Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash
One of my favorite all-time sales hires was Chris. When I first met Chris, he didn't have much experience. He didn't know our industry. He didn't understand our product. There were many reasons not to hire Chris.
But I hired him anyway. Why? Chris had performed at a very high level. In his case, he was an All-American college athlete. And Chris knocked it out of the park for our company, quickly becoming one of our top performing reps.
I've written before on factors to consider when hiring for sales positions. One of those factors is what I think of as "excellence:" a demonstrated ability to be very successful in some area of life.
A lot has been stated about why athletes make great sales people (try a quick Google search). The playing field is one area where success is measurable. But it's not the only one.
I've hired musicians. Academics. Hobbyists. Artists. Writers. Programmers. Gamers. All have done well. In sales roles and other positions (customer success, marketing, technology, services, etc.).
What I've found is a pattern of aspiration, drive, discipline, and confidence. Of course, there are other factors to consider when hiring. But these traits of excellence have been meaningful in my experience. Specifically:
* Aspiration: in order to flourish, you need to have a vision for something big. You see success. And want it.
* Drive: your vision needs to be coupled with the energy and grit to pursue it. You generally have the intrinsic passion to go for it.
* Discipline: high-level success comes from commitment. The day-to-day discipline to stay with something, see it through, and overcome obstacles along the way.
* Confidence: whether an enabler or an outcome, confidence is important to fuel ongoing success. True confidence (which feels different from arrogance) can be inspiring and cascading, making others around you better.
So, as you're looking to make your next hire, consider asking yourself: has this person been great at something? Why were they great? How much did it matter to them? Do they want to be great at this job too?
If you can find someone who has been excellent before, and who fits other criteria for your company and role, there's a good chance that they'll be excellent again—for you.
Photo by Matthew Kosloski on Unsplash
I've been curious for awhile about the correlation between humility and leadership. Do successful leaders tend to be more humble? Do they value humility? What conditions and environments tend to reward humble leaders?
Pelin Kesebir, an Assistant Scientist at UW's Center for Healthy Minds, has been exploring humility and how it connects to well-being. Kesebir "likens humility to a fertile soil in which happiness grows." And she defines humility as "the ability to see oneself in true perspective and be at peace with it."
I like this definition. Often, we see humility as a weakness. But like vulnerability, as unpacked in Brene Brown's work, humility can be a strength.
Research shows that humility correlates positively with social relationships. Interestingly, both self-reported and peer acknowledged humility help foster quality relationships.
And humility seems to translate to business relationships, and to the effectiveness of leaders. According to a 2014 Catalyst study, "humility is one of four critical leadership factors for creating an environment where employees from different demographic backgrounds feel included."
There's actually quite a bit of research and field work on humility and leadership. This Washington Post piece does a nice job summarizing it.
1) true humility is strong rather than meek;
2) intellectually humble people often perform better on novelty and academic tasks;
3) humble people are often more fair and generous;
4) leaders who display high humility frequently put an organization's needs ahead of their own;
5) humble leaders can have less employee turnover and higher employee satisfaction.
In 2015, researchers Owens and Hekman offered in the Academy of Management Journal, “Our findings suggest that humility appears to embolden individuals to aspire to their highest potential and enables them to make the incremental improvements necessary to progress toward that potential.”
I love this. Humility can free us to pursue our greatest potential—and highest impact.
How does this resonate? Do you tend to lead with strong humility? Does your organization reward humble leadership? Do you feel equipped to see yourself in "true perspective" while also pursuing growth? And might you take further steps to nurture a humble, curious, others-oriented mindset as you foster your leadership journey?
In a piece for TechTarget, I offer perspectives on the importance of narrative, relationships, and alignment with business goals as large company CIOs pursue major digital transformation initiatives. These comments are based on my recent work for a global, 100+ year old company that is in the midst of a compelling, multi-year transformation. You can read more here.
The journey of personal evolution, discovery, change, and growth has been a personal one. As I've been a student and practitioner, I've also gathered and developed perspectives that I offer to others. This Medium post unpacks three pathways to individual transformation. It also offers a framework for transformative product development, along with a gentle rally for the reader.
On October 17, 2017 I gave a short talk at the Life@Work conference run by my friends at Live Grey. My goal was to highlight a selection of scientists who are helping us better understand how we can develop well-being skills—both for ourselves and for the organizations we serve.
More information on the presentation, including a free download of perspectives on the science and practice of well-being in the workplace, and is available on Medium.
Image above courtesy of Live Grey.
Skillfully optimistic leaders can fuel significant change, especially in our era of heightened uncertainty. These leaders envision a potential future. They see and describe possibilities, enlisting people’s faith and enthusiasm. They reframe the current state, identifying a more vibrant future.
But optimism can go awry.
Read the full post on Leadfully.
I’ve begun to experiment with the concept of tuned leadership, which I define as fully serving others from a place of focused presence. And I've found that three things, operating together, are helpful in my tuned leadership work: purpose, body, and practices.
My short reflection on tuned leadership is available on the SYPartners channel on Medium.
Photo by Vanessa Ochotorena on Unsplash
In current organizational environments, leaders must cut through. They must connect. They need to explain, excite, astound, calm, redirect, galvanize, and more. And it’s critical that they do this via a myriad of formats and styles. Intentionally. Consistently. And with nuance.
Read the full post on Leadfully.
Through five acquisitions (buy-side and sell-side), coupled with nearly 20 years of working for/with early stage startups, I've seen a few patterns emerge.
For companies of less than 10 employees, buyers have gravitated towards simple, clear, emotionally compelling reasons to acquire. With clear rationale, a handful of formulas are then used to settle on price.
In all of my experiences, acquisitions have "felt right" for the CEOs, executives and boards pulling the trigger. There's been chemistry with the founders/team. The deals have been easily explainable. And the buyers have believed that the acquisition fills important holes in their business.
With buyers positively inclined, the negotiated price often is looked at in several ways.
1) Revenue Multiple: the starting point for acquisitions of startups is usually a multiple of annualized monthly revenue. So, if a company is at $50K per month in revenue, the acquirer would annualize to $600K. From there, I've seen 2x to 10x multiples, driven mostly by growth rates and compounded by other factors (company age, perceived attractiveness, clients/customers, location, etc.).
2) Engineering Hours Multiple: although not a primary value driver, acquirers sometimes gauge IP value by a cost to reproduce formula. So, if a SaaS business has 10K hours of engineering time invested, the acquirer might put a $150/hour estimate on the 20K hours = $3M. From there, I've seen companies sometimes apply a discount, given learning time and various code changes along the way.
3) Team Value Multiple: in climates where competition for talent is fierce, and when a core team is viewed as healthy and committed, acquirers will look at the value per key team member. Engineers, product managers, sales leaders and one or two key operators all might be considered. From there, multiples can range from $250K/head to $1M/head (note that the high end has typically been applied more to senior engineering groups).
Of course, there are lots of other factors that acquirers consider (cash on hand, burn rate, market factors, etc.) when buying a small, early stage startup. And ultimately, price is simply a matter of what feels right to the individual buyer and seller. But when gut checks pass, approaches like the three above are useful in helping all parties feel like the deal is fair and rational.
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Steve Semelsberger is the Founder of Alder Growth Partners.