How (and why) we gather feedback from our CEOs

For the past three years, we have conducted an annual survey where we ask our CEOs to share feedback about our performance in supporting them as partners and board members.

While we hope that feedback can be a continual, iterative process, we’ve found that it’s helpful to offer at least one formal, anonymized request for feedback on an annual basis.

Since it is a relatively new trend among venture capital firms to solicit feedback among their CEOs and founders, we wanted to share how we think about this process, as well as expose the survey questions we asked, so that other firms might use this in their process.

Our approach

This survey has evolved from our first year, where we used a numeric, ranking scale on each of the questions. What we found was that numeric rankings made it tricky to know how to take action on the responses. (What did an 8.2 out of 10 mean, exactly?)

Last year, we tweaked the format slightly, adopting a Likert scale for many of our answers. Rather than numeric rankings, this format asks our CEOs to share whether they “strongly agree,” “agree,” “disagree,” or “strongly disagree” with each statement. This provided much more actionable insights for each partner, and for our firm.

In addition, we ask each CEO to share feedback in a “start / stop / continue” framework. (ie: What would you like this partner to start, stop, or continue doing?) The responses we receive through this exercise are often the most helpful and actionable takeaways from our survey.

By asking the same set of questions from one year to the next, we are now able to observe trends and patterns over time. The first year sets the benchmark. Every subsequent year will help us to see how our feedback has changed, both on an individual basis and overall as a firm.  

To distribute the survey, we ask each partner to share the link with their respective CEOs. Our survey is anonymous; we ask only for the stage of each company and which partner that person works with most closely.

Finally, we recognize that CEO time is valuable, and we want to respect that. Our promise is that this survey takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. 

Moving forward

Each year that we complete this process, we learn more about our aggregate strengths as a firm and as individuals, as well as receive specific examples about areas where we might invest more support or resources in the future.

We hope that by exposing our thinking around this survey, other firms can also build upon this in their own surveys, helping us all better support the businesses in our portfolio. To that end, here are the questions we ask in our survey. And in the spirit of open feedback, if you have ideas or suggestions for us on how we might improve this process in the future, we’re all ears.