Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #43

Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of the startup therapy podcast. I'm Ryan Rutan joined as always by my partner and Ceo of startups dot com. Wil schroder, were you over there? I

Wil Schroter: don't know yet. Honestly,

Ryan Rutan: this is our first video video podcast. So we'll have a few things to figure out. You're either over here or over there. But

Wil Schroter: I don't know. I'm one of those locations. I'm, I'm staring just so so people know I'm staring at a monitor so I can see you and then audience. Hello there. I'm Wil Schroder. I'm not Ryan routine. I love this. Uh, this is great. I can finally see you. Normally, I'm staring off into the abyss. No idea what you actually look like. And here we are

Ryan Rutan: together actually laying in a hammock doing this. So this is far less comfortable. All right. Well, so we got a cool topic today. Um, and it's one that I think a lot of us have struggled with and certainly we get lots of questions about this from, from listeners and fellow founders alike. And that is, do we need to be good managers as founders? Like what's our responsibility as, as managers?

Wil Schroter: Yeah, well, it's interesting to me because the day you incorporate your company, you're all of a sudden manager, you can hop online right now and within 60 seconds or less become the ceo of a company. And by way of that, you are now the chief executive officer of your company, which if you really think about it, it's silly because all of a sudden just by virtue of founding something, you're at the top of the stack, you're now a manager, you're probably manager of just yourself, but you're a manager all the same. And and I think about that and I think boy, are we unqualified for that? It's like becoming the president. Like nobody's qualified for this job and yet, you know, we all get it in some capacity. So why don't I, why don't I start with the opposite from the, you know, can can founders be good managers and kind of say a little bit different? How the hell would a founder become a good manager given where we start? Um, unless we were already a good manager going into this.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Which certainly a scenario that happens right? People, you know, spend years in corporate America or corporate somewhere and then end up bailing out to start their own thing once they're so frustrated, they can't survive there anymore. Those folks probably have a different managerial background but that wasn't my story. It's not your story.

Wil Schroter: But what I think about what I think is interesting in this case though, is it's thrust upon us, it's thrust upon everybody. Like whether we like it or not, we're going to become a manager in this capacity. And where that gets interesting is there's lots of jobs where you don't necessarily have to become a manager. I see this in a tortured way. As far as Path Ryan when I see things like a great developer that wants to grow as a great developer, she loves to code, but because she's so good at coding, she has to become a manager. To me that's always, you know, a huge miss because she was a great developer. You shouldn't want to become a coder. I'm sorry to become a manager.

Ryan Rutan: It's the peter principle, right? You get promoted to your highest level of incompetency, right? You keep getting promoted until you can no longer do the job and then you stay where you're not good at your job.

Wil Schroter: Fantastic. Yeah. And so what I think about is I think founders are often the same way founders start not because they wanted to be the chief executive officer or C level position or a manager for that matter. Right, founders started because they cared about some problem that they wanted to fix and maybe that made them a product manager, maybe it made him a developer, made it made him a marketer, etcetera. But it didn't necessarily either qualify them or intend for them to ever become a manager.

Ryan Rutan: You know what I see this most well, is when we when we run into folks who have started something like a small agency or they're doing freelance and then they end up growing this little agency to the point where now they're managing people. I think there's a big difference when you set out to build a company versus set up to solve a problem. And if you're just trying to solve a problem, you just, here's some work I like to do, but I'd rather do it for myself. I think that's one thing when you begin, you know, you're, you're setting out to build a scalable company, you probably have some expectation that you're gonna become a manager. But in the case of the freelancer, the small agency, you just accidentally become one. Um and and to your point quite often against your, your own desires, which is a tough thing to deal with.

