In a recent post I shared the three main responsibilities of founders:
– Build a great team
– Set the vision
– Keep money in the bank
Your capacity to build an amazing team is the single most important factor in growing a successful business. People talk about execution all the time, and, of course, it’s key as well.
But great execution is the result of having a stellar team.
Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the “Hire slow, Fire fast” mantra, because it’s been prevalent in the business world for a long time. Google it and you’ll find a plethora of articles on the topic. Some are deeply in favour of it while others go so far as to call it “bullshit.”
I think it’s important for all of us to look at “Hire Slow, Fire Fast” as two really distinct things:
The problem I’m seeing with a lot founders is, how poorly they understand the role that firing plays in the building of a great team. I don’t mean to say that in a bad way, or come across as harsh or unfair, but if you’ve never thought about firing, you’re likely hurting your startup.
It’s no secret that smart founders are always on the hunt for their next great hire. Each time they meet someone, they consider them as a potential employee and think of the value they could bring to the team and the business.
But early stage startups are on a race against time, operate with limited budget and typically don’t have much more than 18 months runway. The reality in which they operate can often make it challenging to hire people at the exact time they want. By the same token, taking time to find Mr. or Ms. Right is a luxury most startups can’t afford, and unfortunately, this sometimes leads to a bad hire because of the urge to move fast.
Hiring the wrong person, and even worse, keeping the wrong person on the payroll for too long, has huge ramifications.
Unless, that is, you’re ready to fire fast.
The issue is that firing sucks, and the perception of doing it is so negative for most founders that they try to avoid it as much as possible. Worse yet, they postpone the dreaded meeting long after they want to get rid of someone, just because there is so much that needs to get done.
This is bad. This is very, very bad. In the midst of the craziness of your day-to-day activities, keeping someone to “get it done” can seem like the right thing to do, but it always, always leads to more harm than good.
The wrong person in your business is a cancer, one that can’t be overcome. It starts slow, but it eventually grows and has an impact on the entire team, both from a product-perspective and moral one. Ultimately, it impacts your capacity to succeed.
Your startup is fighting to survive every day of its existence, and you don’t have the luxury of wasting your time and energy on trying to fix something that won’t go away.
Your only option is to address the problem immediately. You must take action at first sight. It may seem awful, but firing someone as soon as the thought of firing them crosses your mind is the right thing to do. Not only will it increase your capacity to build an amazing team, but it will keep you on track towards success.
Letting someone go doesn’t mean this individual is bad at what he does, it simply means he isn’t the one for the job that you need done. If he’s the wrong person, it’s bad for them just as much as its bad for you, and that’s why you shouldn’t question your decision to let someone go.
Allow me to emphasize this for a second time: firing sucks. But it’s absolutely part of your responsibilities as a founder, and you need to get it done ASAP because you owe it to yourself, your team and your investors.
Main image by Slate.com.