Startup 101: Finding the right business partner

A relationship with the right business partner can be just as meaningful — if not more so — than a dating partner.


Right on point!  The two points that resonated most with me here are 1. Find a cofounder who is willing and able to put in the same level of effort as you are; and 2. don’t let the excitement blind you to red flags.

I’ve seen founders thrown and disillusioned when they are putting their hearts and souls into a business while their cofounder is more stopping by to do some work.  Of course you must take into account people’s economic realities: if she needs to keep her day job until you’ve got some level of funding, figure out if a full partnership is really viable.  It may not be.  And it may take a few months until it is. Go in with eyes wide open. Answer the questions raised below.

And the red flags…just like in dating.  If something bugs you now (or is a niggling doubt), it will only grow.  People are never better behaved than they are at the beginning of a relationship.  N E V E R.  Play the field a little.  Have discussions with the successful co founders you know to see how they make it work.

As with all big decisions, best to dip your toe in before you dive.

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Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Why Women Stay Quiet at Work

If a man talks in a meeting, he gets heard. A woman just gets interrupted.


Disappointing that this is still true.  I remember back in one of my first group projects in business school (in…errrr…1992), I was shocked when during a meeting a guy cut in, talked over me and repeated exactly the point I had made.  And no one seemed to notice.

Women emerging leaders I work with often want to work on their presence and on reacting to and counteracting this behavior in their male colleagues.  They also talk to me about how to appear and sound more powerful and how they need to ‘take up more room’ in group meetings. They read Amy Cuddy and view her TED talks.

I agree with Grant and Sandberg that we need more women leaders.  We also need to constantly support and push our existing women leaders to stand up for themselves while also looking for more opportunities for them to shine.

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Brené Brown: If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback!

One of the most underrated parts of the creative process is remaining vulnerable says New York Times bestselling author Brenè Brown.


I’m a big fan of Brené Brown. I loved both of her TED talks on vulnerability and shame. This keynote for the May 2013 99U conference (focused on making great ideas happen–derived from Edison’s 99% perspiration quote) is about dealing with critics.The talk is centered around Roosevelt’s 1910 “Man in the Arena” speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

As always, Ms. Brown delivers her message with humor and conviction.  She talks about the three critics we all meet: shame, scarcity and comparison and advises us to believe like she does, “If you’re not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

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What it takes to be a great leader

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There are many leadership programs available today, from 1-day workshops to corporate training programs. But chances are, these won’t really help. In this clear, candid talk, Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.

BCG’s Rosalinde Torres cites a disturbing statistic: 58% of 4,000 companies studied reported significant talent deficits in critical leadership roles.   What we are currently doing in leadership development isn’t working.

Leadership in the 21st century depends on the answers to the following:

– Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?

– What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network?

– Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

Our leadership development strategies must find ways to help leaders  face confidently towards the uncertainties of the future with the abilities to operate in an increasingly complicated world.

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The Best Predictor of Lasting Success? Steady, Sustained Growth

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What does it take to expand year after year, even through the Great Recession? Very few companies have ever done so. You can learn a lot from those that have.

Looking for the case for leadership development and coaching?  Inc.’s economist-in-residence researched 1,000 mid-size U.S. companies and identified the “Build 100” top companies that added headcount for five consecutive years. Inc. Found up with the following five points as commonalities among the Build 100 and notable differences with others:

  1. More than 50 percent of respondents said “people/talent” and “customer service” were the only drivers of competitive advantage and identified those attributes as core to their company’s identity, ahead of nine other factors.
  2. A “big change in senior management or leadership” was among the top three factors credited for triggering company growth “breakouts” ahead of six other factors.
  3. Two of the top three challenges or obstacles to growth were “attracting top managerial talent” and “training future supervisors and managers,” ahead of 11 other challenges.
  4. More than 82 percent of respondents said “sharing financial success with your employees” helps a company grow — tying that practice for the highest response among six management practices.
  5. Some 81 percent of respondents named “sudden loss of a key employee” as a concern — the highest such percentage among 11 “unplanned events” that were rated.

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Growth for the Rest of Us

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How have some companies found growth despite the odds? BCG research offers lessons from “uphill growers.”

BCG talks about uphill growth — mature business that found ways to grow sustainably– and suggests that it is important to consider key components of the organizations starting point to help define where growth will come from.  The key components are competitive premium (higher gross profit margin) and competitive stability (relatively stable market shares, high entry barriers, etc).

The successful growth companies shared the following characteristics, they:
1. Earn the right to grow
2. Know their competitive advantage
3. Expand their field of vision
4. Integrate vision, choices and action.

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The benefits—and limits—of decision models | McKinsey & Company

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Big data and models help overcome biases that cloud judgment, but many executive decisions also require bold action inspired by self-confidence. Here’s how to take charge in a clear-headed way. A McKinsey Quarterly article.

This McKinsey Quarterly article landed in my inbox today.  It argues for the need to use a combination of leadership talent, execution and inspiration as well as predictive models and date to make excellent decisions.   “Players don’t predict performance; they have to achieve it. For that purpose, impartial and dispassionate analysis is insufficient.  Positive thinking matters, too.”   We certainly need big data — to analyze it, understand it, and make use of it.  At the same time, we need big human thinking, inspiration, perspiration and teamwork to make sense and use of it all.
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Bad to great: The path to scaling up excellence | McKinsey & Company

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Before senior executives try to spread best practices, they should use seven techniques to clear out the negative behavior that stands in the way. A McKinsey Quarterly article.

Stanford’s Huggy Rao and Robert Sutton give some compelling arguments for curtailing bad behavior:

  1. Nip it in the bud
  2. Plumbing before poetry (go for getting rid of the nitty gritty negativity!!)
  3. Adequacy before excellence
  4. Use the ‘cool kids’ (and adults) to define and squelch bad behavior
  5. Kill the thrill
  6. Try time shifting: From current to future selves
  7. Focus on the best of times, the worst of times, and the end

The article is an overview of their upcoming book: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less.  Sounds like a good read…

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