Leaders and Executives

I saw the news that Phil Libin has stepped up to Chairman and the Board of Evernote has hired Chris O’Neill to be CEO. I don’t know much about Evernote, I don’t use their product, but I admire the company and I like the idea of a founder leading a company without being its Chief Executive Officer. There are many examples of this working. The most well known is Larry Ellison’s role at Oracle. Larry doesn’t run the business on a day to day basis but his influence is felt deeply in that company. Another great example of this relationship is Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn.

Leadership is different than management. I have said that many times before on this blog and I will say it again. I believe it to be true. Leading is charisma, strength, communication, vision, listening, calm, connecting, trust, faith, and belief. Management is recruiting, retaining, delegating, deciding, communicating, and above all executing. Many CEOs do both for their companies. But getting leadership from the founder and management from a great executive is a model that can work really well.

The key to making this work is having the founder totally bought into the split roles and totally bought into the person who is going to be the executive and provide day to day management to the Company. In the leadership role the founder must step back and allow the executive to manage the business. They need to step in when leadership is required. That is usually when hard decisions are required and the founder’s instinct can be incredibly valuable.

A really good Board can help the founder and the executive figure out when management is required and when the founder’s leadership is required. But the Board cannot babysit this relationship. It has to work and be functional between the two people. If it is not, then someone has to go and that is usually the executive. That is because a founder’s leadership is hard to replace. A strong manager and executive is not easy to find but that talent exists in many places in the market and is not inexorably tied to the company because of the founding relationship.

If a founder can find their manager/executive inside of their company, that is ideal. Because going with a known relationship vs a brand new relationship produces a higher likelihood of success. But you don’t have to do this. Jeff Weiner was hired from outside of LinkedIn. And, I believe Chris O’Neill was hired from outside of Evernote. Both approaches can and do work. But if you have a strong manager/executive inside of your company, I would strongly suggest trying that. It is lower risk.

I have also seen a fair bit of talent churn out after the founder steps up to Chairman, particularly in the senior team. That’s a reason that many founders are nervous about doing this. My advice is to go ahead and do it. The first year of any new CEO’s tenure is going to be super hard and will require rebuilding the senior team, no matter what. But that can be healthy for a business too.

I admire Phil Libin’s conviction that he is not the right CEO for the next stage of Evernote. And I would encourage him to stay deeply involved in the company, providing the kind of leadership that only a founder can provide. And by supporting his chosen CEO who will need it in spades. I wish them both success in this transition.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Richard Carlow

    When your stated goal is to create a company that is relevant beyond your own lifespan you had better be able to step back from operations.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      So true

  2. David Semeria

    In these situations the founder needs a great deal of emotional intelligence, and give the CEO a lot of operating space. It’s really hard to get something done when somebody’s constantly peering over your shoulder.

    1. awaldstein

      So true and so challenging as both of us know.Building a company is miring yourself in the highest possible pitch and the lowest imaginable task. Simultaneously by necessity.It is really challenging to let go. But let go you must.

      1. Jess Bachman

        Thats a great description.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Emotional intelligence can never be too over-rated.

  3. William Mougayar

    Being a CEO is more difficult than being a founder, and that difficulty grows as the company grows.The trick with the transition situation you described is to do it pro-actively, before cracks and problems become visible & hold the company back.The Evernote & LinkedIn are perfect examples of pro-active transitions.

    1. awaldstein

      Agree about transition.Disagree that one is harder than the other.Honestly, founders are the chicken and it always comes before the egg. Without it you have bubkas my friend.

      1. William Mougayar

        Happy to disagree. (but I didn’t say founders can’t continue)It’s easier to start than to continue; I’ll stand by that assertion which applies to the entrepreneurship / startup world, as it applies to almost anything.

        1. Twain Twain

          So I’ve learnt this: to continue (persevere), you have to be a bit “bloodyminded” — to borrow a super English term. Haha.Bloodyminded meaning “unyielding, uncompromising and unreasonable” because reason and logic tells you just to accept the world the way it is and you should do some safe, neat thing that everyone understands and other people are already doing.Meanwhile, being bloodyminded leads you to show that seemingly impossible innovations can and should be built and the world can be SO much better.Bitcoin-Blockchain would fall into the bloodyminded category.

