Tag: Entrepreneurship

Jan 29 2015

How Does A Small Company Make A Big Company Successful?

tl;dr: As a small company, focus on two things with big companies: “1. What can we, the small company do, to make the big company successful? 2. What can I do, as a leader of a small company, do to help the people I’m working with at the big company be successful within the big company?”

I was on the phone yesterday with the head of corp dev for a very large tech company. He and I had never talked before so it was an intro meeting, although brokered by a long term colleague at that company. It’s a tech company we’ve had many interactions at many levels with over the years – some good, some bad, some complex, and some perplexing. Over a long period of time, these interactions, and many others that I’ve had with other big companies, have shaped my view on interacting with large tech companies.

When I started investing in 1994, I was involved with a few large companies. My first company (Feld Technologies) was one of the first Microsoft Solution Providers (Dwayne Walker, are you still out there somewhere?) At the beginning I was still working for AmeriData when I started investing. AmeriData was a public company, a voracious acquirer (we acquired 40 companies in three years), and a very fast growing business (they were less than $50 million in revenue when they acquired Feld Technologies and over $2 billion in revenue three years later when GE acquired them.) For a short time I was connected into GE via their acquisition of AmeriData (I still have my GE business card with the “meatball logo” on it.) During the same time, I started working as an affiliate to Softbank which was a large Japanese company acquiring minority and majority interests in lots of US companies. By the time I co-founded what became Mobius Venture Capital, Softbank (our sponsor – at the time we were called Softbank Venture Capital) was the key investor in Yahoo, E*trade, and a number of other large US-based Internet companies.

I used to think that these large companies had a clear view on how to help small companies. I was seduced by Microsoft’s Solution Provider program into thinking that Microsoft had the long-term interest of Feld Technologies (and then subsequent companies that I invested in, including ePartners, Gold Systems, and NewsGator) at heart. I participated in a number of meetings with Yahoo in the late 1990s as a member of the Softbank team and listened to the vision of what Yahoo wanted to do to help the ecosystem. I spouted all kinds of garbage and nonsense about what we were doing as part of the broader Softbank ecosystem to help advance the cause of Softbank while at the same time helping startups everywhere, especially the ones we had invested in. I had the notion that whenever I ended up in a meeting in GE, I could get GE to do something with one of the companies I was an investor in to help them out. When I invested in the Feld Group, we even set up an initiative to help startups getting connected into the very large Feld Group clients, which included companies like Southwest Airlines, Delta, Home Depot, First Data, and Burlington Northern.

For over a decade, I heard and made happy talk from two directions – that of the investor in a startup and that of the partner of a big company that was looking to work with startups. That we were building an ecosystem. That we’d do all kinds of vague and unspecified things together in the name of innovation. Many drinks were had, many conversations were enjoyed, and many plans were hatched. And very, very little got done.

Around 2004, after the dust on the mess that was my world post-Internet bubble settled and I shifted into a mode where I grinded it out at Mobius until we started Foundry Group in 2007,  I decided I was thinking about it completely wrong. I came to these conversations wondering what the big company could do. Sure, I considered the skills and capabilities of the startup, but I was always trying to figure out and anticipate how the big company could help the startup.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

My first adjustment was realizing that whenever I counted on a big company to do something to help a startup, I generally was disappointed. Often, even if the big company wasn’t trying to harm or limit the small company, they often did. This is what causes so many VCs to be wary of corporate investors, especially ones who come to the table with strings attached to a financial investment. But I saw it in all of the partnership dynamics, product roadmaps, build vs. buy decisions, shifting leadership and goals, and conflicting big company product teams. It’s not that the big company couldn’t do something to help a startup, it is just that the startup shouldn’t count on it as a critical input into its success.

Then I realized that the big company has no fundamental obligation to the startup. For a while, I carried around a purist thought of mutual innovation. I got involved in huge investment efforts on small companies to try to satisfy the needs of a big company in the context of a partnership. I’m not talking about a sales situation – separate that out – but rather a long-term business partnership, joint development, or technology partnership. In these cases, the large company puts up no money, but people engage to work with the small company. And the small company puts huge effort into the project for free with the hope of a payoff at the end. The opportunity cost for the big company is tiny while the opportunity cost, and often the direct costs, for the small company is enormous. In hindsight this is a clear imbalance. It’s easy to fix and align the parties, either through money flowing from the big company to the small company, or via clear rules of engagement between the two, but if you assume the big company has no fundamental obligations to a startup, you can’t get hurt too badly.

