Harsh truth: When your startup is scaling your leaders are likely to be the right people for just 18 months. You’ve got some hard choices to make!

Your co-founder built the technology platform, your first VP of Sales hired your 10 best sales people. But, chances are, they’re going to “Go Horizontal.”

Deep Work Blog - 4 (1)

Early employees were amazing all-rounders – but now you need deep specialists.

“Experienced hires” were the right people to build a $50M organization. But scaling to $200M brings a radically different set of challenges.

Ben Horowitz points out that you can really only hire an executive that can be effective for the next 18 months. I wish it weren’t true, but I’ve seen it play out repeatedly.

What’s a startup CEO to do? 2 critical behaviors:

1 – Give Lots Of Feedback

Have the “Here’s where you stand with me…” conversation once a month. Don’t just tell them how they are doing today, tell them what you will need from them in 6-12 months and your best guess at where they will struggle.

Challenge them to get mentors and to learn ahead.

2 – Make The Hard Call

The CEO blind-spot (understandably) is loyalty. So here’s the tough question: “Who will you be most loyal to? Loyalty to the leader that helped you get here, or loyalty to the future success of the company (it’s people/ investors)?

Discuss “Going Horizontal” with your leaders. Assess each leader candidly every 6 months and share your assessment with them.

And make the hard call. Every CEO I work with regrets being slow to replace an executive that has “gone horizontal.” The good CEOs only make this mistake once.

Thanks for reading,

Tim