Wil Schroter: Well, I mean, Ryan, you dealt with it. Uh you know, I mentioned this in another episode, but I dealt with that first hand. I mean, I specifically started an agency that grew to 700 people and at some point walked into work and I said, I hate my job. I mean to be fair, I didn't, I didn't hate leading but I hated being a manager. And I think people don't quite understand the difference. Leadership says, here's the direction we want to go. I'm going to try to point all cannons in that direction. Managing has more to do with all the resources and all the details behind that, right. You know, one is kind of vision, one is execution and I didn't, I didn't hate execution, but the day to day drudgery of managing. Uh I couldn't stand. I mean it wasn't, it wasn't what I signed up for.

Ryan Rutan: We've talked about this before. But when you start having meetings about meetings.

Wil Schroter: Yes. Yeah. And you know, you're a manager. Right? All right. And so for me, I think the biggest part that really frustrated me was I didn't want to have to be a good manager in order to lead the organization. And I don't want that to sound selfish, I guess in some way, but I really cared about what we were building. I didn't want to have to worry about where our holiday party was in order to build my company. Right? And it's thrust upon you. I mean, whether you like it or not, it's your job. Now. The question is, who's

Ryan Rutan: going to clean the office? Where is the office party gonna be? Which cable company do we go with? Like there's so many little administrative things you have to deal with that are just not the things you think about. When you're like, I'm gonna become a founder, it's gonna be amazing. And then I'm gonna spend all of my day with administrative tasks, not the intention.

Wil Schroter: Right? Right. And there's this implication that you have to be good at that, right? You have to care about it obviously. But you also have to be good at it. And here's what I think we'll obviously dig into this and talk about how people can address it in different ways. But I've come to the conclusion that there are certain people that are leaders and they should be set as leaders in whatever capacity makes the most amount of sense for them. There's other people that are managers and they should stick with managing. They don't necessarily have to lead in the same way. You don't have to set strategy vision, what have you, they have to make sure she gets done and every now and again you get somebody that can do both. And if you happen to be the person that's both great. I don't I don't like pigeonholing founders into a position where they feel like they have to be the best at both. Some people just aren't. And I think when you torture it, it breaks.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, for sure. And we, we talked about this on a recent podcast. Um but what happens when I no longer like my startup and one of the things that we both cited as a major reason for that is this, you know, baptism into management that that they're not necessarily prepared for and and once they're involved and it sort of becomes a necessity they don't enjoy and it starts to create some some distance and and lack of enjoyment within the startup. It's a it's a big issue

Wil Schroter: I think back in the day, the only way you grew was to go through all the levels of management like that was the way you go to big company work at IBM 50 years, get the Golden watch kind of thing. And so your ability to be a good manager to be able to rise through the ranks and and rally other troops was inherent in kind of rising through the ranks, but then startup land came around the world that we live in now and it just worked backward again. You started as the manager and then you work backward to see if you were actually qualified for the job where that breaks and where I'd love to kind of have us change the conversation when it comes to these things is I'd like it to be, here's what you're good at now, is there some things that, that I think we need to develop over time and that's fine, but we start with what are your strengths? Your strengths are in product, your strengths are in marketing, your strengths are in whatever your strengths are, let's focus you there and then figure out whether it makes sense for you to ever be a manager. To me, that's that's that's the ideal kind of progression that said, that's typically not how it

Ryan Rutan: goes, it often ends up there, right? But I think that especially first time founders will go through, you know, just crashing through the hurdles without ever clearing them and just struggling with the management aspect of it. But uh and there's a lot that drives then, right, when you're, when you're first starting out, you may not have the resources required to say, oh well I'll just hand it off to somebody else, I'll let somebody else handle the management, you may not be able to afford it. You may not know how to hire for it because that too is a skill, right? You know, finding somebody who is also a good manager and recognizing that, um, is, uh, was trial and error for me. Um, the first couple of times I did it right. I knew sort of what I wanted to happen from an execution standpoint. What took me time was to find a person who could take my vision and translate that into the execution plan. Right? And, and that can be one of the biggest difficulties is finding that because there's, there's not just a skill set issue there. There's a, there's a personality challenge there, right? I've worked with managers who were absolutely skilled managers who for whatever reason, personality wise or just sort of style wise didn't mesh well with me and couldn't take, you know, my, my high level thinking and turn that into execution of plans and run with it. So it's uh, it's a tough game.

