The Core Value of others’ Perspectives

The Core Value of others’ Perspectives

The Core Value of Others’ Perspectives

Looking at the forest of exit planning, growth, and operational targets

​Okay, so another blog about Philosophy and Business.  In case you forgotten my last awesome blog around how the things I learn listing to Stephen West on his Philosophize This! Podcast 😊, I am looking for applications of the lessons I’m learning on notable philosophers’ thinking, to the world of business.

Last week, on my way up to skiing, I listened to a podcast on Jose Ortega.  The podcast is titled “Circumstance” as it presents Ortega’s view of how all we know if based upon our personal circumstance.  IOW, based upon our current set of perspectives on the world.  However, West stresses that Ortega is NOT proposing a relativism, that all perspectives are equal.  But, rather, he is just saying that, while there is TRUTH in the world, our view of that truth is relative to our perspective — which is grounded in our background, cultural biases, etc.  To illustrate this, West provides an example of viewing a forest:  you can shift your orientation and position in RELATION to that forest…


You can MOVE to different PARTS of the trail, to different points in time and space, you can see the SAME collection of trees from a different angle, you may even come to a CLEARING where you get to see one angle of a larger PORTION of the forest…but there is NEVER A POINT, Ortega says, within our human perspective of the world, where you can see, all angles and perspectives at once. This is true of things in the physical world, this is true of cultural institutions, this even rings true all the way down to basic things we have to do in our everyday life.

I had two distinct reactions to this podcast.  The first has nothing really to do with business:  As I approach 60 (later this month! ☹), I am very cognizant of the tendency to feel I have learned “enough” and know more than others — especially those “young-uns” around me.  I am aware of the hubris and cognitive dissonance in this thinking.  Ortega’s push on Circumstance simply reinforces the need for caution in my overconfidence.  While I have learned much in my life, and I have seen parts of the TRUTH from differing perspectives, I am not done learning!  I have a healthy fear of growing old and crotchety!

The other reaction has to do with the way I conduct myself in the business world.  This is certainly related to my personal reaction above.  I need to stay vigilant against over confidence in my view of the business situations around me.  Ortega teaches me in this area that I need not only to be humble of my own perspective on the current business challenge, but also to actively seek other, often differing perspectives on this same problem.  This does not mean there is not a RIGHT decision to be made in any given situation, but rather that I reduce the risk of any particular decision by recruiting and incorporating alternative and even contrary perspectives on the problem.

Simply stated, as I counsel my clients on exit strategy, growth targets, operational priorities, I should stay open to both my own experiences, as well as those of others I trust and respect.

Escape Room:  Exercise in Distributed Decision Making

Escape Room: Exercise in Distributed Decision Making

Escape Room Adventure:  Personal Example of Distributed Decision Making

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

My ex-wife and her partner recently organized an outing to a local Escape Room, and invited all my kids and I to join in.  I have worked through these group brain teasers a few times in the past, and they are always very fun.  This instance was no exception.  Through great team work, and universal involvement in both data collection and decision making, we were able to work through a hardest escape room the establishment had to offer, in under the 60-minute limit, with only 1 clue from the external moderator!  Great job, team!

After the buzz and fun wore off, and I was thinking about the adventure the next day, I realized that it was a great example of a Distributed Decision Making process and organization.  So, as is often the case for me, I am able to draw from experiences in my “Life” to apply value and validation to my thinking about “Work.”

Distributed decision-making is any process where the decision-making authority is distributed throughout a larger group.

In case you are not familiar with escape rooms, they all have some basic characteristics:

  • You and your group are “locked” into a room or set of rooms, and given a fixed time (usually an hour) to find the secret way out.
  • There are a set of mostly serial clues that need to be put together to enable your escape.  For example, there may be a set of letters scrawled on the wall that are the combination to a lock.  Inside the locked box, is another clue or key.  And so on.
  • There is a moderator watching the whole thing via video cameras.  If your team gets stuck, you can ask for a clue that will enable a key step forward.

There are usually between 4 and 8 team members.  These are generally all part of the same party (especially in times of COVID.)  But, in the past, I have done escape rooms with people on the team I just met.

So, now to the core of my premise….

As I think about our family Escape Room exercise, I see many of the positive characteristics of Distributed Decision Making.  As I mentioned, the members of our team were dividing up and making decisions in sub-groups.  The makeup and decision making seemed a bit random, but it was quite effective.  Here are some of the characteristics of our adventure’s decision making:

  • The decision making teams were self-organizing.  The size and makeup of the teams were decided by the team members based upon the problem/task at hand.
  • Within the teams, the decisions were made generally on a consensus basis.  However, it seemed that generally, there was one leader of the decision-making process.  (In this case, the decision-making model was a blend between Distributed Decision Making and Consensus, as defined in this summary article.
  • The teams were organic, in a literal sense:  They grew, shrank, were created and removed, as the situation warranted.
  • When inputs from others were required (outside of the sub-team), this happened naturally.  For example, it took a demonstrated consensus among all members of our team, before the moderator would provide an explicit clue, to get us “unstuck”.
  • There was no ego evident on any of the subteams, when it came to decision making.  All members were empowered to contribute, and whomever figured out the clue first, seamlessly took over the decision making authority.

