Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vancescreen-shot-2017-01-14-at-9-33-18-am

I would include this on the list of a MUST READS.

Elon Musk is a visionary that come around a few times in a generation.

He is CEO of two enormously successful and disruptive companies in the world: Tesla and SpaceX. I love that he sets bigger goals than anyone can imagine…and he reaches them! He has approached catastrophic failure more than once and persevered.

Defying convention he founded both companies in two of the highest cost areas of the world (Silicon Valley and Los Angeles) and now thanks to him America is leading next generation consumer vehicle design and space exploration.

So many interesting anecdotes in the book, including how he demanded handles on the Tesla that popped out when you approached the car…the engineers and finance resisted relentlessly, but you know how that ended.

Post-reading I invested heavily in Tesla…confident he’ll outperform S&P!


As an aspiring entrepreneur, this resonates: “Musk also began to hone his trademark style of entering an ultracomplex business and not letting the fact that he knew very little about the industry’s nuances bother him in the slightest.”

“If you told him that you made a particular choice because ‘it was the standard way things had always been done,’ he’d kick you out of a meeting fast. He’d say, ‘I never want to hear that phrase again. What we have to do is fucking hard and half-assing things won’t be tolerated.’ He just destroys you and, if you survive, he determines if he can trust you. He has to understand that you’re as crazy as he is.”

“Either you’re trying to make something spectacular with no compromises or you’re not.”

#ManagementStyle – Top 10

“What’s your management style?” Leadership style? Here’s my Top 10:

Be Respectful
There is never any reason to not be respectful. Nobody deserves to be humiliated, embarrassed, insulted, etc… However, this doesn’t mean I don’t have tough conversations and provide real-time feedback of job performance.

Real-time Feedback
My goal is that when I write a performance review or 360 feedback, there are no surprises. You’re doing a disservice to your team, company and yourself if coworkers don’t know where they stand with you. I strive to provide real-time feedback – in the moment. Sometimes if its a tense moment, I might wait a couple of days.  There are lots of great ways to give real-time feedback while still adhering to the previous point. You might ask a question after the meeting “Did that go as you expected?” Start a brainstorm, about how a different approach might have yielded a better outcome.  I like to focus on aligning expectations. I might say “my expectation on this project was X, what was yours?”

Vision and Goals
How do I stay aligned and clear on what we are accomplishing? I’m a fan of creating a vision, organizational objectives and documenting SMART goals and objectives (G&O’s). I facilitate the process, but ultimately its the team members who come up with the content. We usually document our goals on 6-month time horizons and review as a team twice per quarter. Why do we do this?

  • Let others know what we are working on. G&O’s should be shared cross-functionally and with management. Clear and transparent. 
  • Ensure alignment on priorities among team members, other teams and management. 
  • Resource allocation and needs. My boss or someone else wants us to work on something else – ok – but let’s all recognize that another goal is deprioritized. Or provide more resources. I want my team to hold me to this standard as well; so if I ask for something, they can say, “no problem Sean, but let’s talk about what we are going to stop working on”.  That’s fair.  
  • The most important point perhaps: We don’t leave a G&O setting session without consensus. Meaning, all team members need to buy-in. Or maybe we agree its a ‘stretch’ goal. 
Manage Me 
I prefer to be managed. Meaning I don’t want to be micro-managing or reviewing what you do, day in or day out. Include me in meetings and have me review things as needed – a risk-adjusted approach.

Deep Dive
At the risk of completely contradicting the previous point, expect me to deep dive into a lot of areas at least one time. Once I’m confident the process is sound, I probably won’t be back for awhile or ever.

Ideally every one of my team members has a deep desire to be challenged, develop and grow. I want to hire people that can replace me, and I hope that continues on down the line. I want you to work outside your comfort zone, take risks, make mistakes (course correct fast), be intellectually curious, be a thought leader and audaciously present your ideas in front of audiences.  

Remain Calm in Stressful Situations
I’ll admit, I struggle with this one sometimes, but I’ve been consciously working on it for years. I thrive in crisis situations, but some people do not, and you need to recognize and accept different styles. As a leader, people will look to you as an example and your emotional response sets a tone.

Be Clear and Concise
My profession is documentation intensive. Memos, processes, presentations, etc… I live by the clean cut “Google home-screen” approach to writing and presenting analysis. Only include what is absolutely necessary, and nothing more. I work in finance and we have to perform what are called “account reconciliations”, which basically support the #’s underlying our financial statements. I have a rule: if the CEO can’t pick up the summary page, and within 1 minute  understand the nature of the account and reasonableness of balance, then it needs reworking.

Have a Point, Move Fast and be Efficient
If you schedule a meeting, have a point, a goal and a desired outcome. You looking to share information? – then probably should send an email, likely not a meeting. You need a decision, then schedule a meeting and drive the group to a decision. If you’re going to take up others’ time by way of a meeting, then be considerate and appreciative of their time: send out an agenda, pre-read materials and follow-up the meeting by sending a summary of decisions made and action items.

Manage Your Own Time 
If you’re going to be in late, gone in the afternoon or taking Friday off; I probably don’t need to know…and I’m glad you figured out how to get out for a long weekend. Point here is we know what needs to get done (see G&O’s above), so let’s get it done – remember we already agreed on it. So if you are getting it done, manage your calendar and don’t feel like you need to be constrained by the 9to5, 5-days/ week schedule. 
Be Positive and Have Fun     
We’re in this together. We are humans. Let’s have fun and enjoy what we are doing! And if you’re counting, this is #11. So if you’re not hurting anyone, not breaking any laws/regulations and it makes sense, go ahead and change the rules.  

Stock Bets

I enjoy gambling. Craps, blackjack, poker. I’ve rarely left a casino ‘up’, but the entertainment justifies the cost; at least that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep. Another way to place bets is in the stock market. I think its similarly fun, because in addition to an occasional adrenaline rush, you get to follow companies you love and follow your bets over time. I’m not referring to day trading; I don’t have time for that. We’re talking about long-term bets on companies and brands you know and understand.

[Disclaimer: I’m not your financial adviser and you may want to talk to one prior to buying individual stocks.]

I own the stocks listed below because I believe in the long-term success and future growth of the companies. Some of these bets may be bad, and there are certainly some better ones out there, but these are bets I’ve made based on personal circumstances. I live in Silicon Valley, so I hear a lot about these companies, and you’ll note almost all my bets are SV companies.

Another recommendation: listen to your significant other. My wife recommended Adobe about a year ago, and boy did I miss that one. She also had great calls on Amazon and Twitter.

If you have comments or recommendations, please let me know!

  • Apple – I use so many of their products and so do most people I know. Pays a dividend too! 
  • Amazon – Taking over retail of the world! Same-day delivery in most metros not too far out. 
  • Facebook – Not cool with kids any more, but can you bet against them? Owns Instagram.
  • Google – They have data on all of us; information is power.
  • LinkedIn – The Facebook of every professional in the world…not seeing a lot of competition here. 
  • Netflix – (disclosure: I work here). Watch what you want, where you want, when you want. The “what” is debated from a content standpoint, but continues to improve significantly. 
  • Tesla – I see these cars everywhere in the Valley. No reason to believe other regions won’t follow. It is the coolest car on the road. 
  • Twitter – Could be bigger than Facebook. 
  • Workday – Probably the least known to the layman, but I use their cloud-based corporate HR management solution daily, and I think its slick. If their Finance ERP solution proves similarly successful, watch out. 
Could have picked up for $40!!