Month: December 2016

Insights with World-Class Executive Jim Madej

Insights with World-Class Executive Jim Madej

Jim Madej has nearly three decades of experience leading and learning from some of the greatest Fortune 50 companies in the United States. Jim served as Chief Customer Officer for National Grid, Director of National Sales & Service at Hess, and Chief Commercial Officer for General Electric before forming his own strategic growth consulting firm, Madej Core. I had the opportunity to talk with Jim about the insights he’s gained on business and leadership over the years.

It was a privilege talking with Jim about the three keys to GE’s long-term success. In our conversation, Jim opened up about the company’s three most important business practices.

One of the greatest marks of a leader is humility, and Jim understands the importance of measuring victory by the success of the entire team.


Every good company keeps track of KPIs, but here’s Jim’s argument for why you might be focusing too much on output metrics – along with other advice for achieving high performance in your career.

One of the biggest insights along the journey of professional development is distinguishing between management and leadership skills. Jim talked with me about what makes someone a true leader.

You can see more of my conversation with Jim Madej on the Insights page of You’ll also find more interviews with some of my favorite leaders on the planet.


How CEOs and Board Members Can Make the Best Hire Together

How CEOs and Board Members Can Make the Best Hire Together

Often times, performance improvement hinges on making an important executive hire that is necessary to fill a key gap in your team. When teams begin to consistently miss their KPIs, MBOs and other metrics, the consequences of low performance fall squarely on the shoulders of the CEO.

Achieving high-growth at a startup is difficult, and it can be an even bigger feat to sustain the same level of growth as a company matures. Series B funding comes with greater expectations for founders and CEOs. Boards can easily decide that in this pivotal moment, given the performance metrics or lack thereof, it may also be time for that dreaded conversation about a succession plan or an immediate replacement plan.

So what can you do as a CEO when you’re in the midst of a turnaround plan or have already launched an executive search and the board is worried about continued deterioration in performance?

First, understand that when any board expresses this concern to the CEO, what they really mean is, ‘You better make something happen fast.’ The hard truth is that they’re not talking about your team’s failure to perform, they’re talking about your failure in leadership performance. And if you’re incapable of solving this problem as a leader, you might have reached the end of your tenure.

Making the right or wrong executive hire in this situation can be your saving grace, or give the board more reason to give you the boot.

The weight of this pressure on a CEO can unfortunately make a hiring process all the more difficult. Board members might want to step into operating roles, make introductions and suggest potential candidates to fill the role. This is well-intentioned, and occasionally seems like a promising idea. As a CEO, you feel obligated to meet those candidates and the feeling is awfully similar to being set up on a blind date by a friend who means well but doesn’t fully understand what your wants and needs are.

These kind of referrals still limit you to Level 2 Recruiting—a blunt, passive recruiting strategy based on referrals, networking and candidates that are leftover from other searches or unemployed (often with good reason). If you end up hiring the person the board recommended and it doesn’t work out—as CEO, you’re still the one responsible for the whole mess.

The biggest factor determining the success or failure of any CEO is his or her ability to recruit and hire well. And when something as important as an executive search—and potentially your own position in an organization—is on the line, you want to make sure that the job is done with mastery.

Rather than you or your board members dabbling in recruiting and using up the precious time and energy you need to drive your team’s performance, bring in the right expert—not just someone referred by the board. Partner with someone who has built companies like yours before, who understands core competencies and culture fit and can elevate your search to Level 3 Recruiting™. Level 3 Recruiting™ is about precision extraction and a refined selection process that secures the top 1{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} A+ executive leaders.

This collaborative process is the best way CEOs and boards, especially in the midst of intense pressure or even in a crisis situation, can make sure they make the best hire.

Snap’s youthful founders show no fear in race to IPO

Snap’s youthful founders show no fear in race to IPO

By Heather Somerville | SAN FRANCISCO
Nov. 18, 2016

Snap Inc, the red-hot messaging company, is seen by many tech investors as the next Facebook or Google, but its youthful founders are pushing far more aggressively than its predecessors in moving from scrappy startup to public company.

