At a going rate of $30,000 a year per client, Richard Hagberg doesn't come cheap. But his clients might argue his services are worth the price.
A trained psychologist, Hagberg has spent the last 35 years of his career as an executive management coach training over 5,000 executives to become better leaders. Many of them work at well-known technology companies, such as Twitter (TWTR), Microsoft (MSFT), eBay (EBAY), and Dropbox. And while the skills he has them hone -- delegating, dealing with conflicts, decisiveness -- may sound like no-brainers, they're vital to the long-term prospects of a company, particularly in an era where startups often live and die by out-innovating their competitors.
Entrepreneurs often go to extremes when managing for the first time: They either shy away from making decisions, or they go to the other end and just micromanage, explained Hagberg, who flies from his Whidbey Island, Wash., home to the San Francisco Bay Area every other week to meet with several of his 20 or so clients.
"As a result, they end up burning out, and they end up having organizational chaos," he adds.
Once an executive hires Hagberg, he puts that client through a series of tests. One test screens the client for nearly 50 different personality elements, such as degrees of optimism, independence, and risk-taking. ("It's like a Myers-Briggs personality test on steroids," quipped Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, one of Hagberg's clients.)
Another test, dubbed the "360," involves getting feedback about the client from up to 20 people: company investors, co-founders, and subordinates. All the data Hagberg collects are brought together in a presentation that he gives to the client. It outlines his or her strengths and weaknesses, and offers a customized plan that Hagberg will use to improve the client's management skills.
"The plan needs to accommodate your personality," explained Hagberg. "If you're extremely shy, your company is going to IPO, and you need to go out there and do a roadshow, that may require some work for you to get over your fear of public speaking, or your general social anxiety."