Operating Partner #207

Happy Friday <<First Name>>

I just got home from my third business trip since March of 2020, but my second business trip that requires an airplane. Crazy to think that I was flying 250-320k miles per year and went near zero.

I have mixed feelings about business travel.

There's no better way to get to know people, build relationships, and move a workstream forward than to be together. The conversations both in and out of the room are essential. Unfortunately, living a purely Zoom life does not give you the watercooler conversations that often add texture to a situation.  

There's also the ability to get out and see a new city or town during business travel. For instance, on this particular trip, I stayed in a former Coca-Cola bottling facility hotel. I went to an NBA game featuring the Indianapolis Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers. This was my fourth time seeing the Cavs play this season; I've become a fan of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. I'd never been to the Pacers facility before but it was clean and modern and I plan to absolutely return in the future.

With that said, I believe business travel is inefficient. There is random downtime, unexpected delays, elevated stress levels, and big and minor annoyances. I find that business travel also adds stress to my calendar when back in the office as meetings tend to consolidate into days when back and the schedule becomes even crazier.

I also place a lot of value in being with my children, wife, friends, and pursuing hobbies like tennis and skiing, and heavy business travel can often interfere with that.

I believe that trips will return, and I see my friends, partners, and peers posting their Instagram airport photos. I hope that we don't go back to traveling for the sake of traveling, and each trip has a purpose; for those, I'm incredibly excited to participate. I will absolutely pick my spots and try and own my schedule more. A learning for me is being more thoughtful with business travel.


40: Learnings From The Past Decade

Last week was a big milestone for me: I turned 40, and I'm not a big birthday person, so it was relatively low-key. I spent the weekend in Providence, RI, at my daughter's dance competition, to which she performed incredibly. She got her dancing skills from me (or not). This weekend, I'll celebrate my bday with family and some of my friends I've known since kindergarten (or even before).

I was casually talking to my wife about turning 40 and what would be different in the past decade to the next decade. I told her I wanted to experience things more, go out and do "stuff." It's not that I've not done stuff the past decade, but I realize that life is short, and there is less time to do things than I expected. Life has a way of accelerating at a certain age…

Live music was a big part of my life in my teens and my 20s. I went to some shows in my thirties but not nearly the amount of shows I wanted to attend. I always wanted to see Avicii perform… unfortunately, I waited too long, and sickness got the best of him. I'm hoping to get back out to live music in my 40s – yes, more Dave Matthews Band and a variety of other artists. There's something magical to a live show.

Now, for the work-related stuff about turning 40.

When I turned 30, Business Insider asked me to write a piece about what it was like to be the youngest executive at the table. I did. I recently read the article, and much of it still holds true, and I would not have changed much even a decade later.

So, I am not writing a Business Insider piece as I turn 40, but I am writing four business lessons I've learned in my 30s… and how they can help as I head into my 40s.

Outcomes over Activities. All too often, we like to celebrate activities in business. Activities are things like "we served 10 million impressions" or "surveyed 500 customers." Outcomes are things like "we generated an incremental $30 million of EBITDA" or "we stemmed churn 23% which led to $20M of gain." The majority of all my conversations as both an investor and senior business person are around the latter… outcomes.

If you can change your mindset to outcome-thinking when trying to solve a problem or prioritize your work, it will help you. Remember the "why" – what outcome are you solving for, and what is most essential to achieve it?

Momentum. I am a huge believer in momentum, and business momentum trumps almost anything. I was at a product development offsite last week in Boston for one of my portfolio companies, and I spoke about this very topic. Finding a way to get momentum with a product, marketing, advertising, sales, support, whatever… will only benefit you. All too often, I watch companies wait to start building momentum, which ends up hurting them. The product may not be perfect, but it's good enough to launch, and the momentum you gain will trump any minor flaw… and over time, flaws become fixed. Nike says, "just do it" and I say, "just launch."

