Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 1 at a big company vs. Day 1 as a founder at a small company

One of my former board members, Stephen Semprevivo, and I were discussing the differences between your first day on the job at a bigger company vs. a founder:

Founder - day 1:  
- You have responsibility for absolutely everything.  This ranges from product, sales, facilities, operations, recruiting, accounting, compliance, legal, finance, IT, marketing, etc...  
- You have (almost) unlimited decision making authority, both formal, informal
- You have unlimited flexibility on title, office location, etc.
- As you go forward,  you give up these responsibilities/authorities and move to focus on highest priorities. e.g., you outsource HR, someone else takes over IT, you bring on a marketing lead, etc.

Bigger company- day 1:
- You have effectively no responsibility. Even if you're hired for something with formal responsibility specifically, you're certainly still being evaluated before you're trusted to fully take it on
- You have no decision making authority.  Even if you have something formal, undoubtedly, there's still time before you're trusted
- You have no flexibility on title, office location.  It's already set
- As you go forward, you gain these responsibilities/authorities as you increase in importance and trust within the organization.  e.g., you now need to sign off on all hires, or approve certain budget items or approve any product changes of a certain sort

While there are obviously some generalizations here, and of course many more differences (I've tried to focus on responsibility/authority matrix) the principle is pretty sound.  I've seen people struggle both ways, going big->founder or founder->big.  I even now explicitly have  conversation with people who have never been at a very small company about how it's different and how some of what makes someone successful at big, doesn't translate to small.

Thanks again Stephen for the great view.

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