Episode 0018 · February 9, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Rich Needs It by Tuesday

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Hey Rich.

Rich Ziade: Hey Paul.

Paul Ford: So last episode we talked about how I am now the CEO of Aboard and that I have a lot of new responsibilities. I need to, you know, you gave me some coaching, I’m holding people accountable. That was really helpful, thank you.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, no problem.

Paul Ford: And, uh, so, you know, I’ve been working on it for the last five, six days and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. And, uh, you’ve been, you’ve been here with me, so I thought, you know, in this episode we could talk about how I’m doing as CEO and you could gimme like my one week performance review and we could, we could talk about what’s next.

Rich Ziade: Um, we need to talk…

Paul Ford: Uh, that sounded really ominous. Um, but is there something you’d like to tell me?

Rich Ziade: You are not gonna be CEO. We’ve decided to remove you from the job.[00:01:00] Thank you.

Paul Ford: But this, this was my only dream in my life.

Rich Ziade: Yeah… well, we appreciate everything you’ve done. Uh, but yeah, no.

Paul Ford: Can I, can I get a package?

Rich Ziade: No, no.

Paul Ford: Damn it.

Rich Ziade: We didn’t even have time to put on the golden handcuffs.

Paul Ford: There’s no contract.

Rich Ziade: There’s nothing

Paul Ford: There’s nothing [chuckles]. Okay, so we should explain what happened. Um, I am not the CEO of Aboard anymore, that is what happened. And uh, uh, Rich is gonna be the CEO. I’m gonna be the president, so pretty good for me. A little nice consolation prize.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hm.

Paul Ford: We’re switching roles. Um, And we’re doing this for a specific reason, which is that, so last job that we had together, we ran an agency. I was the CEO and it was a very storytelling role. I went out and I talked about things and uh, it was a bootstrap firm.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hm.

Paul Ford: We had full control over it. And so basically it was like, here I am thinker about technology and I go out and I talk to companies and I talk to people and I explain what I think is going on in the world and I talk about what we do.

Rich Ziade: Sure.

Paul Ford: And that was a [00:02:00] very like classic CEO agency type of thing.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: So we repeated that. We did that again when we were building this firm.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hmm.

Paul Ford: And then you went for a walk and you had a thought, because we’re going out and we’re talking to investors and we’re talking strategically. What happens after you get an investment Rich?

Rich Ziade: You have to report, on the held of the business, you have to, you’re accountable to other owners.Uh, this is the thing worth highlighting about the agency that we had together. It was a closely held agency. There were no other outside investors. There was no board, there was no reporting requirements in terms of, you know, we gotta show you the spreadsheets or, and the, you know, the, the numbers on a, some regular interval. There was none of that.

Paul Ford: So it’s, it’s not just the idea of– being accountable doesn’t bother me, but what is the, how, what form does the accountability take?

Rich Ziade: It’s, it can be tough, right? Well, first off, some people love being in [00:03:00] presentations. Some people love writing code, and some people love math and spreadsheets. And there’s a good number of, there’s a good amount of combing through numbers, rolling up numbers, tell, you know, the drier side of PowerPoint, uh, of reporting.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: Frankly how the progress of the business is. And so that’s, that’s stuff that-

Paul Ford: Not my first.

Rich Ziade: Not your first love or second love probably, but I think

Paul Ford: Yeah, I’m good at that if I need to be.

Rich Ziade: You’re good at that, if you need to be, but I think more than that is you end up, you know, the dynamic is, is one of a healthy suspicion, they’re invested in your business. They’re not looking over your shoulder every day. And so the conversations can actually get pretty tricky and tough, right? And, and, and that’s because they’re looking out for their investment, they’re not trying to be jerks. Some are jerks, but that’s separate. Um, and so the, the, the kind of the protocol there fits [00:04:00] me be better than you.

Paul Ford: Straight up, right? Like that’s a, it’s a big part of our dynamic. You’re a former lawyer, you’re light on your feet, you like a fight, and you don’t mind preparing for one, and you don’t- afterwards you’re like, cool, let’s go get a beer. For me, as we started, talk about what these means are gonna be like and how we need to present the company, I’m like, all right- that’s two weeks of emotional, intellectual energy for every meeting followed by two weeks of come down.