Wil Schroter: Well, here's how I look at it. Imagine on a team you've got the teammates, you've got the captain, you've got the coach and you've got the owner, They all play their role, but they play in a different way. I could be a great teammate in a shitty team captain, right? I could just be a great teammate. I know how to pass the ball, I know how to, you know, make sure that everyone's where they need to be. Um and I'm doing my job and frankly that's that's where most founders start and frankly where they should end the next is I'm the team captain. In that case, I'm trying to make sure everyone on the field is doing what they're supposed to do. I'm rallying the team, I'm the leading team member. And by the way, I also think that's how startups start. They start with the Ceo is the team captain, but they're very much part of the team. It changes though when you're the team coach because now all of a sudden you have to instruct people that aren't you and aren't your teammates per se to get the work done that needs to get done and hope that they get it done to the best of your instruction, not the best of your contribution. You can't score goals for them, you go a level above that and you're the GM or the owner of the team. Now you have to hope that you hire coaches who make the team members do what they're supposed to do and you're even more removed from him. I don't think a lot of people are well suited, well experienced or well intended enough to make that entire progression to start as a team member and make it all the way up to the owner, I think those are different skill sets,

Ryan Rutan: it is a different skill set and and we've seen this play out a couple different scenarios where you get people who kind of move through the ranks of their own company and, and end up kind of transcending into or being pushed into an ownership position where they're no longer, you know, even instructing the people who are doing the work there a level above that. We've also certainly seen it through acquisition and, and that's an entirely different thing, right? Where, you know, you have somebody who doesn't even have the same level of intimate knowledge of the organization who comes into this ownership position, right? And, you know, we've, we've been through plenty of acquisitions at this point. So we know we know this pain firsthand. Um, there's, there's a lot you have to get caught up on, um, and you're often trying to direct from the balcony, what's happening on the dance floor or even from further away, right? You may be sitting over the box office calling into like, what the hell is happening down there? Um, yeah, and trying to make it work, right? And that's, that's, that's a whole different skill set.

Wil Schroter: Well, again, I think we all start as team members Ryan, right? So it's, it's me and you, uh, you know, in the office working together and we hire maybe to other people and like we're managers, not really right. And at that point, the organization is super flat, We're all teammates were all taking out the trash, so to speak, we're all getting stuff at the same time and what's interesting about that is while there is a little bit of management to it. Yes, maybe you're changing some people's salaries annually or dealing with some, some personal problems. That's not really where you learn like management at a gross level. And so I think what happens is in the formative years among startups, we get into a place where we think we're good managers and what we really are good teammates and, and for a while that's fine. That's, that's, that's all that matters. You know, at any company I've worked at startups dot com Ryan when it was just five or 6 of us in a room. Um, I just needed to be a good teammate. You know, I basically just need to not be an a hole right? Trying to get stuff done like everybody else

Ryan Rutan: hire the right people and just everybody their work done. Yeah. At that size, management is far less of an issue. It's really just observation and maybe light redirection to follow division and outside that very little management.

Wil Schroter: I think, I think you start to see the transformation in a couple of kind of different levels. I think one place you start to see it is when again you have to hire other people that manage other people. I think you really start to understand management when work needs to get done that you don't control, right? Even a manager can say, well, you know, I've got a team of people and work gets done that I don't control and that's true, that is true to an extent, but you don't feel it at a founder ceo level until or any sea level, exact position until you take even a step further back and you're further removed from the work, someone else has to relay your orders in order to get it done. That's when you start to see how good of a manager you are when you can be removed from the work and still be efficient

Ryan Rutan: and I agree with that. I think two degrees of separation plus is where real management science kicks in, right, and you either have that management skill or you don't, you may learn it, but I think that two degrees of separation or more from the actual work being done is really where that starts to become very apparent. That is a different skill set and a different different activity altogether.

