April 13, 2010

Anatomy of a Dot-com CEO


By Sara Holoubek

Throughout time, populations of certain animals peak and fall due to natural causes, such as climate change. Some completely die out. Others, like cockroaches, survive.

The Center of the Universe
The genus CEO is one of the oldest known to man. It is a savvy creature that leads firms through the peaks and valleys of history. However, eras of excess natural resources and rapid diversification resulted in a species-rich genus that has evolved over time, adapting to new environments.

For example, while the dot-com species was thought to have died out after a meteor hit the earth in 2000, a small group survived. It is believed that these, the strongest specimens, scrounged for food while hiding in small caves and getting their real estate licenses.

Now that food supplies are on the rise, the number of dot-com CEOs and related species have increased. For those who haven't seen one in awhile, my esteemed colleagues and I offer this compilation of traits for quick identification.


The dot-com CEO is a bold creature. One colleague recently sighted a young college graduate whose first job was "CEO/Owner of an online ad company." While this is very likely to be true, she noted that "no one would have dared include that in a resume during the burst years."

This boldness often results in the formation of full-fledged businesses. One colleague put it best: "It seems any ding-dong with a few dollars and an idea thinks he can run a company without having solid business experience."


A Very Tight Grasp
Due to the lack of experience, the species has developed an instinct to hold all things tight. Publisher Morgan Friedman suggests that a clear sign that a company will fail is when the young CEO just can't seem to delegate. It is quite common for these creatures to insist that "if I don't do it, it won't get done." Apparently they have not been exposed to the past 200 years of industrialization, Taylorism and the division of labor.


Malfunctioning Internal Clock
The tight grasp is closely related to the malfunctioning internal clock. Time seems to go faster and urgent for dot-com CEO. That email sent to you 5 minutes ago? It now has 3 follow up emails, wondering where you are on it. As I have learned, the minute you start spending more time responding to such emails than actually getting the job done, it is time to move on.


Excessive Blinking.
As much as Gladwell is probably right about rapid cognition, I purposed left this book out of any conversations with one particular CEO who loved to make gut decisions. And then reverse them. And then reverse the reverse decisions. And then....


Over-active Knee Jerk Reflex.
Closely related to excessive blinking, the over-active knee reflex is due to an inability to rationally think a concept through, rushing to an emotional response. The genes responsible for this trait are similar to those that cause road rage and temper tantrums.


Outward Display of Ego Complex
One of the many defense mechanisms of the species is to themselves when threatened. This may be displayed visually by pounding on the desk, or more subtly. In one of the more complex cases, a CEO would frequently count through his stack of 100 dollar bills in front of me.


Poor Sight
Poor sight manifests itself in various ways among the species. Common examples include: a lack of insight, a lack of foresight, or even complete blindness to any issue that is mission critical. Since it is so very hard for this creature to see clearly, decisions tend to be superficial.

Extreme Paranoia
Maybe only the paranoid survive, but do they really need to drag us along with them? While I really don't care what drugs these people take, I simply ask that they put down the BlackBerry after indulging.

And if you are still not sure, my colleague Giovanni Gallucci recommends that you ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does the CEO's office remind you of an upscale European strip club?
2. Does the CEO take time-outs for XBox, ping-pong, foosball or air hockey?
3. Is Starbucks a requirement at the firm?
4. Does the company portray itself as "fun," "new," "different," and "outside the norm"?
4. Is everyone in the company a VP of one thing or another?


Sara Holoubek is a free agent consultant serving the interactive sector and its investors. She can be reached at saraholoubek@gmail.com.


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