        2. JamesHRH

          Holy Philosophical Endless Argument Batman.In order of difficulty:1) Close2) Start3) Continue

          1. William Mougayar

            Dunno. I would say:1) Continue – takes consistency, perseverance and continuous adaption (most difficult) 2) Start – takes courage and conviction (difficult)3) Close – you can learn that (easier)

          2. Jess Bachman

            Just so people have some options… I’ll throw this in there ;)1) Start2) Close3) Continue

          3. JamesHRH

            You have people when you are continuing.You don’t need others to start but eventually you have to get them.Closing is almost entirely about other people.

          4. William Mougayar

            Honestly I’m not sure why Closing is on this list. We’re talking about starting, growing, scaling, managing companies.

          5. Twain Twain

            (1.) Close(2.) Scale.(2.) Continue.(3.) Start.Getting other people to sign-off and close a deal is hardest.Scaling is hard; that’s where appropriate VCs and operationally experienced people are worth their weight.Continuing when it FEELS like nothing’s working out is also hard. Of course, the CEO then has to get themselves out of that frame of MO and adopt another frame.Starting — in terms of brainstorming and then wire framing / prototyping something — is relatively easy (as is doing slides).

    2. Twain Twain

      Not sure I agree with “Being a CEO is more difficult than being a founder.” Certainly the CEO on the founding team has a harder role than the founder engineer; that’s why Harvard Business School’s Noam Wasserman’s research on founder equity split concludes: “Wasserman’s research shows that founders who had the idea for the company get around 10 to 15 more percentage points of equity than co-founders. Founders who have led other startups generally get 7 to 9 extra points, and the one who becomes CEO gets from 14 to 20 extra points.”That premium the CEO-founder gets reflects all the heavy lifting at the very start we do. We literally have to be magicians and create something from nothing. Plus we need to be disciplined and focussed to enable fellow founders to deliver their bit of the combustion engine we’re selling to end-users and investors.CEOs coming in later usually don’t have the same heavy lifting to do because the founder-CEO should have systematically enabled their team to institute and run operational processes that make everything self-disciplining (if they’re worth their salt).So that’s why I’m making the distinction that CEOs don’t necessarily have a harder role than founders. CEO-founders have a harder role than CEOs.I agree, though, that succession planning like Evernote’s doing is absolutely a great thing to be proactive about and that some later-stage CEOs are better suited than founder-CEOs to take the startup to next level — again, depending on how quickly the founder-CEO can adapt and scale up their skills to fit with what that stage in the startup’s lifecycle and evolving client base needs.For example, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were great founder-CEOs as engineers but needed the “adult supervision” of Eric Schmidt and Sheryl Sandberg to figure out their revenue models.Later, as their business operational knowhow developed, Larry Page retook the CEO role.In other examples, the founder engineer simply didn’t have the bandwidth (despite being hugely intelligent) to be a CEO that the financial institutions / user base accept.

      1. William Mougayar

        Twain, I wrote this 2 years ago, “Startup Founder-to-CEO Transition Toolset”. http://startupmanagement.or… It includes an extensive checklist.Note, the key part in Noam’s Founders Dilemma research is that “the skills needed to run a start-up during the early days are different than when the company grows.”

        1. Twain Twain

          Thanks, William, terrific resource!Suggesting an addition:From — Trusting yourself to deliver.To — Trusting others with autonomy to deliver team goals.A lot of things boil down to trust and confidence in the founder-CEO transition.

          1. William Mougayar


        2. JamesHRH

          In response to Twain’s suggestion, maybe being CEO is ‘wildly different’ from being a founder?

          1. William Mougayar

            I would say it’s an evolution. Some founders will make that evolution, others don’t, can’t, won’t, refuse to admit they aren’t the right CEO anymore, etc. And even if you’re a great CEO of a 50-person company, that doesn’t mean you can be one for 500 employees. It gets gradually harder to manage a larger organization.

          2. Twain Twain

            In part, the global financial crisis showed how much harder it is to manage a larger organization. The large banks are 50,000+ employees.The decision-making that leads to failure doesn’t necessarily come from the CEO but elsewhere in the chain of command (e.g. some random reckless banker who packages the mortgage CDO and then injects it into “dumb” machine intelligence of portfolio modeling which causes systematic risk transmission).In reporting terms, it’s simply not currently possible to say the CEO or even their senior business managers and Global Heads see every atom of information to make sound decision-making on.Whether Blockchain can help…remains to be seen…Again, requires internal champions within the banks who know what Blockchain can really be about and how everything’s connected in the revenue-risk model.