Rich Ziade: Yes. yes.

Paul Ford: That’s just my wiring. And so you looked at me, you’re like, I went for a walk, I don’t think you should be CEO. And I went, oh that’s interesting. And you were like, you described this situation, and that’s, that is what people expect the CEO to come to that meeting. They don’t wanna see the president or anybody else.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: And I went, yep, that is correct. I should not be the CEO. That was pretty much how it went down.

Rich Ziade: Pretty much how it went down. Well, I it’s worth noting for people that don’t know us too well, we are, we are not tied up in the status or the power that comes from these titles. It’s not interesting to us, it’s never been.

Paul Ford: But you gotta be, you gotta be careful there, right? Because this is what I learned before [00:05:00] I took on the job the last time going like, well, I’m not really a CEO, but I’ll, I’ll do it because we need somebody to have this role at the agency. Guess what happens when you’re like a tall guy who says you’re a CEO?

Rich Ziade: Oh, yes, you are, you are the CEO.

Paul Ford: It turns out you are the CEO. You’re gonna eat all the shit, just like anybody.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And so like, so the, the titles are, we don’t internalize them, except as here we are trying to make this company move forward. Um, but the world sees them as representative of the company. We, we’re very mindful of that for the kind of company we’re about to become one that has investors, one that’s out in the world, one where there’s a lot of motion and a lot of different actors from outside of the company involved, uh, you are absolutely the right person to be the CEO.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, and, and which we can, we can dive into our own personalities and why this is better, but what is it better for? It is better for the startup, for the business, and I, I think if there is one piece of advice that’s [00:06:00] worth sharing in this podcast– it’s put aside your own interests and everybody has their own interests. It’s not bad, you shouldn’t be ashamed of being ambitious or having your own interests.

Paul Ford: Well it is a little weird to announce to the company and the world that I am the CEO, and then six days later say, I’m not. That’s if you were to say, what do I not want in a CEO? It’s someone who resigns after six days. That’s like, that’s like British politics.

Rich Ziade: It is like that [chuckles], it’s not good, but it’s what’s right for the broader endeavor. And it’s what we made a clear cut. Also, we’re early, uh, we can do this now, like let’s do it now, before it’s like, oh shit, wait.

Paul Ford: Also, everybody knows us in the company and will give us the benefit of the doubt on this decision. It looks a little chaotic, but it’s also like, well, they’re kind of chaotic and there’s 15 people here, okay.

Paul Ford: Go buy a laptop, a great, like a nice Dell. It’s got the CPU in it.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Okay, and [00:07:00] that’s cool. You can do, you can do your spreadsheets and you can do really important work with it, but now you want to play a game or you want to edit a film.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: What, what happens to that laptop?

Rich Ziade: It becomes a panini press.

Paul Ford: Right, so if you want to do something that gets really high-

Rich Ziade: It’s real hot, it’s slow, it’s sweating.

Paul Ford: Okay, you are the CPU in that laptop.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: You can, enormous amount can get done. You can organize things and so on. But for that really good, exciting, more expensive experience, what do you need?

Rich Ziade: Ray Tracing [chuckles].

Paul Ford: What do you need? What do you have to buy on, on eBay or on uh, on Amazon? You need a big chunky graphics card.

Rich Ziade: Thick.

Paul Ford: Cpu, multiple processors, a million little processors going at once.

Rich Ziade: It’s just raw horsepower.

Paul Ford: If you wanna understand the dynamic between Rich and me, which sadly people do because they listen to this podcast, that is the dynamic. I’m the graphics.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: I, and it literally [00:08:00] plays out in this way. Let’s say, um, we’ll go into a meeting, I’ll go with you. We’re, we’re, we’re going as a team, I’ll say, I’ll say plenty, I, I’m not sitting in silence, but I will say maybe one fifth as much as you.

Rich Ziade: I tend to drive and really engage conversation.

Paul Ford: A good example is like, I will offer 20 times to help you on a deck.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And you, and I’m like, the way that I see our relation and you say no, you’re like, I’ll give it to you soon. And the way that I see our relationship is like, I’m gonna continue to offer, and when you say, no, that’s fine. I’ve offered, I don’t mind not doing the work. It’s fine. I’ll, I’ll see-

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: You, you’re organizing your life and your thinking by getting that deck together. So in we go, you present the deck. It is your brain turned into keynote form.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: We should do a special episode just on keynote at some point.

