Being There

We get feedback from the leaders of our portfolio companies on an annual basis. It helps me get better at what I do and I love it.

One area that I am constantly challenged to improve on is accessibility.

The common refrain is “I know you are busy and I hate to bother you.”

To which I reply “It is your job to bother me and my job to be responsive when you do.”

But even so, getting portfolio company leaders to feel that they can reach out, even on small things, is a challenge.

An approach that I have taken and many other VCs also take is to schedule weekly or bi-weekly catch ups with the portfolio leaders.

That works but sometimes what is needed can’t wait for that or is a “in the moment thing” like “today sucked.”

And sometimes helping someone deal with “today sucked” gets you to a level of comfort with a leader that allows you to help on many other things too.

My point is simple. Being there for portfolio leaders is job number one for venture capitalists. If we can’t do that, what can we do?

So working on that is a big part of my personal development and I work on it every day.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

    1. Mike

      That would be about 1-2 hours per week. Not a lot of time for open conversation but meaningful if you have a focused topic.

  1. jason wright

    Where did this usage for ‘suck’ (“today sucked”) come from in US culture? It’s an Old English Germanic Saxon word but we don’t use it in this way in Britain. It always feels very funny peculiar to me when i see and hear it.

    1. Richard

      Not too long ago US culture has contempt for the “taking/demanding class”. They thought of the takers as perpetual children. And children before they mature routinely do one thing to survive and that’s suckle – at the expense of everyone.Sucks is short for Suckle – and suggests anyone or anything not contributing.

      1. jason wright

        Ah, to suckle, as children do. Now i get it. Thanks.

  2. awaldstein

    Being there is kinda the core of all relationships.Also impossible for me to read this phrase without seeing Peter Sellers in the movie from the Jerzey Kosinsky novel of the same name.

  3. kenberger

    “If I see Rafael, I will give him your message.”…

    1. awaldstein

      exactly what i thought when i saw the headline.

      1. jason wright

        What is this, a flat screen, or a 3D projection?

        1. Vendita Auto

          Pass, my guess is the latter

    2. pointsnfigures

      “I like to watch”

  4. Nicholas Osgood

    Grateful for all of your support!

  5. JMS

    Fred & others, curious to know how you think venture LPs should fit into the equation. It’s their money, but it seems they’re often treated as an afterthought at best.

  6. Semil Shah

    I use text. If we begin texting about a number of topics, they learn to grow comfortable reaching out during these moments.

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  7. Richard

    Call and Say you don’t have time is better than not calling at all – “while we don’t have time to get into things this week, I’m always here for input if you have a narrow issue”.

  8. jason wright

    I wonder how well an AI bot would manage this task?

