Archives for October 2015

I Truly Believed I was Going to be Fired the Following Day


One of the most miserable nights and then days of my life.

From a performance perspective, I didn’t have anything to worry about  – I’ve always prided myself on overdelivering in whatever role I’ve been in.  And I consistently got the highest ratings possible, max bonus number each year, and was promoted multiple times during my time at the company.

I was an 8-year employee and Senior Vice President in a billion-dollar company, and I just had this nagging feeling like I was going to be let go.

In general, I’m not a paranoid person. Sure, we all have our insecurities.  And I have my version of Imposter Syndrome, but no one close to me would really ever describe me as a paranoid individual.

So why did I have such a strong feeling, what did I do during that crazy day, and where did it lead me?

The Feeling

The reality was that I was starting to think about doing my own thing.  I had started a magazine a long time ago, a failed entrepreneurial venture, but it whet my appetite for doing my own thing.

Not to mention that over the past few years, an increasing number of my friends were entrepreneurs, I was reading more and more about people’s stories of going on their own, and I happened to be married to a woman who believes in entrepreneurship and whose dad owns several businesses.

It was getting close to “put up or shut up” time.

And then I became a father and our world changed (for the better).  But now I was not only thinking about what I wanted for myself and my wife, but the legacy and lessons I wanted to leave and teach my son.

I had begun having conversations about what I might do next.  Within my industry, I was fairly discreet and in fact told nobody internally what I was contemplating.  The people I spoke to I generally trusted, but you never know how word might spread and who is friends with whom.

Once you start having these thoughts and conversations, as anyone who has been there can attest, they start to dominate your thoughts.  But more than that, I started to feel like I was living a double life.  I had my at-work persona and conversations, and then there were those that I had outside of work.  Not to mention it takes an enormous of thought and stress to keep track of what you have told to whom.

Oh yea, and then wife was pregnant with our second son.

That’s some of the backdrop.

So yes, I was in an particular mindset and certainly under a bit of stress.

Again, I’m not a paranoid person by nature, but it just felt like the other senior executives around me were behaving weirdly.  Very short conversations, limited eye contact in the halls, what almost felt like avoidance.

Having let go more than a few folks in my professional lifetime, I felt like I was seeing the behaviors that I had displayed towards those who I knew were on their last days at the company.

Why that one night in particular was the one where I was convinced I was being let go the next day (that’s a nicer way of saying “fired”)– I don’t have a great answer.

But my wife will be the first to remember the conversation we had where I told her I thought I was being fired the next day.  And the reality is there is no way that feeling is going to do anything but suck.  Regardless of what I had been contemplating (leaving) and where I thought I was headed (out on my own).  One always wants to be in control, to be able to know that you were the one who made the choice, not someone else.

So yea, that night kinda sucked.

The Day Of

Years ago, I played blackjack with a team in Vegas – yes, the same type of stuff as in the movie “21” or the book “Bringing Down the House.”

I’ll never forget that feeling of walking thru a casino, heading to the tables, knowing that I wasn’t simply just walking thru the casino for kicks.  I was there for business. And I knew that I had team members waiting for me.  (To be clear, everything we did was legal.  Against house rules, yes, but there is a huge difference between against house rules and against the law.  One gets you kicked out of a casino. The other can get you arrested.  We were always very clear about doing things legally.)

As a member of the team, we were up to something and others didn’t know about it.  Unless you’ve been there or been in an analogous situation, it’s hard to explain. But there’s this sense of feeling like you know more or are in on something that most everyone else isn’t.

That emotion is the best way to describe how I came into the office that day.  Except I wasn’t trying to win money at the blackjack tables.  I was convinced I was no longer going to have a job by day’s end.

On my way up from the parking, I stopped by a colleague’s office to tell her that today was likely my last day.  Not by my choice.

Not unexpectedly, she didn’t believe it, but soon realized that I was serious, and ultimately, if I in fact did know it was coming, it was just a matter of wait-and-see.

Near my office, the awkward behaviors continued, at least by those that were around.  It was odd that a good number of folks weren’t around.  Had other senior execs been told to keep their distance? (Now this is starting to sound like paranoia, I’ll admit…)

Over the course of the day, I had several conversations with my wife, my colleague, and one of my best friends.  All were supportive.  And most importantly, all were caring and compassionate.  If you indeed are going to be fired and “know” it’s coming, the least your friends can do is be compassionate.  It’s never a pleasant thing.

Lunchtime came and went.  I have no recollection of whether I ate lunch.

And then all of a sudden, I lost access to one of the company systems.  To this day, it must have been a weird glitch, but it did happen and I could not login to a tool I used all day every day.  But again, having done a number of terms (our short-hand for “terminations”), I knew that concurrent with pulling someone in to a departure conversation, the IT department began their process of removing access to pretty much everything company related.  It’s standard practice and honestly is a good risk management tool.

5 minutes went by.

Then 10 minutes had passed.

A painfully long 30 minutes later, and I was still sitting in my office and no one had stopped by or entered.

