Why I did the Management Buyout

•November 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In mid-October, I led the group that purchased MEI, the company I’ve been running for 2 years, from the private equity guys that owned it.  Why did I do it?  Because to really move a company forward, the investors and the Board of Directors all have to be rowing in the same direction.

It’s a pure joke when major investors make up the majority of the Board, because while each one of them is supposed to be operating in the best interests of the Company, there is no way that will ever happen.  At the end of the day, they get paid to look after the fund they work for – and will operate that way.  It’s no ones fault – that’s just the way it is.

Now that I own the company, along with a single Venture Capital player, represented by a smart, level-headed portfolio manager, along with 10 members of my management team, we can staff the Board positions with industry players and independents who can really help drive this company forward.  Regardless of the previous Boards varying objectives, we were moving it ahead anyways.  Now, with a new Board about to be put in place that will row in the same direction as management, I can only imagine how much quicker it will be to achieve our objectives.

That’s why I did the buyout.

25 Year Reunion And I’m Golfing

•March 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Next week is my 25th High School Reunion, and I won’t be there.  I’m really disappointed about it.  I don’t Facebook, and I don’t want to.  I enjoy reminiscing about the people I went to school with and wondering what happened to them; did life treat them well, or did they up struggling? 

And next week, I’d be able to find out who did what?  Who got married?  Who still looks good and who, like me put on a few pounds?  But alas, I’ll be in Orlando on a golf trip with 1 of only 2 people I still speak to from high school.

The reunion is kind of my one and only chance to get a glimpse into the lives of all those people I went to school with 25 years ago in the manner I would want to do it – which is intense for about 7 or 8 hours, not in tidbits and soundbites 24/7 like you get in Facebook.

So if anyone reading this is going to the reunion, bring a videocamera for me and find out what Snitz is up to these days, and if Giakoumatis still loves the Stray Cats. Let me know if anyone asks about me.   Also, see what you can do about a 26th reunion.  If there’s another one, I promise to attend.

Are you a “Reacher”

•March 27, 2009 • 2 Comments

First, I’ve taken a sabatical for a while and have been inactive on the site.  Why?  Because now that I’m back in the juice running a new software company, it’s difficult to write about the company I work at. 

Since I’ve been back at it over the past 8 months, have you noticed everyone’s become a “reacher”, as in “I’ll reach out to her” or “Why don’t you reach out to him?”  Where did this reaching come from?

For the record , I don’t reach.  I refuse to reach.  I call – I write – I’ll “get in touch with”, but I don’t reach.   It seems reaching is  now the politically correct method of contacting someone.

How Many Employees do You Need to Have C-Level Execs?

•July 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I recently took the job at a small, but excellent, software company as the “President & CEO.” Pretty sharp title, don’t you think?  But to be honest, I have trouble with this title – not all of it, just the CEO part. 

I don’t think small companies need to have C-level titles such as CEO, CMO, CIO, COO, CFO, and whatever other C?O titles you can dream up.  I guess I believe companies that use it start acting like they are companies that need it, and they clearly don’t.  C-Level titles, in my humble opinion, are for big companies.  How big?  Don’t know, but much bigger than us.  But I think you know it when you see it.  If an organization has 4,5 or 10 VP’s of Marketing for various regions, maybe they should report to a CMO.  Makes sense to me.  But if you have 30 or 40 people in your company, who reports to the CMO?  Is it the guy making $35k a year doing email blasts in your marketing division?   Then I say that CMO is nothing more than a Marketing Manager with a fancy schmancy title at best.

And when you have a small company, and use C-level titles, how do VPs fit into the equation?  Can you have a VP and a C-guy reporting to the President?  Don’t know.  Sounds inconsistent to me. And the worst is when small company CEOs start acting like big company CEOs and only want to talk to other CEOs and do CEO stuff.  I’m not sure what CEO stuff is or looks like, but I’m told you only do CEO “stuff” with other CEO’s.  That makes sense to me.

