Month: October 2018

  • GreenLight Fund Philadelphia

    My friends at Kynetic invited my wife and me to attend a fundraising dinner last week for the GreenLight Fund Philadelphia.

    There are many great causes out there that are always looking for time, talent or financial support to help further their mission of supporting others or accelerating positive change.

    In the last few years, my wife and I have gotten closer or involved with some of them (Tony Hawk Foundation, Vetri Community Partnership, The First Tee etc.).

    Tara and I are usually focused on causes aiming to support at-risk youth or provide foundational support structure to those who didn’t start their lives with a lot of it.

    I’d heard of the GreenLight Fund before but wasn’t fully aware of their approach nor their foothold in Philly for the last seven years. GLF was actually founded by VCs at General Catalyst in Boston fourteen years ago.

    The primary focus of the evening was on a new entity, under the GreenLight umbrella, that is providing financial intelligence and asset-building programs for a target group in need. That program was not founded in Philadelphia, but is now being migrated here with the help of Greenlight Philly. It was a very powerful conversation and recounting of recent impact.

    Now I’m newish to the non-profit world, but there were a few high-leverage things that jumped out at me as more unique to Greenlight and it’s almost “accelerator” approach to social impact.

    1. Greenlight identifies the best and most impactful organizations nationally and then attempts to help them expand their reach into new communities and target markets quickly.
    2. Greenlight works with organizations to help them develop a self-sustaining non-profit model, which lessens or eliminates their reliance on fundraising.
    3. Greenlight cities combine local government and business leadership to prime the pump, and offer programs being expanded from their original market quicker and more efficient traction in the new city. Essentially, they create a locally connected launching pad for incoming programs from other areas.

    The biz guy in me loves this on so many levels. Results oriented, high leverage and well connected. An efficient use of time and social dollar, no doubt.

    My wife and I are looking forward to learning more as we lean in further.



  • CNBC Disruptor50 Event Philly – Video

    Last week I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the CNBC Disrupt50 event in Philly.

    I was joined by the COO of Rent the Runway, Maureen Sullivan, and we were interviewed by CNBC senior media lead Julia Boorstin. Julia, to her credit, made a great effort to ask less obvious questions of both of us.

    They called the panel “Renting and Revving in the Age of Amazon”, which sounded as ridiculous as it was awesome.

    It highlighted topics on customer value creation along with attempting to cover “Amazon proofing” the business, which Maureen and I both agreed is impossible and has been for over a decade. (cue Jaws theme)

    If you know the RevZilla backstory, my early segue in this talk is not new information. I did, however, get to speak about the approach to becoming an “indepensible resource” for your customer, the “final 10%” uses-cases which Amazon will have a hard time executing on across retail, and I even got pulled into the goPuff weeds.

    I also got to give a shoutout to my pop, who was in the back of the room, for his contribution to RevZilla’s origin. Remember, he forbade me to have a motorcycle in high school or college, which eventually turned into my bad-decision Ducati Monster purchase at 26. With the then dearth of great moto eCommerce options, RevZilla was born.

    Here is a link to the full article about our panel. Here is the article with embedded video clips for the whole Disrupt50 day.

    I do love that this is the quote they pulled: “If you are in B2C, it is great to provide consumers with vitamins, things they love and that make them feel good, but it is way more valuable to be a painkiller.”

    I say it all the time. Clearly one of my favorite frameworks.

    Know your customer. Know their pain. Offer them relief. Become valuable to them. Win.

    See the full video on YouTube:

    Yeah, I’m wearing Iverson and Kobe non-matching Stance socks on stage. It is what it is.


  • Your Choices Still Need To Be Yours

    I was recently speaking with the founder of a company of which I am an investor. He asked for my thoughts on a decision and I offered my opinion, only to end with a caveat which I repeat frequently.

    I encouraged him to continue to leverage the intellectual capital around him whenever possible, but to remember, “No one knows your business better than you do. Your choices still need to be yours.”

    We all know the all saying, “Consider the source”, and countless biz titans like Ray Dalio write about attaching a “credibility score” to advice. They recommend further validating the opinions of advisors to ensure they have actual experience in the topic they’re speaking to. It seems so obvious, but most of us don’t do that enough.

    All too often, we accept the opinions of people who genuinely want to help us but are shooting enthusiastically from the hip instead of appropriately qualifying their opinion. We all need to be more skeptical at times to make sure we’re listening to direct experience versus just someone else’s lighter weight exposure or feeling on a topic.

    This applies to all grey hair, including investors, board members, advisors and fellow executives – even when they come with impressive resumes and reputations.

    I know too many founders who have deferred to board members’ recommendations, assuming they knew better, only to follow advice or enact strategies that led to significant negative outcomes.

    Even when people are extremely credible on a topic, founders also have to remember that “one size fits none” and copy ‘n’ paste usually doesn’t work across companies, save for some fundamentals.

    Regardless of your level of experience operating, no outsider will ever be able to see the full canvas needed for a complete thought process. Trust your gut. Pump the brakes when you need to. Don’t worry about pleasing people. Get more data points within a responsible time frame, if you need them.

    Use grey haired conversations for additional decision-making frameworks. Hope to unlock some additional pattern recognition. Utilize help to ensure you see the full cost / benefit equation from other sophisticated perspectives.