          3. JamesHRH

            I think the global financial issue showed that you cannot manage investment bankers at scale & not much else.

          4. Twain Twain

            Structure and culture.Structure can be partly solved by better machine intelligence and information flows.Culture has to be led and driven by the board, CEO and senior mgmt team.

          5. JamesHRH

            You could argue that every zero likely needs a new person.

        3. Donna Brewington White

          In spirit of things, giving Evernote another chance, starting with this. ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. garydpdx

      This is probably an important thing for university technology transfer spin-outs to consider. AccelChip would provide a good case study, founded by Prith Banerjee (now head of Accenture Technology Labs) when he was a professor at Northwestern. He founded and built the company on a two year sabbatical but handed the CEO role to an industry person when he returned to teaching. That startup was acquired by Xilinx.

      1. JamesHRH

        That takes a level of maturity that is not common in founders.

    4. Ana Milicevic

      I agree. The tough part is that there’s no clearly defined role for a founder to take once she’s interested in exploring past the CEO role.

    5. LE

      Being a CEO is more difficult than being a founder, and that difficulty grows as the company grows.What is difficult though?Something is difficult typically if:a) you aren’t good at itb) you don’t like doing itc) you can’t do it.d) there is some thing that is holding you back (health, employees, outside influences and so on).A person trained as a Rabbi that doesn’t like being a Rabbi will find it difficult to be a Rabbi “oy another funeral to attend. another bar mitsvah boy to tutor another Saturday I can’t golf”. <—- I would shoot myself if I had to be a Rabbi although I would like the “give advice and guidance part”.My dad hated the creative aspects of his business. I would love that part. To him it was difficult, he would say “every year I have to come up with new items to sell”. He also hated to travel but luckily his brother took care of that. My ex father in law who was in the alarm business said “I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to go to people’s houses at night and talk to them” <—– shoot me again.Running for President seems to be one of the most “difficult” things someone could possibly do. But yet the people running actually enjoy that, right?So what is easy for one person at one point in time could be difficult for another at the same or a different point no matter the task at hand.To get to the CEO stage you have to get past the founder stage. A founder without a company to lead is really not a CEO, right?Also at least with respect to a smaller operation the journey is way more exciting than when you get up to cruising altitude. The journey carries you along because you think the sky is the limit and you don’t know the future. Once you are in the future it can get a little boring. Once you know your fate everything changes.

      1. William Mougayar

        Good analogy re: running for a President vs. being a great President. I’m not judging anyone in particular, but history shows the former is about running a campaign vs. running a country, and they are different. Sometimes it works well on both counts, and sometimes it doesn’t. But there are so many variables and surprises in being a President. You can maybe plan 30% of your job, but the rest will be determined by very unknowns events, reactions, disasters, situations, challenges, etc… It’s one of the ultimate “unknown” jobs I can think of.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Marketing vs Operations

          1. awaldstein

            dunnojobs once said that the best ceos were marketers who can manage to a p & l. I believe this completely.few great ceos skillset is simply ops. we hire it to make the present a step towards the future. ceos imagine the future and make it real.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Definitely.Was very cryptically distinguishing between campaigning and holding office but even then my description breaks down if examined closely.

          3. William Mougayar

            Yup ๐Ÿ˜‰

          4. ShanaC

            I firmly beleive there is actually a job out there called marketing operations because they do overlap…

          5. Donna Brewington White

            Hey Shana!Marketing Operations role exist because marketing has its own set of operational requirements, especially when there are a lot of production elements. But in terms of combining the company’s operations with another function, I have often seen this attached to finance.

      2. ShanaC

        this is why many of the people I know in the rabbinate do not traditional in the rabbinate things. Especially because those duties for jewish people who get served by them tend to annoy the people who get served.Interesting, that fact that a,b, c are happening on both ends is slowly causing innovation in the field of the rabbinate (and priesthood/ministerhood/imamhood/other as well)To me this implies Leadership/Founding a Company/CEOdom is actually changing underneath us, in part because the customers are changing too.

    6. Donna Brewington White

      Unfortunately it is those “cracks and problems” that often indicate that a transition is needed. Do you think it is rare for a founder/leader to have that sort of prescience? Or is that where the board comes in?