So at my new company, I’m trying to get back to the good old days of President and Vice-President.  Not so easy when the history of the company has been the use of C-level titles.  Or maybe I’ll just go by the name the guy running IT calls me  – Boss Man.  I like the ring to that.  We can then have Vice-Boss Man or Vice Boss Lady.

What Color is the Elephant?

•July 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

How does the expression go about the purple elephant in the room?  Or is it the pink elephant? Whatever the color, the expression is meant to imply something so obvious it can’t be overlooked.

It’s interesting when you apply this expression to a small company.  Have you ever worked for a company where the issues are so blantantly obvious to most, if not all, of the employees in the company, but the leadership simply chooses to ignore it? 

Sales are down, morale is a few feet below sea level, the software is about 10 years behind the competitors, but at the company meetings, all who speak simply choose to ignore the elephant and focus on the positives.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for seeing the glass half full rather than half empty, but there’s a healthy dose of truth needed for small companies to actually fix things instead of keeping the status quo. 

In order to move things forward and get rid of the elephant (pink or purple), the leadership of the company needs to acknowledge it.  At the next meeting, the CEO should say “Hey – by the way, has anyone else noticed that our software is old and about two technology cycles behind our competitors?  Oh, and while we’re talking about it, support sucks and our leads are 30% less than last year. Any comments?”  Now at least you can have a frank debate about it. 

Most people won’t call out the elephant for fear of reprisal.  Fair enough, but the CEO needs to take a hard look at the culture (there’s that word again!) and decide what kind of company she wants to run moving forward.

Transfer of Knowledge

•June 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I think one very simple way to tell whether or not a company is on the right track is simply to observe how many times the phrase “transfer of knowledge” is used with a given quarter. 

For those not familiar with this phrase, it means “to transfer all of one’s knowledge and wisdom regarding a given job to the person replacing you at said job.” I don’t know why, but this phrase makes me laugh every time I hear it.  It just seems to imply a person downloading all of their information to another person who will then upload it, and just like that, the transfer of knowledge is complete!  Sounds like something Spock might have done in a Star Trek episode. 

Back to the topic.  Lately, when I’m speaking to a certain friend about his job and the company he works at, the phrase seems to come up regularly.   I couldn’t help but say to him one day – “you know it just seems like all you guys ever do is this transfer of knowledge crap from one person to the next.”  And it wasn’t far from reality.  There is so much turnover at this company, that every few weeks, the mandatory transfer of knowledge needed to happen.  I laugh. 

Next time you hear that expression take note.  If you hear it too often, it may be time to send out the CV.

 

“It’s a Job”

•May 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I was at an indoor playground for kids, and while my 3 year old daughter was running around, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a lawyer at a prestigious law firm.

I asked him how his job was going, to which he replied – “It’s going well.” The look on his face was almost fearful, like he was saying “Why are you asking me, ask someone else, it’s a damn job ok!”

Me being me, I pushed a little further, “That didn’t sound like it’s going too well?”  To which he replied, “It is going well, but it’s just a job.”

For the first time in my life, I’m uncertain what I want to do.  I’ve always started my own companies, built them up to a certain point, and then sold them.  Last fall, I simply couldn’t deal with the day to day stupidity of my last company (I think I’ll do a Top 10 list for fun) and left really quickly.  My departure was completely unplanned, which meant I hadn’t put any thought into what was next. 

7 months and a few false starts later, I’m still searching.  I realized I don’t want a ‘job’.  I never want to answer the question “how’s work going?” the way my friend answered.  Do I want to run a technology company as a CEO?  Do I want to start my own venture once again? Whatever I decide, the criteria of truly enjoying what I do will be at the very top of the list – yes, even above making money, which I never thought this capitalist would ever admit.  Waking up in the morning, and looking forward to starting your day is what it’s all about. 

Last week I had lunch with a friend/old colleague of mine.  He’s about 2 years into his new venture, has about 13 employees, works ’till 11:00pm many nights, and abosulutely loves what he does.  I look at him with envy, he looks at me with envy.  He’s trying to get to where I am in life, and I’m trying to get back to where he is.  We’ll both need lots of luck.