I've been talking to a friend who leads a now midlife growing venture that was a startup. She has the market down cold; knows the competition down to the product line; who is selling which parts of what solution to whom. The software development process is locked and loaded; financials are strong; a great team is in place.
The attitude is both disciplined and can-do. I know this sounds a bit over the top, but I've seen it. It's there.
So what's the current biggest risk on the path to success?
Well it seems to be that a founder has been elevated in his own mind to a position requiring a lot less work. Coming in late, leaving early, and starting to drop in and give advice to all kinds of teams in the now-growing enterprise. When the business was just starting he was eager and enthusiastic. Now, he acts as if he's arrived, and can coast. He's so far resisted quiet conversations about the need to change.
As they say, "can't live with him; can't shoot him." This is going to be a real fixer-upper. Bill, the founder, is valuable. Has good marketplace credibility. Knows a lot of people. And is a good person, really. I think he has the company's best interests at heart, and he is worth saving.
But it is going to take a disciplined process that has both consequences and allows Bill to change with his self respect intact. Our CEO is going to have her hands full for a while. And, of course, ultimately if Bill is intransigent, no one is worth the large time distractions that come with intransigence.
But, this is a world of scarce resources when it comes to high level knowledge workers. People with experience to really do what you want done are very precious.
And, in the end, these are the issues that often get in the way in growth companies.
- Do we move quickly to acknowledge and give credit to the people and teams that make the difference?
- Do we offer course correction guidance privately and with an eye to personal growth?
- Do we have an infection of group think, where consensus is the most important team value?
- Do we get the right people on the bus, or do we hire expeditiously, instead of deliberately?
- Do we hesitate to move the wrong people off the bus for non-core reasons?
Do angels use this kind of stuff for screening? (Punch line -fill in the blank for your favorite version): IS THE _______ __________? or DOES A ______ ______ IN ____ ________?