Navigating the Crisis

Dear Everybody. Work the problem.

We can do anything for a couple of weeks – but we can’t shut down our factories and storefronts (and restaurants and breweries and barbershops and bakeries and pet food stores and dentists and …..) for very long or the supply chain dies and we have total economic collapse.

And that will be the real killer of large numbers of Americans – and those #’s will dwarf corona virus deaths. Manage the risk but the absolutism has to stop. We have to settle down.

Restricting large assemblies right now makes sense. Restricting all humans assembly is impossible and moronic and an economic killer. America – and American wages – are fueled by small businesses. We have to allow them to operate or everybody loses and we’re Rome after the collapse. Very very quickly. Most businesses are already doing this for the remainder of March – but after that it’s closing doors. With no revenue – they’ll have to stop paying wages and stop paying bills including health insurance premiums. We can’t collectively sit this one out.

Old folks and the vulnerable cocoon yourselves and we’ll keep you supplied in your bunkers (well I’m one of the old folks hiding out). Sick folks stay home – and get screened if our government gets its act together. Those of you that are healthy but freaking out – just stay home too – and like the old folks we’ll help you stay cocooned as well.

The rest of America needs to dig in, be smart, and keep the lights on and the economy running. The economy is contagious too – and we’re under attack. Buckle up but get back to work.

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Questions for Exit Interviews

The last couple of weeks I’ve conducted several exit interviews for the companies or non-profits I work with.  This required me to scour my own files and ask my connections for questions they’ve either used before or questions they’d wish they had asked.  To give you a starting point for your own list — here’s the one I used.

Why are you leaving?

What did you enjoy most/least about your experience here?

How did the job match your expectations?

How well do you think your job description actually fit what you were asked to focus on?

When you joined us did you feel that the work you were doing was well aligned with your own goals & interests? How has that view changed now?

What could we have done better?

What was your best/worst day on the job?

What advice would you give someone coming into your position as a replacement?

From a people/culture standpoint what changes would you suggest?

What are your Top 3 things to improve and Top 3 things we’re doing right?

What are the most important things for me to pay attention to in your absence?

What don’t I know about your employees that I need to know to continue our success?

Would you recommend this as a great place for a friend to work?

Are there any unresolved issues or additional comments?

Is there anything I can personally do to help you be successful in your new challenge?

If handled correctly, exit interviews are a great opportunity to both gain insight and cement moving forward relationships.

Cheers.  DC

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On Judgment…..

I was asked last week about my thoughts on judgment.  Here goes:

Judgment (defn) – the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.

Judgment is what happens when INTELLIGENCE fueled by FACT GATHERING is curated by OUTCOME ASSESSMENT in an UNEMOTIONAL NON-EGOCENTRIC manner.

INTELLIGENCE – not just sheer brain power but also knowledge attained by personal experience and wordly observation.

FACT GATHERING – the detailed search for data relevant to understanding any question or situation or consequence.

OUTCOME ASSESSMENT – considered risk analysis of not only probable outcomes but also assessment of the severity of being both right and wrong.

UNEMOTIONAL/NON-EGO CENTRIC THINKING – a sterile examination of what is and what might be unfettered by scenarios you would like to believe or outcomes you would prefer to be true.

So if you buy into the above gating criteria – what does it take to “have good judgment”?

Raw smarts, worldly experience, native inquisiveness, deep capacity for research, the seeking out and consideration of diverse opinions,  level headed probability analysis, on-demand ego suppression and a willingness to see and deal with “what is” independant of what you want.

Some folks seem to have this instinctively – “gut feel” – but really they just do all of this better and faster than their peers.  Amazon wants its leaders to “Be Right A Lot” — i.e., make more decisions and be right more often in the decisions you make.

Good judgment leads to good decisions which lead to better outcomes. Pass it on.

Cheers.  DC

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Southern College Football Trash Talk

We’re in the meat of the college football season here in the South and every Thurs/Fri the trash talking fires up among real diehard fans.  For those of you either not fortunate enough to live “down here” or are novices at true college football madness here’s a quick blog post to get you the insider scoop.

1) Any team that can’t help your team — this week — by kicking your enemy’s ass is fair game to trash or ignore.

2) Just because you wanted a particular team to win one week doesn’t mean they aren’t worthless pieces of shit every other week.

