mushroom coffee

Here are some questions that have come to me from events and via email.

If a company has grown organically, how do you start to grow through acquisitions?

I worked on the HR/M&A side of the house at a company called Kemper Insurance.  I was the only HR kid who understood the internet, so that was my beat. We bought cloud-based insurance companies before the internet was a thing. (Christ, that was a horrible job.) Anyway, we were first-to-market roadkill in almost all of our market segments.

Then I worked with employees impacted by the mergers and acquisitions at Pfizer. Immediate revenue growth through acquisition was a dream not quite fully realized.

Growth is tough, but growing by acquisition is difficult. You get short-term pain and legal liability for past mistakes, even when you think you’ve got that covered. Yes, there are some modest efficiency and productivity gains in the first five years, and (perhaps) favorable tax considerations based on what you’re acquiring and where. But you also get headaches, too. Lots of them.

You need solid advisors with lots of experience to pull off a successful acquisition that leads to revenue growth. Me? I like growth through licensing and affiliations.

How can I build a sales force with limited, fixed costs? Can I delegate sales? How do you scale up faster? How do I manage a new era of sales professionals? 

I don’t know how you build anything when you’re under the constraints of limited, fix costs (i.e., you have no money) unless you spend some other sucker’s money. Or you allocate your own money differently. I know plenty of successful businesses who outsource and/or commodify the act of qualifying leads and setting appointments. Many companies are using RPOs to hire a bevy of new sales professionals. I would work with recruiters who know that field—and your industry—rather than asking your busy and distracted internal HR team to scale up for you. How you manage your sales professionals is up to you, but embracing social selling—combined with corporate social responsibility and servant leadership—seem to work better than challenging your customers not to suck so much.

But I’m not salesy so don’t look to me for guidance on that one.

How do you leverage a network to grow your business?

Networking is so exhausting. Maybe don’t take so much. Maybe be a giver to those in your network who need help, leads, referrals, or good business advice. That’s where I would start.

How do you define a successful hire?

Someone who comes to work every day, gives her best effort, has a solid set of ethics, and does her job with integrity. Six months or six years doesn’t matter. Does she make the lives of her colleagues better? Is she a positive force for change? Even if you only have her for six months, a successful hire will make an imprint on your business for a lifetime.

If the future of the workforce is freelance, how do I make those workers feel loved and included?

We keep being told that the future of the workforce is a contingent workforce. That’s how it looks now, but that’s also how it looked back in the 1980s until Microsoft lost a landmark co-employment suit. The court basically said — do we look stupid to you? Those people are employees. Don’t be dicks. Further rulings have confirmed that you can’t scam your workforce. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it is a duck.

But philosophically, the freelance workforce has flaws. Commoditized work takes the worker further away from ownership. That’s risky. She is less and less responsible for seeing potential problems and offering solutions. I want workers who have a big-picture view of my enterprise. Freelance work makes sense in some areas. As a cost-cutting measure, I think it’s short-sided. I want someone to be invested in a shared dream, not working on a widget in a corner while hustling for her next job.

Have a question for me? Hit me up at and I’ll be happy to respond.