      1. William Mougayar

        Anecdotally, when the Board is initiating, then it’s prob done reactively. Ideally, the CEO together with the Board can start these discussions. I would say, yes it’s rare because these situations are few.

  4. Twain Twain


    1. JamesHRH

      I have been catching up on Mad Men. The writing is excellent and the characters are very sharply drawn.At one point, the protege says to the master that ‘he is all about the work.’My favourite compliment to give or receive.

      1. Twain Twain

        At some point, the ego HAS to fall away.Some people tie too much weight to the CEO role because of ego. They haven’t yet evolved to that level of enlightenment of virtue rather than ego.The work is what stays long after our greatest thinkers, artists, industrialists, business leaders etc are no more.The work is the goal rather than the worker’s ego.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          “Ars longa, vita brevis” is one of my favorite maxims, with “art” signifying “work” because work for me is what art is for my many artist friends.*Art is long, life is short.

          1. Twain Twain

            Thanks for sharing this great maxim!When people meet me for the first time, their natural assumption is I’m a “creative, artist, designer”.One of my now best friends (he’s Chairman of a hedge fund) thought I was an art student when we first met. In fact, I was a banker and would soon be promoted into CEO-Chairman’s Office of UBS. Double haha!Recently in SF, I was in a store in Japantown and the owner (who’d studied Textiles in Milan) was convinced I was a fabrics designer like her. I said to her that coding is like making fabrics and knitting in some ways. We weave and weft with strings of code and a canvas of beauty appears from nothing.A canvas that also serves a functional purpose and fits people like clothes.Another time, I got chatting randomly to a website designer at Amazon’s co-working space and he was convinced I was a designer based on my personal style and the paraphernalia of my work tools (everything from the Macbook case I own to my rucksack to my sneakers). “You SO look like a designer! Look at your cool tastes!!! OMG, how did you know to design your logo like that?!!! It’s so striking!” he said.I LOL’ed and had a moment of epiphany: “So THAT’S why I was an outlier even as a banker!”EVERYTHING I DO, I APPLY ART TO — in tandem with code engineering, business knowhow and a healthy fascination for people. I love people.That’s the thing about Art. It expresses our interest in and love for people.There are, of course, times when I adapt to “banker mode” for meetings but when left to my own devices I am, first and foremost…AN ARTIST.And it was even written in my first-ever school report. “Twain has special aptitude for abstract concepts (aka maths) and for art.”

          2. Donna Brewington White

            You are an artist. Trust me, I know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          3. Twain Twain

            Thanks, :*).The other thing about Artists is we abide by this maxim: “Practice makes perfect.”So we’re constantly practicing and improving on our work!

          4. Twain Twain


          5. sigmaalgebra

            โ€œImagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.โ€ โ€• Albert Einstein

          6. Twain Twain

            This is my favorite Einstein quote.

          7. CJ

            I like the full quote better.

          8. CJ

            Though my favorite quote is “Get off my plane!” Harrison Ford

          9. Rick

            I think Einstein also said that imagination is much more important than knowledge.

          10. Twain Twain

            A lot of professional executives and academics are highly educated (MBAs, PhDs and more) and knowledgeable.However, what’s always marked out the geniuses is their imagination and how they integrate seemingly disparate and disconnected things with those leaps of imagination.

          11. Twain Twain

            And this…

          12. CJ

            I’m stealing that. ๐Ÿ™‚

          13. Twain Twain

            Plus this…

          14. Vasudev Ram

            “The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.”- Chaucer (maybe).Update: Checked, it is Chaucer, see here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…Also the other info there s interesting.

          15. Vasudev Ram

            The English language of those days (1300’s) was a lot different from what it is now.See under the section “Influence”, subsection “English”, here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…Didn’t know earlier that Chaucer is called the Father of English Literature.

          16. Donna Brewington White

            Don’t see Chaucer quoted much ’round these parts. ๐Ÿ™‚

          17. Vasudev Ram

            Mine neither. But it’s fun to read about (and sometimes quote) how people lived in times past …

    2. LE

      Who can forget Jack Handyisms…

      1. Twain Twain

        Haha, totally brilliant!

  5. Twain Twain

    Also this.

    1. Rick

      I think that’s the same guy who said “Ad the end of the day it’s sales that makes the business” or something like that.

