What I’ve Learned From Being There For My Entrepreneurs

Last night, I had two great meetings scheduled back-to-back.

The first meeting was set up by an entrepreneur who I’ve known for about seven years.  I’ve been actively mentoring him to include recommending jobs that I thought would further develop his potential.  He asked me to meet with another entrepreneur whom he thought might be a perfect fit for one of our portfolio companies.  As he suspected, she is awesome, smart, articulate and happens to be extremely passionate about one area where we have both an investment and the potential opportunity for her to play a major role.

The second meeting was with a CEO of one of our portfolio companies where I am also on the board. Because I am involved in multiple ways, we spend a lot of time evaluating different strategic initiatives to grow the business. The reason for this meeting was to discuss an initiative that we both thought would be great for the business, but we had a disagreement on the execution strategy. I was upset because I thought he had initially cut me out of the process and was now asking me and my team to help him on certain things. These are things that would have never been an issue if we had executed the plan more inline with my original thinking. Turns out, there was a breakdown in communication and if we had simply had another conversation about the issue, we probably could have found a solution that worked better for both of us. I still love him, but it’s always good to have open and frank conversations to clear the air.

What I didn’t expect was the overlap between these two entrepreneurs last night. It provided an interesting environment where the entrepreneurs were talking about the value that we create as investors, but in very different contexts. Being in this position and industry, I have seen just about every roadblock that start-ups and growing companies encounter and most importantly, how to get past them. There were a couple of thoughts and insights that I wanted to share with you:

(1) If someone isn’t a fit either with work ethic or company culture, you need to make a change as soon as possible.  Most entrepreneurs really struggle when filling key positions early in their company’s evolution- as they should.  So the thought of spending six months to recruit a VP of Engineering, COO or Head of Marketing, and then realizing two weeks into the relationship that you made a mistake, is very emotionally taxing and terrible for morale. But that’s where we come in – our CEO said that pushing him and his co-founder to fire someone had totally changed the morale and company culture for the better and removed a huge weight from the founders already stressful lives.

(2) We all make mistakes, so make sure you discuss your mistakes to ensure they don’t happen again.  Being an entrepreneur often requires you to make decisions about things where you may have little or no experience. While we try and always make ourselves available as a sounding board for our entrepreneurs, inevitably they are going to make some decisions without any input. And in some cases, these decisions might not be the right decision for the business. Don’t linger on the mistake, move on and focus on being better next time.

(3) Building an awesome company should be fun. As we’ve discussed in the past, the level of stress that most entrepreneurs feel can be overwhelming, especially when you’ve raised money from friends and family. But it’s important to remember that you can’t perform at your best if you are constantly stressed, yelling at your team, or trying to do everything by yourself. Great companies are born out of great leaders – so spend time developing a positive and healthy company culture with regular team activities outside of the office.

As always, I hope this helps.

What I’ve Learned From Being There For My Entrepreneurs

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