So I called my good friend who told me enough is enough.  She told me that rather than continue to wait in misery, to go do the proactive thing.  But in a way that wasn’t explicit.

It turned out that we were beginning performance reviews and setting objectives for the coming year.  So my friend suggested that I go to my boss, the company president, to ask if there was anything he felt I had been lacking in during the prior year.  In particular, the question was framed in the context of wanting to build my current year’s objectives as appropriately as possible.

In so doing I was partly forcing his hand.  At the least, I was trying to get any information, any indication of whether my sense of gloom for the day had any merit.  (Call it my version of charging the torpedo like they did in “The Hunt for Red October.”  How’s that for pushing analogies?…)

I got a pretty plain-vanilla answer, but it erred on the side of the fence of “you’ve been doing a great job” much more than “er, ah, um, why are you asking, and can we talk about this later.”  Nothing of that sort.

It did help me feel better.  And at least made me feel better that I was taking some action, as opposed to sitting around, waiting for someone else to take theirs.  Because as bad as being let go is, the sitting and waiting is truly miserable.  (When we let go a bunch of people the year prior, my teams were the last ones to be notified – I knew that it sucked for everyone, but let’s just say I have more empathy for them than I did before.)

And I also felt that if my boss couldn’t address the issue on the spot, well, at least I had done my part.  And was proud for taking that step.

As you might have already figured out, I wasn’t let go that day.  Nor the following day or week.

But it truly was a miserable day.  And I still don’t know if something I did on that day changed people’s minds (quite unlikely) or why I completely misread several people’s behaviors.  I never did address it with the folks I thought were acting strange.

I felt what I felt.  Was certain of it.  And of how I thought the day would end for me.

Needless to say, it was one of the situations where I was clearly happy to be wrong.

What I learned and What I Did With That Learning

No matter who you are, there is always someone to answer to.  For many people, it’s their boss.  But even for entrepreneurs who have no “boss”, whether they are answering to customers, investors, or their spouses (!), it is not like they have zero accountability.  And should those folks be displeased, the entrepreneur may not be fired (unless the investors of course have that ability), but they can lose their business (or go out of business) if they fail to address customer issues.

Talk to any business owner who has previously had a job, and they will all say that it’s just different.  Yes, you will always answer to somebody.  But being your own boss and answering to your customers is fundamentally different than answering to your boss.  It’s a different level of control that you have being your own boss.  And in fact, being in much more direct control of their future is a common theme for why many people become/became entrepreneurs.

The same with me.

I realized I hated the idea that things like my bonus were ultimately someone else’s decision.  At least a someone else who was titled “my boss.” I hated the fear I felt that someone else could fire me.  And then frankly, I hated that I couldn’t impact my future, my financial status, and my freedom, to the degree and in a way that I wanted.

And so that was a big part of what I learned from that horrid day.

Looking back, it was also clear that it was just time for me to move on. There are a host of things that built to that point, meaning that I could have seen scenarios where I stayed in this role and was truly happy.   But all those little things, both personally and professionally, that came together in my life changed how I looked at what I wanted (and needed).

It was the proverbial nail in the coffin for my future at the company.  I had been leaning towards going out on my own anyways, but this did it for me.  There was definitely no turning back.  No way that I wanted to nor even that I could turn back.  I had taken the red pill and could no longer see things the way they had been.

And yet, I didn’t walk out the door the next week either.  I have a mortgage, a wife, and at the time, our second son was on his way as I mentioned earlier.  And while I had some money saved, it would have been irresponsible on so many levels to walk out or even to give 30 days’ notice that next week.

While there was urgency, there was no rush to make a move.  If that makes sense.

And even my “risk-tolerant” entrepreneur friends would all say the same thing.  (By the way, the idea that entrepreneurs are pure risk-takers and don’t consider risk is foolish.  Truly something they don’t get credit for.  Managing risk is very different than being oblivious to it and being foolhardy.)

Making the decision to go out on one’s own does not mean one has to leave a job immediately.  It means, and in particular what it meant for me, was that I needed to ensure that I was taking steps to be out on my own.

The conversations started ramping up.  More thought and research occurred.

Most importantly, each day and each week I took an honest assessment of the prior period to make sure I could answer the question, “Am I steps closer to moving on?” Sure, there were days and weeks where that wasn’t the case.  There were moments where I felt like I was moving backwards.  And then there were times where I thought I was making progress and was getting closer to a move only to have it fall apart for one reason or another.

Ultimately, I left to start something with a few folks I knew.  I felt great about the team and the opportunity we had discussed.  I felt good about my financial situation – enough that it wouldn’t be a massive point of stress for a period of time.  (Having been in massive financial stress during my prior venture, I knew just how detrimental it was to my ability to execute, not to mention to my mental, physical and emotional well-being.) And I had the support of those around me.

This isn’t to say that I’ll never work for someone ever again.  I think that’s a silly statement to make.  Whether that prevents me from being a “true” entrepreneur is something I’ll tolerate.  We each have our levels and boundaries.  And frankly, we can never foresee all the life events that can happen.

