The Lori Dernavich Interview


Lori, what is it you do exactly?

I’m a Leadership Development Advisor / Executive Coach. I work with founders, CEOs, and new leaders to develop the leadership skills they and their organizations will need to successfully scale. The skills needed to scale a company are very different from the skills needed to start one. And scaling a startup can be especially daunting for the 1st or 2nd time CEO or executive.

How does a leader know they need to call you?

Great question. If they are…

  • losing sleep because it’s been hijacked by business issues
  • realizing scaling will require a different set of skills they may not possess
  • wondering if they’ve hired the wrong person
  • worrying that their investors are losing confidence in them
  • wishing they could clone themselves because they can’t do it all
  • feeling like there’s no one to talk to about these things without being judged

Why would investors call you?

Investors want to answer a simple question, “Can the CEO scale this business?” After all their due diligence, investors ultimately invest in a startup because they believe in the CEO and their passion. That’s all fine and good, but most 1st time CEOs are gifted subject matter experts. That doesn’t make them gifted leaders. And if that CEO can’t lead people well, then the business will fail, NOT scale. PERIOD.

You mentioned a CEO’s passion. What is your passion?

I can be tough with leaders, after all, they’re hiring me to tell them the truth that most people will avoid telling them. But I also care deeply about my clients – folks with flaws, fears, strengths, and passions. I want to help them thrive! And if they thrive, employees and the company will too.

What type of companies and industries do you work with?

My background gives me an in-depth understanding of a wide variety of personalities, functions, and industries. While I work with companies of all sizes, I love startups. They usually have very little infrastructure for organizational and leadership development.

One might ask, what qualifies you to work with your clientele?

That’s a fair question. I have partnered with, coached, and advised MANY businesses of varying sizes, industries, and cultures. I’ve seen the gamut of issues, crises, leadership styles, and human interaction. That qualifies me to help founders and their organizations.

I’ve been told I possess the perfect combination of street smarts and book smarts for my role. I have a degree in Food Chemistry, so the geek in me understands science and tech personalities. I was a psychotherapist, so I understand people and systems. I did high tech recruiting for a number of years, so I understand sales and hiring issues. That’s also where I learned about startups, middle market companies, and public companies, all within different industries. I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2002, so I understand ROI.

What’s the first thing you do when someone contacts you?

I have an initial meeting, ask a lot of questions, and listen. And the essential question to ask is, “What does success look like to you?” I want to know that we have a clear picture and expectations. Entrepreneurs want to do things their way and fast. Each is different with different needs, so their engagements must be too. I usually work on an hourly basis once we determine their needs and goals.

Any “extra-curricular” activities we should know about?

NY is now my home, but I lived in Boston when the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004. I will forever be a diehard Sox fan. I love boxing, which is probably a good thing for when NYers find out I love the Sox! And at the end of a long day, I like to relax with a great Scotch—neat.