Wil Schroter: And some people are well suited for that. The thing is, they're typically not necessarily founders and I'm not, I'm not, I'm not trying to make an argument here for a second that founders aren't suited for management. I, you know, I don't I don't think either of us feel that way in any capacity, but I do feel like this is kind of thrown upon us and we're expected to have this level of competence that there's no way we could possibly have because in a lot of cases we've just simply never done it before or we've never done it with the stakes were talking about it. And let me, let me paint this picture Ryan. So in this case steaks for stakes at this level, Ryan, you and I are running a startup. And let's say there's 10 people, I'm not knocking the stakes, but we're not running facebook, right? If we screw something up, we could probably all get in a room by the end of that day and actually fix it. If Mark Zuckerberg screws something, it doesn't work that way. He'll be dealing with it for years, Right? Um, and, and again, I'm just pointing out that the size of the organization does matter. It's easy to look like a good manager with a small team until you start to, until this thing starts to get bigger and bigger. And you start to realize there's a point where you can't command an army quite that big.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. I mean, to your point when it's still a really small organization, you're doing very, very little management, I'd say at that point, it's, it's almost more of a supervisory role, right? You're, you're sort of there, you're seeing what's happening, you're observing, you're taking note you're making sure he's on task, but you're not managing a work process, you're not necessarily showing somebody how to do anything that you're hiring people that should know what they're doing. Um, and then you have to kind of lean back and do your own things that something at the, at the early stages, your founders working just as much as anybody else. It's not like you're just sitting back with, with tented fingers. Um, and, and you know, expecting things to show up on your desk, fully, fully complete, you've got a desk full of work too, maybe more so than anybody else

Wil Schroter: agreed, agreed. And look, I don't think this is particularly the founders and I think you can appreciate this too. The, the thing that happens most often with small companies, you know, as small startups as they're growing is this is one of the most common. Um, johnny came on the team and he was the only dev that we had and so we called him CTO and I can't fail to mention this in any other capacity. And another company, he would never have the credentials to be a C T O. But because he was, he was the one eyed band in the land of the Blind for our

Ryan Rutan: company. You

Wil Schroter: know, he could take the titles no different than the founder got the ceo title. So, you know, again, I'm pointing out the titles came pretty loosely,

Ryan Rutan: which is fine at the

Wil Schroter: time, no harm done at the time, but here's what happens. Um, the business grows a bit and we start to hire more and more developers. The team is growing, johnny had never managed anybody in his life. He just happened to be the only developer that was there a few years ago by it's clear among the development team that johnny is definitely not a manager in any capacity. He just happened to be there the longest and got grandfather at a title because he was their first. None of that translated to him actually being qualified for this job. Here's where it gets gnarly and you and you can find replace johnny, the developer or CT or whatever with, you know, anybody else. Um, you have this problem again, is this the ceo as well where the organization outgrows them right? Where they were fine in a quote managerial capacity for that moment. But then the organization grew and they needed to be a big boy manager and they weren't and you know what, not their fault and I just want to make this clear not their fault. They were a good soldier. Hopefully they did everything that they were supposed to do, but but what, what blew up And again, this is the same case for the founder. Anybody else is the organization at some point had demands that they couldn't meet, but they didn't want to say as much

Ryan Rutan: and it's a really tough position for everybody, right? At that point, then there's only sort of two choices, right, johnny has to leave or johnny has to step down and they can take a lower roll. It's brutal. It's the right move, right, because there's a reason that, that, that that has to happen, right? It's been proven objectively that johnny is not qualified to lead that part of the organization to manage those other people. And yet it's, it's something that most people can't stomach. I don't know that I've ever seen it happen where somebody needed to step back and didn't, they'd rather try to jump to another company. They may take that lower roll somewhere else and somehow that more acceptable socially, Right? And, and of course, because you don't have to step back amongst your peers, you get to go somewhere else with strangers and be johnny the analyst level three versus having to step down in front of all the people you work for the last 56 years.