At the same time, this isn’t some judgment against people who work for others or some “call to arms” for people to leave their jobs.  I think that would be pretty arrogant to believe that my values, choices and decisions are the best ones for others.   But these needs are much more than urges for me.  They are driven from within and have to be addressed.  And even served.

Whether or not they sustain the rest of my life is a question I don’t consider.  For now, this is what I need to do.

And this here is about my experience and my choices.  And I was excited to make my way on this new venture and certainly felt good about my decision.


Not surprisingly, the story doesn’t end there, nor did things progress the way I thought they might.

Within 10 days of my last day, our founding team had been reduced from 4 to 3 founders.  2 months later, my 2 remaining business partners told me they wanted out.

Literally within moments of hearing this news – which I wasn’t expecting but also wasn’t surprised to hear, if that makes sense – my head moved on to considering what’s next.  (Not sure that now re-qualifies me to be a “true” entrepreneur…)

After an already-planned family vacation to stay with some friends in the Hamptons, I decided to see if I could get some consulting clients.  Honestly, having done consulting before, I was not that excited by this prospect, but a good friend spent an hour on the phone with me and convinced me to give it a strong push.  That the value I could provide was significant.  That the income I could generate would be attractive.  (By the way, you usually don’t get the latter without doing the former.)  And that I could have the life and lifestyle that I wanted at this time.

And so I began putting my name out there.  After a month, I read the book “The 10X Rule” by Grant Cardone, and I realized I need to up my game a good amount.  I had gotten a couple clients on board, but knew I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could.

Which gets us and me to today.  I’ve got 6 clients, with several more in advanced conversations.

I’ve said no to a number of folks where I didn’t feel like there was a great fit, usually where I didn’t feel like I could add significant value and pretty quick ROI.  I’ve said no to consideration for a full-time opportunity.  Which interestingly enough, and certainly not planned so by me, has turned into a consulting project.

I’m doing work I really love.  Yes, I answer to my clients, but I’m my own boss.  I work most of the week from my house and am in a formal office a couple days per week.  I get to see my wife and kids multiple times per day typically.  I’m pleased – actually surprised – with where my business has gotten to both by client count and income after 10 weeks of pushing,   I am certainly not done and am continuing to push hard on growth.  But I’ve learned to acknowledge the wins as they come.

And while any (or all) of my clients could turn around tomorrow and say they don’t want to work with me anymore, a) I doubt that’s going to happen; and b) I know that even if they did, I’ve lived through the day where I thought I was getting fired from my only source of income and that I’l be okay.

Honestly, I would’ve been fine.  I would’ve bounced back (kinda have no choice when you have responsibilities).  Maybe how I responded when my partners told me they wanted out is my proof of that.

But I also feel like, as much as control is this myth people dream about, I am able to affect my future in a way that I have much more influence on than when I was in this most recent job.

Now, when I go to bed, while I do somewhat dread our 6-month old waking us up in the middle of the night, the reality is that I am ending each day exhausted but proud of what I’ve been a part of that day.  Which has been doing my best to provide massive value to my clients.  But more importantly, I’m spending time with my family, which is really what this whole thing is about for me.

And then before my head hits the pillow, there is this excitement and almost giddiness of what I can help create the next day.

Which sure beats freaking out about getting my ass fired…

What’s Your “Unfair Advantage”?

What's Your "Unfair Advantage"?


A good friend who recently started a business is getting preferential treatment from her vendors.  They have given her low minimum order quantities and generous payment terms on her orders.  Both are typically reserved for customers with significant history and volume.

Frankly, it’s almost not fair that she gets these terms while others don’t.

To be clear, there is nothing happening that is remotely illegal.  At the end of the day, these types of decisions a vendor makes are business decisions.

But there’s more to the story…

My friend has been working in the same industry as her startup for the past 10 years.  Her business partner’s family business has even more years of experience in the industry.

They both have history. They both have relationships.  And good ones at that.

And because they are using the same vendors as her partner’s family business, the startup is essentially piggy-backing on the trust built over time.

These two entrepreneurs knew this going in.  And frankly, that’s a big part of why they decided to take the leap.

They knew that they had to manage their cash carefully.  These two also knew that they had an advantage many others don’t. They didn’t have to buy as much as everyone else (less upfront risk), and they didn’t have to pay as quickly for what they did purchase (favorable payment terms).

But I’ll be honest.

I was kind of annoyed when I first heard this.

Very quickly, that annoyance turned to admiration and respect.

“Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.”  Especially when not everyone has ‘em, right?

The reality is that anyone starting a new business should try to leverage their own unfair advantages as much as possible.

Some people know how to code.

Some know how to build websites.

Some have a ton of relationships.

Some are really good at sales.

Some are just really smart.

And some know they can outwork everyone else in their industry.

When you marry those unfair advantages with passion and competence, that’s when risk goes down and the chances of success dramatically increase.

In fact, risk management is a skill most entrepreneurs don’t get enough credit for.  Most people view entrepreneurs as risk-takers.  And certainly most entrepreneurs are more tolerant of risk than the average individual.