    But remember you’re the one who’s ultimately accountable. Again, your choices still need to be yours.

    Not fully qualifying the source, pushing back or trusting your instincts can easily lead to an ill-timed CTRL+V.

    That can kill your company. I’ve seen it happen more than once.

  • New Van, Old Expectations, Same Praise

    We got a new van today.  It’s because we have 100 kids (5 actually) and our really big SUV isn’t really big enough, anymore.


    I found it in Texas and had it shipped. The dealer rep, Ali at Round Rock Nissan, was excellent to work with. Fast follow up and follow through, and very high attention to detail.  The shipping carrier completely stunk, but that’s not for today.

    As I have done for years, with all our vehicles, I get on and cringe after I see what I have to pay to kid-proof our rides with custom-fit floor mats, seat covers and liners.

    If I could rhino-line the whole interior, I’d do it. Just ask the purple crayon on the ceiling in my wife’s SUV if it loves being immortalized outside of a coloring book.  The SUV is a 2015 aging in dog years. Come see it. I dare you.

    Anyway, since the van is a newer model the exact-fit parts page didn’t have the full breadth of what I was looking for so I called to ensure there was not a secret rubber floor liner merch’ed elsewhere on the site.

    I spoke to the rep, Khloe, for about 20 minutes. Peppered her with questions and then negotiated a package deal on the big ticket for a few bucks off and free shipping.  I came loaded for bear on the call, and Khloe met me head on.

    I dropped $450 on seat covers at today because Klhoe was my Sherpa. At the end of the call, I asked her how I could let someone know how good she was and thanked her for all her help.

    This is what I sent to the email addy she gave me:


    Email Subject: Excellent Customer Interaction


    I hope this email finds its way to management and other relevant parties.

    I just spent 20 mins with Khloe to place a $450+ order on seat covers for a new van.

    I found her to be:

    Detail Oriented
    Super friendly

    And she knew your products, company and processes cold.

    From color matching due to flash usage during product photo production, to how my card could be charged multiple times at shipment if my order was broken into multiple shipments, she was on it. We also seamlessly adjusted account information while I was in order processing workflow.

    She was engaged and took pride in her work. This was a consultative sale and considered purchase.

    I’d hire her in a heartbeat for any of my businesses,  as service is the next competitive edge beyond verticalization in the age of Amazon.

    Bravo. Ring the gong for her.



    I send stuff like this pretty regularly.

    I want to make sure that the best people I interact with as a consumer stay connected to the companies that I want to buy from or need. It’s up to those people’s managers to invest in them, their function and do the work to keep them engaged and on the bus or they will lose customers like me. I notice when it changes.

    Next time I call, I’m asking for Khloe directly and I’ll happily vote with my credit card.

    I’m not alone in my thinking. Most eCom and retail isn’t dead, it just needs to be service-centric at all levels, whether it produces its own products or not.

    My wife thinks I’m too difficult and I expect too much in most situations. Maybe.

    I, however, only think expectations as high as mine are a net negative if:

    1. You don’t communicate effectively or agree on the goals / expectations, ahead of time;
    2. Your level of expectations are inconsistent across similar types of interactions;
    3. If you don’t ensure you offer equal amounts of praise for jobs well done and especially heavy praise when people go the extra mile when no one is looking, and;
    4. You hold yourself to a lower standard than others.

    You don’t have to expect less from yourself or other people just because that’s the norm. Set a high bar, reinforce it with praise and live it yourself.


  • For You Leaders Podcast Part 2 – Coaching, Hiring and KPIs

    A few months back, I posted about part 1 of a podcast interview I did with an old exec coach of mine, Kirk Dando. Our interview spanned a few hours so we broke the final product into a few episodes.

    After part one, I also posted a lengthy rundown titled How To Get the Most From Your Executive Coach. That post was spawned from discussing the topic at length during the interview below.

    This post on Part 2, was written months ago and got lost in the shuffle. I have 53 drafts on this blog that I wrote and didn’t publish for one reason or another. More on that at a later.

    Please find episode 2 embedded below, and the full episode page with a complete breakdown of the topics here.

    I’d consider scaling RevZilla to be the topic in episode 1. For this second episode, I’d consider the theme to be scaling yourself, scaling up your team and trying to measure what you can.

    We talked coaching, my thought process on hiring and keeping the right people on the bus. We also discussed some of the tools and hacks I used and still use today.

    I hope you find it useful.

  • What a Leader Does

    My friend Steve Voudouris sent me this video of Jack Welch today.

    Steve is the co-founder and CEO of Turn5, a massive Philly-based eCom juggernaut in the automotive aftermarket. Just like RevZilla, Turn5 (,, never raised venture capital. An independent anomaly after my own heart.

    Steve is a leader I highly respect and someone I’ve compared notes with often, for nearly a decade. Many times, I felt we were building parallel businesses separated by a literal difference of two wheels.

    This video is four minutes long and it’s a clear bright line on what a great leader does. The leadership playbook isn’t just managerial inputs and outputs. It’s so much bigger than that.

    Many of the principles in the vid show up in the sea of established new-school business writing, but there is some romance to Jack’s word choice and his illustration of where the rubber meets the road.

    Great leadership provides meaning, clarity, generosity and joy. Easy to say. Hard to do. It elevates everything for everyone and can always improve. Always.



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