The turning point for me was a specific time I experienced a large company totally fuck over a long-term partner that had gone all in on their relationship. This large company benefited enormously – both directly (via product sales) and indirectly (via market reputation and customer love) from the small company over a period of several years. But, one day, the large company decided to do something that drastically undermined the business of the small company, and no level of effort could generate a discussion between the two companies about it or a path forward that was supportive of the small company.

I realized that was a consistent pattern in my world. Large companies have whatever agenda they have. They have no responsibility to the small company beyond whatever legal contract exists, which often is heavily weighted in favor of the large company. Strategies change. Executives change. The macro changes. Exogenous forces, that the small company can do absolutely nothing about, regularly cause havoc for the large company.

Rather than be mad, hate the large company, feel like a victim, or behave like an abused spouse or child that sticks around and keeps coming back for more, accept that you are fully responsible for your own destiny. And that instead of expecting something from the big company, you should be focusing on doing specific things that help the big company while advancing your goal as a small company.

It was subtle to me at the time, but totally obvious to me now. In the conversation I had yesterday, I gave some direct, constructive feedback on situations where startups I’m an investor in had felt abused, mistreated, or deceived by the big company. But I was clear that none of these were fundamentally issues for the big company. They hadn’t done anything illegal, but they had damaged their reputation with me and with many VCs and entrepreneurs I knew. I was willing to give feedback from my perspective, but I had absolutely no expectation that the company would do anything about the past or behave differently in the future.

This corp dev leader was gracious. He listened, accepted the feedback constructively, suggested that the reputational dynamic mattered a lot to him and the company, and acknowledged that the only way to improve was to keep trying. I said I was always happy to start with a completely clean slate and try again. But for me, this doesn’t mean having false hopes and expectations that something magical will happen. Instead, I start from the focus with every engagement point of “what can we, the small company, do to help you, the big company, be successful.” If I can’t figure that out in an unambiguous way that we, the small company, can afford to try, then it’s not worth the engagement.

JFK’s words, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” echo in my mind. Modify it slightly as startup: “Ask not what big company can do for you – ask what you can do for big company.

Comments
Jan 13 2015

Book: Crazy is a Compliment

If you are in Boulder and you haven’t heard of Linda Rottenberg, you are in for a treat. She’s the founder / CEO of Endeavor and recently joined the board of Zayo. Dan Caruso, the CEO / co-founder of Zayo is hosting an event tonight at eTown Hall interviewing Linda about her new book Crazy is a Compliment.

I read the book last night. After a long Monday, I realized I had three physical copies on my desk at home (that had come from different friends) and I still hadn’t read it. That didn’t seem right, especially since I’m having dinner with Linda, Dan, and a small group of people tonight. So I gobbled it up last night.

Before I get into the book, there are still a few seats available for the event tonight. If you are into entrepreneurship, I highly recommend you attend the fireside chat between Linda and Dan from 5pm to 7pm (Tuesday, 1/13/15).

I’ve known of Linda for a while through her work at Endeavor and finally met her for the first time in March 2013 in Rio while I was at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress. Among other things, she roped me into giving a Day1 talk, which was extremely fun to do. If you’ve never seen mine, it’s below.

Ok – on to the book. It’s dynamite. Like my upcoming book Startup Opportunities (which you can pre-order now – hint, hint), it’s aimed at first time and aspiring entrepreneurs. Linda is an amazing storyteller and builds the book around stories from her own experience as well as many of the entrepreneurs who have been affiliated with Endeavor programs. Her stories are all in first person and powerful to read – very personal, easily consumed, and full of lessons.

She weaves the stories into three major sections: Get Going, Go Big, and Go Home. Get Going is about getting started. Go Big is about scaling. Go Home is about getting harmony between work and life.

Linda breaks entrepreneurial companies into four categories:

  • Gazelles: super high growth (I use the same word in Startup Opportunities)
  • Skunks: inside corporations – what is tediously referred to in academia as intrapreneurship
  • Dolphins: social entrepreneurship
  • Butterflies: small, local businesses

I loved her taxonomy and will use it going forward. Then, on page 90, I did something I rarely do when reading a hardcover book – I dogeared the page so I’d come back to it. On this page Linda defined four types of entrepreneurs using labels I’d never seen before.