At a time when it is fashionable in Silicon Valley to stay private as long as possible, Snap is planning an initial public offering valuing it at more than $20 billion just two years after it first began to generate revenue, even though it has plenty of cash and ample opportunity to raise more on the private markets. It is expected to be the biggest U.S. tech IPO since Facebook Inc’s 2012 debut.

It is also defying convention by declining to bring in “adult supervision” to help 26-year-old co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel and 28-year-old co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Bobby Murphy manage the company.

Imran Khan, a former Credit Suisse banker who played a big role in the Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd IPO in 2014, is emerging as a key figure in his role as chief strategy officer.

Some investors remain concerned, however, that the combination of an inexperienced management team and a sky-high valuation could be problematic.

“It is a very clearly inexperienced team leading a company that’s asking for two things: a huge valuation and a very aggressive multiple,” said Max Wolff, a market strategist at 55 Capital. “Once you start asking public investors for 30x earnings, the tolerance for mistake, misadventure and learning on the job goes down.”

Questions about the management team have lingered after a string of senior executives left following short stints with the company.

High-profile departures include Emily White, who joined as chief operating officer from Instagram at the start of 2014 and quit after just more than a year, according to her LinkedIn profile. Mike Randall, who joined Snap from Facebook, left last year after less than a year as head of business and marketing.

A spokesman for Snap declined to comment.

The executive ranks have since stabilized, and executives such as finance chief Drew Vollero and hardware guru Steve Horowitz have decades of experience. Still, the departure of Jia Li, one of the highest-ranking women at the company and its head of research, to join Alphabet Inc’s Google this month left another high-level opening.

“I think Snapchat struggles with leadership,” said Dave Carvajal, an executive recruiter for tech companies. “Just because something is a great idea, it still has the very real challenge of bringing in the right people.”

Spiegel, an enigmatic figure who choose to locate the company in the Southern California beach town of Venice rather than Silicon Valley, has not followed the example of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who partnered early on with Sheryl Sandberg, a former Treasury Department official and Google executive. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin initially ceded the CEO role to veteran technology executive Eric Schmidt.

“I think (Spiegel) is a sole dictator type,” said Lyon Wong, co-founder and partner at venture firm Spectrum 28, and former partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, a firm that made multiple early investments into Snap.

Hemant Taneja, a managing director at the venture capital firm and Snap investor General Catalyst, pointed to Khan as a key figure in the run-up to the IPO.

“I think that hire was critical and they work very well together,” Taneja said. “He has taken a lot of things off of Evan’s plate so he can focus on what he does best.”

Taneja said the turnover may be more indicative of Spiegel constantly upgrading the talent in his ranks.

“I think that Snapchat does everything in an unconventional way,” Taneja said. “Comparing it to Facebook or another company is an incorrect way to think about it.”

Wolff also noted that the company may yet bring in more experienced managers and board members ahead of the IPO.


Snap, valued at about $18 billion, has raised roughly $2.5 billion from investors including mutual fund Fidelity Investments, Sequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price and Alibaba. It raised $1.81 billion as recently as May, according to regulatory filings.

The windfall of cash just six months ago, however, did not slow Snap’s IPO talks, which have been ongoing for at least a year, according to sources familiar with the matter. An IPO early next year may help Snap capture pent-up investor demand after a prolonged IPO drought, while also getting out in front of other hotly anticipated debuts from Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and Airbnb.

“It could be easier to tell your story because everyone will be focused on you and ready for you to make your move,” said Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital. “There will be a lot of demand for this stock.”

Some investors said the marketing boost and visibility that comes with an IPO is crucial to help Snapchat get more users outside the United States – and outside its dominant user base of millennials. Snapchat says it has more than 150 million daily active users.

“The goal of the company is to grow as fast as possible,” venture capitalist Wong said. “And there are no more 16-year-olds for them to get onto the platform.”

An IPO will give the company a more mature image that will appeal to advertisers, investors said. Snap has told investors to expect $1 billion in advertising revenue in 2017, according to sources familiar with the matter.