3) It’s perfectly fine to say your own team is a bunch of bums if they are playing like a bunch of bums.

4) Some teams suck all the time (e.g., Notre Dame or Ohio State) and you always want them to lose — every game every week.

5) Some teams only suck when you need them to beat somebody you hate (e.g, Wisconsin, Ga Tech) and they NEVER EVER do.

6) West Coast teams don’t matter — you don’t necessarily lose points by liking them but we collectively assume your own team sucks and you’re just ducking reality to avoid discussing it. PS — goofy colored fields don’t help them either.

7) Mediocre teams are well tolerated (e.g., Gators, Dawgs) but fans of mediocre teams that think these same teams are great and not mediocre are usually subjected to continual ridicule for being delusional.

8) Teams with knucklehead coaches (e.g., Michigan, Louisville, every LSU coach ever) are always poised for stupidness so their potential greatness is discounted.

9) If you need to be worried about winning playing teams that get occasional big wins but don’t every seem scary (e.g., ECU, Duke, Kentucky) then your team isn’t very good and you really need to fear everybody every week.

10) If your team loses to smurfs (e.g., Temple, Syracuse, Vanderbilt) it’s a 10 year stink and you can’t reset the clock just by starting a new season.

10) We all assume Bama will start the season ranked #1 because it’s really a pro team.  No one likes Bama except Bama fans and they’re genetically incapable of hiding their allegiance so they’re easy to identify and hard to ignore.

PS:  Cheering for some team to lose is often as important and fun as cheering for some team to win.

PPS:  Nobody looks good in Orange.

PPPS:  Great places to tailgate are unrelated to team performance (e.g., Oxford, Blacksburg) and always fun.

Let the trash talk begin.  Go Hokies.  Cheers.  DC

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Digital Dawn

I arrived at the office this morning around 6:30 am — here are the Brands I’ve already digitally interacted with today:

Fitbit, New York Times, Apple, Amazon, ESPN, Google, Flipboard, Facebook, Twitter, USA Today, Instagram, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post,, The Guardian, Suburu, SiriusXM, Verizon.

It’s amazing how “connected” we all are now — and the level of insight and embedded tracking that all this digital interaction allows.

What time did I get up…

How well/long did I sleep…

What device do I use first/the most…

What sort of news/stories and I most interested in — and in what order…

What time do I go to work & how long is my commute…

Where is my home and office…

Who are my friends and who did I call recently…

The list goes on and on.  I now “participate” in a connected economy and I (mostly thoughtlessly) open up an amazing window into my life and lifestyle to the Brands that I interact with.

In many ways I treat “my data” like a commodity whereas the Brands I interact with treat my data as a valuable resource.

I’m going to make a complete list of all the Brands I digitally interact with in a single day and compile and list of the most personal questions about me that they should be able to answer from these interactions.  I expect to be scared to death.

Cheers.  DC

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Destroying Customer Loyalty

I cancelled my DirecTV service ( yesterday after being a customer for 17 years!  I repeat — seventeen years.  In an age where millennial’s reassess and frequently change every relationship semi-annually — I have been using this SAT TV provider (redundantly with cable) for nearly two decades.  But I can’t take it anymore — here’s why.

I recently had the roof of our home replaced, and not unsurprisingly,  in the process the SAT TV roof antenna got moved (or otherwise disconnected) and my SAT feed went out.  Since I also have cable TV service — no crisis — but something I wanted to get fixed.

Attempt #1 — I called DirecTV on June 23rd and explained the situation and asked that a repair tech come out.  The “first available” appointment was July 5th (12 days later ! – Good thing I have “hot” backup with cable).  On July 5th at the end of the 4 hour service window a technician shows up and said (a) he is unable to get on my roof because it is raining and (b) he only has a 30 ft. ladder and he thinks he needs a 40 ft ladder to safely reach the antenna.    He said he’d set up a follow-up appointment with a technician that had a 40 ft ladder.  The “first available” follow-up was scheduled for a week later on July 11th (we’re now at Day 19).

Attempt #2 — The new tech missed the 2 hour window on July 11th and never showed up.  No one from DirecTV ever called or said anything.  Calls from us to DirecTV on July 11th and July 12th indicated “the system” showed the tech was at our house “for the last 24 hours” (when he clearly wasn’t) so “they would have to call the dispatcher and figure out what was going on”.  Perfect.  Clearly they don’t have a clue.

