One of the most critical things a startup founder must do is develop a top-notch executive team. This is a topic that could fill a whole book, but in this post I will provide specific guidelines on how to hire, manage, promote, and fire executives in a startup based on my personal observations and experiences.
For the purposes of this post, definitions: An executive is a leader -- someone who runs a function within the company and has primary responsibility for an organization within the company that will contribute to the company's success or failure. The difference between an executive and a manager is that the executive has a higher degree of latitude to organize, make decisions, and execute within her function than a manager. The manager may ask what the right thing to do is; the executive should know.
The general theory of executives, like managers, is, per Andy Grove: the output of an executive is the output of her organization. Therefore, the primary task of an executive is to maximize the output of her organization. However, in a startup, a successful executive must accomplish three other critical tasks simultaneously:
* Build her organization -- typically when an executive arrives or is promoted into her role at a startup, she isn't there to be a caretaker; rather she must build her organization, often from scratch. This is a sharp difference from many big company executives, who can spend their entire careers running organizations other people built -- often years or decades earlier.
* Be a primary individual contributor -- a startup executive must "roll up her sleeves" and produce output herself. There are no shortage of critical things to be done at a startup, and an executive who cannot personally produce while simultaneously building and running her organization typically will not last long. Again, this is a sharp difference from many big companies, where executives often serve more as administrators and bureaucrats.
* Be a team player -- a startup executive must take personal responsibility for her relationships with her peers and people throughout the startup, in all functions and at all levels. Big companies can often tolerate internal rivalries and warfare; startups cannot.
Being a startup executive is not an easy job. The rewards are substantial -- the ability to contribute directly to the startups's success; the latitude to build and run an organization according to her own theories and principles; and a meaningful equity stake that can lead to personal financial independence if the startup succeeds -- but the responsibilities are demanding and intense.
Read more at Marc Andreessen's blog.