5 Lessons Learned From Pluralsight CEO, Aaron Skonnard
I had the great opportunity of listening to Aaron Skonnard, the CEO of Plurasight a local townhall meeting at Silicon Slopes HQ. As usual, I took an extensive amount of notes with the intent of teaching it to my co-founders of Sparkki.
Here are the top 5 take aways from what I learned from Aaron’s journey through an initial public offering, social impact, and running an education technology company like us.
#1 Don’t think of an IPO as an exit.
According to Aaron Skonnard, an initial public offering shouldn’t be thought of as an exit by the founders. It is a new financial model that offers a new platform to reinforce the catalyst of the mission of the company.
The CEO of Pluralsight mentioned that as soon as they were done with their 8 day investor marketing tour in New York, they worked hard to finish early and get back to the Pluralsight team so they Aaron Skonnard guide them on what the initial public offering ( IPO ) meant to them.
I interpret this as making sure your team is is aligned with the mission, vision, and values of the leadership team and then use an IPO as a way to accelerate your business momentum from having reached the escape velocity of the gravity of growth to business at the speed of light. Like Bill Gates says in his book “Business At The Speed of Light”.
#2 Use story telling to build confidence in the leadership team and the company.
As you make your rounds of investor meetings wether in the practice roadshow (week long investor relations meetings to test waters with investors) or during your sprint right before the IPO, tell a story with your leadership team and business in a way that leaves the investors feeling confident in the team.
#3 Acquiring talent from other publicly traded companies.
Running a public company compared to a private company includes unique new challenges as opportunities.
There will be skills that your team needs to develop or have to be inspire confidence and certainty in the investor’s minds. Some times those skills need to be brought on and recycled from other companies. That recycled talent will help mentor and train your current team to have them operating at a higher level.
My interpretation is to be thinking of ways to entice high level players from Fortune 15 to Fortune 100 companies to join your team.
#4 Give investors as smooth exit strategy
The first minute Pluralsight took first round of financing from investors began asking, “How do we give investors liquidity?” and “How can we get them out?”. Aaron Skonnard had helped lead Pluralsight to bootstrap for 10 years.
Most investors think in 3-7 year turn around time on their investments. He began asking “What is the most effective way to get return for investors and we still control the company ?”. His options were limited and they consisted of:
- Mergers & Acquisitions with a bigger fish in the pond but would lose control.
- Private equity firm to buy but they would want a controlling stake.
- Initial public offering which could provide a controlled and smooth way out for any investor and stake holder.
My personal take on this is that if you want to take on investor money you must respect the fiduciary responsibility you have with your investors and help them get their returns as timely as possible.
#5 Always be learning and upgrading
Always be getting better even if that means you need to take an online course or hire a coach. Aaron Skonnard knows that better than most being the founder of the education technology company Pluralsight. Aaron Skonnard hired an IPO coach to accelerate his growth and became a master at the skills of story telling when it comes to investor relations at that level.
My interpretation is that having a growth mentality and always sharpening your saw, will you evolve as an entrepreneur. As we speak now I have two books beside me and a online course on improving my software development skills.
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