Corporate Culture: best two documents, Ever

blue corporate culture puzzle being assembled by multiple hands

What Is Corporate Culture?

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction, and every other aspect of operations
Read more from Investopedia.
It has been called the best document to come out of Silicon Valley, ever, by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO. Here is the description of the corporate culture at Netflix in an old SlideShare. The current corporate culture document is on the Netflix jobs page.  It's excellent!  Here's another:

Valve Corporation

Probably the next best document on this subject is the Handbook for New Employees at VALVe software.  These guys set the bar at a high level.

Let's meet at Starbucks... NOT!

I just read the latest email from Pitch Anything guru Oren Klaff and I've got to say I was shouting at my screen in violent agreement with him, so much so that I have to cut and paste a part of his email right here:

There is one thing I tell every single person entering my industry -- the high-stakes world of dealmaking and raising money....

#1 ...Never take a meeting in a coffee shop

I know what you're thinking:
Wait a second Oren ...
Starbucks is so convenient, I meet people there all the time...
And hey, a "deal" is a "deal" no matter where and when someone finds out about it, right?
I can guarantee you that Millions of dollars in your life and career will vanish in coffee shops (and restaurants and cafeterias too).
Sure, all kinds of exciting things happen at Hot Dog stands in the movies ...
But that's all fake.
Coffee shop and restaurants are ground-zero for Low Status meetings that go nowhere.
Is just this my "opinion"?
I called one of the Top 30 producers in Hollywood, Brant Pinvidic, to ask his opinion about “coffee shop and restaurant meetings"...
... isn't that how Hollywood "works"?
Brant immediately gets excited when I ask him about Starbucks ...
“I HATE Starbucks meetings!", he says.
Brant tells me: "When I get invited to STARBUCKS for a meeting, I think to myself ... Really? That's where we’re doing THIS?
... Starbucks is all the 'juice' you have?"
(Brant's domain is Hollywood, where "juice" means resources, influence and power. Or in other words, "CLOUT")
He continues:
"So you invited me to sit down in a tiny half-height chair like in a doll house...
  • To discuss all our confidential information out in the open for anyone to hear...
  • with the sound of blenders and espresso portafilters slamming in my ear...
  • While I'm squinting to see some tiny PDF on your ipad?"
Next Brant starts half-yelling at me... as if I had just invited him to a Starbucks meeting ...
“Hey Oren, When Comcast offered $3.8 Billion for Dreamworks, did they say 'Meet us at Starbucks, we have something to show you?'"
"When Verizon decided to buy Yahoo for $4.9 Billion, did Hans Vestberg tell Marissa Myers, “Let’s grab a quick lunch at Mastro’s, just the two of us and 37 lawyers, 12 accountants and my bankers?”"
Brant continued, "In fact ...
... name ONE important deal that was done at Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or Peets Coffee... YOU CAN'T!"
What Brant is saying is: public spots lack seriousness, and imply your deal is weak, and a thin-veil above a “startup idea.”
YOUR $100K DEAL is no less important to you than a $4.8B deal is to Yahoo.
So, I suggest you take yourself seriously, and do deals in a place that says "this deal matters."
Of course, I agreed with everything Brant is saying, but at this point in the conversation ...
... you know how these Hollywood guys are ... they get really spun-up and keep going and going.
And Brant ... he keeps going: “Listen Oren, I’ve got another 20 rules for dealmakers...”
“#2, Be the first to leave every meeting and phone call."
"#3: Don’t be greedy—because buyers will walk away from “over-negotiators”"
-------------------------  end of email clip from Oren Klaff

If you haven't yet read Pitch Anything, stop whatever you're doing and get the book and start following his advice. It's priceless. If you're not subscribed to his emails, you are missing out on excellent content that is creatively packaged. Email me and I'll get you on the list. 

Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal

San Diego #8 Best City for Starting a Business

The 50 Best U.S. Cities for Starting a Business in 2020

San Diego

Come for brand names. Stay for the startup scene--and the beach.

