Shadow CEO & Board Director Role
A startup must continuously be effective in fail-fast decision making and in rapid and thorough adaptation. Combined with a little luck, it will lead to a thriving startup and eventual business success. As a brand new entrepreneur, I didn’t know about those much less how to apply them. I had what I considered to be disruptive technology, but zero business knowledge. In other words, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about starting my business. Looking back now, the single best decision I’ve made in my startup was asking Dennis to become the “Business Architect” mentor and partner to my “Software Engineer Architect” role. With Dennis’ excellent guidance and mentoring, I was able to learn to stop going down so many “rat holes”, both technically as well as non-technically. I’m very happy to recommend Dennis’ deep wisdom and experience as a fantastic augmentation to any entrepreneur seeking to maximize their startup’s potential.
Upon engagement, Dennis undertook a personal, detailed, and comprehensive review of our corporate documents and recommended tangible things we could do to benefit our founder and principals – things we would not have realized nor benefitted from without him. It is rare to receive contributions that grow more valuable over time, but that is what we got from him almost immediately. Dennis delivers wisdom, guidance, and lessons in a friendly, relaxed style, often tucked inside a story and/or accompanied by a chuckle or two. Having him on our team gives us the peace of mind that comes from knowing that when we next ask, “how do we get there from here?”, Dennis will have an answer or an efficient and economical plan for finding one.
Our board found ourselves in a situation where we needed guidance on governance, and we needed it quickly. After several directors reached out for referrals, we all received the same advice– call Dennis. Dennis and his team moved swiftly into action interviewing each director to diagnose our needs then scheduled a series of training workshops to equip us with the structure and tools we needed to address some gaping holes within our organization to put us on a path to more effective leadership. I can’t thank Dennis enough for his counsel and for making himself so available to our team as we moved to adopt his recommendations. I could not issue a stronger endorsement!
Mr. Cagan’s expert knowledge in regard to all board of director and advisory board operations is incredibly valuable. Mr. Cagan is able to quickly sift through problems to create solutions and do so in a caring manner while dealing with many different, sometimes big, personality types. His level-headed expert approach is second to none. His understanding of cap tables, bylaws, and board resolutions among other board matters, has made me grateful to have him on my side as the Shadow CEO in my corner. I am only as good as the people I surround myself with. Mr. Cagan has made me and my company all the better.
Dennis Cagan has served on our company’s Board for a very long time. In that time, he has been a great source of knowledge, wisdom, and expertise. He is particularly good at putting himself in the shoes of the entrepreneur, understanding the challenges of growth, and small company dynamics and advising from his wealth of experience, in that he has served over 60 companies in similar positions. Dennis has a life of experience but continues to have to enthusiasm of a young entrepreneur. He is also a great supporter and is continuously thinking of how he can help. This and his substantial personal network of excellent people in many disciplines make him an excellent and valued Board member.
Dennis Cagan is the total package! His generational experiences across multiple industries, company sizes and stages from which he provides recommendations are exemplar. He has first-hand knowledge of just about every possible scenario at least once. Additionally, while not a formal attorney or tax accountant, I would put him up against any I have worked with previously as an executive. This total package covering multiple disciplines allows him to rapidly think through solutions from all these perspectives. His friendly demeanor and humor combined with unbendable honesty, character and integrity mean so much to me as I have come to trust him completely.
Dennis has been on my company’s Board for nearly seven years, and I have considered him a greatly respected Board member and a trusted friend. Unlike some Board members about whom I have heard other entrepreneurs’ comments, Dennis has, at various times, provided both encouragement and praise, and kind and diplomatic correction – often in the form of a question. I also have appreciated that he is a man of faith and very high integrity as shown to all. Any company, especially any new/small company, would be lucky to have Dennis on its Board.
As a first-time founder, my thoughts were consumed by enthusiasm and a determination to accomplish the collective goals of the company. But with all that excitement comes an endless flow of questions and tasks that most do not feel confident or qualified in taking on alone. From establishing strong foundational documents and addressing ongoing corporate governance needs, to attracting other notable board members, guiding management on strategic issues, preparing and connecting with investors for an institutional raise, evaluating key hires, and everything in between – Dennis really is a Swiss-Army knife of sorts. One of the biggest and often overlooked joys of having someone like Dennis in your corner is his unrivaled humor and straightforward, no-nonsense demeanor when addressing issues big or small.