  • Diamond: Visionary dreamers leading disruptive ventures (Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin / Larry Page, Ted Turner, George Lucas, Elon Musk)
  • Star: Charismatic individuals building personality brands (Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Richard Branson, Estee Lauder, Giorgio Armani, Jay-Z)
  • Transformer: Change makers reenergizing traditional industries (Howard Schultz, Ray Kroc. Ingvar Kamprad, Anita Roddick, Blake Mycoskie)
  • Rocketship: Analytical thinkers making strategic improvements (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Fred Smith, Michael Dell, Mike Bloomberg)

This categorization totally nailed it and she went on to spend a lot of time discussing different entrepreneurial personalities. Throughout, Linda used examples from all over the world, drawing from the broad range that Endeavor has covered over the 17 years it has been around.

As someone who has spent the last six months immersed in writing a book aimed at first time and aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s pretty cool read one from a totally different experience set, with so many different stories, and feel lots of conceptual overlap. If I’m describing you when you see the phrase “first time or aspiring entrepreneur”, grab Crazy is a Compliment and pre-order Startup Opportunities. And, if you are in Boulder tonight, come check out the fireside chat.

Comments
Jan 5 2015

If You Want A Response, Ask Specific Questions

I try to respond to all of my emails. I’ve always been like this – it’s just part of my value system. I used to be annoyed by other people who don’t, but I let go of that emotion a long time ago. But I still try to respond to all of my emails. A big hint, which is the reason for this post, is to ask specific questions if you want a real response.

Part of my morning drill is to systematically go through all the emails from the previous night. I usually end up at close to – or at – inbox zero when I finish this drill. Over the course of the week I get a little behind on non-urgent stuff so I end up responding to them over the weekend.

The result is a lot of what I like to call cliche loops. Here’s an example of the “will you look at our business, no, will you make a referral” loop.

Cliche Loop

Fortunately I use Yesware so I can respond quickly via templates I’ve already set up. Here’s how the more detailed conversation goes:

Entrepreneur: Happy New Year!  Attached is the our BP. Please let me know if you are interested to talk.

Me: Thx for reaching out again. I took a look – I don’t think it’s something we’d be into investing in but hope to run into you at anonymous-place at some point.

Entrepreneur: Thanks for the quick reply. Can we apply for the techstars?

Me: Of course!

Entrepreneur: Thanks for the advice. If you are willing, can you please comment on our BP? We wish you can be our advisor.

Me: I can’t be “an advisor” in any formal way. I’m also not part of the selection process for Techstars so I encourage you to just apply.

Entrepreneur: Thanks. We understand. You turned down our BP almost right away. So we are really appreciated if you can tell us what we can improve, or whats wrong there.

Me: I wrote a post about saying no in 60 seconds a while ago – https://www.feld.com/archives/2009/06/say-no-in-less-than-60-seconds.html. Your overview is ok – just not something I’m into.

Entrepreneur: Thanks for the detailed message. Do you have any other investors that you can point us to?

Me: Re: Asking for a referral – I wrote a blog about this a while ago – I hope it makes sense. https://www.feld.com/archives/2007/11/dont-ask-for-a-referral-if-i-say-no.html

Now, I’m not try to be an asshole with my responses. I’m just trying to get through one of “yet another email I’m not interested in” and be polite to the sender. If the entrepreneur had asked me any specific questions about his business, I would have tried to answer it or said “sorry – I have no clue” if I have no clue. But all of the questions are of the “please engage more with us” kind. Even the most specific question “So we are really appreciated if you can tell us what we can improve, or whats wrong there.” is painfully generic.

I realize that part of the reason I’m writing the book Startup Opportunities is so that I can point people like this at it. I get between one and five emails like this a day and have for a long time. I’m happy to get them – I just wish I could help more.

Comments
Jan 3 2015

Kauffman Thoughtbook 2015

My friends at the Kauffman Foundation have released the Kauffman Thoughtbook 2015

It’s a beautifully done, well-organized, and super rich with content web document about entrepreneurship. There is extensive content and examples around Startup Communities, included in the Paths to Entrepreneurship section. I made a few guest appearances, including in the long article about the Kansas City Startup Village.

If you are interested in startup communities, entrepreneurship, and how it grows and develops, spend some time online with the Kauffman Thoughtbook 2015.

