The Best Job You Will Ever Have

Posted by Richard Moran.

My career has included stints as a CEO of a large consulting company and an onion slicer at a hot dog stand. The same career includes serving as a college president and another time when I was a “sewer rat” for a municipal water agency. Once I was a partner at a top tier venture capital firm, and once I was a lifeguard on the ocean.

All of the jobs had beautiful parts as well as challenging and not so nice parts (ask me sometime about the sewer rat job.) Some jobs made it onto the resume or the LinkedIn profile.  Some jobs didn’t. Some of the positions that might be considered the most lucrative or prestigious were not the most rewarding.

Some jobs had me thinking, “I am the luckiest bastard who every lived and I can’t believe I get paid for this.” Others, not so much. Some jobs had an effect on me that will last a lifetime.  The people I worked with or around or met in some jobs are with me every day.  There were other people that I couldn’t wait to rid from my life.

Some jobs pay a lot. Some are prestigious. Some are neither. All the good jobs have three things that can change you. Without the potential for these three things, it won’t be a good job. The best job you will ever have includes:

A chance to develop meaningful relationships. Friends matter. Working on a team matters. The joy of successful completion of a project with others matters. Feeling like you are part of a special group at a special time matters. Getting to understand others matters. I am still in touch with special people from long ago jobs.

The opportunity to learn something important. The learning of which I speak is not about spreadsheets or PowerPoint skills. The important learning from a great job is about what matters and how to work your way through a complex world. In a “best job” you will learn how to deal with others, where your true passions and skills lie and about science or poetry or economics or…

 A sense that you are making an impact or helping others. It is not necessary to feel like you are competing for a Nobel Prize. The best jobs have an inherent sense that your work matters whether it is in the sewer department or as a CEO. That’s why firefighters and special education teachers are consistently at the top of the heap when it comes to the most satisfied people in any profession.

No matter what point you are in your career, some jobs stand out as special, whether you have had four jobs or fifty. These are the jobs that you remember fondly. These are the jobs that make you smile. These are the jobs that make you say, “too bad that didn’t or couldn’t last”. But things change. You move on, the economy changes, summer ends, the job disappears, or something happens. But those jobs that mattered and the people you worked with stay with you.

Each year lists come out of the “Best Jobs”.  The lists might give you an idea of where there are opportunities and how much they pay and the geographies involved; but they don’t really give you an idea of what your best job will be. Stick with the simple three ways to know what your best job ever will be.

What was your best job?

Are VCs Still Funding Startups?

Posted by Richard Moran.

Nearly every university is plowing money into academic programs on entrepreneurship. Nearly every major city is sponsoring and funding centers for innovation in the hopes of attracting startup companies. But wait, now the news is out that venture capital funding for early-stage companies is way down. And everyone is ignoring the fact and knocking on VC doors anyway.

According to TechCrunch, since 2014 the amount of VC money pouring into tech companies worldwide has nearly shrunk in half from 19,000 that year to 10,000 in 2017. And here is the point worth noting for entrepreneurs: the amount of dollars invested is about the same – it’s just going into later stage companies, not into Series A companies. For the first time entrepreneur just starting out this is not good news.

Everyone has theories about why this is happening including the shift away from funding apps and increasingly risk-averse angel investors. For some there is also the belief that fintech, edtech and SasS startups are so last year.

As an investor and former big firm venture capitalist, I have my own ideas about why the VC community is shying away from early stage companies. Entrepreneurs take note!

Too many early stage company ideas are just not big enough. When the venture community is talking about flying cars and curing cancer, it’s hard to get any attention. Entrepreneurs – make your idea big or don’t bother with VCs.

Early stage entrepreneur naiveté. Having a good idea does not mean it is right for a venture firm. Too many early stage entrepreneurs just don’t understand how venture firms operate. Venture firms stake out the industries and areas in which there could be interest in investing. Any idea outside of that staked out area is not fundable. Entrepreneurs – know who might fund you and don’t waste your time with others. And don’t get your feelings hurt if all you hear is no.

Venture fatigue. Startups are hard work. Some VCs just don’t want to put in the energy to work with a pre-revenue startup, no matter how good the idea. Entrepreneurs – make it easy for a VC to help you.

Do we really need that? My favorite phrase from the venture world is, “There is an infinite demand for the unavailable.” Meaning, maybe there is no market for that early stage idea.

  • Maybe we don’t need another app for finding coffee shops.
  • Maybe we don’t need Siri with more accents.
  • Maybe we don’t need a smarter pool sweep.
  • Or, maybe we do but the VCs aren’t biting.

A big bunch of companies are waiting to scale up. Think of the pig in the python metaphor. Sometimes digestion takes a long time. Based on many investments in early stage companies that happened earlier, we are now waiting for them to scale from a three million dollar company into a forty million dollar company. When that happens, there will be more capital available for the startups. Entrepreneurs – make sure you are always thinking of scaling up.

Entrepreneurs, take heart. The VCs are not abandoning startups. A huge amount of venture capital is still interested in big ideas and great entrepreneurs.  Many great firms only focus on and invest in early stage companies. All the good ideas are not gone. Take a deep breath and think of BIG, NEW ideas.

When the Boss Takes All the Credit

Posted by Richard Moran.

It happens. You (and others) work like maniacs, put in hundreds of hours, eat bad pizza in the office at midnight, incur the wrath of loved ones for never being home, break out in acne from stress, and live in fear of missing a deadline. The boss checks in on the team every once in a while, asks how things are going and then moves along saying, “OK, keep me in the loop if we fall off the tracks.”

Finally, the project is complete and it is a big success. The data is accurate, the findings are important, the recommendations are perfect and the story is complete. High fives are exchanged all around. The finished product is well worth the time and effort spent. The boss acknowledges the good work with big THANKS.

But wait. What happens now with all that good work? How will it play with the more senior executives who need to see it? Who will make that presentation? Who will be in the room?

Ugh. It turns out the boss is just knowledgeable enough to give the presentation to all the bigger bosses. No one on the team is in the room. Worse, it turns out that during the presentation of all that good work that you and the team slaved over, the credit is given to the boss. You know this because the low level person in the room assigned to take notes tells the team. Now what? It’s time for some hard questions.

Should you confront the boss? WTF! You say. How dare the boss do that! If you are young, marketable and willing to relocate, this could be a good strategy. Confrontations with the boss generally don’t work out well.

Should you wait to see if the credit shows up in your next performance review? The answer could depend on the timing of your next review. If the review is a long time from now, no one will remember the late night pizza you endured. Reviews are all about recent events. If you are going to wait, be sure to document all that went in to the project that the boss took the credit for.

Should you tell your boss’s boss that you deserve the credit? Another risky move. Going over the boss’s head could result in you losing your head. The saving grace could be that no one really believed the boss did the work in the first place and that is often the case. This strategy is best implemented when you have another job offer in hand.

Should you not work as hard next time and see what the boss does? No boss likes this strategy and most will sniff it out quickly. When it comes to slacking off, organizations have a long memory. Slackers are easily identified and it is not the label you want.

As is obvious by now, there is no good response to the boss who takes the credit, especially if you don’t want to leave. Take solace in the fact that people know who really did the work and deserves the credit and that the truth will win out. Sometimes it feels too painful to wait for that credit. But, trust me, bad bosses are winnowed out and the solid performers do rise and reap the credit they deserve.  It’s just the process can be excruciating.