As recipients of Dennis Cagan’s vast knowledge and experience, we must state that we could not have worked through the governance issues and requirements for establishing a corporation without his guidance and counsel. As a corporate governance expert, author, speaker and teacher, Dennis has and continues to start, manage, advise, and serve on the boards of numerous companies including ours. Dennis has guided us through corporate organization, registration, stock issues and ongoing governance requirements and processes. He is of utmost integrity and we view him as not only a trusted advisor and mentor but a friend.
Dennis provides excellent guidance to our new management Board. His due diligence knowledge is exemplary, and he delivers excellent leadership. Everyone feels inspired after hearing his words of wisdom. His friendly, approachable manner is highly commendable. He mentors individual members’ and teaches them to prepare for rapid business development. I highly recommend his services to any individual or company that seeks someone who can quickly ‘join all the dots’ and propose solutions that are not only practical but are financially achievable. Over the years I have worked on numerous projects with Dennis. He is an encyclopedia of knowledge and experience.
I cannot recommend Dennis Cagan Incorporated highly enough to any business or organization seeking wise, sound, practical and innovative counsel! Dennis has experience in multiple industries and roles, and he brings his earned advice to unique situations. When we reached out to Dennis, we had identified several key issues needing help, but also knew “we didn’t know what we didn’t know”. Because of his applied methods, he was able to accurately diagnose and offer prescriptions that put our organization on a path to recovery and health. By working with our executive team and board of directors, Dennis took us from a place of surviving, to a place of thriving.
Dennis has been a wealth of experience for our Think-X board. From his vast rolodex of industry contacts to discussion on company strategy or term sheets for raising capital, Dennis has wisely guided Think-X through each stage of our journey. He is always available when needed for a quick coaching call and provides timely and sage advice for our company. He has helped us find board members and executives for our company which has enabled us to grow in our strength as a company. We’re thrilled to have him on our board.
The Board of Directors for a Private Enterprise
A comprehensive inside look at creating and managing the boards of private companies of all types.
Your book is an amazing piece of work. You are setting a new standard for a real-world advisory guide on boards of directors: why have one, and how to recruit for, form, run, and get value from a board. You have done yourself proud. This book reflects your vast body of experience coupled with superb writing talent, resulting in a guidebook that will be helpful to management and board members of not only the smaller and privately owned company but of established public companies as well.
This book should be required reading for all entrepreneurs and VC firms. I particularly enjoyed the war stories on the Director Firings!
I have finally had a chance to peruse the new book that you sent. This is excellent! There is such a huge gap in understanding on the part of private companies, startups, etc., as to ‘all things governance’. Your book does a great job filling in this huge gap. I wish you the best of success with the book.
Full of practical examples of how boards can work and improve themselves. This is really, really good stuff.
What a treat! It brought me back to some good and bad times. A must-read for any businessperson looking to run organizations. Thank you.
This book is of genuine value. I do believe in the ‘independent’ board for private companies, but just as Mr. Kristie, judge that there is a dearth of good advice on how to recruit, develop, and lead such boards. Yours will be a very worthwhile contribution to the field, and a book that I will recommend to the many in the audience that shudder at the task of building that first board. Some specifics: Superb calling out of the need for documentation. I see frequent instances where this aspect is either overlooked or simply seen as too much effort. It is the first indication of the desire to be seen as ‘growing up’ or, if you will, professionalizing the organization. You are spot on with your observation regarding recruitment that ‘you can often learn more about them from the questions they ask you than the ones you ask them’. Your treatment of comparing the fiduciary board versus the advisory board is the best explanation I have ever seen. And it is a question on the minds of many private companies that I have visited. Kudos on this wonderful contribution to the family business segment!
SHADOW CEO® (1983-Present)
Since 1983 Dennis has consulted in Shadow CEO roles, sat on boards of directors, and taken on periodic interim CEO positions. Dennis continues to provide clients with management consulting and mentoring through Caganco Incorporated, in the form of his four signature roles: Shadow CEO®, Board Practice (formation and management of corporate boards of directors), Governance Forensics practice, and interim CEO situations. Since 1983 Caganco has helped at least 100 CEOs. Clients have ranged from $2B enterprises down to ‘back-of-the-napkin’ start-ups.
Outstanding Directors Award (2013)
Dennis Cagan was honored by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and the Dallas Business Journal as one of the inaugural class of 12 Outstanding Directors in North Texas.
IT Hall of Fame (2011)
Dennis Cagan was inducted into the IT Hall of Fame – Channel Section (administered by CompTIA). He was honored for being the Treasurer, and on the founding team of the CompTIA A+ Certification Program, one of the most successful trade licensing programs in the computer industry. To date, A+ has certified millions of personal computer technicians globally. The program is said to generate over $50M in annual royalties to CompTIA.