Mike Lynch – CEO of Autonomy comes with a very credible track record – especially for a technology entrepreneur in the UK (and Cambridge). He is one of the very few people I know that has taken a company from the bedroom to being a $500m sales company in software/high tech; done IPOs, acquired a US competitor and remained CEO. The usual story in the UK is that the founders are either fired by the investors in one of the funding rounds or make an exit to take up new careers as business angels, non execs and so forth. In a way the high tech founders are serial entrepreneurs and not global CEOs.
Mike talked about building the dream team – in fact he talked about how to do this and what the background grunt and grind is – to make such a thing happen. Here are just a few tips:
The need to set a cultural tone to the business – to ensure it remain entrepreneurial by having the vision and energy of the entrepreneurial founder on tap, visible and ensuring the sense of urgency, flexibility, hunger remains at the of the agenda on a daily basis.
To hire the best people- being elitist – because the marginal extra cost of hiring the best person is minimal to the cost of hiring a second best person.
Try and get people who are obsessive about what they do, with a passion for their professional skills. They may get hard to manage – but they will have a preference for action and ensuring their work is to a high standard.
The cultural tone needs to be one where people can admit mistakes , learn and get on. You need to avoid the “myth of properly” – i.e. people who say things like “if only we did things properly around here” – because there is no such thing as properly – only things that meet customer needs.
Ask yourself – who would want to work for entrepreneurs?! the initial pay is low, there is no job security, the journey will be a roller coaster ride..The only reason someone will work for an entrepreneur is because of the likely upside, the fun and because they have bought into a strong vision of the possibilities. On this point Mike also had advice for people applying to work with entrepreneurs who have a strong vision – when you do get invited to join – don’t ask where the coke machine is!!? Entrepreneurs want to hire self-starters, people who “get-it” and will make up their own rules and get things done – not people who need a lot of nursing from the founder.
On the other side to all this rock and roll – is the simple human factor – treat people fairly, reward them fairly, take care of them when they go through some personal life issues. And work hard to kill off politics in the organisation and the potential spread of cultural poison – negativity can hurt.
The implication for leaders is that they need to remain upbeat, energetic, have a sense o f fun and at times be willing to take tough decisions – quickly.
Mike had a lot more to say (about doing business) and he was videoed – and this video will be edited and placed on www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk in due course along with some of the other lectures that have gone onto to site (under resources)