      1. Twain Twain

        Cash. Communication. Competition.

        1. CJ

          Got his book on my desk, really need to read it.

          1. ShanaC

            which book?

          2. CJ

            Winning – Jack Welch with Suzy Welch

    2. ShanaC

      Know thyself, in other words. Which is really hard. Knowing thyself, maybe means knowing how to fail and get up a bit…

  6. William Mougayar

    It is the Peter Principle, which states that “Everyone (eventually) rises to their own level of incompetence.”https://en.m.wikipedia.org/…

    1. JamesHRH

      In startups, this is not a big problem as failure is readily apparent to everyone.In large organizations, this is a HUGE issue. Lots of people have 20 year runs climbing the stairs of advancement and success.Convincing a 48 year old who has done nothing but success that they have topped out is near impossible. Buying them out (firing them) is prohibitively expensive. The level just under the CEO in most large companies is like a old foest that has not had a good fire in 20 years: lots of deadwood.

      1. karen_e

        Yikes. Sometimes your old-growth Canadian wisdom is a little minerally, James.

    2. Cam MacRae

      I have no direct knowledge of the mechanism of competence transmission at Evernote, but it seems you’re being rather uncharitable to Chris O’Neill.~~Edited to say what the brain wanted, not what the fingers typed.

      1. William Mougayar

        Ah, sorry if I came across that way, but I didn’t imply any negative connotation to Chris or Phil. Was just invoking the research of Laurence Peter, a respected scholar who explained that principle back in 1968 and became known for it. It is generally true in most hierarchical management structures, and doesn’t reflect on the CEO in particular. I did say that this transition was perfect and pro-active, therefore was being supportive.

    3. mikenolan99

      An executive at Medronics once told me of his promotion from IT to Global Audit – he told his boss “I don’t know anything about Auditing” – and his boss wisely replied “Why would I give you a job you already knew how to do.”That is how you build talented leaders…

    4. LE

      I have always liked that principle however keep in mind the “Dirty Harry” saying “A man has to know his limitations”.The peter principle assumes that most people will take advantage of a promotion (and/or a change of job) when the truth is that some people are either smart enough or happy enough or fearful enough to stay in the job that they have (as being safe, secure and “enough”) and not gamble on the next step. Point being there are people who are intelligent and mature enough to stay at one of the last levels and not go any further, even if offered. They aren’t interested in gambling. So the question is, who is “smarter” then?Noting also that many promotions involve relocation which can be a non-starter or other requirements.

    5. ShanaC

      i think the peter principle is wrong. Organizations are too complicated, and people are too complicated, for it to make sense. Someone could move laterally to a different organization, realize something about themselves, and jump over the peter issue

      1. William Mougayar

        But sometimes you don’t know your limitations til you reach them.

  7. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Maybe this analysis is even more true where the leadership need has a deep domain expertise, scientific or relationships element. Given that the executive function is (though extremely important) more generic and so often less particular to the needs of particular industry

  8. pointsnfigures

    “I have also seen a fair bit of talent churn out after the founder steps up to Chairman, particularly in the senior team. Thatโ€™s a reason that many founders are nervous about doing this. My advice is to go ahead and do it. The first year of any new CEOโ€™s tenure is going to be super hard and will require rebuilding the senior team, no matter what. But that can be healthy for a business too.” This is a really key point. Maybe think of it this way. When people transition out, they might be likely to start new companies so by making the move you are actually growing the startup community.

    1. JamesHRH

      If the people on the team cannot change then the people on the team will change.

      1. Vasudev Ram

        A Zennish (*) quote indeed.(*) You heard the term here first. (TM).

  9. Val Tsanev

    I remember when I watched a video of you Fred with Mark Suster on that topic and you made a great point that too many founders are focused on running their companies forever and do not want to give away, the CEO title to someone who potentially might have a more appropriate background and be a more effective manager. The interests of the company should always come first, before founders, investors and employees. Also if a specific person enjoys more getting a product into the market from just a vision/idea than actually running a company, she can generate a great portfolio of startups over 10-15 years.

