Madman On Your Board

LATEST UPDATE:  It is unlikely I will accept any future offers, you can try asking me if you want, but I'm pretty sure I'll say no. However, I'm leaving this up because I think it has a lot of good advice if you are going to try to build a company.

Am I willing to be on your board? If so, what will I do, what won't I do:

The positions I consider most favorably are, CFO, CTO, CIO or CEO.

As CFO I will work heavily to encourage excellent use of the funds the company has at its disposal. My objectives will be to make sure that we don't waste any money on one side, and that we don't go cheap in the wrong areas. My experience with a lot of companies is that they will overspend on the "technology" or idea, and underspend on the "marketing." In general, half your money will be primarily on whatever it s you are 'doing' and half will primarily be on marketing. Obviously this is just a rule of thumb, each company is going to be different. Most companies need to push marketing and sales ahead of "the product." The saying "make a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door" is false 999 times out of 1000. We want to provide a worthwhile product/service but we need to let the buyers know about it. Many "salesman" oriented people are optimistic about their sales potential. My objective is to give the sales team every possible oportunity to meet or exceed their sales targets, while structuring the company so that, when they miss the tragets by a wide margin, that the company can still be successful. Some CFO's  feel that their job is to make everyone miserable filling out paperwork to request the purchase of a box of paperclips but that is not my style. I believe the CFO's job is to work with every other senior executive and manager to make sure that the money is being spent to further the objectives and safety of the company and not being wasted on things that do not advance the company.

As CTO or CIO I will work to make sure we get the biggest bang for the buck from the technology and development so that as much money as possible is left over for marketing. I will work with the engineers and software people to do everything possible so that we get a real product. Software companies can be especially bad at over promising and under delivering. My experience in managing teams includes "in-house staff" as well as "outsourcing" although I must admit, my track record has been better with in-house.

As CEO I will oversee all aspects. I will focus on vision and managing the other leaders of the company to make sure we are all on the same track and working together. CFO's often are at odds with the other areas of the company, I will work to get all VP's on the same page so we are all aiming for the same target with reasonable expectation of getting there. The success of the team will result in profit for everyone - salaries for employees, taxes for government, return of capital and profit for cash investors, and lastly, profit for shareholder/managers such as myself.

If you offer me simply $x or $y salary (no shares) to be on your board, chances are I won't be interested unless you want me perhaps for a year to help initiate significant changes.

If you offer me x% of the shares in the company as part of the package, now you have my attention!

If you own the company, and you are taking no compensation, then that is the terms that I will normally plan on taking. However, if you are taking a salary/bonuses etc.., at a minimum I will require the same terms for similar amounts of work. But if you make me CFO, don't be surprised if my first order of business is to ask exactly why we (the executive) are taking the salary in question. If the answer is "the investers are letting us", then the salary better be the absolute minimum, and it better be a LOT less than YOU could really make at another company. I am not interested in partners that are "happy" with the salary and look at the shares as a bonus. I am interested in partners that either have no need for salary, or if they need a salary, they recognize that the salary is way below what they could get anywhere else, so the primary motivator is to get the company very profitable. A salary which meets your minimum needs, is all that is reasonable until the company is profitable unless you are the ONLY investors so it is all "your money" anyway. Under no circumstances can I envision a salary greater than $6,000 per month being acceptable and even that isn't reasonable if you could realistically only make $8,000 or less elsewhere.

Charitable giving. I give a lot of my money to charities. I almost never drop below 20% and many years I have been over 100%. However, corporately I believe, unless every person who has invested in the company agrees completely with every charitable giving the only excuse for charitable giving is where there is a reasonable expectation of specific profit (lowered costs, lowered taxes etc..,) from the specific donation (giving $100 and getting $42 back in taxes is NOT a profit - a profit means you expect back MORE than you pay). You see, I give the largest share of my charitable giving to specific Christian organizations and the rest to a wide variety of childrens and literacy related charities. If we and all our investors can't completely agree on the charities, then I believe that we need to get the money in the hands of the investors and let them decide on their own. If not, we are acting like the government and many unions - taking money and giving it away "on their behalf" but against their wishes. I sell my shares in companies that do that to me and I treat my investors the way I want to be treated in companies I invest in.

Will I invest money in your company? Probably not. But you can ask. You never know what I'll say if I like the product enough and the timing is right. The biggest practical problem is that usually my time availability is offset from my financial availability. For example, while I accepted a board position in Nov of one year on a company that also asked me to invest cash. The problem was that as of June of that year, I had virtually all my cash invested in projects that would not realistically pay out enough to make a difference until later. I told the company that, if they haven't raised the money by the time I have my cash available again, I would seriously consider funding the whole project. But when the money came around, it wasn't needed. But again, you can ask, it won't bother me. In 2008 I did decide to invest heavily in a company that I joined the board of, and back in 2004 I did as well. In both cases I was offered 50% of the company in exchange for several items including cash as one of them.

Do I "love to travel"? No. I have flown on hundreds of trips. I have visited many countries around the world. I am studying French. I see travel as a business necessity that has some "benefits" but not enough benefits to overcome the inconveniences. So if you try to entice me with "there will be lots of travel to foreign countries" my response will be "OK, if it is appropriate, fine I'll travel". But don't look expect me to see the travel as an added "perk."

What size of ventures will I consider? I am interested in ventures where I have a reasonable expectation of making $1M or more. This means if you want me on your board to help run a single restaraunt, I'm not going to get excited - you better be very close to me physically and my time commitment better be very small and there will probably have to be something else in it that will excite me. But if you are building a franchise, Networking franchise, large consumer products company, then I am starting to get interested.

What types of companies: Take a look at the companies I've run. To be honest, I have no real "type" restrictions, I am more interested in "Is there something that I can do that will significantly increase the chance and/or amount of success of this company?", "will I receive a significant reward if I do?" and "are there significant factors/management/facilities/personell/financial issues that would prevent me from being able to apply my expertise in a profitable way?" I have so far worked in the Software services, Software product, Financial, Real Estate, Oil & Gas, Photographic/Marketing, magazine & book publishing, Aquarium design and maintenance, Food Services, Marketing & Advertising and Land Development areas.

Are you using friends as suppliers to the company? I have no problem with that, indeed I use friends as suppliers and customers. But in general, especially for suppliers, I will be making sure that we, as a company, are looking at competitors, and in general (again) if the competitors are more than 5% cheaper than a "friend" for essentially the same product - there will have to be a very good justification to keep buying from the "friend". I would be willing from time to time to give the friend an opportunity to change their pricing or other factors, but if it is a continual problem, we will probably switch to a non-friend.