Wil Schroter: Part of the difference though is johnny has somewhere to go. If you're the founder slash Ceo, the only place that they can put you is the chairman role. You know, uh, we've been promoted to chairman and I've been promoted to chairman before. You know what that means. You've been basically fired and put to pasture.

Ryan Rutan: It's, it's exactly being

Wil Schroter: put out to pasture, you can no longer run the race,

Ryan Rutan: Here's some nice grass, enjoy

Wil Schroter: exactly if you ever hear of somebody saying that their next move is head of strategy or chairman, it's a, it's a really kind way of saying they were shown the door in some capacity with it with a very graceful exit. Now, I'm not saying there hasn't ever been a positive, useful version of that, but it's rare regardless. The CEO often doesn't have somewhere to go. So here's why that's a problem. I'm the CEO and I'm a manager. If I admit that I'm not a good manager, where am I gonna go? Right, I can't just be part of a team somewhere. Every now and again, I'll become the CMO or I'll become the, the C. T. O. If I were technical or, you know, like there's another part of the business that I can run. Yes, but rarely, rarely it because if I admit that I'm not qualified, I'm fired. Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: yeah, yeah. I don't have to go through this not too long ago. And he, um, he played a little bit differently. It was interesting because he actually wanted to shift from Ceo to chief product officer. He was a developer, um, eventually started his own company and grew that to decent decent size, but a little over five million m RR uh, RR rather and from that point he realized that he wasn't the one that was going to lead the organization, um, from an executive management standpoint to to glory. Um, but he felt like they were falling short on the product side and he really desperately wanted to go be the chief product officer and went to his investors and said, hey guys, let's let's hire a Ceo, let's go find somebody. Um, there was anybody internally that could promote. So they did a little search and they've got somebody that's been filling that role for about a year and a half now and things are going well. But that's the one case that I can cite where somebody kind of electively was like, hey, I don't want to do this anymore. I want a different job. Um, and you know, look at as a step back. I mean for him, he's the kind of guy that just, he loves, loves, loves building product. And so for him, the tradeoff entitled was meaningless the trade in terms of how we used to spend his day was very, very impactful, super happy guy. I don't know

Wil Schroter: now listen, there's a number of ways to get there and you know, I think we're going to talk about this in different capacities as far as what we do when that time arises. You know, like, like how do we basically keep our jobs and you know, make up for the fact that, that we're not great manager at the same time and, and we'll get this to this later for the time being though, I want to point out that eventually it catches up with us, eventually, no matter how much we fake it till we make it, it is going to catch up with us. And the problem is it's going to catch up with us in a shitty way. Yeah, right. Everyone else will have known that were a crappy manager and like, it's not like

Ryan Rutan: we're in a meeting anybody but the manager.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, exactly. It's not like we're in a meeting and all of a sudden you guys have a true confession. I'm a terrible manager and there's a gasp all over the room, right? Like, oh my God, what? You're what? You're a terrible manager. I didn't know. Uh, it doesn't work like that, right? I mean, the truth is uh long before we come to this realization, everyone else becomes painfully aware of what a crappy manager we are.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I would change that turn of phrase used just slightly. It's not fake it until you make it because most, most founders don't truly like settle into like a great managerial role and skill, it's fake it till you break it.

Wil Schroter: Right? Then that's the point. Then

Ryan Rutan: it's like, now we gotta do something about this. Everything's going to ship really quick. What are we gonna do? And, and that's the point at which you have to transition out. You have to do something else. So let's talk about that. What do we

Wil Schroter: do? Well, look, and usually it coincides with a key moment in the business, right? Um, one of the ones that I always find is if you've got another person on the team that needs to go, alright. Key executives, something like that and they need to go and you've never really fired anybody. You've, you've talked to somebody about things not working out and they left, right. You've never had to do the hard core, hard conversation where someone could even leave the room crying, look at those that um and have to man up and have that conversation. Right. Um that's when you can tell whether somebody is a good manager, not the only time. That's just one example or major crisis ship hits the fan, right? And you, at that point, you're either leading and managing all those resources, getting everybody back on board, getting everybody back to work um or you're

