The Comprehensive Response to an HBS Cold Call

We saw Ms. Godden’s article “Winging It” a few weeks back and thought we would take an EC’s point of view on the perfect cold call response. Here it is.

Professor: Alright, today’s case deals with a risky decision for our protagonist. So-(scans room, looks right at you despite attempt to avoid eye contact) You’re the CEO. What are you going to do?

You: (clears throat) Well, apples and oranges aside, I want to step back and think about the overarching strategy a bit. Maybe what we need here is some blue sky thinking. A culture change that lowers our barriers to entry and takes into consideration the other four forces that are interdependent with the levers we can pull.

(making wobbling thumb-index finger gesture) Looking at the company’s org chart in Exhibit 12, and given the NPV of their CRM VC dollars, I take away that relationships matter when trying to manage expectations. But then again — do they? I think we all wrestle with that tension. I know I struggled with that last night when reading the case.

But hey, it’s a shot in the dark. The goal here is to get our soup on simmer because it’s all about the trade-off between risk and reward anyway, right? Risk goes up, reward goes up. That’s a given. But what isn’t a given is: How much risk can we tolerate? What’s our risk profile? Or-in other words-as chief, what am I going to do?

(flipping open case) That brings me back to our action plan. I would immediately start managing up as well as down, concentrating on my work environment and bootstrapping up the learning curve 24/7 as my 360-degree feedback suggested. Though, if you ask me, if my 360-degree feedback contains actionable results, then I’d say it depends.

In this module we have seen many takeaways to countless technical questions: Walk before you run. Secure your safety net. Meet with a mentor. Lever up. Extend your network. Ensure accountability. Pass the sunshine test. And above all else-manage work/life balance. But what we don’t yet know is: How can we make it work? Can we really have it all?

I think that there are short term and long term milestones that you want to hit in achieving the founders’ vision. In doing so, it’s going to be a win/win situation after we align incentives, which, I might add, is consistent with our resistance to change.

I guess what I’m saying is that I agree with all the points that have been made so far, but that I want to push back on the notion of knowledge transfer through downsizing. Building on my last point, at the end of the day, where the rubber meets the road, when all the boxes are checked, the ducks will get in a row. Then the protagonist needs to maximize intersections across new ideas and cater to the base of the pyramid. In my experience, I suppose that’s what I would do as CFO.

Professor: I asked what you would do as CEO.

You: Oh…In that case, I’d go with the Chinese bid.

March 26, 2007
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