Category: Leadership

“Good guys don’t have zombie creatures in the basement” – Dr. Who

Somewhere, sometime, someone figured out that if you want to appear on the cutting edge of hip, high energy, innovative startup leadership, you have to be a foul mouthed jerk.  In fact, jerkism seems to be celebrated in large events and a lot of media.  Perhaps it’s because Level 5 leaders are not the kind that get invited to speak at entrepreneurial conferences.  Perhaps jerks portray the type of take-no-prisoner personality some believe it takes to successfully launch and grow a company.

I paid for a webinar once.  It was branded as a great chance to meet the founder of a super successful social media startup.  The introductions were quick and soon it became a contest between the interviewer and the founder as to who could get in the most f-bombs.

No one likes to work for a jerk.  No ones want’s to be in business with a jerk.  No one really wants to invest in a jerk.

You can be determined, focused and to the point without thumping everyone’s nose with your arrogance.  Express yourself as you see fit but realize you won’t get there by yourself.  Eventually you will have more zombies than you can hide in your basement.


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung

When the time comes for you invite people on the bus, you should be very deliberate about some things that may not be obvious.  Being able to get along and collaborate are important, of course, and the time to start thinking about company culture is with the first employee.

But in the startup days, time is of the essence and it’s about getting to the market as quickly as possible.  The people you bring on need to be aligned with that goal whether they are engineers, programmers, finance or marketing people.  If they are good at what they do, grab them.  They may irritate you but you need to surround yourself with smart people who are willing to disagree with the boss.  That way, you will get the information you need to make good decisions.

Draw the line at fighting and insubordination but ask yourself this, if someone who is good at what they do takes issue with you or you find them irritating, figure out why.  You may learn something about yourself.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Seems like voter apathy has been around awhile.  In Tennessee, they only expect about 1/3 of registered voters will participate in this year’s election.

Steve Case was on Charlie Rose last night to provide a very interesting update on entrepreneurship in America.  His current job is Chairman of the Startup America Partnership, appointed the the President of the United States.  Central to that discussion was the government’s role in helping startups and entrepreneurs be successful.  This includes federal and state initiatives.  A big one is the recent passage of the 2012 Jobs Act which has made equity based crowd funding possible.  Now if the SEC can get through the sausage making of creating the rules, maybe it will happen soon.  Since 2009 Tennessee has enjoyed a state sponsored  program called TNInvestco which made $200 million in insurance tax credits available to create 10 seed stage venture capital funds.  The National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy have deployed technology commercialization programs specifically aimed at getting technology out of the research lab through startups.

Here’s the thing – a lot of entrepreneurs we work with are by nature, skeptical of government but our federal, state and local governments have supported entrepreneurship like never before.  Entrepreneurs have a big time stake in our government’s role in entrepreneurial support.

So should you get involved?

Please vote today!

“The further you are from the action, the more you need policies to control people you don’t know and outcomes you can’t see.” – Dan Rockwell

The heady startup days are a time when all hands are on deck and titles aren;t as important as getting things done.  If you survive to make it to the growth stage, you will have to hire more people who do things you will not be aware of or even understand.  You simply cannot keep a tight reign on everything.  You will also find you spend ever more time being the boss rather than being the entrepreneur, the innovator, the inventor.

This is a necessary transition in companies that grow.  Not all entrepreneurs make the change which is why the founder of a successful startup may not be the CEO at the growth stage.  The thing to keep in mind is this – The day will come when you can’t make all the decisions.  The choices are these:

  • Make the transition
  • Continue as Chief Development Officer and let someone else take on being “the boss”
  • Exit
  • Do nothing, stay a lifestyle business

The avoidance of company rules, bureaucracy and policies may be one of the reasons you chose to do a startup in the first place.  But be aware that your ability to grow is dependent on making the transition from closely managed to process management.

“At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Norman Lear, who is 92 years old, was on the Tavis Smiley Show last night.  Mr. Lear said he couldn’t remember from whom he heard the quote but a quick Google search identified Mr. von Goethe as the source.  Mr. Lear shared a moment of decision when the studio threatened to fire him.  He checked with his attorney to see if they could take his wife and kids.  Then he said, “back up the truck.”

The point is to take action on your dreams.  Until you decide to commit to something, nothing is sure.  This includes people out there who want to help you.  Once you make a move, someone you know will come along and say, “you need to talk to this person.”  Opportunities will cross your path that seem random but they are not.

We spend too much time on all the risks that keep us from moving forward.  The world needs great ideas and great leaders.  We are waiting to follow someone.  Get on with it!

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Can you imagine Steve Jobs showing up for a paycheck? It’s nice to get paid. It’s essential to believe.” – Seth Godin

Sooner or later you will face a crisis of belief.  It seems to happen more often these days and it shows up everywhere.  A revered leader is dismissed over hubris and egotism.  A venerable church splits over a contemporary moral issue.  A veteran teacher struggles with a new job evaluation process.  A loyal employee is laid off due to a decision made in another city over numbers on a spreadsheet and shareholder value.

Crisis reveals hidden truth.  You learn what people really believe when their credibility is at stake and it’s surprising to learn how indifferent and selfish we tend to be.

Adjust your lifestyle to accommodate mobility and flexibility.  Save money in the good times.  When it all goes to hell, then go make your own meaning.  In fact, just go make your own meaning, period.

Read Tribes by Seth Godin

BloggingGazelle is publish daily by Shawn Carson



“The best way to build cohesiveness is to suffer,…” – Guy Kawasaki

“…and you can’t suffer if your butt is sitting in a $700 Herman Mller Chair in a beautiful building.”

It takes every penny you can muster to build your company and get your product in the hands of your customer.  The money your investors gave you is meant for that; not for supporting a nice office and a lavish lifestyle.

The best work your people will ever do for you is the work they choose to donate.  You want them thinking about your mission on the weekends and in the middle of the night and here’s the thing: You can never pay enough for that.  It only comes to you when they choose to give it. If they ever feel like their efforts are supporting your hubris, then you will get less than you pay for and the best will find someone else to donate their time to.


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker

You culture is important which means your people are important.  A good leader spends a lot of time communicating vision and strategy.  Alignment with the vision is important.  One person in a small company can hijack the vision, strategy and the culture.

Jim Collins says get the right people on the bus before you decide where the bus is going.  This means getting the wrong people off the bus, as soon as possible.

Skill vs. cultural fit.  It’s hard to put one over the other.  Both are vital. Perhaps they are equal.


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Why do we value leadership, connection and grace? Because it’s scarce, and that scacity creates value.” – Seth Godin

True leadership is proven during crisis.  That’s the time when blame is assigned.  That’s the time when the faint of heart bail out.  And that’s time supporters decide what’s in their interest rather than the interest of the organization.

This is why leadership is scarce even if the requisite skills are there.  Few want to deal with the risk and the disappointment.

Our thirst for blame and our fear of risk lead us to sack the one responsible in the short term rather than doing the hard work.  Grace is an unknown virtue in the real time updates of our modern social construct.  The hard work is figuring out the complexity of the problem and discovering a better path.  It’s the failure that brings the learning.

A good leader that gets sacked can always take the learning to the next opportunity.  Those that remain are left to repeat history because the learning was rejected in favor of ego.

Read Grace by Seth Godin


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson