Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Exodus

I decided to name this post after the episode of Entourage where Ari leaves his old agency, as it alludes to the dark underbelly of almost any organization: betrayal, mutiny, and treachery. Such scheming can be the undoing (or salvation) of any organization, but its effects are greatly magnified when it comes to start ups due to their small size.

We've all heard stories - VCs replacing the CEO with their own man, founders turning on each other to increase their own equity, and many more. Conventional wisdom frowns on such practices, but my I'd like to question that.

At what point is the backstabbing ok? Granted, it's never the preferred option, but sometimes it must be necessary, right? Otherwise, it would never happen. (Yes, that's debatable, but stick with me for a bit.)

I'd contend that the survival and success of a company always comes first. The organization is above the individuals, and its salvation is of utmost importance. To that end, the founders who oust one (or more) of their own are somewhat justified. Sometimes the circumstances and people involved leave no other path - trying to openly solve via discussion just puts a band-aid on the would, one that will inevitably come off.

But making the decision is hard. Most early stage start ups are comprised of people who are already friends. When your company has 10 people, all of whom you know well, how do you gather the courage to fire the bad apple? And what if that bad apple is your CEO?

It's tough. But I firmly believe that the members of the company have an ironclad duty to the firm as a whole, one that supersedes ties to individuals, and that they must do the right thing for the team, regardless of the consequences and any apprehension. That's the sign of true strength in an organization.

Of course, it's easy for me to sit here and write this. When you face this problem, good luck executing. (Yes, that was a pun.)

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