Comments
Dec 15 2014

Jerry Colonna and Rand Fishkin Discuss Depression and Entrepreneurship

Jerry Colonna spent a few hours with me and Amy on Saturday at our house. Jerry is one of our closest friends on this planet so any time we get time with him is a treasure for us. It was a cold-ish, snowy, gloomy Colorado early winter day. Amy and I were pretty off-balance due to my blood clot so it was especially nice to be with him as he always helps rebalance us.

We talked some about his new company Reboot. I’m a huge supporter of Jerry’s work – recommending many of the CEOs we work with to him, or his associates, for coaching. I attended a recent CEO Bootcamp as a special guest and it was amazing – I recommend it to every CEO.

Jerry mentioned that the recent Reboot podcasts were doing great and really fun. I noticed this morning that the podcast he did with Rand Fishkin, another close friend, titled #7 Depression and Entrepreneurship – With Jerry Colonna and Rand Fishkin, came out today. So I read the transcript (I can read a lot faster than I can list) and thought it was dynamite.

As usual, Jerry goes deep and intimate – very quickly. So does Rand – total, extreme, full transparency. Enjoy!

Comments
Dec 10 2014

MergeLane – An Accelerator for Women-led Startups

I have been talking, writing, and helping advocate for women in technology for a long time. While my most visible role is as chair of National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) since its inception in 2006, I’ve tried to be actively involved and supportive of as many initiatives as I can. My partners and I are focused on promoting diversity in our fund (here’s a run-down of our stats) and have recently back several female CEOs, with a few more about to happen. At Techstars, we’ve put a huge amount of energy into building a pipeline of female founders and getting women involved in Techstars in many roles, especially at the leadership level in companies and the program.

Six months ago, two Boulder entrepreneurs and angel investors approached me and my partners about investing in a new accelerator targeting women-led companies. We’ve known and worked with both Elizabeth Kraus and Sue Heilbronner and deeply believe that each are committed to the “give before you get” ethos of our startup community in Boulder.

Our respect for Elizabeth and Sue, combined with our passion for their objective, led us to invest personally in MergeLane, which has secured strong support from a tremendous group of mentors, investors, media, and the Boulder startup community.

In order to be considered for admission into the 12-week program, which begins on February 2nd, companies must have at least one female in a leadership role. The program is industry-agnostic, but startups need to have some level of traction. MergeLane requires only three weeks of residency in Boulder in hopes of accommodating founders that can’t relocate for a full three months.

The deadline to apply for MergeLane is December 15th. Take a look and apply at www.MergeLane.com.

Comments
Dec 10 2014

Get Ready For Q115 Fundraising Insanity

One of the dynamics of going away for a month off the grid is that you come back to a wall of data. I’ve been absorbing it the past two days and it’s fascinating to ponder how my brain is processing it versus the normal continuous flow of information on a real-time basis.

I’m not a predictor. As we enter the time of year where every media-related thingy publishes it’s “best of 2014” and “predictions for 2015” lists, I simply pass on participating in all of them and read none of them. So – I’ll start with that – this is not a prediction, rather it’s a hypothesis, which is as long as there isn’t a cataclysmic macro event, Q115 financing activity is going to be insane.

The number of large, “later stage” financings are remarkable – both in size and velocity. We had several close last month and have some more in process. The number of companies I’ve heard of (mostly outside our portfolio) who are “getting ready to raise money in Q1” is a very long list. I’d noticed this before I went away, but the wall of data that I came back to reinforced it in a way I hadn’t completely processed.

The deals tend to fall into two categories – easy and immediate, which multiple bidders generating an rapidly escalating valuation or a long slow slog through lots of “almost there but we are passing because of some arbitrary reason.” If you translate the passes into english, they seem to fall into one of three categories.

  1. You aren’t growing fast enough. If you are less than 100% year over year growth or have declining year over year growth rate you are likely in this category.
  2. We are worried about some exogenous thing you can’t control or influence.
  3. There is some characteristic about your business we don’t like.

At some level, these are obvious reasons. But they are often extremely frustrating to strong, mid and later stage companies growing 25%+ year over year. They are maddening to mature CEOs who have built real companies that dominate their market segment but are in either an out of favor segment or using an approach (e.g. enterprise software license sales) that is no longer trendy.

In our world, none of this matters that much to us. We aren’t momentum investors. We are syndication agnostic and are happy to continue to finance strong, later stage companies in our portfolio with or without new co-investors. We are transparent with our financing intensions early in the process. We are happy to support whatever process an entrepreneur wants to go through.

Regardless, it feels like it’s going to be an insanely busy Q115.

