the summer, we need a framework in place for measuring, understanding and controlling every aspect of our unit economics and margins, so that we can systematically reduce COGS through financial, growth and operations adjustments, and through platform and automation upgrades.
19. Operation: Inside Job. Jay, Bruno and Atusa are working on expanding our Customer Success Manager’s presence inside of our client’s organizations, by asking for invitations to internal meetings, so that we can take notes and suggest things for our clients to delegate.
20. Operation: Unlimited Meetings Machine 2.0. Aimee built an unlimited meetings machine to support me with Fundraising in the spring, now Bruno is upgrading and expanding that to support Jay as he ramps up our outbound sales efforts.
Delegated Operations. Every member of the management team has a number of operations that are not reflected here.
By September 1, we’ll be ready to go back to war.