No Excuses: Get rid of people that don’t execute. 22

After this post, some people are going to think I’m a jerk, and that’s fine. After all, not everyone is going to love you and you’re doing something wrong if you don’t offend a few people. But, for those that know me, know that I am not and that I’d go out of my way to take care of people. I live and breathe by the “take care of your people” mentality. Partially, and somewhat selfishly, because you know people will go to bat for you if you do. It is human nature. But, I’m a very execution focused individual and when people aren’t cutting their own weight, it’s time for them go.

Dealing with people that aren’t cutting their weight is a really tough situation. You naturally want to give people a try and a second (sometimes, third and fourth) chance, but, the question really is, will they ever work out if it’s not a fit right away. In my experience, it won’t work. If someone isn’t working out in the first few weeks or first couple tries, they’ll never work out. It’s time to move on and cut your losses, on both sides of the equation. The last thing you want to do is sit there and spend so much time and effort on people that are not only not cutting their own weight, but also, detracting from your ability to get things done. If I have to spend time micro-managing and hand holding someone through tasks, to-do’s, etc (and it’s not for learning purposes), I am being very inefficient with my time – that is not okay.

There are a variety of factors that go into this and nine times out of ten, it is not a personal thing. Many times it has to do with culture and other times it could just be the way people work. I have some very talented friends that get stuff done, but, it is on their own schedule and you just have to let them be. For some, that might work, for others it might not. But, if it’s not a fit for what your doing and you find that out quickly, for both your sakes, it’s time to move on. It will seriously help you both at the end of the day, rather than delaying the inevitable.

For those that just don’t cut their weight, bottom line, I could care less about any excuses that you may have. You might be an awesome person and you might be super fun, but again, this is business. I was actually almost hesitant about publishing this post because of what people might think. But, thanks to Ben Horowitz, I realized that it’s true – nobody cares – about your excuses, about your issues, or any of the multitude of reasons why you didn’t execute. When it comes down to it, a lack of execution anywhere in the organization is going to hurt everyones chances at making revenue, getting to profitability, and a possible exit/IPO.

Everyone in an organization should hold each other accountable for execution, including and especially it’s executives. Politics, talking about people behind their backs, and excuses don’t make people money. They aren’t the foundation of successful companies. And, they are definitely not the characteristics of companies that provide shareholder value or lead to exits/IPOs. Need more proof of this, look at Yahoo!’s stock price over the last few years. (Actually you don’t even need to look to know it hasn’t done anything.)

Execution is such an important part of startups and being an entrepreneur, more important than ideas in my opinion. (I’ll try to explain this in a later post). If there are things that are distracting from execution, including and especially people, cut it short before you hurt your businesses ability to become successful. Otherwise, you are failing your team, your investors, your shareholders – and most importantly, yourself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: How have you delt with people who don’t execute? Do you believe in hire fast, fire fast? How do you ensure execution in your company?

22 thoughts on “No Excuses: Get rid of people that don’t execute.

  1. Reply Ima employee Oct 8, 2011 12:26 pm

    Did you have to fire someone from your venture?

  2. Reply Kara Oct 8, 2011 12:31 pm

    Did you mean to say “weight” instead of “wait” the first few times in this article?

  3. Reply Derrick Wheeler Oct 8, 2011 1:03 pm

    I’m all for a good firing, especially when a person is bringing toxicity into the org, but trying a role change first can work. I’ve seen people go from a 0 to a hero when moved to the right role.

    • Reply tonyadam Oct 8, 2011 2:03 pm

      Agreed Derrick, that’s a good point that is true for big companies because there is room to move laterally and might not move at such a feverish pace. The difference is that at startups there isn’t much room to move…developers are going to need to develop, marketers are going to need to market…not a lot of job shifting on smaller, more nimble teams…you’ve got to get things done.

  4. Reply John Cole Oct 8, 2011 1:15 pm

    Hey Tony,

    Nice post. I agree with you. Execution is key, more so than someone just having good ideas ;-)


  5. Reply Luigi Oct 9, 2011 2:22 am

    I have rarely read a pointless, trivial post like this one.
    Why don’t you write one about the necessity of selling your product and services at a price higher than your cost?

    • Reply tonyadam Oct 9, 2011 8:02 am

      Luigi, I disagree completely and by the looks of the comments above, others feel the same way. But, you’re entitled to your opinion…thanks for leaving a comment either way. :)

  6. Reply Jan Safka Oct 10, 2011 11:59 am

    Usually when I decided to wait and give the non-executing more time, it was extremely expensive. I usually struggled after trial period with personnel agency passed away and that was extremely expensive un-decision. After so much experience, I am much faster in splitting now.

    Must say I have great team therefore now!

    I wish everyone have only the best decision, while it’s not easy to quit relationships.

    • Reply tonyadam Oct 10, 2011 9:04 pm

      I’ve been down the exact same road Jan, and agree with you 100%…thanks for sharing your story!

  7. Reply james mcfly Oct 10, 2011 12:05 pm

    You know, this can easily go both way and say that the problem lies in management.

    In that case, what do you do? Fire yourself?

    • Reply tonyadam Oct 10, 2011 9:05 pm

      If there is an issue with management, than like I mention in the post, it’s up to the entire team to hold everyone accountable, including and especially management.

  8. Reply dave Oct 10, 2011 12:37 pm

    i agree – If they cant get it done find someone that can. I see to many companies being run by the couple who can get something done and the rest just dead space filling positions that dont really contribute.

  9. Reply Eric Enge Oct 10, 2011 2:16 pm

    The people on your team are a huge factor in the success or failure in a startup. So is time and efficiency. So, I agree. If it isn’t working, it isn’t working. Successful people in startups smell where the holes are and rarely need to be redirected. They sense it move there on their own. Not usually something you can teach. You have it, or you don’t.

  10. Reply Adi Oct 11, 2011 3:00 am

    You hit the nail on head straight ! It’s the execution that matters not the reasons for not doing so. Entrepreneurs who themselves are good at it, get similar people on board are going to make it through !

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  12. Reply Susan Connor Dec 21, 2011 4:52 pm

    Agree with you totally. When you enter a work area that has no shared structure, but wide gaps and crevices in the management, there is a time to leave. That said write a ‘why I left’ that is not emotive but constructive – give to the management. Stick to it.

    Move on. The experience gained has added to your skills.

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