About five years ago, and definitely against my better judgment, I agreed with my wife’s idea to adopt a fourth dog into our household. Stella came to us when she was seven. Beat up, malnourished, broken leg and on top of the physical trauma, she absolutely hated men moving me right to the top of her watch list. A purebred American Foxhound, she was a beautiful dog and clearly of value to someone. As we searched her past we found she had been part of one of the few remaining hunt groups in the United States. As a hunt dog, she was part of a pack of hounds that chased foxes, mountain lions and coyotes accompanied by a Hunt Club of Riders and their mounts bounding over jumps along the way.
I was finally able to contact one of the handlers of the pack kennel where Stella had been born and raised and offered them the story of how she had been found in the woods alone, broken up, and near dead. The response was very simple; Stella had decided to stop hunting left the pack and therefore had been abandoned by the club on the spot. We were free to keep her or put her down and that was the end of the conversation.
Recently I attended a summit of Venture Capital folks and it was a really good day. It featured success stories of great partnerships, numerous presentations by eager entrepreneurs seeking financing for ideas or concepts, and a host of short topic speakers full of sage advice for an eager audience. There were presentations outlining the new funds, found money, the state of the VC industry, and even a few economic statistics for us to interpret as if we really understood them. There was however, one thing missing…
We have all attended our share of these functions and they are critical to the success of our industry; bringing us together and opening dialogue between otherwise almost sequestered independent operators competing for the same consumption community. We all inherently have something in common however that is typically not discussed; we don’t share our “This Dog Don’t Hunt” stories. My rule of thumb, after being in and around this business for the past 25 years, is that if you have more than one company in your portfolio, you have at least a 50/50 chance of owning something that is not producing at the level of your entry assumptions. We tend to bury those dogs quietly while showcasing the one or two that really hit it out of the park. I have often thought that it would be interesting to have a forum for companies to attend that could openly discuss those “dogs that don’t hunt”.
Checking ego’s at the door, wouldn’t it be interesting to have a dozen of your contemporaries review your “dog” and your entry assumptions for validation? Wouldn’t it be great to have an influx of new ideas from your community who all have the same expectations for returns that you do? The wealth of support and creativity that would be available to you certainly has the potential to turn that “dog” into a champion. No one benefits from an underperforming portfolio company; it certainly doesn’t help you attract new money, it takes valuable time away from your team, and most of all, it doesn’t allow you to fulfill the promises you made to your investors making future rounds more difficult to attain. This is also just from the fund side; it’s not much fun to be an executive on the other side either creating a lose/lose relationship.
I’ve spent my career with the dogs and I’m always amazed at what I find once we get them vet checked, the right nutritional program, some caring attention, and a firm hand on the lead that knows when to change direction, when to listen, and when to run. After having Stella for 7 years, I can’t say that she trusts me; we’re still working on that. But I will tell you that I have a hell of a dog whose head is up, she now runs in the same direction I do, she’s comfortable with the words I offer her, and she recently learned to shake hands after offering mine to her every single morning for five years. As a turn-around guy, that’s about as good as it gets.
Ed Jenks is a 25 year C-Suite Executive, a CEO turn-around specialist, Executive Coach and currently Sr Business Strategist at TJGI Consulting. Jenks resides in Solana Beach CA with his wife and business Partner of fifteen years Sharon who is one of the Nation’s leading Executive Behaviorists as well as a professional canine trainer.