lori dernavich in blazer standing with folded armsAn Interview with Lori Dernavich

Lori, what is it you do exactly?

As an Executive Coach, I work with founders, CEOs, seasoned executives, and new leaders to develop the leadership skills they and their organizations need to scale successfully. The skills needed to scale a company are very different from the skills needed to start one. It can be especially daunting for the 1st time CEO or executive.

What major difference do you see between starting and scaling a company?

People. Let’s use a lifescience company for an example. When you’re starting one, you’re heavily focused on scientific discovery, proof of concept, and fundraising. When you begin hiring people and scaling, you have to dedicate time to people development and culture. Communication has to be clearer, roles need to be defined and clarified, conflict resolution is an absolute necessity, and you need to inspire others to keep them motivated.

How does a leader know they need to call you?

Great question. If they are…

  • losing sleep because it’s been hijacked by people issues
  • realizing scaling will require a different set of skills they may not possess
  • wondering if they’ve hired the wrong person
  • worrying that 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 without being judged

Why would investors call you?

Investors want to answer a simple question, “Can the CEO scale this business successfully?” Investors invest more in startups with CEOs they believe in. 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.

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

I care deeply about my clients – folks with flaws, fears, strengths, dreams, and passions. It’s very rewarding to help them thrive! And if they thrive, employees and the company will too. Part of my job is to tell clients the truth that most people avoid telling them. I strive to do this empathetically.

What type of companies and industries do you work with?

I have clients in companies of varying sizes and industries, but I have a special love for lifescience and biotech startups. I’m drawn to their missions to improve life and cure disease.

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

That’s a fair question. For over 20 years, 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. I have a degree in Food Chemistry, so my inner geek 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 and get really curious. The essential question is, “What does a successful coaching engagement look like to you?” I want to know that we have a clear picture and expectations. Every client is unique, so their coaching engagements must be too. I usually work on an hourly basis once we determine their needs and goals. I’m not a fan of coaching packages. I tried them in my early years but abandoned them. It felt like I was forcing people into my process when what we should be focusing on is their uniqueness.

Any extra-curricular activities we should know about?

When I’m not in NYC, I’m enjoying our tiny cabin in CT with my husband and a micro Goldendoodle named Lady Bacon. Weightlifting has become an obsession after a back injury stopped my passion for boxing. And at the end of a long day, I like to relax with a great Scotch — neat.