Comments
Oct 28 2014

What’s Old Is New Again

I know I’m getting old. I remember in 2007 when the idea of a super angel appeared, where successful entrepreneurs were suddenly angel investors making 10 or more seed investments a year. This was a “new” innovation that was celebrated with much fanfare.

Between 1994 and 1996 I made 40 angel investments with the money I made from the sale of my first company. I was referred to as an “angel investor” – I didn’t get the super angel moniker back in the 1990s, but I was often referred to as promiscuous.

Every day I’m reading about a new thing in the startup world. Big corporations are splitting in two or spinning off divisions that are being funded by VC firms. The amount of VC investment each quarter is growing, with us now in the $10 billion / quarter zone, rather than the $10 billion a year zone. Strategic investment is in vogue again, with virtually every large public company trying to figure out how to fund startups. Hedge funds are once again allocating big money to private companies and lots of cross-over public company investors are trying to get large dollars into private companies pre-IPO.

What’s old is new again. As we know from BSG, “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”

There are definitely new and interesting things happening this time around. If you haven’t noticed AngelList, you are missing what I think is one of the most interesting phenomenons around. And I’m deep in another one, Techstars, which has helped spread the mentor-driven accelerator model around the world.

Every cycle has a different tempo. We are in a very positive part of the current cycle. But it’s a cycle, and we know that by definition we are likely to have too much, and then a correction, and then too little. Welcome to life.

This part of the cycle always makes me uncomfortable. I love innovation, but when things that have been done before get talked about as though they are new, and no one bothers to try to remember what happened, why it happened, and what went off the rails, that’s uncomfortable to me.

Don’t live history, but study it. Remember it. And make better decisions and choices the next time around.

Comments
Oct 5 2014

What Helps You When You Are Depressed?

The comment thread on my post Founder Suicides is vibrant and full of lots of different things, including plenty of challenging stuff to read and figure out how to respond to.

My inbox was also full of private notes over the past few days. Many of them were thank yous for writing about this, some were suggestions, and a few were angry reactions to what I wrote. Regardless, I read them all and thought about them, what they meant, and what I could continue to do to be helpful on the topic of mental health, especially around entrepreneurship.

The suggestions were generally interesting. Some resonated with me and would be helpful when I’m depressed (which I’m not right now). Others wouldn’t have helped me, but might help someone else.

This morning, as I was reading through my email, I came across this one, which I decided to post as an example. It’s thoughtful, has several specific things I’ve done when I’m depressed (spend 1:1 time with friends, drink green drinks, stop caffeine, do little things that create joy for me), and represented the constructive tone of so many people that I interact with.

I hope it’s helpful to you. And – to the person who wrote it – thanks for sharing and taking the time.

———-

“I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me that you have openly discussed depression and suicide. I would like to share with you the following if you wanted to post it on your blog anonymously –perhaps it could be helpful for someone:

What does help someone contemplating giving up on life? Looking on my facebook notifications this morning, there were two posts –one from my daughter who survived an alcohol overdose as a suicide attempt five years ago, and who I believe is grateful to still be here, and another post from a family notifying their son’s facebook friends that he had ended his life on September 30th. There but for the grace of God go I as a parent. Furthermore, I have been at the door of suicide contemplation this past year myself. I feel like I know exactly what Robin Williams was thinking before he took his own life. My depression is not the gray, non-feeling that another writer described, it has been active pain. Pain so hard and awful that you just want it to stop. The universe is punishing you and it seems like it will never be any different. So what would be helpful to me at these rock bottom times? Not well-meaning platitudes, not “change your thinking, change your life”, not more words assigning responsibility to me for creating my reality.

There are a couple of things that I have actually found to help change my spiral. Engage me in small tasks, easy tasks; chopping carrots, washing dishes, some light bookkeeping on quickbooks, something that physically engages me, or lightly mentally engages me. Even if I don’t feel like doing it, get me actively doing some rote work with my hands.

Mention to me a time when I was happy- an actual memory of a good moment. Bring that picture back to my consciousness. Remind me that there have been good times even after I have been down, they do come back. Help me see the pictures in my mind of things that have made me smile before – my cat splayed out on a lounge chair like a drunken squirrel basking in the sun for example.

Ask me to fill my body with a deep breath and let it out, emptying my belly of breath several times in a row. And then to focus on a good image. The beauty of gorgeous fall leaves that I saw on my bike ride, for example. (From the book, Forgive For Good)

For the longer term, spend time with me. We don’t have to have deep talks, just companionship. Alone-time is obsessing time, spiraling down time, too much wine drinking time.