Ryan Rutan: not Yeah, crisis time is one of those crazy, crazy crucibles. Where and you really do need both leadership and managerial ability at that point, whether it's in one person or not matters a lot less. But, you know, if you're still in that situation where you're, you're sort of the founder manager kind of doing it all the the crisis can, you know, we've seen, we've seen this repeatedly where crisis is our very mismanaged and again, it takes it takes both, right? You have to have the vision to be able to see how to navigate the crisis and then you have to have the managerial skill to execute the strategy behind that and boy, lots of case study around that. Not going well, unfortunately,

Wil Schroter: well, two ways to look at it. You know, you can interview a manager and you can say uh walk me through the biggest crisis that you've ever managed and the manager can say, I'm such a good manager, we just don't have crises, so I don't have to deal with it. I'm like, well, you know, lucky you. You've never worked for me before, pal. Never worked at the start apparently. Um but but to be fair again, I'm not saying crisis is the only way you can, you know, prove that you're a manager, but it sort of comes up. Um you know, in the Late 90s, early 2000s, when the market turned, We had to let go of about 40 people. It was just kind of proactive cost cutting to make sure that, you know, things were going to go wrong up until that

Ryan Rutan: point.

Wil Schroter: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Up until that point, our managers were all stellar. They were all on top of their game. The day of the firings. I'll never forget this. The day of their firings, every single one of their doors were closed. Every single one of them were basically hiding under their desks while me and one other person, we're going around doing all the layoffs, I guess. Um And I remember thinking about that, remember where were you guys um, when things were going? Well? Well, you had open door policy, you're running around telling everybody how you're part of the team, etcetera. But the moment things came off the rails for a minute, you were gone, write to me that is not the test of a good manager, right? Or a good leader for that matter again, I gotta be careful about how we, um, combine these concepts. But in my mind a great leader, a great manager. It can show you can have the battle wounds of adversity and say, you know, I've, I've taken something from nothing where I've taken something that should have been huge, right? Uh, this will be dated someday, but take where we, what we work went through this year,

Ryan Rutan: right?

Wil Schroter: The person that managed them out of that is a hell of a manager. And I'm not saying again, I'm not saying it's the only criteria, but if you were to look at adam, the guy who got them into that and how everything was on the upswing great leader, not necessarily great manager.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that, yeah, crisis time really is the Super Bowl for managers, right? This is where you have your chance to shine. Um, and I think it is probably one of the easiest illustrations of, of good management because, and I think this is one of the reasons that doesn't appeal to a lot of founders. A lot of the rest of management is loveless. It's drudgery, right? It's, it's repetition. It's doing the same thing over and over again, helping other people do the same things over and over again. Um, and, and so it's, and as you said, when things are going well right? And and things are often going well when we're hiring people, right? So we're hiring managers in good times and it can be really hard to evaluate their performance or to know how they're gonna handle a crisis until one comes along again. You can ask them about how they, how they've done. You usually get a pretty uh pretty biased version of that story. And in most cases, you know, really honest folks do exist. Um But yeah, it's it's both incredibly important and incredibly hard to be able to assess that at the time of hiring. I think

Wil Schroter: When we bought zero actual in 2015, you know, I came to the team yourself included and I said, hey guys, you know, we're starting on this path. I hadn't slept in a while. And uh and I said, listen, we've got 400 people, 400 employees to deal with um about 2000 customers to deal with. And we've got about seven days to fix everything. And you know, one day we'll tell the true behind the scenes story that today's not the day. What I will say though is it became very apparent very quickly who the managers in our organization were, it was easy to say, hey, I was the manager of X, Y. Z. When um when things were going well, but in a moment like that and frankly like that that was actually, I mean a really good outcome. Um But because of the managers, right? And I think at that point uh folks start to understand the difference between leadership and management and I think that some people like I said before, I have a natural tendency to it, people are just good managers. You and Elliot are fantastic managers, right? I'm actually I'm not being humble, just not that good a manager, it's not what I'm best at. Um but but also leave that to you, which is why most of the reports to you guys um What it's also you guys have kind of been through the battles with me, right? I mean we've we've tested it, right? Yeah, yeah, more than a few. Um and I think that's how you know, we know who kind of fits, we also know there's a lot of folks that went through those battles with us and didn't make it out the other side, you know, it does happen. Um Should I

Ryan Rutan: pour some of this out for them

Wil Schroter: for your homies? Right? Yeah, yeah. Ah But look um I think what we found and I actually kind of suggesting this here as I'm saying it good founders find great managers, you know, in in my mind that's that's so critical um ah I feel like I've got good leadership and vision Ryan, I don't feel like managing people day to day is is my strong suit, right? So I specifically look for people who can kind of fill in that gap, What I try not to do is torture the gap to say, yeah, I'm not great. I'm not great at it, but everyone has to deal with it no matter what, Right? Exactly. Um, I don't think it's fair to anyone in the organization. And let's face it, it becomes torturous for me

Ryan Rutan: for sure. For sure. And, and we, we we talked about this in the last episode, which is, you know, around this, this notion of I no longer like being here and we decided this again as, as one of the major reasons. Um, it's important to recognize that. And I think we've both seen, we've seen founders who are unaware that they're, that they're mismanaging, you know, they've been doing a great job of leading the vision might be solid. Um, they maybe even hired some of the right people, but they're mismanaging them and they don't know it. And and that can be that can be a huge challenge. The other one is they know they're not good managers. Um, but I don't know what to do about it, but they don't know how to extract themselves from that situation. Um, put themselves into a true leadership role and allow somebody else to handle that because they either feel like it's a failure or it's it's an unacceptable cost or oh, that person is going to replace me because you know, then people are reporting to them and so that I'm no longer important. The organization? Um, none of which is true, right? But I think that tends to be the sentiment of founders in that position.

Wil Schroter: If you've never been through it before, you don't know that. That's not true, Right? So we talked a little about, okay, maybe I'm not a great manager or you know, I'm not sure I'm a great manager. I'm a founder. I gotta lead this organization. What do I do? Right? You know what, some of the prescription for for getting through some of this and coming out better on the other side. So let's, let's, let's walk through a few things that I think that have, that we've seen work really well for us or other founders. one thing that I can't emphasize enough Find at least 1, 2 or three people that you can shoulder the work with. Yeah, you can say, hey, I'm not a great manager necessarily, but I'd like to keep my job as the ceo um, here are my essential duties. What can I do with each of the folks that essentially report to me to offload as much of this, of the, when I say the work, I don't, I'm not trying to defer work. I mean the leadership, the management that the day to day stuff so that it falls less on me. So I have less to screw up.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. We talked about this like there, there, there needs to be a better conversation around this in founder world. Um, and it's something along the lines of like planned atrophy, right? As the organization grows, your, your role has to evolve with that, right? And it should evolve more towards a leadership perspective and less towards a, you know, daily in, in the grind and, and and managing other people. That should be what happens right in order to do that exactly as you're saying, you have to surround yourself with people who can take those things on and do as well as you were doing or, or better in some cases, right? Again, to the, to the managerial piece of it, you may find people who are better managers than you are and that's why that has to happen. And in some cases that's the necessity, in other cases, it's just simply a function of time. You don't have enough time to do everything as the organization grows those tasks in the amount of time they take up grow, you have to start to shed some of that. And I think this is just something that too many founders are holding on with both hands to a bunch of stuff they don't need to be doing anymore, right? And part of it's not a fear of putting it up to somebody else or, or you know, inexperience and hiring managers or whatever, but like that's got to change. It's not a healthy behavior and it's something that we should work to overcome.

