Edition #10

September 13th, 2019

Here at, we're in the business of helping small to mid-sized business owners run, grow, and transition ownership of their business more effectively. With that goal in mind, enjoy this issue of The Knife Fight, a weekly newsletter for operators in the trenches.


What's the second job of a startup CEO? (Y Combinator)
+ "Your First Creation is a Product, Your Second Creation is a Company."

Building a product is hard, but building a company is exponentially more difficult. The principles of building and leading a company from startup to corporate giant remain the same:

1. Delegate. As the old adage goes, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. As the chief, your job after hiring the first team members is to replace yourself as quickly as possible in day to day operations and use your time on the highest leverage tasks like team building and direction.

2. Build a team who can build teams. Once you've built a large enough team that warrants more mid-level executives, it is imperative to empower VP level executives with the full authority and ownership to execute without your input at every step. This yields even more leverage on your time and removes tasks that are unrelated to firm direction and culture.

3. Set the direction. It is impossible to row and steer the boat simultaneously. By setting the direction for the division executives, you align the company around the original vision and mission.

4. Cultivate and protect the culture. A firm is only as good as its people, and its people are attracted (and repelled) by firm culture.

As an addition to the points above, see this article for 30 more great lessons on leadership that we shared in an earlier issue of the weekly newsletter.


The founder's guide to discipline: lessons from Front's Mathilde Collin (First Round)
+ "As a founder, I’d choose discipline over some grand vision any day of the week."

The efficiency-destroying magic of tidying up (Florent Crivello)
+ We often believe that cleaning up and organizing will lead to more efficient workflows, but sometimes this just isn't true.

California passes law stating gig workers must be classified as employees, putting UBER business model at risk (Vox)
+"The passage of AB 5 also means millions of new workers will now have a right to join labor unions. To get a sense of how big this workforce is, consider this: When state tax investigators audited about 8,000 California businesses in 2017, they discovered nearly half a million employees had been misclassified or otherwise left off payrolls."

Stitch Fix: a useful case study for retail's digital transformation (Forbes)
+ This is a great profile of Stitch Fix, the online digital retailer blending data and human touch to excite customers from the comfort of their homes.


Moodys issues warning due to historically high concentration of risky borrowers that could lead to higher defaults than Great Recession (Institutional Investor)
+ "Buyout firms now own about 80 percent of companies with B3 ratings and 68 percent of those rated Caa, according to the report."

How a stealthy insurance tech company bootstrapped to a $2.35B sale in less than 4 years (GeekWire)
+ Bootstrapping a company with no outside capital is difficult in the technology space, but the founders of Assurance IQ pulled it off. Here is their story.


Nothing this week…


40 of our favorite interview questions (First Round)
+ This is a great resource for potential additional questions to mix into interviews at your company.

The 3 things employees want: career, community, cause (Harvard Business Review)
+ "There’s a lot of talk about how different Millennials are from everyone else, but we found that priorities were strikingly similar across age groups."

Everything you ever wanted to know about running an all-hands meeting (Gokul Rajaram)
+ "An All-Hands does three things. It celebrates people and accomplishments; it drives alignment around mission, strategy and priorities; and finally, it provides a forum to ask and answer questions."


Why is movie theater popcorn so expensive? (The Hustle)
+ "Allen Michaan was just 19 when he built his first movie theater in the 1970s. In his 40-year career, he’s operated more than 20 cinemas, including the historic Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland, California. As he tells it, pricey popcorn isn’t some diabolical price-gouging scheme — it’s the lifeblood of a theater’s business model."

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