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Entrepreneurs: To Stay or to Leave (That is the Question)

by Miki Saxon

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wengs/254390052/Interesting comments from Ben Horowitz on why firing a member of the founding team as the company grows may be both a necessary decision and an ethical one.

If your current executive team helped you 10X your company, how can you dismiss them when they fall behind in running the behemoth they created? The answer is that your loyalty must go to your employees—the people who report to your executives. Your engineers, marketing people, sales people, finance and HR people who are doing the work. You owe them a world-class management team. That’s the priority.

Can’t argue that and it can happen long before the 10X level is reached.

Horowitz says during each year’s review he would spell out the changes that come with growth.

“Therefore, you will have a new and very different job and I will have to re-evaluate you on that job. If it makes you feel better, that rule goes for everyone on the team including me.”

He goes on to say,

“In giving this kind of direction, it’s important to point out to the executive that when the company doubles in size, she has a new job. This means that doing things that made her successful in her old job will not necessarily translate to success in the new job. In fact, the No. 1 way that executives fail is by continuing to do their old job rather than moving on to their new job.”

What he doesn’t say is that it’s part of the boss’ job to help any employee prepare for those expanded responsibilities;

  • First, by providing insight on what improved/new skills and additional knowledge are needed to perform well in the new position, whether or not the title changes.
  • Second, by suggesting resources, such as classes, training (if available) and mentoring.

This is as true for executives as it is for any other level.

It’s difficult for people to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses in a position they know well, let alone in one they haven’t done yet.

This holds true for founders and CEOs, too, assuming they want to hold on to their positions.

However, there is one other question that should be added to the discussion that is some variation of the following, “Now that you understand what will be involved in your new responsibilities is that what you want to do? Do you feel it’s a good fit for who you are and who you want to be; in other words, will it make you happy?”

People are usually happiest in a company of a certain size and at a certain time in its life.

Joining before that or staying after is never a good idea.

Flickr image credit: WalkingGeek

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