The Power of a Blank Page

boring-powerpoint-slideThis week was jam packed with Board meetings. During one of them, I experienced a presentation tactic I had not seen before. Before sharing the tactic, a brief word on board meetings and presentations.

Board meetings are necessary, frequently productive, but all too often miss the mark in terms of their focus. Many Board meetings I attend turn into an utter abuse of PowerPoint. Reviewing content packed slide after slide of historical information is a waste of time. I can read the slides; if I have done my job, I’ve reviewed them in advance of the Board meeting.

Yes, we need to review the historical results and understand their implications. But what I’m seeking in a Board meeting is introspection and insight that shows me the management team is present and aware of the business’ circumstance and that they are conscious of the strategic market and broader landscape within which the business is operating. Back to the presentation tactic I mentioned.

Fade to Black

During one Board meeting this week, the Sales and Marketing Executive began his presentation as usual. This executive is an expert presenter; articulate, measured, and thoughtful. There were slides on recent bookings, loss and churn reports, marketing activities and pipelines. The audience was attentive, but not particularly engaged.

And then the presenter did something unexpected.

He clicked next slide and the screen went blank. Not blank as in the company logo enhanced PowerPoint template without content, but rather, blank, as in black. The screen went black. He paused. During the pause, a funny thing happened… Everyone in room shifted their attention from the printed board book or tablet on the table in front of them, or the big screen on which the presentation was displayed, to the presenter.

When the presenter was sure that our attention was now fixated on him he began to speak. He spoke quietly to make sure we had to work to listen. He then proceeded to tell us a story. He shared some introspective thoughts and insights. We listened, understood and engaged. What came next was the most productive 10-15 minutes of conversation during the entire board meeting. The executive had captured our attention. The conversation was dynamic and focused. All because of a blank presentation page.

The Law Of Inverse Presentation Attention

Lets call this phenomenon the Law of Inverse Presentation Attention. There is an inverse relationship between my attention on you and the amount of content on your slides. The more content you place on your slide, the less my attention is focused on you and what you are saying.

I’m eager to hear if any of you have seen or used other tactics to capture an audience’s attention. Please comment and share if you have.

The Power of a Blank Page

Powerball: The Difference Between Gambling and Investing

Wow! After weeks without a winner, there were three winners in last night’s Powerball lottery. Congrats to the winners!

Powerball is a bad bet and an even worse investment. We can all run the math. The WSJ did a nice visual comparing the odds of winning Powerball to other odds. A one in 292 million chance of winning is inconsequential. [As an aside, a 1 in 112 chance of dying in a motor vehicle accident is scary and something we’ve got to improve.]

What was unusual about this Powerball drawing is that the NPV of an investment in a ticket was not far from break-even. There are a lot of practical and technical reasons that made it less than break-even, including the prospect of multiple winners, taxes…

Powerball: The Difference Between Gambling and Investing

Tahosa’s Summit: 6 Months [Series]

Tahosa CapitalI enjoy reading blog posts of entrepreneurs that chronicle the journey of starting and building a business. The ones I enjoy most are at times heart-breaking and at other times triumphant. The most memorable are always always authentic and introspective.

To my knowledge, no-one has ever done a blog series on the process of building a venture capital or growth equity firm. If that is right, I’d like to be the first. Building a world-class investment firm feels to me to be every bit as entrepreneurial, with all highs and lows, exuberance and trepidation, joy and fear, as any entrepreneurial endeavor. It feels like its worth writing about.

The Good

Six months into the process of building Tahosa Capital, I’m feeling…

Tahosa’s Summit: 6 Months [Series]

Unicorpse and The Moral Hazard of Making Unicorns

UnicorpseI’m sure that many more thoughtful than me have written about the moral hazard of venture capital. In economics, moral hazard occurs when one person takes an unreasonable risk because someone else will bear the burden of the negative consequences. In the age of unicorns, the moral hazard in venture capital has never been greater. Moral hazard and exuberance to make unicorns leads to unicorpses. I was reminded of this today during a conversation with an emerging growth business run by capable, yet young entrepreneurs.

