For corporate strategist and advisor Randy Shuken, bias is a major impediment to successful business strategy and decision making.
Randy Shuken, Co-founder and CEO of Quero Handmade Shoes, knows from personal experience the needs and challenges of both the entrepreneur and the investor. Securing funds is not all it takes to succeed in a new business venture. Having worked at all levels of an organization, from the C suite to the front lines globally, Randy has seen the highs and lows of building new businesses and renovating stagnant ones. We sat down to learn a few pointers from this coach whose trusted voice is sought after as an advisor and board member to multiple, fast-growth startups in Fintech, Edtech, Fashion and AI.
I call it the “startup perils.” Founders constantly find themselves choosing between two doors with every major decision. Pick the wrong door and the venture is a failure. Pick the right one, and it’s a jump on the path to success. While most people focus on the idea, the original inspiration rarely survives through multiple pivots and turns. That’s why while the idea is important, it’s the founder and team that’s crucial in navigating the early days.
Success means building a profitable company that generates returns, or one that is attractive enough in terms of customers or technology to be bought by someone else. In few cases do startups get to an IPO and hopefully become a unicorn (>$1Bn valuation). While a grand slam home run should be the goal, a bunt or single, or a successful sale, is an attractive,, and more attainable goal. To start off, there’s the original idea or concept, then substantiating and proving it, and then creating traction. There are endless, and crucial decision points. Securing funding, building the team, pitching investors and then selecting the ones who add value. Every step and every person along the way has their own angle or agenda. For the most part, startup investors don’t look to hit singles, they’re looking for home runs to offset the many others in their portfolio that inevitably don’t pan out. Typically, everybody wants to see the venture be accelerated, but in what way? At what price? Getting funded doesn’t equate to success, and some founders fall victim to “star” syndrome, thinking they have made it because someone wrote checks.
Strategy is the ability to see what’s around the corner. Most businesses develop a strong culture which can easily result in group-think. Bias creeps in and suddenly open-minded people become blinded to changes in their environment, customers and industry. I remind executives and their teams that bias is a four-letter word. Bias is the result of focus and execution, which favors keeping your head down and getting things done. But bias also keeps people from considering all the available options, so it needs, first, to be recognized, and then, eliminated from their planning discussions. The way to do that is to constantly challenge the reasoning, that’s the position I take when working with companies. I seek innovation from the perspective of what’s unique, what’s solving for gaps in a marketplace, what improves speed to market. By stripping away bias, I’m seeking to find the real “genius” in the business model and capitalize on that.
My father taught me to form my own opinion about everything and, more importantly, to ask the right questions. I ask why. I help companies break free from the safety net around assumptions. We shouldn’t be acting on assumptions, we need to challenge assumptions in order to keep improving.
My career has benefited from a wide range of experiences, from working with early stage startups to helping build a $400 billion market cap enterprise. As an active board member, advisor and investor,, I’ve contributed to growthing leading firms in Fintech, Payments, EdTech, Artificial Intelligence and Spatial Computing. As CEO and co-founder of Qüero, a start-up fashion footwear company, I’ve managed all facets of a small and nimble entrepreneurial organization, leading from the top, but also working on the ground. Aggregating these experiences has best prepared me to coach CEOs to distill a situation, simplify the design and guide them through their designated journey to claim success.
Drawing on what I’ve learned as a startup founder, as a Board member and as a corporate executive and strategist, I’ve become an effective coach and a trusted advisor to some truly visionary leaders.
From early conceptualization to market entry and scaling, I'm helping to minimize painful errors along the way.
While in Spain a few years ago, I discovered beautiful shoes there that were surprisingly affordable. As a consumer and a strategist, I saw an opportunity. Men want to graduate from sports sneakers to find comfortable, stylish shoes. We launched Qüero applying the craftsmen production process in Almansa Spain as our differentiator, calling attention to the quality of the materials, the assembly and the finishing of every shoe. We reduced our reliance on middlemen, allowing us to pass the savings on to customers. With hundreds of reviews on our site, it appears that we are listening to the customer and delivering what they like.