Welcome to the Edison Summer Seven Series!
This week we selected some of the best insights from all of the Lighthouse Series interviews with our portfolio CEOs over the last 14 weeks. In fact, we need two issues to capture them all. Here are our first seven:
"The bottom line: many of us will experience more than one “Black Swan” in our careers. That’s the bad news. The better news is that I believe it would be a lost wager to bet against our ability to come out stronger on the other side as a community and a country. As leaders, it is our responsibility to remind others that there is always a brighter side, and that “the best way out is through.” The best operators and leaders I have met and learned from in my own career all have several traits in common. They are great communicators, they are competitive, and they know how to balance the tactical and the strategic. They are also kind, fair, behave with the highest levels of integrity, and have incredible levels of energy and stamina. Last but not least, great leaders exhibit the kind of humility that comes from knowing how little they truly know."
"Communication is paramount. People are nervous. Whatever was appropriate pre-coronavirus doesn’t cut it. Steering a company when you’re all in the office together is one thing, but when you’re remote, it’s completely different. We’ve always believed that the company is better off if everyone understands not just what our decisions are, but the rationale for the decisions. So we’ve spent a long time talking about the actual state of things in NY and across the country and world, talking about what we do and don’t know, what we’re thinking about in terms of the office reopening, etc. We’re not going to be able to change what’s going on in NY, but taking unnecessary stress out of people’s lives is important. To that end, while we reduced headcount, we did do it with the intent of only doing it once. This means we actually cut deeper than we might have otherwise, but it has now put us in a much more stable financial position. We’ve held AMAs, sent at least two communications a week about the industry and the state of affairs generally, committed to at least one-month notice before we open the office (while ensuring it won’t be until September 1 in any event), discussed our financial models in great detail, and continued to be transparent about all of our financial measures within the company. We’ve created a company-wide team-based strategy competition where people can submit ideas about the best things the company could do in the current situation, where the winning team splits options."
"Stamina is one of the many qualities in a successful leader, but I categorize that quality as the least intelligent one when compared to wisdom, experience, foresight, instincts, poise, and humility. Sometimes being naive at the right time plays a key role in supporting perseverance! The thought of a pivot is essential and probably one of the most critical success factors in building highly successful businesses. Great CEOs are often defined by their decisive pivots. They also come at unexpected times, and in many cases, in the face of adversity."
"I’m taking the same communication style approach with my board as I am with the whole team— transparency, speed, real-time adjustments and listening more than I speak. I think it’s critical to always be in communication with your board even with informal check-ins. While we’re sticking to long-term OKR’s, we’ve found it critical to move the goalposts in and continually generate short-term wins and momentum. It’s our priority to play the long game with our customers, which means being more flexible and using a ‘helping is the new selling’ mindset. Of course, to play by those rules, cash is king, so we’ve worked hard to stabilize our balance sheet to weather the storm."
"We have a program in place right now called “survive to thrive,” and at the moment, that is quite focused on the “survive” part of the equation. Let me take a slightly broader look at six things I am trying to stay focused on right now: Cash, Clarity, Communication, Concurrency, Candor and Courage. To me, being a CEO is about being more like the coach of a sports team than being the best player on the ice."
"While this is no surprise, CEOs have to keep an eye on their cash and manage it carefully. With such volatility in the markets, it is difficult to project what your next raise or valuation will be. It is a time to proactively and conservatively manage your burn. In addition, stay steadfast in your conviction and maintain clarity as to why you got into your business in the first place. This is no time to waver or doubt yourself; keep pressing forward."
"My priorities are crystal clear: take care of my family, the ones at home and the ones at work. Yes, I have anxiety and a healthy dose of fear about the future. Humor is my alternative choice of human emotion in this case, even if I am the only one who thinks I am funny."