By David Speakman in Silicon Valley
Bill Miller is CEO of Valchemy, a San Mateo, California company founded in 2001 to provide application software to the M&A industry. Previously, he was an executive with Intel Capital, working with the company’s active equity investment and M&A programs.
05:00 Hit the alarm to turn it off, stumble downstairs to let dog out, then check email for 20 minutes. Send notes to members of the East Coast team after reviewing some of the proposals and presentations they plan on delivering on the today. Well over half of our customers and prospects are on the East Coast and we have a full team there.
05:30 Stretch and go out for short, dark, cool three-mile run. During the longer days of the year when there is more early light I sneak in a 15-20 mile bike ride in the mornings in the hills near where I live. It’s become an oft used cliché, but even a short run clears cobwebs and puts the right edge on the day for me. Additionally, one of the few contributions I make to the daily comings and goings of the busy Miller household is that I can take some of the energy out of our two year-old black lab early in the day.
06:00 Back home to check email, shower and change for work.
06:30 Wake up three children to get them started on their daily school routine.
06:45 Grab a bottle of water and head out to a breakfast meeting with a former Intel colleague who works as a venture capitalist.
07:00 The breakfast meeting starts. We reminisce about Intel and catch up on current business. I suggest some potential sales and marketing executive candidates for one of his recent investments, he agrees to introduce me to one of his portfolio companies which has an interesting technology that my technical guys want to learn about.
08:00 At the San Mateo offices I listen to a voicemail from the CFO who is working on a contract with a supplier. Since I’m on the phone, I call one of my board members to update him on a couple of executive candidates.
08:30 Finish checking messages and prioritize the day. This is what I call my personal ‘danger’ zone where if I am not disciplined about carving out at least 30 minutes in my morning to think about what is really important I end up not leading as effectively as I should. Leaders need to breathe deeply and make sure that they leave time to plan, think, and develop the perspective that they need to provide to their organization. If you make yourself an integral part of everything, you’ll never scale your organization and therefore never scale your business.
09:30 One-on-one meeting with the CFO to discuss our preliminary business plan for next year and plan out our executive offsite the following week where we will nail the key assumptions in the plan before we communicate the goals and commitments to the board at the end of the month. We identify the really key variables so we can focus my team time on those few key leverage points that will have the most impact on our growth next year.
11:00 Have hour-long telephone call with some executives from a potential services partner. This service provider may incorporate our products into their service offering.
12:30 Eat a quick lunch at my desk. Make a few more calls to some of those potential candidates to keep them ‘warm’ as we evaluate their fit and they meet with members of the team here.
13:00 Phone call with Sales VP, CFO, and attorney to go over the open items we still have on the contract we were negotiating last night.
14:00 Quick meeting with Marketing VP to review press releases on our two most recent customers.
14:30 I feel the need to get up and leave the office. I’ve spent too long inside, so I go for a quick walk outside to see the daylight and re-focus. I always joke that we are paying a lot for this Bay Area weather, so we ought to use it.
15:00 I get a call from our VP of Sales that the potential customer we’ve been in contract negotiations with wants to extend the technical evaluation for 4-6 weeks. This isn’t negotiable.
15:15 Get together with the VP of Sales and CTO to discuss what the prospect wants to spend additional time on, get myself comfortable that this is truly a technical, not a business, issue.
15:45 Quick exec team meeting to discuss the change in timing of this deal and make sure we have all the right people working on the extended evaluation, also talk through the impact to the business this and next quarter. The good news is that we were ahead of where we had planned to be for the quarter, so this push out of business into next quarter is not good, but manageable.
16:30 Since we are near the end of the quarter, I call primary investor and update him on the prospect’s change in timing. We discuss the impact of this on the numbers so that he is prepared to update his partners in his weekly partnership meeting. We also discuss the impact to the two firms currently looking to invest in Valchemy. Nobody likes to deliver less than great news, but my experience is that getting everything on the table in near real time increases the sense of shared ownership from all parties: my staff, employees, investors, even customers.
18:00 Just finished a near 90-minute telephone call with a new M&A deal guy at one of our existing customers. He doesn’t have a lot of deal experience and didn’t know how our application could help with his current deal with a lot of international subsidiaries and therefore complications. I spent a time hand-holding him, reassuring him of my personal experience at Intel working on international acquisitions. I also talked him through how the application could help him, specifically recommending a number of templates and best practices that he could follow to help him. It reminds me of how much I enjoyed the dynamics of doing deals, with every one a unique challenge. The challenge is striking that elusive balance, and then building a company that can do that again and again. That is the intellectual challenge that drives me.