Attempt #3 — Persistent badgering by me on Tuesday July 12th (Day 20) resulted in getting a tech to show up on Wednesday July 13th (Day 21).  The good news is he has 40 ft ladder.  The bad news is he cannot “get on the roof” — as his company’s policy is only to service antenna accessible within reach of the ladder.  He apologizes and says that policies vary between subcontractors and he will get a dispatcher to follow-up with yet another tech that can service my unit.

The End — No one ever follows up so I cancel my service on Monday July 18th — 5 days later (Day 27).  The response from the phone agent who cancelled my account was “Wow — you’ve been a customer for 17 years I hate to see you go”.  That’s it.  I guess the phone folks already know this storyline and have seen this play out before.

DirecTV is  now sending me boxes to pack up my receivers and send them back.  Given my complete lack of success over nearly a 30 day period getting anybody to fix anything — I’m guessing they have this “ship the boxes back in” workflow down cold.

No one needs to explain to me how DirecTV intends to survive.  My takeaway is that they are a Zombie Corporation — they’re already dead but they just don’t know it yet.

Cheers.  DC

PS — Don’t get me started on my cable company — that’s a story for another day.

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Conduct Unbecoming

A young entrepreneur recently asked me what I thought the current US Presidential “race” says about leadership.  I wanted to bang my head on the desk and deflect by saying “next question”.  Instead I deferred with a “let me think about that and get back to you”.

To paraphrase a recent TV character quote (yes James Lee a pirate quote) — you need two kinds of leadership — one to tell them what to do and a 2nd to tell them why to do it. That’s really kind of profound.

Real leaders lay out a vision.  They describe an end state.   They lay out specifics of the plans to get there.  Once the troops understand the objective and the plan, they solicit input and secure buy-in.  Then lastly they fire them up — sending the troops out to slay dragons and bring home the bacon.

In some ways this Presidential race is upside down. A fired up empire with no clear plans is a recipe for a riot.

The campaign does speak volumes though — about not only leadership but also the current willingness of the troops to take on leaders.    Like it or not we have a lot of polarized voters, many of who are looking for “different” out of our country’s leadership.  I certainly don’t like some of the messages.  I have an opinion but I’m just one voice.

But there’s more to leadership than message.  You can secure advisors to help reshape messages.  You can do R&D, get more educated, and then change your directions and your plans.  Leadership is also about motive and tone.

The foundation of military law in the U.S. can be found in the US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).   One of my personal favorites is explained in Article 133:  Conduct Unbecoming an Officer.

The elements are:

  1. That the accused did or omitted to do certain acts; and
  2. That, in the circumstances, these acts or omissions constituted conduct unbecoming an officer and gentlemen.

Wikipedia explains further — here “officer” is understood to include to include commissioned officers, cadets, and midshipmen of both sexes, hence the more common term of conduct unbecoming.  A “gentlemen” is understood to have a duty to avoid dishonest acts, displays of indecency, lawlessness, dealing unfairly, indecorum, injustice, or acts of cruelty.

Leadership is not just what you say — but also how you say it and why.  Regretfully, it’s mostly this conduct unbecoming that I take away as my leadership reflection on the current election cycle.

Cheers.  DC

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Interviewing Operating Executive Candidates

Over the holidays a friend wrote me asking my advice in developing interview questions for an operating executive to be her #2.  “Managing the vacancy is better than managing someone wrong for the job”.  Good point and good question.

Aside from the obvious (basic education, relevant work experience, professional credentials, prior career success, etc) this is what I’d really want to figure out:

is this a person who wants to “operate”?  What makes them feel successful?  How do they engage problems?  Do they celebrate making the trains run on time?  As a leader, how do they feel about failure?  Operations leadership is part engagement and part dysfunction elimination.  Problems are inevitable so I want to find a person that just likes to calmly and quickly “work the problem” and move on.

is this person “adaptable”?  Do they like to learn? Do they have “outside in” radar (i.e., can they see the big picture quickly)?   How do they identify problems?  Can they be happy leaving things alone?  How do they draw the line between “good enough” and “must be better”?  Operations leadership demands knowing what needs to be left alone, fixed and or dismantled/rebuilt. Managing all this requires high adaptability.

