ARR, LTV, GTM, churn, positioning, competition, customer satisfaction, valuation. Over the past twenty years, I have been the founder and CEO of two companies where these metrics (and more) were important. I developed and honed my “superpowers” as a CEO to ensure each of these measures was going in the right direction. As a result, my previous ventures became leaders in their categories.
So, a year ago when my close friend asked me to take the helm of a new portfolio company focused on renewable energy and the blockchain space, I was a bit skeptical.
I thought, would my superpowers as a B2B CEO apply?
In the past three years, at Soluna, I have managed to assemble a world-class team that has accomplished a lot.
We developed an award-winning brand. We engaged at the highest levels of the Moroccan government. We completed a multi-million dollar acquisition of an energy developer bringing deep energy expertise to our team. We developed an innovative way to combine wind power and high-performance computing in an off-grid configuration. We established ourselves as a thought leader within the blockchain space. And, we launched a new green-energy-powered data center business that solves the biggest challenge with renewable energy.
On a weekly basis, we discuss things like “priority ones” (our top OKRs for the week) — capacity factor, internal rates of return (IRR), wind turbine technology, curtailment, community growth, and the status of our partners— just to name a few.
During the first few months in my tenure as CEO, I had dinner one evening with a close friend and entrepreneur. At some point during the meal, she asked me, “What CEO skills are you using the most now in your new role?”
I had to give it some thought and then I said, “the skill I use the most is focusing on what I don’t know.”
“Look for people who have lots of great questions. Smart people are the ones who ask the most thoughtful questions, as opposed to thinking they have all the answers. Great questions are a much better indicator of future success than great answers.” ― Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work
It’s true. The number one skill I have developed in my experience as a CEO is my ability to learn.
I ask questions until I am exhausted. I surround myself with advisors and people who have experience in the areas I don’t. I read everything I can get my hands on — to deepen the knowledge of my new domain.
But, I am never, ever, satisfied.
I have a paranoia that I will miss something. So, I consistently start the day with a question for myself (and my team) — “what don’t we know now?”
It is a surprisingly simple question that helps to prevent me from making what I call, “unoriginal mistakes.”
Startups move fast. I need to make decisions quickly, but only after careful thought about what we may not know.
I learn fast and remain humble — asking good questions along the way.
It is the superpower I use the most as a CEO.