You Don’t Onboard New Executives to Your Startup — They Onboard You

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One of the best blog posts about managing executives is “The Sad Truth About Developing Executives” by Ben Horowitz.

Get past your series A and grow from 20 to over 100 people, and you usually need to build the executive team that Horowtiz talks about. The goal of that team is to take the company to the next level fast.

In his post, Horowitz argues that executive positions are not development roles. And CEOs have neither the skill to coach nor time to wait to develop senior domain experts. I agree.

What’s missing from Horowitz’s post, however, is guidance on how to onboard executives. How do you do that? Well, I’ve noticed that talented executives onboard you to their plan and vision more than you onboard them to your company. They don’t need much onboarding at all. They just need two things: Context and time.

Give them context and let them navigate

The more context around historical decisions and future direction you can give an executive, the more successful they’ll be. A talented executive can navigate a new organization naturally, meet the right people, ask for the correct information, and prioritize their time and focus.

When onboarding a new executive to our team, I give them access to all the information I have. That includes access to all KPIs, investor decks, board updates, quarterly and monthly reports, and more.

Give them time and ask for a plan

The process that we have followed that has been very successful is to set up a meeting, usually 45–60 days in the job, in which new executives share what they plan to achieve in the next 12–18 months. Setting up that meeting on day one works very well to set expectations and align on how they’ll spend their time.

A successful presentation will include gaps that exist today, a clear vision of where we want to be, a clear 12–18 month roadmap to get there, targets, an org chart, and required resources.

Perhaps it sounds too simple — after all, these people will have responsibility for critical aspects of your business. But if you hire the right executives and align on their plan, you don’t need to be their coach. They should be able to execute their plan with you as a supporter and thought partner.

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CEO of BenchSci, husband, father and constant work in progress

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Liran Belenzon

Liran Belenzon

CEO of BenchSci, husband, father and constant work in progress

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