Accidental CEO - Q Manning at RISE 2013


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A quick-thinking, fast on his feet Creative Director found himself as the Founder and CEO of Rocksauce Studios. Q Manning talks about how someone with no formal business training can traverse the tricky new business landscape using determination & trust in his team. Parking & refreshments provided by Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody!

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Accidental CEO - Q Manning at RISE 2013

  1. 1. #accidentalCEOriseMonday, May 20, 13
  2. 2. #accidentalCEOriseThe Accidental CEOTips for First TimersQ ManningCEO of Rocksauce StudiosRocksauce started in October, 2010Mobile Development & Design company, creatingsoftware for iPhone, iPad, Android & WebFounded by myself & partner, Peter Yoder, COOMonday, May 20, 13
  3. 3. #accidentalCEOriseWhere I StartedBorn & raised in Crockett, Texas.Married right out of High School in 1995, packedup, moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.Held many odd-jobs, like...• Pizza delivery driver• Bookstore Barista• Telemarketer• Office handyman• Mailroom sorter• Telecommunications TechnicianCrippling anxiety disorder.Monday, May 20, 13
  4. 4. #accidentalCEOriseTime to Uprade to QI picked up HTML & CSS.Then I taught myself Photoshop.Then Illustrator, ASP, Flash and...pretty much anysoftware or technology I needed to make myselfmore attractive to employers.By 1999, I was offered a Lead Designer positionat WhisperWire in Austin, making twice as muchas any time in my life.Finally, things were rocking!Monday, May 20, 13
  5. 5. #accidentalCEOriseAbout that DotCom Bubble...It burst. 12% laid off.Decided to finally go to college, 7 years aftergraduating High School.The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)• President of the Graphics Design Club• Art Director of the Online Student Community• General Manager of Student Television• Graduated with 216 credit hours, out of 185needed, Cum Laude, Film Student of the Year,and other awards.• And got DivorcedMonday, May 20, 13
  6. 6. #accidentalCEOriseBack to AustinReturned to design industry as Creative ManagerMade some short films, won some awardsQuit my job to direct a Feature Film, that no oneever sawThen back to design, this time as CreativeDirector in the new growing App IndustrySet up a team & process, where I had 24 artistsworking for meThen I quit.Monday, May 20, 13
  7. 7. #accidentalCEOriseStarting Rocksauce StudiosAt another crossroads...• Go work for a competitor?• Make another movie?• Continue to do freelance?• Start my own company?My film producing partner, Peter Yoder, wasdeciding: Real Estate or A New Business?“If you can bring the capital, I’ll bring the know-how.”B O O T S T R A PMonday, May 20, 13
  8. 8. #accidentalCEOriseWhy All This?What is the purpose of telling you my long,winding life story?Because this is how you end up as an Accidental CEO.Because if you didn’t attend business school ordon’t have a history of running a business, youbetter have an “I can learn anything!” attitude.Because running a bootstrapped, “lean” businessmeans wearing hats & making choices you neverimagined.All of the tips which follow come from ourmistakes or hard lessons. Learn from our pain!Monday, May 20, 13
  9. 9. #accidentalCEOriseTip #1: Be willing or your business won’t beYou have to put more hours in than anyone elsein your company.Your paycheck needs to be only what you needto survive. You can get rich later. Wear with pride!Be prepared to be the jack-of-all-trades• Need IT? Do it yourself• Need to make sales? Learn to be a salesperson• Gotta have marketing? Learn analytics & adwords• Website updates? Yup, you’ll do that too.• You will grow immensely in ways you neverimagined. Learn to love it!Monday, May 20, 13
  10. 10. #accidentalCEOriseTip #2: Sales & Marketing are your Heart & SoulWhether a tech company or a bakery, realize thatwithout a solid marketing plan & a versatile salesteam, you have little chance of success.Make sure your sales & marketing team can worktogether.Define a clear line between the duties of each,because these two will step on each other’s toes.A marketing concept the sales team can’t sell toyour customers is a waste of time & resources.But a sales team who undercuts the company’sbottom-line to close is just as dangerous. Balance.Monday, May 20, 13
  11. 11. #accidentalCEOriseTip #3: Know your Numbers & Don’t UndersellKnow what your overhead, cost of customeracquisition, and your sunk costs are.Discover what your margin needs to be, andnever sell for less than that. Even cost shouldhave margin included.Be wary of large deals that seem exciting, butwhen the numbers are broken down, are actuallybeneath your hourly needs. They can destroy abootstrapped business.Cashflow is king. A great business can fail ifcashflow isn’t there. Make sure your invoicing &payments are scheduled as you really need them.Monday, May 20, 13
  12. 12. #accidentalCEOriseTip #4: Slow to Hire, Cause you’ll be Slow to FireRunning a start-up is different than being amanager at someone else’s company.Start-up employees sacrifice. They become asecond family - always there, always working,always going above and beyond. They are toughto fire, even when necessary.Don’t be afraid to ask them to work longer hoursto get the job done, because this is a start-up.Adding bodies to payroll will alleviate pressure,but when downturns happen, “producers”quickly become “overhead.”Monday, May 20, 13
