Going back to work for someone else after a stint as an entrepreneur can be a fraught experience. While some founders recoil in horror at the idea, others report positive experiences. But whether entrepreneurs enjoy returning to employee life is one (highly personal) question, another issue also looms large.
Some research suggests companies are actually reluctant to hire former entrepreneurs. Likely this is because they're viewed as too independent, unable to abide hierarchies and arbitrary rules, or likely to jump ship at the first opportunity to go their own way. In short, those already bitten by the entrepreneurship bug make bad employees.
Auren Hoffman, former CEO of LiveRamp, would beg to disagree. Recently on question-and-answer site Quora someone voiced this prejudice against former founders, asking "Why are entrepreneurs bad employees?" Hoffman jumped in to disagree strongly with the premise of the question, arguing former entrepreneurs make excellent team members, it's just big companies often don't know how to utilize their unique talents.
The problem is the company, not the employee
"Most companies are really bad employers of super talented and entrepreneurial people," Hoffman insists. Former founders are often skilled and dynamic. They're just the sort of folks big companies need, he feels, but they need to be handled correctly. Where do larger organizations go wrong? Hoffman offers three main problems.
Ex-entrepreneurs have no issues executing. What they do struggle with is being micromanaged, according to Hoffman. Which means that if a company wants to hold on to this type of talent they must avoid meddling. "It needs to have a clear strategy and then let its employees go out and execute. Companies with a murky strategy need to micromanage more because they do not trust people down the totem poll to make the right long-term decisions," he explains.
Former founders also know how to learn and grow -- you don't survive long as the head of a company otherwise. This should be a huge positive for employers when these folks return to the corporate fold, but often companies fail to promote ex-entrepreneurs quickly in line with their professional development, Hoffman feels. And so they leave. "Your most talented employees should always be growing, be stretching, be reaching, and always feel a bit uncomfortable ... otherwise they will leave," he advises bosses of entrepreneurial employees.
Another advantage of hiring ex-entrepreneurs is they move fast and get things done. But that's only possible if the big firms who hire these people actually give them the space to do that. "Another reason companies lose entrepreneurial people is that they institute too many rules. Rules serve an important purpose but too many rules slows everything down, adds red tape, and is super frustrating to entrepreneurs who thrive on getting things done," Hoffman believes.
Do you agree with Hoffman that the problem is usually the company, not the ex-entrepreneur it employs?