Triple Sevens!!!
In 2018, much of San Diego's near-record $2.5 billion in venture capital funding went to life sciences and biotech businesses. These industries are still the main attraction in this beach town, but San Diego’s nascent tech scene is picking up, thanks largely to two new area venture firms--Blueprint Equity and Torrent Ventures--and local tech giant Qualcomm’s corporate venture fund, which is putting $100 million into A.I. companies. 

While the area’s universities generate a lot of smart, young talent, midlevel managers skilled at helping fledgling ventures get to the next level are in short supply. That could change with the arrival of outposts from Apple, Amazon, and Walmart Labs. “For a long time, Qualcomm has been the big brand name here, but when you get the Apples and Amazons [opening offices] in town, people are going to chase the brand names,” says Neal Bloom, a local entrepreneur who runs Fresh Brewed Tech, a site about San Diego’s tech community. 

The hope is that while new talent may come to the city for the bigger brand names, they’ll eventually stay for the startup scene--and the beach. --Lindsay Blakely

Client feedback: Optimizing Investor Meetings

Business meeting line icon. Partners at meeting table and clock. Human resource concept. Vector illustration can be used for topics like communication, interview, negotiation Stock Vector - 121872278

This email just in from a client whose meetings with a potential investor were taking too much time to get to the point, and the client, a startup, wanted to know how to deal with the issue. 

My advice was that getting an angel to invest takes Time. They need to move at their own pace in order to feel comfortable with the startup. It's a matter of building Trust, and that takes Time. So, instead of getting the investor to change their behavior, it is more effective to change the startup's behavior to be more productive in the time available. Here's their follow up from our discussion:


Thank you so much for jumping on a call with me yesterday on such short notice. Your advice about not trying to directly tell this investor he needs to improve his communication skills helped me to save face, and ultimately will lead to me and this investor having a more productive relationship.

During our conversation, you provided me with a framework for what needs to be done before and after each meeting. I believe I understand what you've told me, but please make sure this framework is what you intended:

Before the meeting:
  • Provide a detailed agenda, along with how long each agenda item should take
  • Provide a hard stop time
After the meeting:
  • In the follow-up email, make sure to provide my notes of what was discussed during the meeting. This way, if something was misunderstood, the other people in the meeting can correct it
The goal of these three points is to close the communication gap, as well as to show whomever I meet with that their time (and mine) is valuable. Additionally, in regards to the "before the meeting" section of the framework, it allows me to take control of the meeting before it even begins, and ensures that less time will be wasted. 

After we discussed this framework, you also conveyed the importance of keeping my meeting times, and making sure I do not falter in holding up my commitments. You explained to me how this will improve my reputation, and show that I value people's time. I agree with everything you said.

I'm ashamed that I have not always held up my commitments with people whom I had meetings scheduled in the past, but, as you put it, I need to be a man of my word. Making sure I keep my commitments will now be of primary importance to me. I am very grateful that you illuminated how important this is. 

You ended our call with asking how I would put these points into practice. I hope that with this email, I have already began. If this or any communication I have with you does not adhere to the framework you provided me, please tell me quickly and emphatically. I don't doubt that these techniques will quickly become a vital part of my reputation if I apply them effectively. 

How will you measure your life?

Source: CBinsights

❤️I love it when...


I love it when I have a meeting with an entrepreneur who asks for help, and they actually take notes and then follow up in writing after the meeting. Here's an example from a meeting last week:


It was great meeting with you for lunch the other day. As mentioned, one of my 2020 resolutions was to connect with people who matter, but unfortunately, I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. Having known you for almost 25 years, you are certainly one of the people who matter!  

As always, meeting with you was enjoyable and enlightening. As I embark on my new business venture, your mention of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, was timely and hit home by reminding me of the importance of creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The need to get to market quickly, learn, improve and repeat has always been a valuable lesson that you inspired in me. Even though this lesson is part of the Ten Commandments of Managing a Young, Growing Businessand a poster with it hung on my office wall for years, I was surprised at how easily I lost sight of this simple yet powerful rule.

Too often, we get caught up trying to create the perfect product for everyone and get stuck in an endless development cycle without ever getting to market. As you know, in software, it’s called "Feature Creep” and even though I’ve steered many clients away from it, I now found myself succumbing to its power. That is until you reminded me of focusing on the MVP.