But very few people talk about how well entrepreneurs manage that risk.

Maybe they start small and build slowly.

Maybe their model has multiple ways of evolving such that if one path doesn’t work, there are other ways to go.

Maybe they start a business where they have a lot of history and relationships.  Which in turn leads to decreasing the financial constraints on their business.

And then for some, it’s not maybe.  It’s real.  They manage their risk by knowing they have what many people would term an unfair advantage.

When in reality it’s knowing what you got and being smart about using it.

This isn’t to say that people can’t and haven’t had success in entirely new industries or roles.

But if you could dramatically reduce your risk and increase your chances of success, why wouldn’t you?

So what’s your unfair advantage and are you leveraging it to its max?


Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

You can also follow me on social media or connect with me directly by clicking the links to the left.  

The Top Reports Business Owners and The Executive Team Should be Looking At

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  -Peter Drucker

“The numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole truth.”  -Anon

“It’s all about the information!” – Ben Kingsley in the film “Sneakers”


Pick your quote.  These are merely three of them.  There are countless others.

Whether using quantitative or qualitative information, businesses need information to help guide (dare I say “inform”) their decisions and to identify potential (and real) problems.

Do we do more of what we’ve done?

Do less of it?

Why did only 1,300 people open last week’s emails vs. 25,000 the week before?

Something is not right with our payment processor because cash is out of step with revenues!


As I see it, you have two choices.

Measure and monitor your business.

Or hope and pray and then don’t be surprised when your company checks bounce.

In previous posts, after harping on about the importance of knowing the value of your customer, I detailed out how to measure customer LTV.

After last week’s post on how to hire an analyst, several people messaged me asking exactly what types of reports said analyst should run.

Of course there is no comprehensive list of reports for all businesses.  But all businesses share a good number of similarities – revenues, cash, etc.

As such, I’ve put together a spreadsheet with several tabs, detailing a number of key reports that should be run weekly.  Some, such as continuity retention, probably only need to be run monthly.

These are intended to be more dashboard views.  The level of detail for the report you get is obviously your choice.  How big is your team?  How crucial are certain details vs. others?  For example, you probably don’t need cash balances by bank account, but maybe it is important to know revenues by traffic channel?

But clearly, either you or folks on your team should have much more granular data and reporting – that’s actually where everything happens.  The reports in the file linked below should be helpful to keep your finger on the pulse of key areas of your business.

These reports apply to businesses with physical products and info products.  One-time transactions as well as continuity offers.

And you’ll notice there are operational metrics as well.  Too often these are an after-thought.  But having great communication between ops/customer service and marketing can help to inform offers, copy, etc.

Add, subtract, tweak as you see fit.

But I can almost guarantee that the moment you start reporting and paying attention to something in your business, it will get better.

These reports should help get you going or add to what you’re already doing.

Click Here to see the reports.

Finally, I’d be interested to know what you look at – please comment below.


You can also follow me on social media or connect with me directly by clicking the links to the left. 

Fear Not the Numbers: Learn from a Quant Guy How to Hire an Analyst

Fear Not the Numbers: Learn from a Quant Guy How to Hire an Analyst

The best interview question I’ve ever asked…

“How would you find a needle in a haystack?”

I’ll come back to that in a second…

It’s no secret I’m a fan of making sure you have an analyst on your team.  I harp on it so much not simply because it’s my background and I’m biased.  The role provides real value to a business but seems to be one of the most overlooked ones.

One of the obstacles I’ve found from friends and clients is that they don’t know what exactly to look for.  “Analyst” is a broad term and just because someone says they can run reports or knows how to use Excel doesn’t make them the right person for your company.

“I don’t know what I’ll even do with the reports when we get them”

If you’re reading this, that means you have the desire to improve your business.  So trust me when I say that you and your team will quickly realize how much better you understand your business with reports (and I’m not even talking about hard-core analyses yet).

You’ll figure out how to use it.

I’ve built multiple high-performing analytics’ teams and have seen what works and what doesn’t.

To that end, below is a breakdown of what to look for and how to hire an analyst.

  1. Comp
  2. What Do I need in Place Before Hiring Somebody
  3. What to Screen For – Personality
  4. What to Screen For – Technical Skills
  5. What’s Not Required
  6. Red Flags
  7. What Additional Training to Provide
  8. What in particular to keep in mind with these roles
  9. Screening, Interview Questions and Assignments
  10. Sample Job Description

(Click on the links above to jump to that section)



Let’s get this out of the way first since those who haven’t hired an analyst before are worried about how much the role is going to cost them.  (This, despite my strong feeling that the role will ROI very quickly and will become one of those you ask yourself how you did without.)

As with everything, the range depends on experience and where you are.

Here in Los Angeles, I’ve hired folks straight out of college for $45K-$50K and seen more experienced folks at $150K.

There are several factors that play into how senior you hire, but you don’t have to go big right off the bat.  I’d say at $60K-$70K you should be able to get someone pretty decent, possibly a manager level.

What Do I Need in Place Before Hiring Somebody

Data integrity is the key to anything quantitative.  It sounds obvious, but the reality is that most people don’t spend nearly as much time as necessary making sure their data is good.  They think because they have an InfusionSoft integration or are using a high-end Oracle BI tool, that the data is good.

Or that they understand their data.  Meaning, they assume their definition of something, like “sales”, is what the report is spitting out.  When I was at Beachbody, I used to say that there were at least 5 different definitions of sales – Gross sales, shipped sales, net sales (after returns), wholesale, sales net of commissions – and so when someone described sales, we had to have a short conversation to make sure we were speaking the same language.

To that end, if you know your data is bad, plan on one of the first responsibilities for the analyst role to be to dig in to understand and work with IT to clean it up.

If you think your data is good, unless you’ve spent a ton of time cleaning it up, you probably are not aware of where the issues are.  And you’ll need some clean-up.  Just be prepared for some of this work to need to happen.

By the way, every organization has data integrity issues.  Perfect data doesn’t exist.  There is no company where you simply press a button and out comes a perfect report.  Annoying? Yes.  Relief to some who are frustrated with their issues? Sure.  A reason to throw your hands up and do nothing? Absolutely not.

What to Screen For – Personality

  • Intellectual Curiosity – one of the top 2 personal characteristics I think this role needs.  It’s intellectual curiosity that drives someone to question, to dig in, to be frustrated by not understanding something and digging in even further.  This role is all about curiosity.
  • Attitude – probably the single most factor for success in any role.  If this role is new to your organization, that means they are a guinea pig, so they need to know that.  They also need to be able to persevere through bad data.
  • Attention to detail – What the job is about.  Here’s how I screen for this trait.  At the beginning of the job description, write IN ALL CAPS to read the entire job description as it contains important info.  And then halfway down the job description, ask candidates to put a specific word in the subject line.  It’s the fastest way to filter out people, which is one of the biggest challenges in recruiting (just like knowing which hands to fold in poker).
  • Comfortable with unclear goals / targets – Most of the time, you and they don’t know what you’re looking for.  It might be, “Here’s a bunch of data. Tell me what you find.”  Which is why those annoying consulting questions actually have some value.  (My favorite question was, “How would you find a needle in a haystack.”  See the bottom of this post for some of the best responses I’ve heard.  You can answer for yourself before scrolling down.)

What to Screen For – Technical Skills

  • Excel – an analyst who can’t navigate in Excel is essentially useless.  See below for my test I used to give interview candidates.  (One random question I’d also throw in would be to ask them what % zoom their Excel is in their current job – 100% is used by non-analysts, anyone doing anything meaningful is probably around 75%-85%.  Geeky but true.)
  • Microsoft Access – not a deal-killer for me.  I didn’t learn Access for years and only a select few on my teams used it.  A nice-to-have but if the individual knows Excel, they can figure out Access if necessary.
  • Critical and analytical thinking – again, the core of what the role is about.  In terms of resume screening, I look for something on the resume that indicates analytical ability – previous roles, engineering / math degrees, or perhaps a random but related hobby.  But there has to be some base level of analytical ability.  Training on the business versus training on the technical side are two completely different things.  Personally, I don’t really care much about where they went to school – good candidates come from everywhere.

What’s Not Required

  • Specific knowledge about your business or industry – clearly dependent on the role and your company, but if the individual is a smart analyst, they’ll figure out how to add value and dig in to your business pretty quickly.  Don’t ding someone because they haven’t worked in your industry before.
  • Management skills – analysts typically aren’t managers.  And your first one or two don’t even need to have management potential.  Focus on what they’ll be doing.  Not what you might have them do in 3 years.

Red Flags

  • The “Strategic” candidate – some candidates will say they are really interested in being strategic and want to help affect company strategy.  To the point where you get tired of hearing the word.  (Usually most prevalent in recent MBA grads – this from a Stanford guy so I’m mocking my own here…)  The issue is that these folks don’t want to roll up their sleeves and live in Excel for a while.  The bummer is they miss the point that everything is in the details.  And that the more in the weeds they are, the better they will understand the business. And thus, the more strategic they can and would be.
  • Complete inability to communicate – This role is admittedly a bit geeky.  Okay, a lot geeky.  Unlike some copywriters who can get away with being socially awkward introverts, analysts need to have decent communication skills.  Or you need someone on the team who can communicate with them effectively.  Copywriters at least have a communication style that works for them.  Finding an analyst who can’t communicate in any medium is a disaster you need to avoid.

What Additional Training to Provide

  • Technical – honestly, if you’ve screened correctly, there should be much technical training required initially.  Over time, they may want or need some advanced Excel training or even Access and SQL.
  • Communication – again, I would do this on day 1, but getting your analyst some communication and / or presentation training may not be a bad idea
  • Books to read – “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.  One of my all-time favorite books.  It’s about how to get ideas to stick.  There are several sections that apply to people who go deep on something and then have to share their learnings – essentially what analysts have to do.

What in particular to keep in mind with these roles

  • Most analysts are cerebral types, and as I mentioned above, likely introverts.  As such, they may not always initiate issues and concerns.  So you have to be more proactive in making sure they are doing okay.
  • Take them to meetings – obvious to some, not so much to others.  Analysts want to be appreciated and know that their work is of value.  The best way is to be in a meeting where they are presenting their work or if they aren’t ready for prime-time, at least where their work is being discussed.
    • Note, to the extent people start making decisions based on the reports, you’ll want the analyst in there anyways to make sure conclusions are correct.  It’s also just smart to do so.
    • Get them the fastest computers in the company and really nice monitors.  Just do it.  They’ll feel special.  And it actually helps them be more efficient, especially the added processing power.
    • Typically these folks like a quieter environment but unless you have a super raucous environment, I think it’s better to have them in the middle of things – they’ll learn faster through osmosis and will start sharing things real-time.

Screening, Interview Questions and Assignments

I have found that 3 different visits in-person works the best – the first is an initial screen of 25 minutes, the second is more extensive, and the third is really to make sure both parties do in fact like each other and feel there is a fit.

As mentioned above, one of the keys to the recruiting process is filtering out as many unqualified and frankly lazy applicants as quickly and efficiently as possible.  That’s why, in the section above on “attention to detail”, I suggest having applicants put a specific word in the subject line of the email.  Immediately, 30%-50% of the applicants will be filtered out.  And using a rule in your mail provider, voila…

Next, I typically do an Excel test in a 2nd round interview (see link below), but you can do part or all of this remotely and have them email you the results.  I wouldn’t worry about “cheating” because again, you’re looking to filter people out if they aren’t willing to make the effort.  And then I would do an in-person test as well if you want.

The in-person interview questions really aren’t rocket science – it’s about trying to get a feel for the person, do they display a history of intellectual curiosity, do they have a good attitude, are they a cultural fit, etc.  The Excel test is a big tool for filtering on real skill, plus it gives a candidate a sense of the type of work they’ll be doing.

In terms of questions, etc., here is a list of what I work through:

  • The first question I ask every candidate in any role is what they like doing and want to be doing professionally.  (If you don’t add “professionally”, you can set yourself up for legal issues – but professionally is fine.)
    • I like broad questions initially because how someone answers tell you a lot about themselves.
    • Obviously if they are straight out of college, I’d go with a “tell me about your favorite class or activity”
    • This question can surprise many candidates because they are in “why I want this job” or “how do I impress this interviewer mode”
    • The intent is actually to put people at ease so they can talk about themselves in a broader way
  • What about what you’ve read or heard about this role is exciting to you?
    • This is both to see what research they’ve done and to get a continued sense of their communication style.  Plus, they better be talking about their desire to dig in to data to find stuff.
  • Why do you think you would be good in this role?
  • What kind of things do you read? Tell me about a book, article, etc. that you read recently that you really liked.
    • These go to intellectual curiosity
  • I’ll also throw in one of the consulting-type questions
    • How would you find a needle in a haystack?
    • Can you talk me through how you would go about estimating the number of gas stations in LA
    • Note – I know many people find these annoying.  But afterwards I’ll explain to candidates that the reason I ask them is because they are indicative of the work they’ll be doing.  Sometimes it feels like you are actually trying to find a needle in a haystack.  Sometimes you don’t have clear direction and so how they approach solving these questions gives a glimpse into how they think on their feet.
  • How do you think about the next 12-18 months of your career
    • I never liked 5 years out because who knows.  But 12-18 months is manageable for most people.
  • What other opportunities are you considering
    • Somewhat obvious, but I like to know that people are looking at roughly similar roles elsewhere

Sample Job Description

Strategy Analyst (Note, I like adding Strategy in the title because it usually draws in a broader group, but if you know exactly what you’re looking for – a web analyst, marketing analyst, etc., use what you feel is best)


This individual will be responsible for building reports and creating models and analyses to support the day-to-day decisions of the company.

The ideal candidate will not simply be a “number cruncher” but one who both wants to gain operational exposure and can think strategically beyond the basic work that needs to get done.   Intellectual curiosity, analytical thinking, and a great attitude are keys to success in this role.

This individual in this unique position will learn about the inner workings of the Company and will become a provider of crucial information to help guide the company.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Provide quantitative analysis to support the Company’s operating efforts
  • Design reports to track financial metrics as well as operational metrics
  • Create analyses using disparate data sources and large volumes of detailed data, often starting from scratch
  • Translate the results of an analysis into easily understood presentation quality materials
  • Provide input through business modeling and pro forma analyses to support strategic decision-making in day-to-day operations and new programs
  • Proactively identify and evaluate strategic and operational opportunities and provide recommendations for potential solutions
  • Provide regular reporting and analysis on key sales and marketing metrics, including sales force analytics, trends, etc.
  • Perform exploratory data analyses that helps the company better understand the customer and present findings to both technical and non-technical audiences


  • 4-year degree in a related field
  • Minimum of 2-3 years as an analyst in a finance environment / investment banking role
  • MBA preferred but not required
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Inquisitive mind with superior intellectual and quantitative analysis capabilities
  • Strong proficiency with Excel
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Access and SQL are a huge plus
  • Ability to thrive in a new and unstructured position
  • Ability to balance multiple projects at once
  • Flexible team player who is looking to thrive in a fast-growing and often-times uncertain environment
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Self-starter with a willingness to take a hands-on approach to data analysis


Link to View and Download Interview File

Click Here to Get the File


My Favorite Answers to the Question:

“How would you find a needle in a haystack?”

