Archive: Feb 2015

Expansion Stage CEO Focus


A recent email discussion I had with a London based founding CEO who has recently received a round of funding. Thought I’d share it with you…


From: Firas Raouf <>
To: James
Focus, focus, focus… Sigh… Its a recurring theme, and one of the most important priorities for an expansion stage CEO…
As you already know, your top priorities should be:
1. Set Aspirations and Goals and have them clearly and constantly communicated. The analogy here is that you have a clear definition of your company’s “North Star” and the means/path that you’re taking to get there. For Columbus, the North Star was India, the path was sailing west instead of riding east, and the means was the royals funding three ships and a crew.  Once that aspiration/plan was clearly set, the focus became much easier to manage (buy three ships, recruit three captains, buy bunch of ship food, etc.). So I would start there, and after that you’ll find that setting goals and getting everyone focused is much easier. The first thing I do when engaging a company is run a two day planning workshop that lays all this stuff out with extreme clarity. The latter part of that workshop is the process for managing the management rhythm. I can show you the tools and method that I use for the goal/focus, but I just need to make sure you’ve got the harder stuff already baked.
2. Hire, motivate and focus a senior team. This is a two year process. You will have to remove some of your current “senior” members from the table; you will hire senior members who won’t last more than 12-18 months; you  will hire more experienced executives when the time is right; and eventually you will get to a stable team. That doesn’t even take into account the US entry. Experience hiring and managing senior people is invaluable for you, so get some (ongoing) help here.
3. Culture: manage the culture more and more as the company grows. As the team expands and becomes more geographically dispersed, you will need to spend more time to proactively communicate and live the culture.   Don’t take this for granted. It is easy to think that your culture will continue to be infectious, but as the company grows, the infection will need to be proactively dispersed.
4. Never run out of money… once you get on the funding train, it is exceptionally hard to balance being hooked on that crack cocaine, versus being disciplined enough to be a casual user. Always assume you don’t have as much access to funds as you actually do, and plan the business accordingly. Make sure your investors are aware at all times, but not over managing your priorities. Set up a good cohesive board with some independents that balance out the loud VCs.
I could go on for much longer…
Firas Raouf
Founder, [N]squared Advisory

On Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 10:14 AM, James <> wrote:

Cheers Firas,

Difficult to find time for a call right now, but I guess *focus* is a big challenge right now – as always – there’s a million things we could be doing on product, hiring, sales, marketing, and it’s my job to make sure we know what we’re working on every day and week. Any processes you’ve found for helping you prioritise tasks?
Hope to meet soon!