CxO DrupalCon Post Conference Seminar

I had the privilege of attending the post conference CxO business seminar taking the place the day after DrupalCon London. Really enjoying the day so far. Below is the session notes from the first session.

Mark Taylor – CEO of Sirius – Open Source Support Company

  • Most businesses fail
  • Almost 1/2 fail in the first year
  • Almost 80% fail in the first 5 years.
  • After that – almost 80% of those fail. 2 of 10 will succeed.

Most biz start as an entrepreneurial “fit”. The problem is – we’re mostly “technicians”. Now you’re responsible for everything else. The hideous truth about going into biz for yourself – you quickly find out – you don’t know what you’re doing.

Mark had a really good teaching technique – he got us laughing by making us turn to our neighbor and say “Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m doing in my business”. Our neighbor was to say – “That’s ok – neither do I” … lots of laughter.

There are people that can go well beyond their circumstances…

Helen Keller – “Life is an adventure…”. Your personal philosophy is the major determining factor on how your life turns out. Its not what happens to you – its about what you do with what happens to you. Some people blame everything else – except themselves/their approach for their difficult times.


The few errors in judgement repeated every day. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, why then do we keep reaching for the Mars bar. Its an error in judgement that will catch up with you.


A few simple disciplines practiced every day. What if you chose to reach for the apple every day – would it make a difference in your life?

What simple disciplines do you need to adopt in order to be successful. Start with the easy ones, start with a few and keep doing them.

For someone who is very down… start simple. Eat right, stop one bad habit, wash your car. Start where you are and with things you CAN do. The disciplines have to embed in order to move on to the next one. focus on what you want / where you want to be… NOT on what you don’t want – the negative behavior that’s killing you…. Just focusing on the bad behavior will suck you into the bad behavior. Focus on your goals and be disciplined each day to take the baby steps necessary.

Eliminate the Errors, and replace them with Disciplines

Think about what will happen if you keep doing the negative things… think about what will happen if you keep doing the right things… make the decision and follow through.

Find out what you need and study it

Learn like crazy. Everything is first a study, then its a practice.

Learn from:

  1. Yourself – make yourself/business one of your primary studies – the good and the bad.
  2. Others who have made it…
    – talk to them
    – read their books

Personal development – you need to learn to work harder on yourself than on your job. If you work on yourself – you can participate even more.

Money is what you want given by bringing value to the marketplace. We don’t get paid for the time we put into it – we get paid for the value.

The Business Model

  • Your business is NOT your life – the purpose of your business is to serve your life – not the other way around.
  • The most important discipline – work ON your business – not IN it.

Rules: The model will:

  1. Provide consistent value to customers, suppliers, staff, lenders beyond what they expect.
  2. Be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill
  3. Stand out as a place of impeccable order
  4. Have all work documented in operations manuals
  5. Provide a uniformly predictable service to the customer
  6. Utilize a uniform color/dress/facilities code

Primary Aim – is actually about you – your business is to serve you

Exercise: you’re in a church… its very quiet – and its your funeral. there are 4 people there… talking about you – what would you like to be remembered for by these four people. A family member, a work colleague, a member of the community – and there’s a video of your final message to the world – what would you like to say as your final words… Pull this together and that’s what you want your life to be about – start living your life as if its important – the way you want it to be at the end. This will bring passion and purpose to your life.

Exercise: go off with 4 pieces of paper – and set goals in 4 areas:

  • Personal Development – what things would you like to be / do in your life.
  • Business & Economic Goals – what would you like to achieve
  • Toys and Adventures: What would you like to have/experience – suspend rationality and imagine – what would your life look like
  • Contribution: What would you like to give back?

Strategic Objective: what should be the strategic objectives that will meet my primary aims. The vision of a finished product. When tom Watson was asked why IBM was successful – We had a vision of what IBM would look like when it was finished… and everyday we went in working towards the vision and at the end of the day – we asked how we did.

Its a list of standards.

  1. Revenue standards – what kind of gross and net profit do you need?
  2. What kind of biz and what kind of customer do I need. What are you actually selling?
  3. All the other standards

Organizational Strategy

When you went into business, it might have been just you or some friends. Its fine at that level to just “everyone does it all”… but as your business grows, you can’t afford to not organize.

  1. People need to have clear roles and responsibilities. What will your org chart look like when its done?
  2. Do job descriptions and a contract for every position. What’s the role, who they report to and who reports to them. Goals for that role. Responsibilities, tasks, metrics.
  3. Then apply for every single position. Decide who those positions will be awarded to… and sign the contract.
  4. Then go to work ON your business while you work IN your business. As you figure out each job – record everything in an operations manual. (A wiki is a great way to do that).
  5. Go out to the market and recruit the person to meet the positional need. When the manual is done, you’re good to go. Prototype every position, then replace yourself in that position.
  6. It’s important to have the system in place so people can come and go without disrupting your business.

Management Strategy

A system designed to produce a marketing result. Create a way to have a standard result – every time. with checklists and manuals you can train people to produce the same results in a short period of time. Supervisors then give spot checks.

People Strategy

“How do I get them to do what I want?” – You can’t. What you can do is to create an environment where doing what you want is more fun/fulfilling than not doing it.

  • Take your people seriously – treat them as professionals
  • Take your business seriously – make it a symbol of what you believe in.

His ground rules:

  1. The customer is not always right – but our job is to make them feel that way.
  2. Everyone who works here is expected to work towards being the best he/she can be. – if they can’t do that – they are to act like that until they CAN do that. If you’re not willing to do that – please leave.
  3. Business is where everything we know how to do is tested by everything we don’t … (yet). This conflict provides growth and meaning.

You’re looking for people who want more than just a job. Create a game in your business worth playing. A game worth meaning is very attractive in this world without purpose.

Marketing Strategy

(more coming up later in a separate session)

  • Abstract
  • What kind of business are you in?
  • Who are your customers? Ask them!
  • Lead generation, lead conversion, client fulfillment…

Systems Strategy

The hierarchy of systems:

  1. This is how we do it here.
  2. This is how we recruit, hire and train people to do it here
  3. This is how we manage it here
  4. This is how we change it here.
  • Hard systems (computers, desks, whiteboards etc…)
  • Soft systems (people, sales, marketing etc…)
  • Information systems (what you need to have to truly understand and manage your business). Cash flow, management accounts, staff mtg. reports, support stats, sales stats, marketing stats (ie. how many hits on the site do we need to get a new customer).

Almost all of the Q&A dealt with how he pulled himself out of the destructive behavior he escaped in order to build his successful business.

This session seemed very much based on the material in The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber (the speaker confirmed that afterwards)


  • Rod holds two masters degrees and has been training people how to do "things" for over 25 years. Originally from Australia, he grew up in Canada and now resides just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. He has worked in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds, in small companies and large corporations. His extensive open source experience includes WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Moodle and he really knows how to help you get the most out of the system you chose. Rod plays ice hockey a couple of times a week and rides his Goldwing motorcycle pretty much everywhere he can.

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