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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Business Love

Comments (15)

“Passion is temporary. It doesn’t last long. Love is enduring. And that’s the important thing. If we all had love in our lives to the degree that we should, it would be much happier.”
— UCLA Anderson | John Wooden Global Leadership Award ceremony (May 21, 2009)

Last night I had dinner with my partners and our significant others. It was a wonderful evening with the three people I work most closely with, the people they love, and the most important person on the planet to me.

Earlier this year I had dinner with Jamey Sperans, one of our investors. Late into the night we talked about a variety of things at an outdoor restaurant in Philly under the heat lamps as a chilly spring night unfolded. Much of the conversation was personal, as in addition to being one of our largest investors, Jamey has become an incredibly close friend. I was struggling with my depression so we talked some about that, but that merely served as a launch point for a deeper conversation.

In that discussion, we talked about the concept of “Business Love.” For a long time, I’ve talked about “business intimacy” – it’s the relationship I try to develop with the entrepreneurs I fund and the people who I work with. It’s a level of emotional engagement that is much deeper than “friendship” or “respect”, is not easily developed, and can be quickly lost if one party isn’t interested in investing the energy or violates a fundamental principle such as trust or honesty.

Jamey and I agreed that “business love” was more profound and significant than “business intimacy.” We discussed the concept of business love in the context of Foundry Group with the unambiguous agreement that the four of us (Ryan, Seth, Jason, and I) have a “business love” relationship.

Once a month we have a full-day offsite. We try to keep our process to an absolute minimum, so we have lunch together on Monday’s and a once a month offsite. The rest of our interactions are continuous and real-time, including almost all of our investment decisions.

Yesterday’s offsite was a perfect example of business love. We spent the day sitting around Jason’s dining room table (the general location of our offsite), got calibrated on a few things that are new initiatives of ours including FG Angels, a new treat coming out next week from us, and a new project we are launching in January. We talked about a few deeper, long range things we want to get right, especially in the context of several of our very successful investments. And we argued about some stuff that we disagreed on in an effort to both understand the data and get aligned.

It was awesome and one of my favorite days of the month. When we split up around 3pm (we end when we are finished) I had a permagrin on my face. I walked home and spent a few hours grinding through email. I went to a meeting and then picked up Amy to head back to Jason’s for dinner. We had an amazing dinner as a group to end the day.

I woke up this morning thinking about business love. I remembered my conversation with Jamey. I recalled that Jo Tango had written a post on business love a while ago and went back and looked it up. I’m guessing that Jamey was the LP in the post that Jo is referring to, since the principles of business love, that Jo refers to, are exactly what we talked about.

  • Members of those firms really respect and like each other. They’re very tight. In fact, they love each other
  • They have a sense of mission. They want to make money, but that’s not the most important driving force
  • How they treat each other spills over to how they treat their entrepreneurs and investors

The process of creating and building new companies from nothing is hard. It’s incredibly rewarding when it’s successful, but the process can be an excruciating, chaotic, and messy. There are moments of extreme stress. Failure is always lurking in the background. Working alongside people you truly love makes a huge difference, at least for me.

  • Patrick Matos

    This is such a great post, Brad. Rings so close to home too. We’ve exchanged a few emails regarding co-founders who are spouses (like my wife and I for http://www.CareLuLu.com) back when you and Amy wrote “Startup Life.” I feel your concept of “business love” applies there too. I know this is not the main point of your post and it’s obvious that you can have a “business love” relationship without being in love (romantically) with your business partners; and vice versa, you can be in love with someone and not be able to work with them. But as you say, “There are moments of extreme stress. Working alongside people you truly love makes a huge difference.” That’s exactly how I feel every day. As always, thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Great example of how it can cross over into a personal relationship when you are also business partners!

  • http://www.justanentrepreneur.com Philip Sugar

    My wife refers to my two partners as second and third wife respectively. She reminds me that she is the first wife.

  • Sheila Lamont

    Great thoughts! I really agree that having that emotional engagement with people I’ve worked with has always been such a positive!

    • Fabrice A. Boutain

      +1

  • LD Eakman

    I have a hard time with Jamey’s term “Business Love”, but I think I’m more uncomfortable with the term than the relationship you define. I have deep and abiding friendships and certainly love exists in those relationships. However, the aspect I key in on is Respect. You will respect and honor those people you love by holding a higher standard in every aspect of your relationship. That may mean you perform acts of service for them. Or you encourage and challenge them to give their very best. Perhaps most importantly, you hold yourself to the highest standard because you don’t want to disappoint them. I see that as the defining aspect of a relationship. You make yourself better because you want to respect them and the relationship you hold together.
    Let me be clear, I respect Jamey. And I’ll always have a hug for him when he needs it….

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I think “respect” is table stakes for the concept of business love. The word “love” may be the wrong one, but I don’t even think you can start considering it in an organization unless there is 100%, unambiguous respect amongst the people involved. And – hugs are good!

    • Jamey

      I business love you, Lindel!

  • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

    My first business love was HP. 14 years and straight out of college there makes it as close to first business love as anything.

    You know what makes business love possible? It’s the people you work with. If you like the people, you will like the business.

  • Steve

    Very open posting – Sorry to hear that you have depression and very progressive that you mention it publicly – Appreciate the early AM e-mail note – As you can tell, I had some thoughts that I needed to share early – Best, Steve

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Great read Brad. Sounds like you’ve found a meaningful team. Many folks strive for something similar vs. just a job. Thanks for sharing hope.

  • Jo T.

    Amen!

  • http://www.onceabeekeeper.com/ Kevin Swan

    I love that his is being discussed. For me it is probably the most important detail in choosing to make long-term commitments to a company or new venture. Beyond the fact that it will generally result in more success (I really believe this), I also ask myself why I would put time and effort into something where I don’t enjoy the people I work with no matter what the payout may be.

  • Fabrice A. Boutain

    Fantastic Article ! Thanks Brad.
    I have been a web entrepreneur now for 17 years ! Full of passion for this internet revolution but my best experience is to work with people i care so much about (Family corporation of 21st century style). This is where you get the greatest Joy of accomplishment and rewards…

    I also strongly believe this is becoming the way to run the startups and company of the 21st century :
    - Working Team enjoy being together / share same values.

    - Money is not the No1 priority – there is something much bigger !
    - We are all focused about our customers / employées HAPIness.

Build something great with me