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Hanging up the jetpack. Planting a flag.
How I decided to go all in on Exec
👋 Welcome to the latest issue of The Jungle Gym – the newsletter that helps you build a more fulfilling career by integrating your work and life.
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Last year, I made a semi-secret career transition and started working with Sean Linehan and Jeremy Fiance to build a tech-enabled talent development agency called Exec. Today, I am excited to officially announce my role as Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer.
Our vision for Exec is to enable exceptional performance by helping companies design and manage customized talent development programs. These programs leverage our network of vetted coaches, flexible credit system, and advanced program design tools.
So far, we’ve had a few big wins:
Clients: We've partnered with over 50 companies, including JP Morgan, SAP, Tradestation, Campbell’s, and Heaven Hill.
Coaches: Of the 15,000+ coaches who’ve applied to Exec, we work with fewer than 1.5% of applicants, giving our clients access to a highly vetted network.
Impact: We've supported the development of 3,000+ employees, earning an average rating of 4.9/5 stars.
Giving up my independence to fully commit to Exec was a hard decision. However, reflecting on it, I know it was the right one. In keeping with the tradition of this newsletter, I'd like to share the thought process behind my decision, hoping it might help others at similar crossroads.
Taking off the jetpack
I originally strapped on a jetpack and went independent back in October 2021 with little certainty about what I would do next. That decision sparked a year-long odyssey of consulting, community building, and growing as an expert generalist.
While independence had plenty of benefits, I found myself missing the energy that comes from being fully committed to a singular mission with a great team. I started getting the itch to take off the jetpack and go all in on something. But first, I needed to find an opportunity that met three key criteria:
An energizing problem
A receptive market
A stellar team
Exec ended up being the opportunity that ticked all three boxes. Here's how I developed the conviction to make it my focus.
An energizing problem
Having spent the better part of my career in talent development, I've come to believe content is not the primary obstacle preventing people from reaching their potential. If it was, we could have solved humanity’s challenges by handing out library cards. In reality, most people in the developed world have access to physical libraries filled with books as well as digital libraries filled with courses. The reason these libraries have few visitors is that they lack the motivational structures required to spur real growth.
Individuals grow when they spend time with credible experts who understand their goals and can guide them toward achieving them. This could involve personalized coaching or specialized small-group sessions.
Many companies struggle to provide these experiences for their employees because they are forced to choose between costly boutique providers or rigid tech platforms that offer little room for customization. As a result, they never establish the kind of structures and culture necessary to retain and develop top performers.
Working with our customers to solve these types of problems energizes me. They are inherently fascinating and solving them effectively can generate tremendous value.
A receptive market
Before co-founding Exec, I had a good sense of the kind of talent development challenges that companies faced. What I wasn't yet sure of was what kind of solution was required to solve them. Fortunately, customer conversations showed us precisely what they needed:
A platform for their programs – Companies want a scalable platform with enough flexibility to plan and execute their programs, rather than prepackaged, one-size-fits-all solutions.
Access to world-class coaches & trainers – Companies want quick access to top-tier coaches and trainers who come with relevant operational context on the challenges their employees are facing.
Flexible payment system – Customers prefer to allocate a budget to participants and readjust it as necessary, rather than paying SaaS subscription fees for unused coaching sessions.
These insights led us to build Exec– a tech-enabled talent development agency that allows companies to design their programs, select from a network of top 1.5% coaches and trainers, and employ a flexible credit system to optimize their budgets.
A stellar team
I've seen plenty of promising startups fall short due to unresolved co-founder conflicts. When considering co-founding Exec with Sean and Jeremy, I knew our working relationship would be a critical factor.
I started working with Sean after a warm introduction from my close friend, Justin Mares. Before working together, we took a series of hikes through the hills of San Francisco to discuss our goals and working styles. But, talk is cheap and doesn't always provide enough context on what it's like to work together. So we started collaborating.
I could tell right away that Sean and I had great working chemistry. His experience scaling Flexport from $1M to $500M in revenue as the VP of Product gave him valuable insights into building products and companies. His expertise in engineering, product, and design complemented my strengths in sales, marketing, and customer success. While we didn't always agree on everything, we were comfortable debating and deferring to each other's areas of expertise.
Sean convinced long-time friend and House Fund Managing Partner, Jeremy Fiance, to join us as our third co-founder. Jeremy's experience with the House Fund, having made over 80 pre-seed investments into startups that have collectively raised $4B in follow-on capital, makes him a valuable asset as we work to integrate the latest AI developments into our business operations.
Most importantly, we all share the same values. Sean and Jeremy are high-integrity individuals who prioritize doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. I am proud that we're building an organization that extends these principles to our interactions with customers, coaches, and partners.
Planting a flag
While I am grateful for the independence I experienced, it feels like the right time to dedicate myself fully to something meaningful and plant a flag with Exec.
Some of you, upon hearing about my new role, have graciously asked how you can support our company. There are two main ways:
Intros to companies looking to develop talent. If you know any leaders responsible for talent development, we’d love to connect with them. Our growth has largely been driven by word of mouth, making referrals incredibly valuable. If you have someone in mind, please drop me a note!
Find a coach for yourself. Our incredible network includes leadership, career, performance, sales, and communication coaches. Your company may even cover the expense! Just drop me a note, and I'll help pair you with the right person.
For those who have already made introductions on our behalf, we're deeply grateful for your support. We're excited to have you join us on this journey.
Thanks for reading today’s issue of the Jungle Gym. If you enjoyed what you read, I’d really appreciate it if you could forward it to a friend, family member, or colleague who you think might like it too.
Or, if you’d like to share it on one of your social networks, that’s always great as well.
Until next time,