Wil Schroter: Here's what, here's what I think is equally interesting. And one of the things I didn't know early in my career, I'm much more aware of now in saying to the rest of the team, hey, I need you to take on more of my stuff if anybody on the team is like, yeah, sorry, you know, I'm a little bit too busy now, I can't do it. They're probably the wrong people. Now, circumstances are vary, your mileage may vary, but um, that's probably the wrong team member. Generally speaking, the folks that you would turn to and say, hey, I need you to take out a little bit more of this, manage a little bit more management cause I'm not as good at it. Right. They'll kill for that. They want that responsibility. That's why they're there. Exactly. And so for us to look at, um, handing off responsibilities as like this defeat of some sort, um, totally overlooks both the capability and the ambition of the very people we brought on board.

Ryan Rutan: That's exactly it. Right. And, and over time that has a major deleterious effect on, on the organization. If they have that hunger and they're not fed, they eventually leave or worse, just become stagnant, like bitter employees and that's awful. Right? And that's really hard to unwind. So yes, so absolutely this, this sort of, you know, plant atrophy being able to hand things off super, super important and not defeat us at all. Right. That is, that's how things should go. It's good for you, good for the organization. Certainly good for the managers and the ambitious folks in the organization to have that pathway for growth.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, I mean, you know, I like seeing a Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg combo right, where one person can focus on the future, the other person can focus on the present. Um, to me that's incredibly healthy. Uh, in the agency world, I was able to find, um, a lady that was just absolutely stellar. Like she kept the entire organization sane while I made them insane. Like it was, it was, it was a great balance and she did such a phenomenal job. Um, for for me. Um, I think I've been around long enough to understand where my strengths are and to try to like say, like these are things that again, day to day management, I just, I don't enjoy, um, at startups, I've got Ryan, I can't even, I should probably even know this. It's not that many people. Six people maybe that report to me. Um, I don't remember the last time I gave somebody an employer review. Like, I don't think I've ever done it ever. Um, and it's just, that's not what's going through my head, I should be managing people. I don't manage people, I'm just, again, kind of ship yet. It's not my strength, but, but here's the important part. It doesn't have to be because everyone else on that on that group is so good at their job, right? Um my job and it has been my focus should be finding the folks that can do that work and or handing them more responsibilities so that the liability doesn't sit out there, the more I hoard that that responsibility. And I say if it's, you know, if if I'm not holding onto it, then that that reflects bad on me etcetera, I'm screwing the very organization that I'm trying to run.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. And unfortunately this is counterintuitive, we see it all the time. We've talked about it in a couple of different contexts, but the natural inclination for founders is I'm not good at this aspect. So I'm gonna spend a lot of time trying to get better at that aspect, right? Like I recognized a long time ago That my left foot was good for one thing in soccer and that was for standing on while I use my right foot to kick the ball right. I could have spent a lot of time practicing with my left foot and trying to improve it. Instead, I just stuck with the right and that's what was going to shoot with right. Stick with what you're good at, stick to your strengths, you know, don't ignore shortfalls and of course improving yourself is great, but not at the cost of time that could be spent flexing your superpower if you've got a superpower, use that ship if you can be batman be batman, don't do something else, right?

Wil Schroter: No. Okay, so you know what I would say, two is within a startup, we often don't have much time To mess with this stuff, right? So maybe it's going to take us, maybe I'm 25 and it's going to take me 10 years to become a phenomenal startup, founder or manager rather. Um, and that's great, but we've only got three years, right? So, so the organization's growth in trajectory doesn't at all sync up with what my timeline is going to be. So what my job is as the founder is to say, look man, it's going to take me a minute. Let me find some people who have already figured this stuff out that sync with the startups timeline so that I can play catch up as we go and maybe someday along the way I get my bearings and I become an actual good manager. But until then I've got to focus on creating good management. Even if I'm not a good manager,

Ryan Rutan: that's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on ITunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy, you can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b e G I N. You'll thank me later.

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