Today, we're chatting with Saad Sahawneh, a Chief of Staff with varied experience and an international perspective. Our conversation with Saad reveals how he got his foot in the door with a cold email to computing legend Alan Kay. From funnel building to the power of Google Sheets, this CoS shares valuable insights and advice for those considering this dynamic role. Let’s jump in! And if you’d like to chat with Saad, join the CoS Network here.
How did you get into your current role?
After a cold-email, I began a multi-year email exchange with computing pioneer Alan Kay, and one day asked him about the most interesting startups building the future of computing, and he introduced me to Croquet. I started out as a sales/marketing/engagement consultant, and was later promoted to Chief of Staff to the CEO/Chairman and CTO/Founder.
What has been your biggest learning in your current role?
You get to work on many parts of the business and have lots of freedom to add value. In early stage startups, there’s a lot of generalist work that needs to be done, and a Chief of Staff is often the first point of contact to help out in tasks that might otherwise distract the team.
For example, building lists of prospective customers, partners and investors are time-consuming tasks, but essential to build a startup’s initial contact list. Then, setting up the marketing systems to maintain a constant flow of outbound communication is important, and keeps the top-of-funnel full of new users.
What advice would you give to someone looking for a CoS role?
If you’re a generalist who likes to learn about all parts of the business, the role could be a great fit for you.
What were some of the key learnings or breakthroughs you had while working as a CoS?
Organization pays off and Google Docs / Sheets can take you much further than you think. You may not need to buy tons of software for every use case. A one-page Google Doc is great for things like agendas, project overviews and product descriptions. A Google Sheet is great for things like KPI tracking, calendars and forecasts.
What are you most focused on right now?
These days, I’m thinking about changing my methods and approaches as the company starts to scale, and generally trying to keep learning about becoming a better operator.
Although using too many tools can be overwhelming, it seems like a necessary part of scaling to improve organization and communication, so I’m on the lookout for tools that can multiply the effectiveness of a Chief of Staff.
What have been the most challenging and rewarding parts of your CoS experience?
There’s a lot of moving parts in a startup, and things are constantly changing. This requires you to be nimble and adaptable, and always ready to learn new things. Failing is good. The journey is the reward.
If you could wave a magic wand, with 3 wishes for your role, what would they be?
- Find great tools to automate more tasks.
- Meet more Chiefs of Staff to keep learning.
- Mentor newcomers to the role.
What’s something that you’re sneaky good at or that people wouldn’t expect about you?
I enjoy cold emailing! It helped me get into my current Chief of Staff role, and is always an effective and free method to connect with anyone in the world for hiring, fundraising, partnerships, marketing and sales.
What’s the best professional advice that you’ve ever been given?
Dream big. Humans are capable of amazing achievements, but society and education often make us forget our potential, so it’s important to remain willfully ignorant to conventional wisdom and try to blaze new trails wherever you go.
Is there anything else you want to share?
The Chief of Staff role is quite new in startups, so there’s a gold rush of opportunity to grow and innovate in this role.