Rich Ziade: We truly should.

Paul Ford: Because it’s one of your great loves and uh, and so you’re driving. I’m listening. I can’t really read the room in the moment. I’m just sort of like [00:09:00] taking it all in. Uh, and we walk out of there and you’re like, I think that went well, and I’m like, yeah, I think it went, went well too. And then I wake up the next morning and I hit you on slack with like five bullet points.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, you need time to synthesize what went down.

Paul Ford: But my five bullet points tend to be things that will get us to move along a lot faster in the relationship. Like I tend to see stuff.

Rich Ziade: Well also, I, I, I haven’t gotten all, I, I will tell you I’ve got all the answers a minute after a meeting ends, but I don’t have them. Like, I, I got a few wrong probably. Like I, it needs a minute. And by the way, I need that time too.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: But I’m more inclined to your analogy, fire off Instructions.

Paul Ford: No, that’s-

Rich Ziade: In real time.

Paul Ford: That’s right.

Rich Ziade: In the moment.

Paul Ford: Now we’re gonna create a deeper, more rich, 3D interactive experience. And I show up, right?

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And it’s, you can still, and it all works fine, but like, you, you, so that’s, that’s the value that I’m bringing. In a funny way, [00:10:00] that was, uh, as an agency leader and agency head that kind of made sense. Lots of parallel things going on.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: And, you know, it was very, very much about different experiences. I’m getting kind of abstract, but for this particular thing, we need to go back to the old, like bolt on the, the GPU.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And here we go. So I’ll be president, you’ll be uh, you’ll be CEO. And, uh, let me read, I think just for kicks, I’ll read the slack message I sent to our company.

Rich Ziade: Do it.

Paul Ford: Because I can’t, we, we couldn’t just announce this on the podcast. We told we do things in a very specific sequence. We tell management and then we tell the company. So– “Hi everyone. Quick, somewhat hilarious update. I am no longer the CEO of Aboard. Rich Ziade will be CEO. This is a really sensible decision, here’s why, as we talk to more investors, it’s super clear that a big part of our future will be presenting our financials and strategy on a regular basis to groups of people with MBAs whose actual job is to attack us and force us to defend every decision. Investors will expect the CEO to show up to those meetings. [00:11:00] Problem is I hate that work and I’m bad at it, whereas Rich likes getting in a room and fighting with people wearing expensive blue shirts. So we talked about it and decided to switch roles. I’m President Rich is CEO. I enjoyed serving as your chief executive officer and feel lucky that I had the job. It was the best six days of my career.”.

Rich Ziade: There we go.

Paul Ford: So let’s turn that into, this is Ziade and Ford Advisors, turn it into a little advice, what do you got?

Rich Ziade: I mean, the first is pretty straightforward, which is this had nothing to do with you or me.

Paul Ford: We put the organization forward.

Rich Ziade: We, we, the interests of the org were put ahead of anyone else and the higher up you go, the higher up the chain you go, the more important it is to put aside your own interests, uh, and make them second to the interests of the, of the broader thing, the, the, the, the company, frankly.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: And, and this look, I, I just to, just to put it in the transcript, I’d rather not [00:12:00] do this. Uh, I, I don’t, I’m not looking forward to it, but I’ll do it.

Paul Ford: And, and like, I, like I have now offered 20 or 30 times, I will help you prepare for each one of these meetings. I’m ready, I’m ready to help you with the deck Rich, you just have to share the keynote-

Rich Ziade: I will share, I’m will share more.

Paul Ford: Rich has, even putting it on on iCloud is hard [chuckles].

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Um, no, I think, like, you know, I got your back on this. The other piece of advice I would like to give based on this, and it’s a little, I think what people are gonna expect me to say is different than what I’m gonna say. What you’re gonna expect me to say is this, Hey, you know, always be honest and transparent about where your limits are, and it’s worth it to communicate it. That’s best for everyone.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: That’s not my actual advice. Sometimes that’s very dangerous. be very careful if somebody says, Hey, do you want to do this? You should usually say, I’d really like to try that rather.

Rich Ziade: Or I’d like to learn, or whatever.