The Situation

The 20 something entrepreneurs with whom I was talking have built a solid, already profitable business generating $4.3 million ARR. The company has taken a total of $200k of outside financing. With a modest amount of incremental…

Unicorpse and The Moral Hazard of Making Unicorns

My Thoughts on Launching Tahosa Capital

Tahosa CapitalIt has been about two weeks since Tahosa Capital announced its launch. I’ve found the launch to be invigorating. I find myself wanting to share the sense of purpose behind Tahosa Capital with anyone willing to listen. But, I can’t possibly reach everyone I know one-on-one; hence this post.

I started Tahosa Capital with a point of view on what it will take for Tahosa to be successful.

Start modestly And with a BHAG

Starting modestly (and alone) is humbling and really good. For now, Tahosa Capital is just me and a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG). As we wrote in Tahosa’s introductory blog post, Tahosa sets out with a clear sense

My Thoughts on Launching Tahosa Capital

Negative Churn

melting-ice-psd (1)In a board meeting yesterday, we had a brief discussion around “negative churn”. Negative churn is a catchy phrase and apparently a hot-topic in some SaaS circles. I like some of the concepts and disciplines that an understanding of negative churn implies, but I also think it is an unnecessary concept that actually makes it more difficult to understand the inner workings of an MRR based SaaS business. Some background…

What is Negative Churn?

Negative Churn is an increase in revenue which occurs when the change in revenue within an installed base of customers is net positive from one period to the next. Negative Churn implies that the revenue gained from existing customers who purchase more over time exceeds revenue lost from existing…

Negative Churn

My Journey Into Meditation

RESTORE_000014185704ResizedA few weeks ago I wrote about how much I love coffee but that I had to give it up because it was starting to affect my ability to focus. I’m happy to report I’m still off the juice. Giving up coffee has helped to slow down my mind and body; no more raciness. But I’ve noted some remnant busyness in my mind that I’ve been itching to shake off. It sort of feels like I’m peeling an onion, working through the layers and getting closer to the core. Last week, I peeled another layer by starting a personal journey into meditation practice. Week 1 is in the rear view mirror and I’m seeing notable benefit already.

Meditation isn’t entirely new…

My Journey Into Meditation

The 40s: Decade of Self Awareness?

The movie This is 40 is a satirical look at the life of a husband and wife who are turning 40 years of age. They have challenges with their kids, their businesses/jobs, financial security and personal relationships. All manner of comedy ensues. It is said that the humor is the good natured side of the truth.  Although This is 40 is a caricature, it isn’t far off either. I’ve certainly seen a number of friends go through difficult times of late.

That said, while the 40s certainly present some challenges, I’ve come the conclusion that the 40s are an opportunity to develop self-awareness. My sense is that the accumulating pressures of career, family and of balancing the two crescendo during the 40s. That crescendo…

The 40s: Decade of Self Awareness?

Be Mindful of Strategic Effects

Yesterday, I was catching up with a friend and fellow youth soccer coach. He happens to be a public stock research analyst. Although we were talking soccer, not business, we ended our conversation musing over the stock market’s Monday decline, which now appears to have extended into Tuesday.

His read; it’s all about oil. For those that haven’t been paying attention, oil prices have dropped precipitously. There are a number of factors at play including weak demand in emerging nations, and the emergence of alternative fuels. But for the most part, this issue is oversupply. Did you know that the United States is now the World’s largest oil producer? Surprising right!

In most cases, a decline in oil prices (particularly a supply…

Be Mindful of Strategic Effects

Throw Out Your 2015 Strategy and Budget Right Now

The arrival of a new year (and the beginning of a new one) brings a flurry of cognitive churning. As individuals, we 1/ reflect on the year passed, 2/ ritualistically write and read predictions for the next year, and 3/ make resolutions and set goals that are intended to inspire us to greatness during the next twelve months.

I’ve come to see this all as distinctly human but also quite strange. 1/ We can’t do anything about what happened in the past, and many of our “reflections” end up being revisionist history. 2/ The predictions we make – at least the most interesting of them – are almost invariably wrong, but we make them anyway as a way to either “exert control” on our world or to show others how smart we…

Throw Out Your 2015 Strategy and Budget Right Now