Relationships. Much of my career is a testament to the relationships I've built with numerous people over time, including many of you. I am grateful for that. I often choose to work with the same company and team repeatedly because we've built up a solid working relationship that trumps being promiscuous and trying new providers every time. Relationships are built over time and can change… but the critical part of relationships for me is the idea of "trust." I need to know that the other party trusts me and I trust them to get the job done. As the stakes get higher with the work executed, I turn to close relationships where the trust factor is there.

Stay Out of the Crap. I have near-zero time for gossip or annoying conversations about who did what and so on. I wouldn't say I like those conversations, and they take up way too much time and, frankly, add very little value to my life. You all know what I mean here: we have multiple opportunities to participate each day… shift the conversation into something meaningful and substantial.

I know I said I would only write four business lessons that I've learned… well, here's the 5th and probably the most important one.

Be Nice and Human. I had an old boss who put a tremendous emphasis on being "nice." So much so that it became part of our agency credentials presentation. It's incredible to me to see how many people in this world are not nice. And the "human" component is important too, and understand that empathy is not just essential but a superpower. 

If you can meet people where they are, find ways to rally teams on a human and empathetic level, and put trust in the folks you've hired… you have a great chance of succeeding. This is not hard. If you are nice and human, look at how many more doors open for you.

Calling All Digital Execs, Entrepreneurs, and Ecosystem Supporters

As many of you know, I chair Silicon Alley Sports, a group I founded almost 20 years ago in New York. Silicon Alley is an homage to where “digital” began in Manhattan, similar to Silicon Valley in California. Silicon Alley Sports is graciously supported by The Buddy Group, The Hunt Club, and Bain Capital this year.

The goal of Silicon Alley Sports is to bring together like-minded digital folks to network while playing sports… and do good by donating money to a variety of charities. Over the years, we have donated funds to Meals on Wheels, the American Cancer Society, Charity Water, Robinhood, Venture for America, and others.

We are readying our event roster for 2022 and would love to have Operating Partner subscribers join us. All events are held 45-60 minutes from Manhattan to be most accessible.

We have traditionally played tennis, golf, and paddle tennis on various dates throughout the year. We play each event on a different date, and you can sign up for one (e.g., golf) or all as they are released.  

We typically do a cocktail event in Manhattan at the end of the year, where all attendees receive an invitation. It’s a nice moment for people who only play one event to mix and mingle with attendees from other events.

Over the years, we have been a pretty male-dominated crowd, and we usually are about 20% women and 70% white. I’m hoping we can change that up this year and ongoing. I’d love to have as diverse a group of participants as possible and am open to working with anyone who has ideas in making that happen.

Please sign up here if you are interested in receiving more information as we release our events. By signing up on the form, it does not mean you are registered for our events. 

Articles To Read

In some OP's, I like to feature jobs from the community. If you have jobs you'd like me to promote in the next OP, please just email me and send me the job with a link to the role posted online and a paragraph you'd like me to include.

Multiple Roles @ The Trade Desk. TTD continues to deliver explosive growth based on our singular vision of building the most advanced platform in the world for buying advertising. We are hiring for multiple roles throughout the org this year and are looking for talented, driven, creative, and hungry professionals to bring something entirely new and wildly ambitious into the world. Whatever your specialty is, we are hiring! Within the sales team, we are looking for sellers who have experience balancing brand and agency stakeholders to deliver growth from new & existing business. Our client service team is looking for Account Managers to deliver tactical & strategic support to clients and analytical Traders to help clients make data-driven decisions optimized against business objectives. If those aren't your specialty, we're hiring across partnerships, product, & engineering orgs as well - take a look and feel free to reach out to Adam.Rotberg@thetradedesk with any questions!

Thank You for Reading

Thanks for reading OP #207. What an incredible ride it has been so far. 

Durhamism #2860: Memory is more than a dustbin of time, stuffed with yesterday's trash. Rather, memory is a glorious grab bag of the past from which one can at leisure pluck bittersweet experiences of times gone by and relive them.

Darren / @dherman76
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