It was really fun and satisfying to watch this organic, distributed decision making in play.  And, to see how efficient it really was — even though it seemed at times a bit chaotic.  This is a good model for how organizations can distribute some of the decision making for the business.  Of course, in a situation where not everyone on the team are family and/or friends, there may be a bit more structure required, e.g. to designate/elect who is the “decision maker” on each subteam, the overall dynamic does seem to be replicable in a business environment.  (There are several great discussions on how to add in this layer of limited formality, including this one from the education space.)  I certainly realize the a small family outing is not a true analog to the (often complex) human dynamics in a larger professional setting, I still firmly believe it has some lessons to apply.

Accredited vs Non-Accredited Investors

Accredited vs Non-Accredited Investors

Accredited vs Non-Accredited Investors

I recently engaged in a discussion with another CFO about when to allow non-accredited investors in a seed round. I have been through this with a previous company, for 3 different rounds. My basic answer is really NEVER take non-accredited investors (with one exception — see below.) First, to make sure we are all talking about the same thing….

The SEC defines (in Section 501 of Regulation D), an accredited investor as having a substantial income (north of $200K) or assets (not including primary residence) of more than $1M. The thinking is that you’re okay to invest, since you’ve got liquidity.

If you start a seed round under Sec 506b, you are allowed a small number of non-accredited investors. But, the main downside of a 506b round is that you cannot advertise the investment offering (such as announcing it on your web site.) That is why I prefer a 506c round, because while it dis allows non-accredited investors, it allows for “general solicitation” of the offering.

With a 506c round, you are required to collect documentation of the investors’ accreditation status, e.g. tax returns for a couple years. You are not required to collect this data for a 506b — the investor just certifies that they meet the standards of the definition in Sec 501.

But, here’s the real rub. From the various lawyers (who should know) I’ve dealt with, even though you can (a) take non-accredited investors in a 506b, and (b) you aren’t required to collect their documentation, you should NOT do either! The reality in the courts is that it is just risky to your business. If things go south later on (and like it or not, sometimes you won’t meet the expectations of your investors), then the burden of proof is on the company (you!) that you fully informed your non-sophisticated (i.e. non-accredited) investors. And, companies often lose suits brought by such disgruntled investors. It is a prudent risk mitigation to only accept monies from accredited investors AND to make them prove it! Therefore, just go with a 506C round. (Plus, you have the advantage of being able to tell everyone about it through your awesome web presence!)

Of course, the main exception is if you choose to go with crowdfunding. This is a path that the SEC has defined specifically for collecting monies from non-accredited investors. (See the SEC’s Regulation Crowdfunding. Yes, it is really called that.) In this case, your risk is mitigated because (a) the individual investment amounts are limited, and (b) you are required to go through certified Crowdfunding providers, that take on the liability for you. But, unless you are going this route, I highly recommend a 506C round, and stick with ONLY accredited investors.

Just my opinion, of course. I ain’t no lawyer — just a lowly CEO/CFO/COO in hiding. (Insert appropriate legal disclaimers here.)

Improve your site’s SEO!

Improve your site’s SEO!

Get BIG improvement in your company’s SEO score with two things!

When I first started contemplating how to address the position my company was achieving in search results (#seo), it seemed daunting. How do you go about affecting Google’s (or Bing, etc.) algorithms? Scary? Well, not really, it turns out. Sure, there are a lot of tricky bits, like fishing for backlinks (not addressed in this article.) But, I have found consistently that big improvements can be achieved by focusing on just two areas:

  1. Define your strategic keywords! There are a lot of great tools to help you find data on potential keywords, like Google’s keyword planner. But, ultimately, it comes down to digesting your company’s or product’s value prop into a few (3-4 at most, to start) strategic words or phrases. These are your “Strategic Keywords”. These can be single words, but generally are phrases of 2 to 3 words.
  2. Content creation: Now, comes the hard part. Produce good quality, regular content on your web site. And, be sure to include your Strategic Keywords at least 3 times on each content page. Add new content to your site on a regular basis. Good quality content does not necessarily mean professionally done. Rather, it means that your potential clients (those reading your content online) will stay engaged, and stay on that page, for at least 30 seconds. It is better to focus on readability and engagement (from the perspective of your customers) than to fret about having perfect, professionally produced (and expensive) content!

If you take just these two steps, you WILL improve your SEO! I have seen it repeatedly. Just a couple case studies picked from my own experiences:

  • Medical device startup: Within 2 months of launching a revised web page, and using a defined SEO strategy based upon the two steps above, our Strategic Keywords went from non-existent to first non-paid listings! And, we were getting 3000-5000 impressions per month, with a couple hundred click-throughs.
  • SaaS startup: Within 6 weeks of implementing an SEO strategy, our weekly impressions went from around 20 to over 1000! And, the average search position for our Strategic Keywords went from around 100 (so really not present), to in the low teens.

Of course, there are more tools at your disposal to affect your SEO search position, impressions, and of course, click-throughs. (Ultimately, it is the clicks that get people looking at your site.) But, my experience is that you can get started down that path, with a relatively straightforward (and inexpensive) plan.

I’d love to talk to you, if you have need of such an #seo effort. Please reach out!