I heard the Dalai Lama’s longtime translator speak recently and he pointed out that depressed people revolve in their cocoon of self-obsession. Compassion is a way out. I used to volunteer my time a lot, and grew away from that somehow in my life. I used to get so much from hanging with the 3-5 year olds at my church’s childcare room. What natural joie de vivre radiates from a five year old! “Would you like to do the hokey pokey? Sure!!!!” I have signed up to look into volunteering in the play room at the Ronald McDonald house. Yes, even for busy people with important jobs and positions, make time to give of oneself where you can be in the moment.

And most importantly for the long term, look at your diet and exercise. Get a coach. Someone you have to report to. I found that I had been draining my adrenal glands from too much exercise, even though I didn’t think it was too much or too hard. The first thing my health coach did was to get me to drink a green drink every day (juiced kale, celery, apple, etc) and to get in as many greens in as I could in a day. Greens chase away depression. Her philosophy is to add things first, not take them away. Over time, I have on my own started to reduce the caffeine, which could be draining my adrenals as well. I had an incredibly happy day yesterday. I want more happy days like that, so it becomes easier to give up the things that could be causing me physically to slip into the bad space. Unfortunately a lot of us rely heavily on the substances as coping strategies, so it is baby steps at first. Add in the good stuff, maybe be a little lighter on myself on the exercise piece, and let me evolve to better choices.

Thanks, Brad. I realize that everyone has different experiences of depression and pain. My little suggestions could completely not work, but if they helped someone at all change the direction of a spiral, they were worth sharing. Perhaps, you have suggestions of your own, perhaps your blog readers do – and not the naturally happy readers trying to help, those of us who have been right there, at the door of ending it. I thought your sharing of your pact with your wife to share when you were thinking suicidal thoughts was powerful. Thank you.”

Comments
Aug 11 2014

Brutal Honesty Delivered Kindly

In yesterday’s post Mentors 4/18: Be Direct. Tell The Truth, However Hard, Joah Spearman left a very powerful comment about empathy.

“The older I get the more I realize that truth is something that is best coupled with empathy. Ultimately, you have to seek to understand before you can be understood and part of telling the truth is knowing that you’ll never know someone else’s truth until you hear it directly from them rather than assuming you know what someone has experienced or what’s best for them.”

This made me think of a deeply held belief that I hold with my partners at Foundry Group – brutal honesty delivered kindly.

When I invested in Moz, I thought a lot about TAGFEE, which is Moz’s code that reflects their core values.

Transparent
Authentic
Generous
Fun
Empathetic
Exceptional

I especially keyed in on Transparent, Authentic, and Empathetic as these three are core personal values of mine. However, these three ideas often come into conflict. It’s hard to be transparent and empathetic at the same time. Consider the situation where you fire a person. Legally, you likely have some constraints on what you say, limiting your transparency. You want to be empathetic to the person you fired, so this again limits your transparency (or, if you are transparent, you likely aren’t being very empathetic.) And then, at a meta-level, you will have some internal struggles with your authenticity around this situation.

The tension between the concepts is helpful as it makes you think harder about how you comport yourself is difficult, challenging, or complex situations.

The solution between me, Seth, Jason, and Ryan is to be brutally honest at all times but deliver feedback kindly.

While I’m sure we hold back on occasion, especially when one of us is unclear on what is going on, we subscribe to the notion of brutal honesty. We try hard to be fair witnesses in the style of my wife Amy, saying what we believe to be the truth. When it’s a hypothesis, we frame it as such. When it’s an assertion, we state that. When it’s something we feel strongly about, we preface it appropriately. And when it’s a fact that we are certain of, we are unambiguous in what we say.

No matter how difficult, sharp, upsetting, or confrontational something is, we always deliver the message kindly. We are not decedents of the Stepford Wives and we each have our own personalities, so “delivered kindly” means something different for each of us. But we never mean malice, harm, or disrespect. We are quick to own our opinions, especially when we are wrong. And when on the receiving end, we listen, and try to understand the other person’s truth, as well as our own, and then reconcile them.

If you sat in a meeting with us, you’d see no yelling. No pounding on the table. No grandstanding. No aggressive body language. No passive aggressive behavior. But you would hear a lot of brutal honesty, And you’ll hear it delivered kindly.

Comments