I am a witness to greatness

nike-witness-posterOne of the awesome things about being an investor is I get to witness greatness. In my 6+ years at First Round, I have been a witness to greatness in results, in strategy, in courage and in vision. These moments are inspiring for me and I am going to try to share them here as they happen. Doing this without identifying the companies or specifics but with enough detail to be helpful will be challenging, but I’ll do my best.

Meaning and alignment are great motivators. The best leaders find ways to create meaning for every member of their team and to align their activity with critical drivers of company success. Last week I was a witness to this brand of great leadership.

I work with a company that is doing incredibly well and generating amazing financial results. In a recent meeting, the CEO apologized for not having the 2015 budget ready to present and mentioned that it would be ready in a few weeks. Investors responded with some sarcasm around the pain of budgeting and predictions about how happy we would all be with the forthcoming budget given last year’s results.

The CEO cut the conversation short and expressed genuine excitement about the budgeting process ahead. The room went quiet (including the members of the finance team who were in the room). Then, the CEO explained exactly why they were so enthusiastic:

I am excited to build out the budget because it will save us a ton of money. The reason you create a budget is to drive financial literacy around company priorities into the organization. The budget will empower every employee to make better decisions and help us to be more efficient as a business. This is critical to our success.

In my decade and a half working at and with startups, I have always thought of the budget as a constraint — never as empowering. This CEO had a different view. I think it’s great.

I am lucky to be a witness.