Alicia has learnt a great deal in the last 11 years of starting and scaling an international $50m business. After stepping down from the role of CEO of Skimlinks, she is now plotting her next venture, and is also helping other companies with their own growth or innovation challenges.
Client testimonial from Ed Spiegel, CEO/Founder of RentMineOnline and PeerMedical
“Alicia has deep experience in many stages of entrepreneurship. Going from PowerPoint idea to 100 person organization leader will do that. Her insights will help you get focused across most any problem you’ll face in company building.”
Coaching and mentoring
Alicia can help founders, entrepreneurs, and leaders with the inevitable challenges and struggles they encounter as they grow their businesses. Work with her on a weekly basis to have a sounding board and success coach at hand, or for a finite project or challenge with which you need help. Contact Alicia for pricing and availability.
Here are a selection of the topics on her coaching and mentoring syllabus, although often founders will just want a regular trusted ear to bounce their weekly tribulations against.
While it is difficult for a founder CEO, learning to delegate is an imperative to scaling the business. Your job for the first few years is to essentially do every job in the company, so you understand what it needs, and then be in a position to hire the right person, and to understand what that function needs to succeed, both on its own and as part of a network of other teams within your organisation.
The topic rarely discussed is that of mental health and staying sane amidst the madness of starting and running a company over many years. The loneliness, stress, anxiety, pressure, and emotional-strain can be overwhelming, and it is important for founders to be mindful of their state and active of addressing it before it becomes problematic. This isn’t just about you, it is about your ability to stay effective in this role, and to continue to be the best person for your team and company. Taking time for yourself, and to heal and play, are important.
The life of a CEO is a roller coaster, with jubilant highs and desperate lows. The CEO’s job is not only to weather the storms personally, but to ensure their team are protected from the worst of the deluge. However, it is a fine balance between protecting them, and deluding them. How do you retain trust and transparency, but also retain an optimistic environment with your team?
Building a strong, wide, and mutually trusted network is one of the most valuable contributions to a company a CEO can make, especially as it grows and the exec team are comfortably managing functions. Being able to serve the organisation by providing introductions to potential customers, mentors, partners, investors, or other influencers, becomes an effective way you can help your team achieve their goals. However, many a founder will become distracted by the joys of networking, and forget that social capital is only valuable to a company that is otherwise functioning well. How do you build a strong network? How do you find the right balance? How do you make best use of this social capital?
Inevitably, even with the best of exec teams, there will be disharmony. People with loads of experience and confidence often come with egos, and the job of CEO is to mould your exec team so they can work well together, despite the inevitable frictions that will arise. What can you do to improve harmony? How do you handle it when your exec team aren’t performing? How do you get the most out of your talented execs? Getting this wrong not only will end up taking a lot of your time, it will affect how your whole team operates.
As you grow and the calibre of your employees grows, the impact of any one of them leaving increases. One of your jobs is to constantly be monitoring for when this departure might happen, mitigate it ahead of time if you sense it is happening, and nonetheless have a plan ready to action if it does. This plan could either mean recruiting externally, but should probably first mean you can promote internally. Having a fully stacked succession plan for all your key employees, and a development plan already in the works for each of their potential successors, is essential.
Probably the most important task of a CEO is attracting and engaging an excellent team, and knowing when and how to replace them when needed. How do you hire on a budget? How do you spot talent? How do you onboard effectively? What perks do you offer, and how do you remain competitive in this tough hiring market? How do you know when to let someone go, and how do you do it and not disrupt the team?
Everyone talks about “culture”, but what does it actually mean? What does a CEO have to do to build and retain a culture, and how do you make sure the culture is working for your team. Even more challenging: how do you evolve a culture over time, to address the changing needs of your company. How do you handle employees who are in breach of the culture? Do you hire a must-have employee who isn’t a good culture fit? How do you test potential employees for culture fit?
At some stage, many UK-based companies plan to expand to scale to the US. Doing this right can make or break a company, and is inevitably a personal and organisational challenge for the CEO. How do you hire there? How do you keep the cultures aligned and productive? How do you evolve your pitch and products to cater to the US market? Do I move my headquarters to the US? What roles do I hire out there versus keep in London?