  13. 13. #accidentalCEOriseTip #5: Hold Out for the Right PersonAvoid the temptation to fill a needed-role withthe first warm-body who applies.Make sure they have the right skills, the correctpersonality to match your team, and the workethic needed to get the job done.Hire as a contractor first to test out the person’sskill & willingness to do the job correctly.Don’t be afraid to find diamonds-in-the-rough.People with a great attitudes & desires to learn cansave money & earn loyalty for the chance taken.If you need an expert, pay the cost. But make surethey are actually an expert.Monday, May 20, 13
  14. 14. #accidentalCEOriseTip #6: Under Promise & Over DeliverMake sure clients are happy with what you’reproviding.Make sure your contracts are solid. When a loopholeis found that costs you money, immediately fix inyour next contract. Rinse & repeat.But, try to avoid ever falling-back on the contract.Clients find it combative & it can sour relationships.Over-estimate time for delivery, so you can shattertheir expectations. Also helps if problems occur,because blowing a deadline is disastrous.Happy clients refer you & referrals mean success.Monday, May 20, 13
  15. 15. #accidentalCEOriseTip #7: Get a Board of AdvisorsYou & your partners are new to this - you needhelp to avoid costly mistakes.Avoid asking those you do business with - it willforce them to choose one or the other.Use Linked-In, SCORE group, Vistage & others tohelp you connect. Meet people at conferences,like RISE or SXSW & court them.3 to 5 members, each with a skill-set to advise aC-Level executive: Executive, Finance, Sales/Marketing, Technology and so on.Hold meetings once per quarter, provide food,then be honest & ready to implement their ideas.Monday, May 20, 13
  16. 16. #accidentalCEOriseTip #8: Trust your Partners Before Adding ThemA business partnership is like a marriage - youneed to know who you’re getting into bed with,because your future is tied to them.Make sure partners agree with your vision for thecompany, have the same ultimate desires for exitstrategy and will follow you as leader.If a partner isn’t pulling their weight, be willing toconfront them. Dissonance in the Executive Teamis palpable to all your employees.Be constructive with your feedback. The betterthey can do their job, the better it is for yourcompany.Monday, May 20, 13
  17. 17. #accidentalCEOriseTip #9: Only Give Ownership if You’re ReadyEmployee ownership can be great to get peopleexcited & on-board, but be preparedExpect employees to want to know the nitty-gritty of finances. You must strike a balancebetween what they should & shouldn’t know.Management decisions which are normallyunquestioned will be scrutinized. No matter howlarge or small an employee’s piece of thecompany is.Profit-sharing is a great alternative to directequity ownership.Monday, May 20, 13
  18. 18. #accidentalCEOriseTip #10: A Happy Employee is a BetterEmployee, and it’s Usually Not About MoneyHappy employees are productive employees.Pay them what you can afford & raise it when youcan, but money won’t always solve discontent.• Have One-on-One meetings with them directly• Organize Company Lunches w/ Show & Tells• Have an open-door policy for all departments• Encourage suggestions & implement them• Encourage vocal appreciation of one another• Don’t wait until problems appear - this is howyou create a great corporate cultureMonday, May 20, 13
  19. 19. #accidentalCEOriseTip #11: Don’t Waste Money on Fancy OfficesUnless you have limitless capital or a businessthat requires an impressive office & furniture,don’t spend valuable company resources on it.Find a space that you can paint - and put upchalkboard walls or WhiteyBoards everywhere.This will encourage ideation & sharing, and ismore affordable than stand-alone boards.Ikea is your friend. Get multi-purpose furniture,chairs, and lots of bookshelves so your peoplecan arrange like they want to make it their own.If the office layout isn’t working - change it!Monday, May 20, 13
  20. 20. #accidentalCEOriseTip #12: Monthly Clients are your Best FriendsMonthly clients, who sign onto multiple-monthcontracts will help you get through hard-times.Offer incentives - free product per X number ofmonths, a better hourly rate, etc. to be moreattractive.Knowing you have income every month that youdon’t have to re-sale can help ease concerns, andkeeps cashflow moving like you need.Monday, May 20, 13
  21. 21. #accidentalCEOriseTip #13: Always Multiply Dev Estimates X 3This applies mostly to technology companies,but if you have a product being made by avendor, it applies to you as well.Developers tend to quote the “Happy Path”unless you push them to really consider all of thepitfalls.Problems will arise that no one can foresee.Something that is estimated to take 8 hours willtake 24 instead. Don’t be left footing the bill.Monday, May 20, 13
  22. 22. #accidentalCEOriseTip #14: Have an Online PresenceIn 2013, this probably goes without saying - butyou need to have an online presence.Don’t leave your online fate to Yelp or similarreview sites - either build your site in-house orfind a vendor to make it.26% of web surfing happens on Mobile. Mobilecustomers buy quickly, whereas desktopcustomers can sometimes wait up to one weekto decide. Make your site responsive!Monday, May 20, 13
  23. 23. #accidentalCEOriseTip #15: You are the CEO. Act Like it!You are in charge. You are the keeper of thevision.Your attitude, your opinions, even your smallremarks have a huge impact on your employees.Don’t be too afraid, or too shy, to make theExecutive Decision. It’s in your title! You’re the chief!When things get tough, keep up a positive attitude.Let employees know when you need them tobuckle-down, but don’t overburden them with FUD(Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt).Stay positive!Monday, May 20, 13
  24. 24. #accidentalCEOriseIf you have any further questions...@qmanninginfo@rocksaucestudios.comMonday, May 20, 13