“Do good NOW, make better later” are words you shared with me more than 20 years ago and they are as important now as the day you first said them. So much so, that I immediately went back to my office after our lunch and stripped down a two page list of web development tasks into less than one page! We are now on our way to having a working site up in less than one week. Its sole purpose is to enable us to engage with our target markets, learn about their needs and gain insight into their thoughts about our business.

Having achieved this, I promised myself to never let “Feature Creep” or as some would say “Paralysis by Analysis”, distract me again. To ensure this, I am implementing the technique you taught me during lunch, which is to use an existing habit as a trigger to create a new desirable habit. Being that my office window faces west, I am forced every day to close the blinds to block the sun from causing a glare on my computer screen. Each morning I open the blinds to let in the natural light. These two habits are now the triggers that prompt me to evaluate if I’m following the MVP rule in our product road map, as well as all aspects of the business.

Mike, thanks so much for your insight at lunch, it has made a huge difference. More importantly, thank you for all of the positive impacts you have made in my life, I am grateful to have you as a friend and mentor.


-------------------------  Reply below  --------------------------


๐Ÿ™Thank you for the opportunity to be of service! ๐Ÿ™

The following quote seems to sum up our meeting:

Seneca, one of the great Roman Stoic philosophers, on friendship:

"...nothing delights the mind so much as fond and loyal friendship. What a blessing it is to have hearts that are ready and willing to receive all your secrets in safety, with whom you are less afraid to share knowledge of something than keep it to yourself, whose conversation soothes your distress, whose advice helps you make up your mind, whose cheerfulness dissolves your sorrow, whose very appearance cheers you up!"

Source: On the Shortness of Life by Seneca

Best of luck with your startup, Darrin.
Please keep me updated on your progress, and count on my help anytime.
I love it when people take notes and follow up!


ToBeWise™ question

This excellent question from client GC:

... I have the app (, and I've found many of the quotes fascinating, especially the ones by Carnegie. Is there a way to implement the wisdom they convey? I find myself agreeing with most if not all of what I read, but I'm at a loss about how to put them into action. For example, one of his quotes is "No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it." Truman said something similar with "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." I completely agree that being selfish is counterproductive and you should empower others, but how do you do this when it's your job to lead a project, and you need your ideas to be executed on?

Such a great question!

I think one clue to the answer is in your last sentence, especially " do you do this when it's your job to lead a project, and you need your ideas to be executed on? "

Notice that you phrase it as though in the first person... your job to lead, your ideas, etc. One of the more empowering changes that entrepreneur/CEOs can make is to change the word from "I" to "we". It's so much more powerful to eliminate your ego and become part of the team. Instead of focus on your ideas that need to be executed, focus on helping the team to see the vision and be open to their input on how to get there. They will be much more empowered if they feel they are part of the vision rather than blindly following orders.

This is summed up on one of my favorite quotes on this subject:

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.Antoine de Saint Exupery.

Continuous communication of the vision is the enduring duty of the founder/CEO. It is the essential skill that must be developed in order to recruit co-founders, team members, advisors, investors, and others to support your dream. You supply the vision, and ask for help, and always continue to follow up and appreciate (give credit, say thanks) whatever comes your way.

The app is designed to be used as a method of programming your mind, a form of self hypnosis, whereby, with continuous daily use, you find quotations that speak to you and your current state of affairs, and Favorite them to be saved and repeated over and over until they become part of your being. It is then that you start to live your life that way, without thinking. You build a habit of thinking the same powerful thoughts of the great minds who you admire.

Who Should Founders Listen To For Advice

Ycombinator nails this very important question with this video:

They should know, having worked with 2,000 companies, now worth over 100 billion total.

I recommend a board of advisors, at least 2 plus the CEO, no more than 5 total.
The smaller the better.

The board meets on a regular basis, once a month is ideal.

Watch the video!

Paul Graham's Essays, Visualized

There is truth to the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words".  So here are a few infographics that illustrate some of the essays of Paul Graham (startup guru).  These are a lot more memorable and easier to put on your wall than the thousands of words in his essays, and a lot easier to communicate to your team.  Here's the link: