Recently, I was catching up on a bunch of reading on the web and came across a post by Lars Dalgaard titled “Thoughts on Building Weatherproof Companies.” I don’t know Lars personally, but I know of him as the founder and CEO of SuccessFactors and now a partner at A16Z, and I was curious after recently reading a Forbes article about Zenefits a few weeks ago titled “‘A Lot Of Things Went Wrong’: Lars Dalgaard On Zenefits Scandal.”
If you build something great and important, opportunities to be bought will come to you. Tweet This Quote
Any CEO I’ve ever worked with has heard me say many times, “Build the company and make decisions as though you’ll be running it forever.” While forever is a very long time, and so far the idea of running a company forever hasn’t happened, it’s a great frame of reference for a CEO to operate from. So, I found myself nodding at a bunch of things Lars wrote in his post, and I encourage you to read it. Following are a few of the headlines from the points that resonated with me, along with my quick thoughts.
Successful companies are bought, not sold.
This cliche is said 100 times per day by VCs—and it happens to be true. If you build something great and important, opportunities to be bought (whether you want to pursue them or not) will come to you.
Develop a perpetual, aggressive help-seeking mindset.
A simpler way to say this is, “Learn quickly, do it continuously, and surround yourself with people you can learn from.” There’s a subtext about sublimating your ego and fears, which appears in several other parts of the post and is a characteristic of everyone I know who is a learning machine.
Build the company, and make decisions as though you will be running it forever. Tweet This Quote
Invest in a coach.
Many of the CEOs (and founders and execs) we work with have coaches. We strongly recommend them. My partners and I have used Nancy Raulston since we started Foundry Group and my extremely close friend, Jerry Colonna, is someone I describe as “the best startup CEO coach on the planet.” I have a running coach, even though all I do is run marathons (and not competitively). I’ve never understood why people who are trying to be excellent at something don’t recognize the value of a coach.
Build a real board of directors—and use it.
I’ve long been an advocate of building a real board early on in the life of your company. Lars talks about adding non-VC directors early, and I strongly agree. I’ve seen too many boards that are just gradual expansions of the number of VCs around the board table with each successive round of financing. While the CEO works for the board, a great board effectively works for the CEO also, doing whatever it can (as individuals and as a collective) to help the CEO be successful with one fundamental governance role: insuring that if the CEO is not being effective, the board can take action to change this. Often, but not always, this means replacing the CEO. If you want to go deeper on this, I’ve written a book on it called Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors.
Learn quickly, do what you’re doing continuously, and surround yourself with people you can learn from. Tweet This Quote
Kill the monsters of the mind, but preserve your spirit.
While a provocative title, I’m not sure your goal should be to kill the monsters of the mind. In my post titled “Something New Is Fucked Up In My World Every Day,” I tell a short version of the Buddhist saint Milarepa’s story “Eat Me If You Wish.” Coming to terms with the monsters (or demons) is much more powerful (and efficient) than killing them, since it often makes them simply disappear.
Don’t lie to yourself.
I remind you of the great John Galt quote, “Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever.” If you ever stay in my guest condo in Boulder, you’ll see a painting by my mother with this quote incorporated into it hanging on the wall.
Coming to terms with your monsters (or demons) is much more powerful (and efficient) than killing them. Tweet This Quote
If you are reading this, take some time to read “Thoughts on Building Weatherproof Companies” and ponder it in the background, instead of burning brain cells on whatever political crap is discussed on the internet today.
A version of this post originally appeared on Brad’s blog.