Paul Ford: Yeah, exactly. Here’s what’s d- here’s what I’m actually saying, build relationships in the workplace where people know and understand each other’s limits and are [00:13:00] respectful of them, and work to compensate and balance each other out. Like the only way that we could have this dynamic, and I would feel comfortable going in front of the company and saying, guess what? I’m not your ceo, is because there’s a tremendous amount of trust.

Rich Ziade: There is no hidden agenda between the two of us.

Paul Ford: No. You said this, and I was like, yeah, that is what’s best for Aboard. Yeah, well, it was kind of funny to have the title twice in a row, but that’s that.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: This was also like we’re talking, we talked about this less than we talked about it on the podcast. It was about a five minute decision for us.

Rich Ziade: It was a five minute decision. Uh, if, if you’re in a setting where you’re on the defensive because you’re wondering what people’s agendas are, that’s not the best place to be. Look, humans are political by nature. Self-interest is baked in.

Paul Ford: I like the idea of being the CEO of a successful startup and then figuring, I would kind of stand down when we found some Dutch person to run it later, you know?

Rich Ziade: Yeah [chuckles], I mean, so if you’re in that setting where it feels like it’s hard to navigate [00:14:00] multiple sources of power.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Let’s call ’em that.

Paul Ford: Yeah

Rich Ziade: Uh, that’s tough, that’s tougher than, okay, we all are on one– that’s why good companies and good leaders are very mission driven. They talk about the aspirations of the thing more than they talk about themselves or their teams or whatever. We’re all serving a larger purpose, and yes, it’s a company, it’s for for-profit business, but it’s still a larger purpose.

Paul Ford: Well, and it’s still humans interacting. If you look around and you say, boy, you know, I think I could do that job, but it would be really hard for me, maybe someone else could do it. And then you go, I don’t even want to talk about that right now– send out resumes.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, because you’re, you’re, you’re, you’ve effectively, your tell there is that this is a hostile place. This is a place that’s not gonna support in the interest of the larger goals.

Paul Ford: This is the, the point I wanna make is like, and, and because as we’re saying it, I want to get it really clear. It’s good to be vulnerable and transparent, [00:15:00] a lot of places don’t allow for that.

Rich Ziade: That’s right.

Paul Ford: And so, go find places where you can be vulnerable and transparent.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Which isn’t easy, but yes.

Paul Ford: And don’t think you can fix a place that isn’t.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: It’s one of the hardest possible things to do.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: So that was, uh, I think, you know, we did okay here. I really enjoyed being CEO for five, six days.

Rich Ziade: Just thank you for your service. Like honestly, we wouldn’t be here without you.

Paul Ford: I was like-

Rich Ziade: Which is Wednesday by the way.

Paul Ford: Exactly [chuckles], I was a little bit bummed, but then tremendously relieved.

Rich Ziade: [laughter].

Paul Ford: No, because I wasn’t thinking, you and I both, we weren’t thinking about those meetings. And then when you said though, it’s like, “Hey, there’s a lot of this coming for me and coming for you”. I went, oh yeah, there is.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, by the way, after our conversation, I was a little bit bummed.

Paul Ford: Oh, I know.

Rich Ziade: But a tremendous amount of relief.

Paul Ford: Yeah, yeah.

Rich Ziade: Like for all involved, right? [chuckles]. Like so it all worked out.

Paul Ford: It’s all really good.

Rich Ziade: This is the Ziade Ford Advisors podcast.

Paul Ford: I’m Paul Ford, the former CEO of Aboard, now [00:16:00] retired.

Rich Ziade: I’m Rich Ziade, the newly appointed CEO of Aboard.

Paul Ford: Hey, congratulations.

Rich Ziade: To those, for those that don’t know, we have a startup called Aboard. We said the word very casually. Uh, you can check it out@aboard.com and we have an ABOARD podcast as well. Uh, hit us up.

Paul Ford: Hey, we’ve been, we got the mailbag full. We gotta read some messages.

Rich Ziade: We should read some messages. It’s actually kind of fun. Um, and we’re @ZiadeFord on Twitter.

Paul Ford: We love you, hello@ziadeford.com. Talk to you soon.

Rich Ziade: Take care.

Paul Ford: Bye.

More Ziade+Ford Advisors
RSSApple PodcastSpotify