  • Best example of stopping to ask questions before you go on a goose chase: How big is the needle and how big is the haystack?
  • 2nd best example of asking questions:  What tools and resources do I have available to me to find the needle?
  • Thinking unlike how most people think:  I would send an email to the company or my team asking if anyone has solved this problem before (most people think they have to solve the problem entirely by themselves)
  • Best example of a pyromaniac:  I’d burn all the hay and then look thru what’s left to find the needle
  • From a CEO:  I would delegate to the CFO (exactly what the CEO is supposed to do)
  • From my sister:  How important is that specific needle, because if it’s not that important, I would just go to the store or amazon to get one

Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

You can also follow me on social media or connect with me directly by clicking the links to the left.  

2 Areas that can Most Impact Your Business

2 Areas That Can Most Impact Your Business

“What are the 1 or 2 key levers that can move my business?” I’ve gotten this question several times this week.  My process of working with folks to know the key levers in their particular business is a bit more involved than a simple answer.  And I’ll be posting that process soon.

But in the interests of simplifying it down to 2 buckets, I’d say that it comes down to focusing in on these two areas:

  1. Customer Success
  2. Cash

There are nuances to each of these.  They can be at odds with one another at times.

But at the end of the day, are you doing everything you can to increase the chances of success for your customers?  What about the magnitude of that success?

And are you following the cash?  Are you maximizing revenues, cutting down expenses, and managing cash effectively (see my post here).


Customer Success

Some businesses call them customers. Some call them clients.  Others, unfortunately, have bad names for them.  (For simplicity sake, I’m going to refer to them as customers and will speak in the context of a product, even though it could also be a service.) But there is a reason these people have paid you money, bought your product, signed up for your list, come to see you speak, etc.  Or maybe they have expressed interest and they haven’t converted.

There is a problem they want you to help them solve.  So take a look at what you’re doing and ask yourself, “Are we doing everything we can to support success for our customers?”

Whatever your brand promise, does your product do what you say it’s going to do? When you talk with customers and solicit feedback from them (you do talk with your customers, right?), what do they like most about what you provide and what are their pain points? These are very easy places to start.

Then look a layer deeper to how customers experience your product:

  • Do you make it difficult / painful to order?
  • What is the emotion after ordering (hopefully slightly better than when people get their driver’s license renewed at the DMV)?
  • How long does it take from the time they order to the time they receive your product or gain access to it?
  • Do customers have access to information about the status if there is a lag? (Ever been to a restaurant and wondered if they had to go find a chicken to lay an egg to make your omelet?)
  • If it’s a SaaS product, what is the onboarding experience like (here is a great breakdown of various products – )


You’ll notice that none of these have to do with the customer actually using the product or service.  But they are experiencing your business. And if you are making the process before they get to the product or service miserable, you are affecting their mindset which is going to affect their experience.  If you screw up the ordering and the wait, you are messing up the product.  A product has to be off-the-charts amazing to make up for a crap experience prior to getting it.  (Going back to the restaurant analogy, ever waited so long for a drink to arrive, that when it does you say, “I don’t even want it anymore?”)

Once a customer begins using the product:

  • Are the instructions clear? (My son just got a Gorilla Gym –  looks super cool.  Except the written instructions are atrocious. I need to watch a video but didn’t have a computer next to me, which means it’s been sitting on a table for 3 days.)
  • If a customer has questions, is it clear where they should go? Is it clear how long it takes to get a response? Is that promise met?
  • If something breaks, how miserable do you make the experience to fix or replace it?
  • What else does a customer need to use your product? (“Batteries not included?” Grrrrrrr.  Or, ever bought something with a triple-prong for the outlet but your extension cord only has 2 prongs? Friggin’ drives me crazy.  And I still don’t know why some products need 3 vs. 2.  And frankly, I don’t care. I just want to be able to plug it in.)
  • If I want to return your product or cancel the service, do you make it difficult? Or worse yet, do you offer me a better deal than I already had? (Mobile carriers and cable companies do this all the time – why does it take me saying I’m leaving for you to give me a better deal?)


Here’s the thing about these types of issues – some of them are zero cost and some of them will require investment.  And I’m not saying that you should literally do everything that someone can dream up to support a customer.  Much of this stems from your brand promise.  If you’re a personal trainer, I’m not saying you should get in the food delivery business.  But it might not be crazy for you to partner with a food delivery company, HealthyOut for example, to suggest to your clients?

And remember, the question was about originally about identifying key levers in your business.  This is more about the fact that if you focus on your customer’s success, you’ll likely find some key levers.



Sounds like an obvious area.  But sometimes it’s about realizing that you don’t need to make things more complicated than they need to be.