(Additional reporting by Liana Baker in San Francisco and Lauren Hirsch in New York; Writing by Jonathan Weber; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Via: Reuters

Insights with VC Legend Itzhak Fisher

Insights with VC Legend Itzhak Fisher

I had the pleasure of sitting down with serial entrepreneur and investor, Itzhak Fisher, for an interview. Itzhak is Founder and General Partner of Pereg Ventures, a Nielsen backed private equity fund. He also served as Executive Vice President, Global Business Development for Nielsen.

Itzhak has a long track record creating new companies and developing them into operationally excellent businesses. As Co-founder and Chairman of Trendum, he took the technologies of this small internet data mining company joined them with VNU, Intelliseek and BuzzMetrics, and sold the new entity to the Nielsen company. In the nineties, Itzhak founded and headed RSL Communications (NASDAQ: RSLC) a Telco company operating in over 20 countries across four continents with over $1.5 billion in revenues.

In our talk, Itzhak opened up about the most important lessons he’s learned on leadership, business and investing.

Every great executive seeks out mentorship. Itzhak Fisher’s mentor just happens to be one of the most influential leaders in the world.

Itzhak also talked candidly about an early business failure. After that experience, he made one rule for himself that he follows to this day. Here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth (he invested in a horse farm).


Itzhak is a world-class leader, and he’s wise enough to know that when it comes to hiring and investing — the last thing he wants to be is the smartest person in the room.

A bonus from my conversation with Itzhak was learning about his history and his vision for the future. It was humbling to learn about his heritage as the son of Holocaust survivors and hear about the incredible work he’s doing to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.


See my full conversation with Itzhak Fisher on the Insights page of You’ll also find more interviews with some of my favorite leaders on the planet.

What CEOs get wrong about recruiting & how to break out of the box

What CEOs get wrong about recruiting & how to break out of the box

CEOs often set out to make an executive hire because they’re in some kind of pain. They might be missing a key player on the team or a person doing the role right now is failing–and it’s affecting everything from performance metrics to relationships with board members. Recruiting the right leader can put an end to that pain or add to it, depending on the quality of the hire. All this pressure can lead an employer to feeling trapped. When you don’t have options, it’s easy to get into a scarcity mindset–a mindset that actually limits your ability to recruit and hire the best candidates.

There are two sides of the table in every hiring process. Masterful recruiting requires understanding the mindset on each side of the table. As a CEO, recognizing and understanding the mindset with which you are approaching the hiring process is crucial if you want to optimize results and find candidates who are uniquely qualified to succeed at your organization.

Much of the pain that a CEO or employer experiences prior to making an important hire has to do with the need for someone to step in and execute the functional role. As the CEO, you might have had to step into the role yourself, on top of running a hiring process and putting out the day-to-day fires that come with running a business in high-growth mode.

And when the need for someone to come in and help you execute functionally is the most palpable thorn in your foot, you’re prone to committing one of the worst hiring mistakes a CEO can make. Because what you’re feeling most intensely is the need for someone who can get things done in the functional role, you might find yourself placing the highest priority on technical chops in the search process.

Technical chops are undeniably important. Keep in mind that candidates with extraordinary skills must be able to perform those skills within a team so that the organization–not just the individual–soars.

To break out of the typical employer’s scarcity mindset, pay close attention to the other defining characteristics that are of huge importance in a hiring decision–core values, unique proven experience, leadership gravitas, agility, biases and critical thinking.

Organizational culture and the human aspect of work are undervalued, even though they are major determinants of your team’s ability to realize the company’s greater purpose. Its impact might not be as glaring as an empty desk in the office, but an organization’s culture is like a strong immune system and it will squeeze out those that are harmful to the greater body.

In reality, the biggest factor determining the success or failure of a leader at any company is a core values match between his or her personal DNA and the cultural DNA of the organization. Culture fit accounts for 60{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of a candidate’s ability to build enterprise value within a company. Core competencies, hard skills and technical acumen, are responsible for just 20{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of success. Core competencies ensure that a candidate can excel within a role; a core values match ensures that candidates can help you achieve your mission and the vision for the organization.