is this leadership candidate “transparent”?  I usually test this by asking what they really suck at — a question that on first blush looks like an ego/fakeness test but is really me just giving them a change to be spontaneously transparent.  I want to hear something that strikes me as truthful and insightful.  Operations leadership requires transparency — is this candidate?

will this person be a reliable internal ally in the greater causes and battles?  This is about managing confrontation and resolving disagreements without losing sight of the greater missions.   How do they successfully resolve internal intra-squad conflict?  How do they build trust?  Drill them through some specific examples.  I need my #2 to be “fire and forget” and I can’t waste time watching by back or keeping up with teammates who constantly leave the reservation.

does this candidate’s background demonstrate success in developing deep understandings of their prior businesses?  Ask questions about their prior work and then find items where you can drill in on some part of how their business really operated and made things happen.  Can they seamlessly do this?  Successful operations leaders must have a passion for the details and for getting muddy when the situation demands it.  Operations leadership involves managing rapid change — and you can’t change what you don’t understand.

has this candidate been successful in building and maintaining their work “people network”?  As an operations leader you don’t personally shovel much coal but instead you rely on your people and relationship skills to achieve results through others.  Leaders who are great at this tend to invest, develop and then maintain deep networks of other successful peers and subordinates.  Probe how well the candidate has kept up with their people network.

how well do they manage stress?  Ask them what they do for fun.  I want to hear something candid and lively.  Running stuff and fixing stuff is hard work and I want insight into how they “balance”.  Personally, I prefer “work hard play hard” candidates as I want my #2 to be an energy source for me and the rest of the team.

Good luck!  Cheers DC

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What Should Be In Your Pitch Deck — Part 2 — What Investors Think During Your Pitch

You spent weeks getting your Pitch Deck “right” and your team spent just as much time practicing their presentation — among yourselves and in front of friendly warm audiences. You feel ready to “let it rip” and see if anybody wants to help.

Assuming your Pitch Deck is great — and your Pitch is well rehearsed and really, really solid — here’s what your audience will be thinking as you pour your hearts out and run through your spiel.


How great an idea/”thing” is it?

How big a problem does this address and solve?

How hard is it to sell?

How great are they at selling?

How long does it/will it take to ramp?

How well are they connected and entrenched?

How quickly will this space and the problems/solutions change and evolve?

Who are/will be their competitors and how rough & tumble is their space?

How hard is “it” to start, build, manage and sustain?

How deep do our pockets need to be if we’re wrong on this company/idea?

Do they have the right assets?

Do they have the right people?

Do they have the right partners/advisors?

How good is their 12-24 month plan?

Is this investment worth the investment — time and risk?

If “it” doesn’t work what is their (and our) Plan B?

Hoe much do we know about this space/how helpful can we be in making it successful?

Break a leg!  Cheers.  DC

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What Should Be In Your Pitch Deck — Part 1 — What Investors Want To See

I’ve been asked several times in the last 30 days to help folks get their Pitch Decks “right”. Always interesting to learn about something new — but — much of the time is spent on helping folks understand What Investors Want To See (this post) and What Investors Think During Your Pitch (Part 2 — my next post).

With the caveat that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (in this case mine) — here’s what your deck should address (the order can vary based on your strengths and selling points):


– Mission — what are you trying to accomplish?
– Opportunity — how big is the opportunity?
– Timing — why is now a good time to attack this?
– Solution — what are you trying to do/build to address this?

THE BASICS (yeah yeah – “it’s a thing that does a thing”)
– What is “it”?
– How does “it” work?

– Competition/Competitive Landscape – who’s there now and how do they compete?
– Progress ToDate – where are you now/what have you done thus far?
– Financial Snapshot – $$ raised life to-date and current spending (monthly burn)?

TEAM (impress me here)
– Team
– Advisors
– Partners

– Growth Plan — Now -> Next -> Eventually?
– When/How do you achieve critical mass?
– Selecting Opportunities — how do you choose among the possible alternatives?

INVESTMENT (the ask)
– Investment Needs
– Spending Plan – $ by spend category and timeline (quarterly)
– Expected Return – how and when do “we” make $ on this investment

– Why is this great?
– Why should we care?

Break a leg!  Cheers.  DC

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