Monthnotes – November 2022

Monthnotes – November 2022

I managed to get Covid for the first time at the end of November.

I’ve not knowingly had it before, although I always wonder about a suspect bout of flu-like symptoms I had in late February 2020 before testing was widely available.

But this time two lines on the PCR test meant no doubt.

It took me out for a few days in the past week but am feeling better now. I suspect it’s put this coming weekend’s 50k ultra off the table too.

Across this month I’ve found myself in a lot of conversations where I’ve been asked about what I plan to do after I leave TPXimpact in December. And in each of these conversations I’ve explained that I don’t really know yet and that’s a deliberate choice of mine.

But during the past 30 days my mind has increasingly been turning to the future.

Several people who’ve done similar career moves have given me some consistent advice: to not rush into making any long term decisions and allow time for a period of experimentation.

They talk about how their own perspectives on work they wanted to do shifted unexpectedly in the months after they finished in a role.

I do feel now that I want to take on an MD or CEO role again at some point – I enjoy the multifaceted challenge and clear accountability that those kind of roles bring. That’s not something I was clear for myself about earlier in the year when I decided to move on.

Being part of building a team and a business is something I really enjoy and I’m expecting to miss next year.

But I also know that at least the first half of 2023 is going to be about experimentation and taking advantage of some of the flexibility that you don’t get in a super full-time employed role.

That experimentation will likely be a mix of consultancy projects, some pro-bono work, personal projects and generally saying “yes” to things that I’ve not been able to do while employed.

I’m loving the ambiguity of this and am really excited about where it takes my work next.

More widely this month I’ve also be thinking a lot about the intersection of three issues: the global climate emergency, relentless business growth, and how healthy resilient organisations emerge.

Society and the financial markets reward a linear model of economic growth, celebrating those businesses and leaders able to deliver significant business growth at pace.

Yet much of this model of economic growth rewards extraction of finite resources from the planet, generates damaging pollution or environmental harms. One way or another current models for economic growth damage the planet at a rate greater than it can heal itself.

Is there a better way of thinking about growth? A more holistic way of looking at the value businesses add than just economic growth – one that balances environmental sustainability, human wellbeing and societal prosperity.

This is something that is in the founding principles of TPXimpact and is behind the surging numbers of companies seeking B Corps status.

But let’s not pretend anyone’s cracked it yet. The wider systemic drivers of corporate behaviour remain stacked towards economic growth at the expense of the environment.

I’m drawn to The Calm Company Fund and their thinking about investment. They take a deliberately different approach to traditional VCs, investing for the long term in businesses designed to sustain. Their commentary on what they term “long term ambitious” companies resonated with me:

Never burn out. Over a long enough timeline, founders and employees burning out is the biggest risk to achieving your long-term goals. Structuring the entire company and strategy around avoiding this is long-term ambitious.
Retain key employees. Many calm companies we know have had employees who stick around happily for 10, 15, even 20 years. This is a major advantage of being calm.
Don’t risk the entire company. By raising capital and growing more sustainably, calm companies are not racing down a runway that means the whole company will die if it falls short of aggressive growth targets. This means calm companies have a much higher survival rate.
Don’t stuff the business with too much investment. One of the most common and gut-wrenching ways tech businesses fail these days is raising far too much capital at too high of a valuation and not being able to hit the lofty growth rates needed to catch up to the valuations. We call this foie gras’ing the company. Many companies that would otherwise have been great businesses become “zombie startups” or shut down simply due to being crammed with too much capital. Calm Companies avoid this entirely.
Grow at a sustainable, profitable pace. Aggressive spending and acquiring customers at negative margins are short-term ambitious. Calm companies know that the best way to stay in the game is to grow at a sustainable pace that maintains healthy margins.
Make more money than you spend. What a novel concept we know, but it is an essential ingredient in the success of calm companies.”

The Calm Company thesis

As someone that’s in the business of building organisations, there’s something interesting here for me about the resilience and operational integrity of organisations depending on how quickly they grow.

Much of what binds together really effective organisations is the vision, mutual trust and inter-connectivity that comes with time. It can’t be faked and the symptoms of its absence are obvious in many well known scaling businesses worldwide.

I’m fascinated by how this all comes together – creating new ways of delivering growth more holistically sustainably, at a slower pace and to create more resilient long term organisations.

Maybe this is a pointer towards things I should explore further in 2023 in some way.

Music this month…

Bit late to this one, but I’ve been enjoying the Fred Again Boiler Room set from the summer played loud this month. It’s fascinating to watch him in action – a seriously talented artist.

Podcasts this month…

A new find for me this month via a colleague: Work Appropriate with Anne Helen Petersen. Loads of fascinating topics being discussed, so I’ve got a queue of these ready to listen to.

Reading this month…

I found The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac an inspiring read. It sets out clearly and succinctly the positive choices we can make globally and as individuals to lessen our impact on the planet.


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I also write a newsletter called Build about scaling brilliant businesses which you can subscribe to here.