  10. Marissa_NYx

    Phil is an amazing, courageous guy, he has pioneered and brilliantly executed on so many levels : he has created a respected brand , not just a product; he has successfully executed the freemium model across 4 different markets – consumer , education, the developer community and the business market . He has a great stage presence, is huge in Japan and has set up each office around the world like it’s own startup. He had the courage to face the decision to (almost ) shut down Evernote in its early days with one month of run rate left in the bank, no VC backing, only to receive a last minute reprieve through an email at 3am the night before from a user in Russia who loved the product and inquired if he could invest – of course, Phil took the investment. He also contributes to the start up community through talks and mentoring. In my team we look up to successful role models and Evernote/ Phil is one of them.

  11. JamesHRH

    If you run through @JLM:disqus ‘s Vision Mission Strategy Tactics Objective Values Culture list, I think you can see a natural fault line.For me, it seems natural that the Founder would hold the top side of the list: Vision, Values & Culture.Maybe others would split it differently.

    1. JLM

      .Vision, half of Mission, Values and the initial Culture belong to the CEO/Founder.The second half of Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives and the ensuing Culture belong to management with oversight from the CEO/Founder.You were paying attention, weren’t you, James? That is one of the highest compliments I have ever received. Thank you.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  12. Ana Milicevic

    Starting and scaling are two very different sets of challenges; even within scaling there’s a big sliding scale, i.e. it’s one thing to scale from $0 to $10MM revenue, completely different to scale from 400 people to 1,000+ (if that’s the way you’re heading). I have enormous respect for leaders with enough self-awareness to understand what they’re really good at, what they’re most passionate about, and where they can instead bring someone else in to take over. From a corporate governance perspective there’s really no forged path post-CEO which really doesn’t do justice to how many nuances there are in a company’s evolution.

  13. Nidhi Mevada

    This is an article of month ๐Ÿ™‚ Found it really helpful!

  14. Jess Bachman

    I believe Rand Fishkin is another good example of this. He was the CEO, now he is the “Wizard of Moz” or something, allowing Sarah Bird (who is awesome) to be the CEO.He has a great post about it here. https://moz.com/rand/swappi… But its totally clear that Rand is a natural leader… charismatic and all the other things you mentioned. Just from following him from afar, hes been able to flourish in this role.And to balance that out… Reddit is an example where this has failed.

  15. porlowsky

    Very well written Fred. No one should underestimate the importance of great leadership. Finding that right balance between management and leadership allows for the best of both worlds and continued success!

  16. mikenolan99

    Watching the same thing unfold at Code 42 – where my son is a developer. Jack was employee #85 or so – now they exceed 400 – and they’ve grown into a pre-IPO company.Matthew Dornquast, founder, has stepped down as CEO and brought in Joe Payne as their new head guy – Joe has previous rapid growth and IPO experience.http://tcbmag.com/News/Rece…I’ve met with Matthew and his team on several occasions – they have a great balance of comradery, work ethic and innovation. If you haven’t checked out their software – it is pretty cool stuff.

  17. bsoist

    Hmm, I thought everyone used Evernote.

    1. JamesHRH

      Tried it & didn’t like it.

      1. karen_e

        I used it, loved it, hated it, had data-mining paranoia (“DMP” — is that in the APA DSM-5 yet?). Then recently came back, boomerang style. Let’s hope they don’t ruin it.

  18. David Fleck

    I know Chris from google days. Hard to believe that’s ten years ago. He’s smart but also quite literally the nicest guy. He’s now going to be in the spotlight. From an external perspective it looks like they’ve done about everything you can to do this right. But just like a new organ in a body, the patient verdict on this transplant is tbd. I wish them success.

  19. Mario Cantin

    This post is so good I had to save it for future reference into…Evernote.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I love this post too, and I love the idea of Evernote. But have never actually been able to make it work for me. Something about my brain or workstyle doesn’t click with it.But “while I breathe, I hope” so just added the “web clipper” extension to the browser of my new computer. Will try again.

      1. CJ

        I prefer OneNote. It’s pimp, especially if you have a device with a stylus. Though the notebooks that integrate with Evernote are good as well.

    2. Ronnie Rendel

      Be honest – when will that future reference be? And what will you do with this article then?

      1. Mario Cantin

        That future reference may very well be never.I only do this less than once a month *if* I find something outstanding that I think could be useful later.It is perhaps a form of hoarding, but at least it is digital; it takes no physical space and it is easy enough to delete. And it has proven useful on several occasions thus far.

