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Monday, June 11, 2012

You Cannot Fix STUPID

As an entrepreneur starting a company, you have a serious obligation to know or at least learn the business.  Starting new business has enough risk without adding the risks of managing a team developing a product of which you do not understand.  Unfortunately, the concept of starting a business with limited understanding or background happens.  It is possible to learn what is needed to do a great job, but people usually assemble and process information at different rates.

The business covers many parts.  No one expects the CEO to know all the details of each facet.  It is important to know your own strengths and weaknesses and especially be able to stay out of your team’s way when you do not understand what they are doing.  You should learn the areas you do not know to a level to provide oversight.  Giving instructions or guidance other than budget or timings can really confuse the team when you think you know what to do but do not.  They may not be willing to challenge the instructions of the CEO and therefore head down a path that will ensure greater difficulty.

Sometimes simple steps can help address the information gaps.  A few suggestions are below:

Hire an Expert as a Coach – The first important step is for the CEO to realize that it is not necessary to know everything on day one.  The information can be learned and having a coach may be just the step that will help you in transition.  The coach must be familiar with the key areas of knowledge that you are missing.  The coach can attend meetings and help facilitate and later discuss and help educate the CEO. In time, the CEO will be better able to manage the company.

Hire a COO - If the CEO really is unable or does not want to learn the information, hiring a person to run the day-to-day business can solve the problem.  It is important that the COO be given all the key responsibilities.  The CEO should make decisions in concert with the COO when it comes to operational aspects.  The CEO should not give instructions directly to the team in order to avoid confusion; i.e. 2 bosses are tough to take.  Assuming the COO has the skills, all operational aspects of the business should be under this person’s control.  The CEO can focus on investors, finances, raising capital, PR, IR, partnering, legal, contractual matters, and general oversight. 

Build a Great Team – The team can consist of key heads of each division.  Those members must be exceptional and highly trusted by the CEO.  The CEO can provide key budget and timings constraints and then request the team coordinate activities and bring back goals and timelines.  The CEO can hold them accountable to the timelines and milestones they create.  Overtime, the CEO will learn from the team.  

One bad ill-informed decision can create catastrophic consequences for your company. It is critical to remember “You Cannot Fix STUPID.”  Making decisions and providing guidance when you do not have the knowledge or skills have the potential to result in major problems.  Understanding what you do not know and learning those skills will benefit the company.  There are several alternatives of addressing knowledge deficiencies.