Among the many things to consider at a rapidly growing company is this: “Is it better the stay within the moment and go with the executives that will perform well in the present? Or should executives be judged based on how they may or may not perform in the future?”
After all, every company aspires to make it big and wants to be well positioned when they get there. But what does that mean for the current executives, who’ve shepherded the company from its infancy? What if these executives don’t have the management experience to scale the business to ever greater heights.
Well, Ben Horowitz, writing at his blog, feels very strongly that it’s a mistake to prejudge an individual’s “scalability”, for a bunch of different reasons.
Chief among those reasons are:
Managing at scale is a learned skill rather than a natural ability—Nobody comes out of the womb knowing how to manage a thousand people. Everybody learns at some point.
This is an important thing to consider: after all, life in an emerging growth company sometimes means you’re a jack-of-all-trades, learning something new almost every day. If one of the reasons you succeeded or did well at a startup company is your ability to learn quickly and adapt, then the odds are reasonable that your talents will scale with the business. If they don’t, well that’s a different story, but Ben’s point is not to prejudge an individual in advance of that decision waypoint.
Horowitz goes on:
Hiring scalable execs too early is a horrible mistake—There is no such thing as a great executive. There is only a great executive for a specific company at a specific point in time
Just like with any hire at a startup, one poor fit can cause lots of problems.
But of his many points, the one I place the most stock in is this one:
It’s no way to live your life or run an organization—Deciding (with woefully incomplete data) that someone who works their butt off, does a terrific job, and loyally contributes to your mission won’t be with you three years from now takes you to a dark place. It’s a place of information hiding, dishonesty, and stilted communication. It’s a place where prejudice substitutes for judgment. It’s a place where judgment replaces teaching. It’s a place where teamwork becomes internal warfare. Don’t go there.
Read the rest of Ben’s points, and his blog, in the links below.