“Now you’ve done it,” “Bob”, the CEO, said to me. Then Bob got up, straightened his tie and started walking out the door.
Before he left, he said, “I don’t ever want to have another meeting like this again.”
I had been at Bob’s company for about 90 days as the new general manager of the wireline communications division. It was a space I was very familiar with, having built Maxim’s communications business from nothing to over $100 million per year.
Now I was recommending, no I was telling Bob, we would exit some business segments the company was previously focused on, and we would narrow the company’s focus to making high speed logic devices. This is about as an unsexy business segment as you can choose.
Bob wasn’t happy with my plan because Bob felt we should be able to enter any segment and win because, well, god had ordained it.
You can only execute what your team is capable of executing, not what your plan says you’re capable of doing.
I had spent the previous 90 days assessing the capabilities of the team I inherited. My conclusion was, with the talent and the technology we had, we could successfully compete in one segment, high speed logic, and we couldn’t compete in any of the other segments.
The good news was we could build a large, extremely profitable business in high speed logic. But that isn’t what Bob wanted to hear.
Bob wanted to hear how we could win in these other segments. You know the saying, "Don't kill the messenger." And, it was my job to be the messenger and tell him it wasn’t going to happen.
You need a great team to execute your plan.
What I didn’t tell Bob was that the team around me was mediocre at best, stocked with B and C players. I knew I would have to let go of almost every person on the team. I think Bob’s head would have exploded if I told him that, LOL.
Over the next year, I turned over the team I inherited, and I recruited a new team that could execute our plan. Slowly, but surely, our fortunes changed, and the division went from being the least profitable division of Bob’s company to the most profitable division of Bob’s company.
You need your board and investors to support you.
The team I built reflected the Silicon Valley. We had muslims, working with jews, working with sikths, working with christians. In other words, It was your typical Valley team of various ethnicities working together.
This was the makeup of the teams I had been working with my whole career. Yet, we stood out because the majority of Bob’s company was white and christian.
It became obvious to me, in all sorts of ways, that I didn’t have Bob’s support, and there’s only so much you can do when you don’t have your board’s support.
For example, every so often, in the company’s operations meeting, Bob would say something like, “That’s like calling a muslim a capitalist.”
I wondered if Bob was talking about my team. The last thing I wanted was for Bob’s comments to filter back to my team. So, my job became insulating our team from the rest of Bob’s company.
I hated it.
Every day was misery. I knew I needed to move on.
Then, Bob did me the biggest favor in the world: he fired me.
The quicksand I felt I had been in was now released. I was free.
Most of all, you need a great team.
I had a great team.
Just remember that your plan has to reflect the strengths of your team. If your plan matches your team’s strengths, then coupled with a supportive board and investors, you can scale great heights.