        1. Ronnie Rendel

          My point is – again Evernote (like Slack) is a multi-billion dollar company and I’m trying to figure out why. You (just like me) use it at best as a tool for digital hoarding. I would not pay money for this service.So what is Evernote good for (that’s a question not a statement)? With that said, my main activity professionally is taking notes. I’m notorious for it in my firm, I take notes by hand (have a markup system for cataloging and arranging the notes as I write), then type them into Quip (not Evernote), then from there it goes to Gmail (execution) along with Gmail tags or our internal Jobs program if it goes to engineering.By the way, I really like quip and would definitely pay for it. Besides being useful it’s also a good example of very good programming.

          1. Mario Cantin

            I’m with you all the way on this one. My only use case is hoarding. But there are others who use it extensively, Jeff Jervis is one example. Be interesting to find out why and how he uses it.

          2. Prokofy

            Why not type the notes into some application with markup tho instead of writing by hand? Not that I’m different, I write notes by hand too because then I can remember them better.

          3. Ronnie Rendel

            The real reason I write by hand is that I can put ink anywhere I want on the page, without any limitation or constraints. Microsoft One Note was OK with that, still far cry from pen and paper.Plus it forces me to rewrite and hence review and organize my notes, that’s where more then 50% of my work gets done.

          4. ShanaC

            doesn’t evernote now support OCR?

          5. thomasknoll

            I an Evernote pro customer. It’s good for my ADHD ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind’ brain. But, I am also becoming a huge fan of Quip since we use it as ‘wiki, shared documents, and chat’ for my startup. I would gladly pay to use Quip as a replacement for Evernote if/when they have an ‘offline’ mode.

          6. Ronnie Rendel

            Quip just released an offline mode (saw it on Quora). I would love to hear more about how you are using Quip as a Wiki. We desperately need one in my firm, and I was considering an internal blog (love the ideas of tags). I see this is a lively topic, there is still a lot of opportunity in productivity apps.

          7. thomasknoll

            Really? I’ve seen this: https://www.quora.com/Does-… but I wouldn’t consider that true off-line full access to all of my documents with intelligent sync, etc.And happy to discuss how we use Quip. I don’t have anything good written up, but this is a good story: https://quip.com/blog/assist

          8. ShanaC

            I love evernote too for the ADHD parts of me as well. I think the tagging is excellent, ect ect.That said, as I am dealing more and more (finally) with my (very) bad case ofADHD (Bad enough that there are bruises on my limbs from no medication days because I don’t always clear furniture from being easily distractable), evernote seems better as a holding box of notes that I haven’t quite figured out what to do with.Though clearly I need to try quip…

      2. thomasknoll

        I ‘web clip’ most articles into Evernote that I really enjoy and think I might want to reference someday directly into evernote. And I do it without the expectation that there is a specific next action for that content. But, search works very well in Evernote. AND, more importantly, there is a “related content” section at the bottom of notes in Evernote, so this can serendipitously pop back up when I’m writing or thinking about something entirely different. <3 me some serendipity. =)

    3. ShanaC


  20. JLM

    .The truth of this discussion can be seen, heard and felt in the actions of serial founders. I remember with great clarity the calm I had when I founded what would have been my third company.I had exactly the same kind of epiphany when I was a company commander in the Army the third time.You start to get the roles right. Not necessarily in some classical academic manner but in a manner that works for you.It also makes it infinitely easier to bootstrap the funding because you have a lot more confidence. I wrote a few checks to meet payroll during the first couple of years. That was the sum total of the funding.Of course, in those days we actually had something called “community banking” and I could get a working capital line of credit.Don’t ask me about working capital lines of credit, you will never see one again in this life time thanks to Dodd-Frank. They will be like dinosaurs.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Ah, and remember savings and loan associations. Of course, I don’t. Just heard about them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    2. Rick

      I like Fred’s post today. It really solidifies what I say about Phat vs Lean and Leaders vs Workers..I think there are more things, not just community banking, that our business environment has lost. Some of them very important.

  21. Donna Brewington White

    I’m glad that you bring this up from time to time. Huge important issue. Similar to the question of when a CEO needs a COO. Seems that at a certain stage adding a COO could prolong a Founder/CEO’s time in the role especially when scaling but might also signal that a greater transition may be needed as the company continues to mature and grow.

