1 April is my 13th anniversary as a RedBallooner. It feels like it has been my whole life… I struggle now to remember a time before RedBalloon. My role has changed more in the last 2 years than in the 10 years prior to that. As mentioned in my previous post – Kristie CEO is well and truly out in front of RedBalloon leading the next wave of growth. We recently presented at the Growth Summit on how we transitioned from me as CEO to her.
I of course said whatever popped into my head – relatively unprepared, authentic and spontaneous. Kristie on the contrary was well prepared, structured and considered. We make a great team – simply because our approach is so different.
Given that she produced a bunch of notes for the event (which I never do) I asked her if I could share these on my blog. So please find below unedited – Kristie CEO’s thoughts on being the RedBalloon leader.
“What do CEO’s do?
- Vision, values and strategic alignment
- Team development & growth
- Resource allocation and prioritization
“How does my role vary from Naomi’s?
In a more formal capacity, Naomi is Founding Director and sits on our Board of Directors providing guidance and governance. The Board receive monthly reports and we meet as a group bi-monthly.
Day to day, Naomi still has a lot of involvement in the business as a powerful brand ambassador. She may not be driving the detail anymore, but she’s still very much on top of it. She knows the metrics and critical numbers off the top of her head.
She supports the team by sharing company messages and building the RedBalloon brand via her blog, LinkedIn and speaking engagements and perhaps even more powerfully, Naomi supports our team as a valuable connector. Naomi is in the fortunate position of being able to meet customers, suppliers and business leaders throughout our community, so she plays a big role in acting as an access point to those people.
She whirls into the office with great enthusiasm – making sure she knows how each individual contributes – saying a few words of encouragement; we do love having her ‘big’ full on personality around. Her enthusiasm is infectious.
“Challenges working with a FOUNDER
Big picture: always in the strategy, little thought to execution. She often works on the ‘why’. The ‘how’ never enters her mind.
Control: a founder is used to control and it can take time to coax them to let go. To get control you have to give up control… doesn’t mean it’s easy. Especially at the start, there were some challenges in keeping Naomi on top of the detail without having her drive the detail. I manage this via giving her access to weekly reports. And plenty of dashboards…
Voracious appetite for growth and speed – she moves at a lightening pace.
Profile – the profile of a founder can be a challenge in itself. The RedBalloon business and Naomi are inextricably linked. Two years after being CEO, most people still consider Naomi to be operationally leading the RedBalloon business.
Constant stream of new… new ideas, new connections. Can be distracting. It is my job to protect the business from her constant stream of ideas. I have a list – I put them on that (she is happy) and I get to manage them through the ideation and planning process.
She often forgets to give context – moving so fast. The shortness and directness of some of Naomi’s emails can be confronting, so whenever that happens we jump straight onto the phone or meet. It’s much easier to extract context from a busy minded Founder when you are speaking to them rather than writing.
“Our differences are our strengths
Where Naomi’s strength is vision, mine is planning and execution.
Naomi and I are both passionate about people in different ways. Naomi loves to connect with as many people as possible and sees every interaction as an opportunity. I am a good filter. I love to be INSIDE the business, actively shaping the culture and getting to know people deeply. Naomi loves being outside the business.
“How did we manage the handover?
TRUST - I worked in the business for four years before being appointed CEO. I know the business inside out, and I knew Naomi and how she operates well before taking the role. We had a fundamental trust before I took the role. But I understood that I ‘had the big gig’ and that needed to build trust in my new capacity… to gain her (and the boards) confidence.
COMMUNICATION – We are not afraid to tell each other how it is. We’ve had many robust challenging discussions. For example, when a previous RedBallooner handed in his resignation. Or when I unintentionally described Naomi’s new role in the business in a media interview in a way that didn’t do Naomi’s contribution justice.
RELEVANCE – A founder has a deep emotional connection to the business and we worked out early that Naomi needed to have a place. She was still relevant and it took some time to cement the specifics around her new, but equally strong contribution as our brand ambassador. But now that she is headlong into RED… she is like a kid in a lolly shop (and she is out of my hair) as she wrote in a recent blog post.
ALIGNMENT – In our first year in particular, we worked a lot in tandem. And from the beginning I have always included Naomi on the journey and aligned on strategy and vision. For example, in the creation of our new purpose and BHAG. ?(Pictured)
ACCEPTANCE – Working with any entrepreneur is going to be a rollercoaster ride. It is exciting, challenging, exhilarating and it inspires me to greatness. At least life at RedBalloon is never boring.