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How to onboard yourself – about management buy-ins

Krieger recently transferred her role as CEO to the commercial lead at GoodUp. She currently acts as shareholder and board member in the company and as interim CEO for one of her other portfolio companies; Soverin. She is actively looking at another management buy-in.

There’s so much written about onboarding tactics. Hell, we even did so ourselves. However, there’s little advice about onboarding from the employee’s perspective. Let alone in the situation of a management buy-in.

Introducing Diana Krieger, the CEO of GoodUp, for whom this position is her third (!!!) management buy-in. After successfully growing her previous two companies and getting them acquired.

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“Founders are exceptionally capable of getting from zero to one. However, scaling beyond product-market fit is a completely different ballgame. And some don’t own the necessary skills or are simply not interested in having a management position. Employees and customers suddenly want different things, the founders’ gut feeling doesn’t do the trick anymore or they just want to build something new. It’s at this moment in the company’s lifecycle that great founders realize someone else should take over and what type of person that should be.”

In this interview, Krieger shares her 3-step process every person going through a management buy-in must use to take advantage of the strengths of the people involved.

But before we get there, let’s make sure there’s a fit between you and the company. How? Here’s our immensely simplified checklist.

– snoop around and test the grounds. Make sure there’s a cultural fit by working together and talking to the team members. A lot;

– decide on the buy-in. Especially investor-backed startups should push for a buy-in, because it shows commitment. Being a shareholder, you will feel all the company’s highs and lows;

– cross reference your skills with the desired capabilities. You’re not joining a corporate organization with a 100-day try out period. You have to be all-in from day 1.

Checked every item on the list? Great. Then let’s continue.

Krieger argues onboarding as the new CEO begins with finding and setting the dot on the horizon, followed by maintaining focus and eventually focusing on internal processes.

Finding the dot on the horizon

Before you can start running, you have to know where you’re heading. And most of us are operating with an overly broad definition of a strategy. We tend to think of strategy as something that comes from within. Krieger suggests otherwise. “It requires a deep dive into the market and the current customer. How do they use your product? Why? What are their pains?”

“Then you look at micro and macro trends, looking at details and zooming out to see the bigger picture. Think about what you need to do to tap into those trends and how you can offer something scalable. Last but not least, you place one or two big bets, and iteratively validate if those big bets are leading to results.”

Focus, focus, focus

In the early days founders tend to do whatever it takes to bring in any money. Resulting in a range of customer segments. Which makes sense in a do or die situation, but for long term success you’ll need to focus.

“To find out what customer segment to approach”, Krieger says, “you have to think about what your market approach should look like. What’s the scale of the problem? What’s the budget you’ll need?”

Even then, there will be several options. Picking a big bet to focus on, “even though the road to success is uncertain, will provide your team with a common and clear goal. This, supported by rapid and constant experimentation, is the only way to get close to the dot on the horizon.”

Focus on internal processes

There are some companies, of course, where simply demanding what needs to be done is a possibility for a newly appointed CEO. And maybe even the option with the best possible outcome. However, things are different in a fast-growing startup. “A new leader requires adaptability from the team and it will take a while before you learn what to expect from each other, while at the same time maintaining an incredible pace.”

Due to the fact that people have different needs, “this process must be carefully managed,” Krieger says. “You need people to keep believing in your goals. Even though, especially with people in commercial roles, your strategy of selling a certain product to a specific target audience might not align with their short term objectives of selling as many products as possible to all potential customers.”