Often founders focus on the branding of their product, and neglect to pay attention to their own employer brand. This can impact their ability to attract quality candidates to the top of the recruitment funnel, and to compete with the offers of other companies vying for the same candidate. Investing time and effort into how you are perceived by potential hires, how you market your company as a place to build a career, and how you express your company culture’s values externally, can reduce your time to hire and your overall talent calibre without overly relying on expensive recruiters.
How do you build a compelling brand if you have an unsexy B2B business? How do you win new business if you are just starting out? How do you win that big client you’ve been aiming for, even if you don’t have millions in your brand budget? There are some useful and powerful actions you can take to stand out and win big customers, even if you don’t have a lot of capital.
Obtaining press coverage and developing solid relationships with influential journalists can be an incredibly effective way to scale your brand and win new business. However, it isn’t just about hiring a PR firm and hoping for the best. Understanding how to manage your PR firm, how to construct narratives that journalists want to cover, and how to get the most effective coverage from the media is an under-valued but transformative skill for founding CEOs.
Many first-time founders view their Board as their boss and baby-sitter to whom they report positive news. However, the best way to run a Board is to use them as employees, and get them working for you, either with strategic input, introductions to potential clients, part of your exec interview process, and ongoing mentor. Regular contact with your investor Board members also makes subsequent fund raises significantly easier than if you only call them up when you need a cheque. Running a productive and strategic Board is infinitely more valuable to your personal development and the company’s growth than treating the Board as a necessary evil. Knowing how to restructure it to serve strategic and operational purposes is critical too.
Everyone talks about how to raise capital: how to prepare a deck, approach VCs and negotiate terms. But what is less often talked about is how to get your business in order to make the process of raising capital and subsequent diligence as smooth and rapid a process as possible. Do you have your unit economics and key metrics defined and measured? Do you have your IP and contracts in order? Is your cap table in a state that makes attracting investors even feasible? Understanding how to pre-empt a diligence process can make closing a financing round significantly less painful.
At some stage, if you are doing things right, you will attract interest from potential acquirers. This can be an overwhelming and conflicting experience, and handling this poorly can be distracting or even damaging to your business. How much information do you share upfront? When do you hire an M&A advisor (if at all!), and what terms are reasonable for this? How do you make yourself attractive to potential acquirers, and how do you approach them yourself?
Getting relevant advice as a first time founder isn’t easy. Everybody wants to give you some, but nothing carriers more weight than the advice of an entrepreneur. Alicia went through the hardship of starting from zero and building a multi million dollar business, and was able to share her experience of what it was like to fundraise, build an exceptional team, survive the downs and enjoy the ups. She had great advice about things first time entrepreneurs find no good answers to, like “Should I really join an accelerator?” “When’s best to expand in the US?” “Should we chase Silicon Valley investors as a European startup?”. Alicia has been critical in my entrepreneurial journey and can not recommend her highly enough as a mentor.
Alicia has been incredibly helpful to me both as a personal mentor and an advisor to Provenance. I would highly recommend her to any startup founder or CEO. Having started and grown Skimlinks from scratch she has a wealth of insightful stories, approaches and ideas based on her real-life experience – vital to help guide an early stage startup. She’s quick to understand how a business works – she gave me valuable, applicable advice on our first meeting! My only wish is that I’d started working with her earlier.
Alicia saw something special in me and my co-founder, and worked with us to get through our challenges around fund-raising, investor relations, and product development. But more than that: she helped us deal with the stress, anxiety and heaviness that comes with being a founder. She believed in us, kept us motivated, and helped us remain sane and focused. While we had other mentors and coaches that we saw from time-to-time, Alicia really connected with us, and because her advice came from her own incredible experiences and successes, it was the most actionable and useful.
Product and innovation consulting
Alternatively, you may be a corporate or business that wants to bring entrepreneurial and innovation thinking into your business, whether to super-charge how your executives approach leadership and innovation, or to ideate around a specific opportunity or challenge. Alicia can help, by engaging with you on any of the following engagements:
- ideation workshop
- go-to-market strategy development
- product development workshop