Lemon #44. Preparing to fire an executive (1st part)

Lemon #44. Preparing to
an executive (1st part)

While reading ‘The hard thing about hard things’ from Ben Horowitz, we learned about how to fire an executive: 

When you recruit an executive, you paint a beautiful picture of her future in your company. You describe in great depth and in vibrant color how awesome it will be for her to accept your offer and how much better it will be than joining that other company. Then one day you realize you must fire her.

It can relatively easy since executives have experience being on the other side of the conversation and tend to be quite professional. 

The key to correctly firing an executive is preparation. Here’s a four-step process: 

  • Step 1: Root cause analysis

The first step to properly firing an executive is figuring out why you hired the wrong person for your company. You may have blown it for a variety of reasons: 

– You did a poor job defining the position in the first place. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll be unlikely to get it. Far too often, CEOs hire executives based on an abstract notion of what they think and feel feel the executive should be like. 

– You hired for lack of weakness rather than strengths. As a result, you hire an executive with no sharp weaknesses, but who is mediocre where you need her to be great. If you don’t have a world-class strengths where you need them, you won’t be a world-class company. 

– You hired for scale too soon. The most consistently wrong advice that venture capitalists and executive recruiters give CEOs is to hire someone «bigger» than required. It’s great to hire people who know how to grow an organization very fast if you’re ready to grow your organization very fast. However, if you don’t, then you need someone who can do the job for the next eighteen months. 

– You hired for the generic position. There’s no such thing as a great CEO, a great head of marketing or a great head of sales. There’s only a great head of sales for your company for the next twelve to twenty-four months. 

– You failed to integrate the executive. Bringing a new person into your company in an important role is difficult. Other employees will be quick to judge. Be sure to review and improve your integration plan after you fire an executive. 

– The executive had the wrong kind of ambition

Also, don’t hire this person if you’re not ready to give them lots of budget to grow their organization; expect them to do what they do. The successful fast-growth executive is so important to building successful startups that recruiters and VCs often advise CEOs to bring them in before the company is ready. 

Ben Horowitz @ The hard thing about hard things.

Jorge Moreno

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