‘Priceless Pieces of Crap’

I caught up recently with Patrick Morley of Bit9 (I was a Series A investor there while at a previous VC job).  He and Tom Erickson of Acquia are the independent directors at our portfolio company VoltDB.

We started talking about the start-up life. Patrick has been a CEO of multiple start-ups and is quite savvy. I remarked to him how the CEO job is really one of the hardest (prior blog post here), and I’ve long admired how he has done so well for so long.

He told me it’s key for a CEO to have a peer group. “It is challenging job,” he said. “And, here’s why: some days, you have to work with ‘priceless pieces of crap’.” What he meant is that the issues that fall into the CEO’s lap tend to be the really thorny ones.

It’s something an engineer or a sales rep couldn’t solve and was then escalated to a senior executive. And, when that VP cannot solve the problem, it gets escalated to the CEO. So, it’s the CEO’s job to resolve the issues and to transform some cruddy inventory into something that sings and works.

I think the CEO job is incredibly fun, impactful and empowering. But, I encourage all of our CEOs/founders to have a peer group with whom they can bounce ideas, vent and get calibrated. I particularly encourage our companies when we invest to bring onto their Boards other entrepreneurial business leaders.

I think that peer group is something that should be in place long before you need it. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Patrick.

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