Startups Founders: Get an Executive Coach!

I’ve recently had numerous conversations with several non-US portfolio companies founders who had raised series A’s (or had big Series Seeds). They were having many personal issues with scaling the team, leadership & growth issues. No surprise that these founders were facing challenges as they now had to deal with a board, growing a staff and management team. A very big difference from the earlier pre-seed stage.

As we talked through these issues, I’d always ask, “don’t you have an executive coach?”

Of course the answer was almost always a resounding “No”. And i’m always surprised but not surprised.

For most of my top Silicon Valley companies, the minute they finished raising their A, (or even a sizable Seed round) they usually went out and hired an executive coach. In fact, it was usually their lead investor who recommended or pushed them to do so.

In fact, I think it’s become very commonplace here in Silicon Valley or standard now. If you have never run a fast growing organization, or have and want to get better, I think it’s incumbent on you to figure out to get better FAST. Becoming a leader and good manager is just a completely different skill set. It’s okay to get help here as it’s not a skill that you learn in school or something you can pick up from a book. It’s also important for your own mental health.

You need someone who is an outsider who will question your assumptions, to push you and help you see things that are smack dab in front of your face. These coaches should be paid by session/hour in cash, not equity as you do not want them incentivized from your business growth. You want them incentivized for YOUR personal growth. And I can testify I have seen dramatic changes in many founder’s performance and leadership/management ability after getting an executive coach.

Some amazing folks I can recommend are Jerry Colonna & his Reboot team (https://www.reboot.io). Also Steve Schlafman High Output (https://highoutput.co) who is on the east coast (don’t know Steve but he has a good rep). And no, you do not need to be an ex-VC to be a good executive coach (even though both these guys are). I’ve also heard very good things about the platform Valor Performance (https://www.valorperform.com) too.

I think executive coaches for entrepreneurs are a very specific role and like all industries it’s full of unqualified charlatans. So do reference checks here and talk to many different coaches before you pick one. Something I hope you would also be doing when picking a lead investor or lawyer, it’s just as important .

This executive coach trend for startup founders is not that common outside of the tech ecosystem in the USA. But it is coming. And it’s a very good thing.

Written by

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com

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