I have been so busy getting ready to go on my vacation I feel like I haven’t had time to even check email let along post.  I wanted to write a brief post though so at least people felt like I hadn’t just disappeared.

The economy is really scary.  There are lots of blog posts going up now about how the world is sprialing into the abyss.  I have been reading it for some time but I guess I never really believed it.  I think the optimist in me keeps hoping everything is going to bounce back.  I sure hope that is indeed the case.  I still haven’t sold my stocks, and I am actually thinking about maybe buying some more while the market is down–call me crazy.

Since I don’t have much to talk about–here is some good advice for clear or stormy climates…..

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/1822343/CEO_ALL_HANDS_10-7-08_FINAL
http://blog.weatherby.net/2008/10/a-ceos-sequoia.html

From The Funded:
Today, Sequoia Capital hosted a mandatory CEO All-Hands Meeting on Sand Hill Road. There were about 100 CEO’s in attendance and let me tell you, the mood was somber. I’m not one to perpetuate doom and gloom or bad news, but let me underscore this for you: We are in a serious economic downturn and this is just the beginning. Immediate, decisive and swift action is required, along with frugal, day-to-day management of expenses and our business is required.
***Here are my notes from the meeting. Keep this note in your in-box and read it every day. I’m serious folks, this is for our survival.***
Speakers:

  • Mike Moritz, General Partner, Sequoia Capital (he moderated the speakers).
  • Eric Upin, Partner, Sequoia Capital (Eric ran the $26-Billion Stanford Endowment Fund and knows a few things about Economics and investing.)
  • Michael Partner, Sequoia Capital (Michael was recruited to start Sequoia’s very first hedge fund, coming from Maverick Capital and Robertson Stephens. I know him from my BEA days.)
  • Doug Leone, , General Partner, Sequoia Capital

Slide projected on the huge conference room screen as people assembled inside the conference center to take their seats: a gravestone with the inscription: RIP, Good Times

Mike Moritz:

  • The only time Sequoia’s assembled all CEO’s like this was during the dot.com crash.
  • We are in drastic times. Drastic times mean drastic measures must be taken to survive. Forget about getting ahead, we’re talking survive. Get this point into your heads.
  • For those of you that are not cash-flow positive, get there now. Raising capital is nearly impossible if you’re too far off of cash flow positive.
  • There will be consequences for those who hesitate. Act now.

Eric Upin:

  • It’s always darkest before it’s pitch black.
  • Survival of this storm means drastic measures must be taken now, so you will have the opportunity to capitalize on this down turn in the future.
  • We are in the beginning of a long cycle, what we call a “Secular Bear Market.” This could be a 15 year problem. [many slides on historical charts of previous recessions, averaging 17 year cycles.]
  • The credit market [versus the Equity markets] are the issue and will take time to recover.
  • Inflection point: Make changes, slash expenses, cut deep and keep marching. You can’t be a general if you turn back.
  • This is a global issue and not a ‘normal’ time.
  • There is significant risk to growth and your personal wealth.
  • Advice:
    • Manage what you can control. You can’t control the economy, but you can control everything else.
    • Cut spending. Cut fat. Preserve Capital.
    • Don’t trust your models and spreadsheets. All assumptions prior to today are wrong.
    • Focus on quality.
    • Reduce risk.

Michael Beckwith:

  • Note: Michael had a lot of slides that were charts, data points and comparisons.
  • A “V” shaped recovery is unlikely
  • Cuts in spending will accelerate in Q4/Q1. Look at eBay—this is just the beginning.

Doug Leone:

  • This is a different animal and will take years to recover.
  • Getting another round if you’re not profitable will be rough.
  • Do everything possible to get to cash flow positive. Now.
  • Nail your Sales and Marketing message.
  • Pound your competitors shortcomings. They’re hurting and they will be quiet. Take the offensive.
  • In a downturn, aggressive PR and Communications strategy is key.
  • M&A will decrease dramatically and only lean companies, with proven sales models will be acquired.
  • Spectrum discussion:
    • Capital Preservation ß———————————-à Grab Market
    • Everyone should be far to the left (capital preservation)

Requirements of our companies.

  1. You must cut  expenses. Now and deep.
  2. Your product  should reduce expenses and drive revenue
  3. Honestly  assess your solution vs. your competitors.
  4. Cash is king  [have you gotten this message yet?]
  5. You must get  to profitability as soon as possible to weather this storm and be  self-sustaining.

Operations review:

  • Engineering:  Since you already have a product, strongly consider reducing the number of  engineers that you have.
  • Product: What  features are absolutely essential? Choose carefully and focus.
  • Marketing:  Measure everything and cut what is not working. You don’t need large Product  Marketing, Product Management teams.
  • Sales &  Business Development: What is your return on this investment? The Valley has  gotten fat with Sales people: Big bases, big variables. Cut base salaries on  sales people, highly leverage them with upside (increase variable) and make  people pay for themselves via increased sales productivity. Don’t add sales  people until you’ve achieved your goals with sales productivity. Be  disciplined.
  • Pipeline:  Scrub the shit out of it and be honest with yourself.
  • Finance: Defer  payments, what is essential? Kill cash burn.

Death Spiral (Nobody moves fast enough in times like these, so get going and research later.)

  • The death  spiral sucks you in, you’re in it before you know it and then you die.
  • Survival of  the quickest.
  • Cutting deeper  is the formula for survival.
  • You should  have at least one year’s worth of cash on hand.

Tactics:

  • Assess your  situation. Drop your assumptions, start with a blank page and start zero-based  budgeting.
  • Adapt quickly
  • Make your cuts
  • Review all  salaries
  • Change sales  comp
  • Bolster your  balance sheet—if you can add $5M to your coffers, take it and save it.
  • Spend like  it’s your last dollar

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