  22. David A. Frankel

    Such a succinct way to describe the dichotomy between leader and operator/executive. I happened to watch the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” (interesting exploration of the music icon) last night, and this post reminds me of a line in it. Bobby Byrd, who was a talented singer and musician, basically discovered James Brown, brought him into his existing group where he was already the lead singer, and then saw Brown quickly ascend to its charismatic leader. He was asked by a disgruntled band member why he stuck around and dealt with his idiosyncrasies. His reply: “You work so hard at this one thing to be in front, and then one day you realize, it ain’t supposed to be you. James, he’s supposed to be in front. I saw it happen. The man in front got to be the man in front….Every man in this band walks taller because of James Brown. He’s a genius and he’s taking everyone in this band along with him. ” Byrd realized early on that without James Brown’s charisma, his music would not be heard. And in the end, Brown realizes without Byrd as his sideman, he couldn’t manage the rest himself. Leadership vs. execution, right there.

  23. Sebastien Latapie

    What a clear way to distinguish between leadership and management. Saving this for future reference!

  24. Donna Brewington White

    Now for a post on the opposite: When the founder is a great manager but not a great leader. You can definitely learn to manage, and to become a better leader. But the inherent ability to lead, is that made or born? I know this question has been addressed many times with different conclusions drawn.One of the disastrous things I’ve seen is a leader reporting to a manager at a high level within the organization. Frustration ran rampant for both parties.

  25. karen_e

    The reason we all love this kind of post is because Fred (1) writes so well and (2-10) is so passionate even when he is *not* remotely talking his book. Do you all remember when he told us his firm passed on Evernote because it was “(just) a utility?”

  26. sigmaalgebra

    Dangerous thoughts.And, really, not correct thoughts. Two responses:First, the CEO-manager described is better named the COO and/or the rest of the C-level staff — CTO, CIO, CFO, CMO. So, maybe we’re talking CEO Zuck and COO Sandberg plus the C-level people who report to Sandberg.Second, the CEO is not just an employee but a person with a lot of power. Taking the founder out of the CEO role dilutes his (her …) power in the company and, thus, increases the power of the BoD, especially the members other than the founder.Dumping a CEO founder stands to do astounding damage to the culture of the company, the alliances in and dedication of the rest of the company, etc. The new manager will likely face a near mutiny.So, what’s the real thinking, agenda, here?So, the whole post looks like, sounds like, walks like, quacks like an excuse for the old standard that the investors and BoD want a CEO to be just a hired manager subservient to the BoD, to get rid of any pesky, unpredictable leadership, preferring a Sculley to a Jobs, and to get the company ready for an exit and liquidity for the investors ASAP.Supposedly at times Page and Brin arrived at work on skateboards. Early on Zuck showed up on Wall Street in a hoodie. For a long time Gates was short on social skills. So, dump Page and Brin? Nope: Instead give a few billion of stockholder’s equity to Schmidt until it was clear that, really, he was not much needed. Zuck? Sandberg. Gates? Ballmer. Replace the founder CEO? Nope.Gee, if Markus Frind had just understood why he couldn’t be a sole proprietor and needed a C-corp, investors, a BoD, a COB, a hired CEO, C-level staff, and lots of people, then maybe he would have been really successful instead of selling out for $565 million.

  27. Simone Brunozzi

    He “stepped down”, more than “stepped up” (http://research.gigaom.com/…. Plus, if I recall correctly from one meeting I had with him in Singapore, he didn’t start Evernote, he joined a bit later.

  28. Matt Zagaja

    Spent the day looking at rooms to rent in Cambridge. Loved how Evernote used the GPS to auto fill the title of the note with the address of the property that I was taking the notes at. Completely nailed this use case.

  29. Peng Jin

    This is probably the best definition I have ever read about “leadership” and “management”.

  30. Prokofy

    This is a great post not only about this company or tech companies in general but any organization, even non-profit.The CEO should execute and the president or chair should preside.It’s funny how Evernote is something I’ve also always admired from afar but never got. And I think it’s an app you can get for not too much.

  31. mdelrio

    at buongiorno we did it right from the start; i founded the company, Andrea Casalini was a seed investor and, when we did the a round, he joined as CEO and i continued as Chair; we continued for 12+ years, until we sold to NTT Docomo for 300$mil in cash

  32. William Mougayar

    On a relative basis? starting vs. growing/scaling/managing