  9. JLM

    .I reiterate what @disqus_AsyAYSvW65:disqus says — get yourself a coach for reasons that are different than what Charlie had to say.First, know that any person serving on your BOD has a fiduciary duty to all shareholders to share information that bears on the value of the investment. Period.Know that if things are going “sort of OK” you will be in line after the guy whose hair is on fire.Tell them you’re feeling a little depressed? Next call is to a head hunter. Sorry, that’s the way the game is played.If you confide something in a member of the BOD, they are forced by that duty to act upon it.When you go to your first board meeting, look carefully into the eyes of those arrayed before you. One day they will fire you. It is the rare CEO/founder who makes it to the five year pin. Not being alarmist, just practical.Even seemingly irreplaceable superstar guys — ugh, like Travis the K or Adam Neumann, get fired when they have their personal foibles exposed. Extreme examples, but I use them because it was their mojo, their insane life force that drove those businesses.With a CEO coach, you get a sounding board who cannot fire you under any circumstances. You will want to get a signed NDA to put your mind at ease. I signed two this morning.The more important thing is that your CEO coach should be someone who has actually been a CEO. The largest reason I hesitate to even consider a boardmember VC as a confidant is because while they may have spent a lot of time flying in first class — they have never actually taken off or landed an airplane. Get advice from someone who has actually done the job.Being a CEO of a startup is a wizardly hard job that you will laugh at when you have done it for seven years — if you last that long. When you have done it for seven years you learn a huge secret — it is not a hard job. You actually get damn good at it. Everything falls into place.When you do it for 33 years as I did, it becomes laughably easy. You delegate everything and just look at the Friday report. But, it takes time and training to get there.I was a CEO of public and private companies in several different industries. It is NOT lonely at the top. It’s a freakin’ hoot when you know what you are doing. It is like being a Chinese feudal war lord.You should enter into an arrangement that ensures you are not crammed into the “available time” of a VC, but that you have time that is dedicated to you and only you — when you want it, when you need it, when it is convenient for you.Today, I spoke to a female Chairwoman in Germany, a founder in NYC, a CEO in Ireland, and an emergency call from someone in California. I still had enough time to write a blog post and leave a longish comment on two blogs.I actually attribute my own launch into CEO coaching to from whence I received a multitude of calls. Way more than a hundred.A good CEO coach will help you win in the big and small things. This is different than a VC boardmember whose role is different. He is a steward of his investment with a duty to all shareholders. Your coach exists only to assist you.You need 3 hours to work through a problem, a coach can and will do that. Good luck with the VC and, really, should you be exposing that to someone who can fire you? You know the answer to that.You don’t need a coach forever and you should use different coaches for different phases of your existence. Get a coach with whom you can speak, who you understand, who will push and pull you, who will tell you that feeling overwhelmed is part of the landscape. It doesn’t even cost a lot of money. You should make good use of professional organizations like YPO, Vistage, et al.Be careful about taking counsel from a group of equally clueless or inexperienced founder/CEOs. Talk to at least one person who has gotten a whiff of the pay window.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      I’ve heard much of that before from a strange source, BRC, with something of an issue about a paint job and lusting for a little MB sports car down the street.Considered over time, with the evidence and face validity, along with what I did see in business and the FedEx startup, highly credible advice.And no-joke advice: As a former B-school prof, the advice is essentially unavailable in B-school. One reason is the criterion of the advisor having been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt, and made it to the “pay window”, and nearly no B-school prof has.The part I never like is the BoD stuff: They could FIRE me, for any reason or no reason!!!! I’ve been fired, and it was NO FUN; the main reason was that my work was TOO GOOD, and my immediate manager saw me as a threat. And a BoD would have a big reason: Get me gone before my stock is vested.One of my main motivations in being a startup entrepreneur is so that I can’t be fired: If my Web site pleases my users, then I’ll be fine, and I wouldn’t expect to get paid otherwise.What looks good to me is an LLC where I own 100% of it. To me, voluntarily signing up for a Delaware C-corp looks worse than voluntarily swallowing whole and live one of these: https://uploads.disquscdn.c…NO THANKS!So far, my stomach and GI tract are fine; I want to keep them that way!As 100% owner of an LLC, I certainly won’t get fired for having my startup TOO successful!Like some BRC advice comments, this one is a keeper — read, saved, indexed.Valuable advice even if have to pay, tough to get even if do pay, “full tuition”. And a super bargain at the current list price! Dad didn’t know this stuff. None of my profs did. None of the business books, articles, or other Web essays or posts did.Thanks.

      1. Liam Jeffrey

        Yeah, but have you heard of binary options trading??

        1. sigmaalgebra

          My understanding of options is based on a stopping time, that is, a random variable whose value is time and is adapted, measurable with respect to, the sigma algebra generated by the history of the process up to the value of the random variable — tricky concept. Then in the stochastic process want the past and future conditionally independent given the stopping time. Then proceed as in the Markov process solution to the Dirichlet problem. So, this way can get exotic options.I suspect that there is more more money to be made looking for anomalies and then taking a position that assumes that soon the anomaly will be gone.But I’m doing very different things now. I just moved and assembled a nice, new office and am about to get back to work.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Can I submit my application to you for coach – and when Yang wins the election I’ll fly down for you to buy me a steak dinner to seal the deal? 😉

      1. JLM

        .No application. Only a hand shake.Any time you come to Austin By God Texas I will buy you some BBQ, TexMex or a steak. Even a taco. Fajitas at Matt’s El Rancho, like the Stations of the Cross. Religious.I think you will be buying me that Andy Yang steak, amigo.#YangBangersJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  10. mikenolan99

    How valuable is persistent asynchronous chat for this? More and more I find that Slack and other tools that allow immediate notification, response at convenient time, with historical look back valuable. Email can do this, but not very efficiently.

  11. pointsnfigures

    Yup. And if it’s bad news, no judgement in the moment. Figure out a solution to the problem if you can. If you can’t, say you can’t and try to find a way to help you help them fix the problem.If it’s good news, open a bottle of champagne. Celebrate with them, for them, and pat them on the back for a job well done.

  12. Jason Garverich

    Fred, LOOOOONG time reader, first time commenting. This one hit home – how do we as leaders scale our access (and hopefully impact)? One thing that works for me (that will admittedly be more complicated for you) is to have office hours at a set time every week. People can pop in, ask a question/vent/get help, more in the flow than scheduling in advance without the potential deluge of ‘contact me any time’. Not sure if your schedule would permit it but I have found that it works really well for me and gives folks the opportunity to get more ‘in the moment’ help in-between scheduled 1:1s.

  13. Mark Gavagan

    Perhaps you could establish a system where your portfolio founders put an urgency/importance rating (1 to 10) in the subject line of an email, or 1st line of a text, so you never miss or delay a truly important/ urgent inquiry.

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  17. jason wright

    Yes, but a whole day would be a long time in your context.

  18. KB

    Alrighty then

  19. Matt A. Myers

    Like the new profile photo – not sure how long it’s been there but just taking note. Sharp.

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