During an economic downturn, one of our toughest responsibilities as senior management is “managing up”. What was once a supportive, relatively passive relationship with our investors has suddenly evolved into nearly daily correspondences and urgent requests for data.
To help startup executives balance the needs of their investors with the duties of operating their business, I called on my friend Jon McNeill. Not only has Jon founded 6 companies, he also served as President at Tesla, reporting directly to Elon Musk, and then served as COO of Lyft. From nervous venture capitalists to merciless public investors to some of the most demanding CEOs in the history of entrepreneurship, Jon has experienced and thrived in all of these settings.
In this video, we discuss:
- Understanding investor sentiment by viewing the world through their lens. The difference in demeanor between established VC investors versus first-timers, who Jon refers to as “white knucklers” to symbolize their nerves as they try to establish their investment track record. Often lacking operating experience, result expectations from first-time investors can be unrealistic.
- Managing less experienced, nervous investors. Managing “white knucklers” by encouraging dialog with experienced investors/advisors, setting a communication cadence to minimize distraction from running the business, and assigning them high value tasks, such as surfacing 5 venture debt term sheets. As CEO you work for the board, but they work for you too.
- Delivering on Elon Musk’s audacious goals. How he managed the pressure of owning global revenue for Tesla, with audacious goal setting by Musk and merciless expectations from Wall Street. Jon frames leadership as “getting more out of you than you knew you could give”. He felt that is the magic of Jobs, Gates, Belichick, and Musk. When faced with audacious goals from Musk, rather than saying “it can’t be done” Jon adjusted his stance to “I don’t know how to do that but I will try to figure it out”.
- How Musk gets more out of his people than other leaders. We finished off by exploring how folks like Jobs, Gates, Belichick, and Musk achieve this level of leadership influence before they have the success and star power that seemingly make it possible.
Enjoy the video conversation and post any follow up questions for Jon below.
Also, to help facilitate the discussion with investors on revenue and other go-to-market expectations, use the below bottoms up sales and marketing model to apply observed changes in your sales activity and conversions and model the impact on revenue outputs.