What generates cash?  What costs you cash?  What are you doing to manage cash?

And yes, I’m aware that the above section on Customer Success may cost you cash.  Or it may cost you cash, in the short term.  But you make it up with lower returns, stronger brand loyalty and word of mouth in the longer term.

Focusing on cash isn’t necessarily the yin to the Customer Success yang.  But rather it’s another lens through which to look at your business.

  • How much are you generating from customers? Have you maximized revenues?  (Note, you might maximize revenues at the expense of customer experience – I’m not saying one is right or wrong.  Just be aware.)
  • Many times, your customer would actually like to give you more money.  Russell Brunson did a great podcast on this recently –  He gave one example of wishing his pool cleaning company would’ve picked up on his question about replacing his pool filter by offering to do it for him.
    • Or perhaps you sell a 30-day supply of a protein powder.  Do you actually email the customer on day 27, or ever for that matter, reminding them that they are likely running low on the powder.  And if they just click the button below, they can re-order? By the way, this nicely falls under the Customer Success bucket as well.  Always nice when it fits under both.
    • While offering installment plans may actually lead to some bad debt, do you generate more customers by doing so? The answer is likely yes.
    • Do your sales reps – whether on the phone or in a physical store – know enough to suggest a complementary item to what a customer is already purchasing?  Suggesting a really cool belt to go with the shoes I just bought doesn’t have to be an intrusion.  In fact, many people would appreciate the guidance.   And voila, you’ve increased cash.  And increased Customer Success.

What about expenses:

  • If you’re a growing company, when was the last time you revisited pricing from your vendors?
  •  Is there a vendor that is now available to you with your increased scale that wasn’t available to you previously?  It’s all relative.  Whether you do $1,000, $100K or $10MM per month, you should have someone accountable for reviewing expenses and pricing every quarter, especially when you’re growing.  One of the biggest challenges growing companies face is behaving like a bigger and grown-up company.  Too often expenses and vendor pricing are the big areas overlooked.
  • Take a look at your company credit card (or your personal one for that matter).  I’m guessing there are a host of services with recurring billing that you don’t use anymore.  Take the 15 minutes and cancel them.
  • UberX vs. Uber Black Car – there’s being penny-wise and pound foolish.  And then there’s just no need to spend more.  Both options are clean and will get you where you want to go.

There’s also simply cash management:

  • If you prepaid your vendors, or had tighter terms, would they give you a discount? Maybe that $35 wire is worth incurring.  Or maybe you just need to bring a bit more cash into that bank account to get the wire fees waived?
  • Have you asked for terms from your vendors? Sure, the 0.2% interest you get on your cash may not seem like much, but it’s always nice to have more cash in the bank longer.  And I’ve found that when you start paying attention to these little things, more little things catch your eye.  And those lotta littles start adding up.


At the end of the day, a business should serve customers and generate cash. (I’ll ignore both Amazon which has a heavy reinvestment strategy and venture-backed companies which have a different philosophy for the moment.  These are by far the exceptions rather than the rule on how most businesses operate.)

Make sure you are helping your customers succeed.

Follow the cash.

You’ll likely find plenty of gaps and opportunities.

And you should hopefully build a better business in doing so.


Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

You can also follow me on social media or connect with me directly by clicking the links to the left.  

My Rant About Diminishing Returns

My Rant About Diminishing Returns

The topic of diminishing returns is following me around everywhere I go recently.  And one key component about is starting to get on my nerves.  Suffice to say, that this post might take a different form and tone, in a video, but this’ll have to do.  And while the focus below is about managing media, the point is applicable to many other situations.

In multiple meetings this week, I’ve heard people talk about what media is more efficient than others for a given business, what the optimal level of spend is, and how best to manage media.  The dialogue has gone something like this:

Person #1:  Well, this media is working, but as we scale it, we’re going to see diminishing returns.

Person #2 (Not bothering to ask what media “working” means nor how significant the diminishing returns are):  Ok.  Well, then stop spending there.


That’s it.  Literally, I’ve heard that 3 times in the past week.  Here’s my problem with this conversation, beyond the sheer blanket acceptance the 2nd person made of the other’s comment:


In the below example, assume for a moment that at increasing levels of media spend, that the cost per order to acquire customers also increases (with a few exceptions, this is almost always the case).  And so yes, it is true that the media has diminishing returns as you scale it.

BUT HERE’S THE THING, the target cost per order is higher than the actuals at all 3 media levels.  Which means that unless all the media that ran as this marketer increased from $60K to $100 came in well above breakeven, then despite the fact that the increased media had diminishing returns, you still would want to run it if you were this marketer.

(For the moment, let’s not get caught up in inventory or cash flow issues – which I don’t mean to minimize, but that’s not where these discussions have been and what’s bothered me so much.)


So please, to tweak a great quote I heard about relationships (“Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”):

“Do you want to be right or do you want to make more money?”

This is why context is so key. And why challenging what people say is so key.

There, I feel better now.


Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

You can also follow me on social media or connect with me directly by clicking the links to the left.