Empowering Your Team

Mark Pincus, founder/CEO of our portfolio company Zynga, is interviewed in today's NY Times on the topic of leadership. The part about empowering and scaling the team is really great.

You can manage 50 people through the strength of your personality and lack of sleep. You can touch them all in a week and make sure they’re all pointed in the right direction. By 150, it’s clear that that’s not going to scale, and you’ve got to find some way to keep everybody going in productive directions when you’re not in the room.

Maybe Mark can manage 50 people through willpower and lack of sleep but I've seen many entrepreneurs hit this wall with much smaller teams. The question is what are you going to do about it?

Mark says "make everyone the CEO of something."

I’d turn people into C.E.O.’s. One thing I did at my second company was to put white sticky sheets on the wall, and I put everyone’s name on one of the sheets, and I said, “By the end of the week, everybody needs to write what you’re C.E.O. of, and it needs to be something really meaningful.” And that way, everyone knows who’s C.E.O. of what and they know whom to ask instead of me. And it was really effective. People liked it. And there was nowhere to hide.

He goes on to explain how this works and why it is so powerful. Read the entire interview if you are running a startup and looking for some ideas on scaling the team.

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#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Mark Essel

    Looking forward to looking into the mind of Mr. Pincus. I’m impressed with the empowerment of “CEO of something”. Although I haven’t ever worked with Mark, as an outsider looking in, I’d say he nailed corporate culture. Make sure your team all OWNS their work. Flat organizations really work well until the feedback/personal interaction becomes more than one lead can handle. The sooner wouldbe founders come to terms with federated corporate leadership the better. And alway keep your door open, figuratively of course, damn background noise ;). Each early employee needs to know they can speak up and instigate change from their zoomed in perspective. The true test of organizations where everyone is CEO of something is when the lead trusts his members to do something he doesn’t fully agree with. That shows real trust.The same goes for ownership investor’s trusting founders instincts.

    1. fredwilson

      and also the willingness to move aside the people who aren’t doing a good job of being the CEO of something

      1. Mark Essel

        Of course, not everyone is going to want or need that type of responsibility.

      2. awaldstein

        Good stuffActually it’s a fresh view of what management should be at its core. With the twist that everyone needs to be empowered even those without a reporting string below them.And to your comment Fred, it makes it easier to evaluate effectiveness if everyone has the authority over something, even what they themselves deliver on.”…nowhere to hide” is the ethical motivator for an information rich and transparent world.I’ll read the entire thing on the plane.Thnx

        1. Mark Essel

          Arnold, The article is brief, but it got me thinking about a “true meritocracy”. In that environment any founder or early investor is just as accountable or replaceable by legendary leadership from within. In my ideal environment I could “found” myself out of a job, and maybe that’s the perfect startup.

          1. awaldstein

            Interesting… of course, founder ownership makes this somewhat moot as a reality;)

  2. Marcus Ellison

    Thanks for sharing Fred.We all reach our personal limitations at some point. The force of personality alone, while ever engaging and necessary, at some point needs to be immersed into the heartbeat of the organization through some kind of a permanence.While, notably with start-ups, the founders are the engines, as an organization matures there is a fantastic need to provide a clear and inspiring doctrine. What is the bigger than me, more powerful than I essence of influence that the organization feels like?…The art of branding.

  3. Bora Celik

    Yes, I heard this on his Stanford talk and really liked it. Check out the rest of the talk. It’s really inspiring http://ecorner.stanford.edu

  4. Facebook User

    I’d argue that all great organizations rely on decentralized leadership and decision-making to varying degrees. Even organizations with incredibly strict hierarchies, like the US military, still grant wide autonomy to leaders of their smallest atomic units (like the sergeant of a marine rifle squad in WW2). Speaking from personal experience, the most inspiring leaders I’ve worked with are those who set goals and guidelines, avoiding the pitfalls of micromanaging.

    1. Mark Essel

      Great tie in.

    2. fredwilson

      yes, micromanaging is a killer

  5. reece

    of course, i love that his first answer relates to sports and not in your typical “sports teaches teamwork” sense.good teams literally live and die for one another. he’s right to analyze team members in terms of reliability.it’s also important how you treat failures. as a manager, rather than getting upset, i feel more let down (and express that) when a team member fails to do their job. it’s helped them understand that others are counting on them, and doesn’t build any sort of resentment.

    1. fredwilson

      i thought the playmaker concept was interesting too.

      1. reece

        agreed. i’ve seen it a lot in my lacrosse career…there are very talented athletes, but a lot of the best players are actuallyjust very smart. it comes from experience and being an eternal student ofthe game – always looking to improve. like Pincus says, “it’s like theirhead is really in the game.”

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I’ve got an aspiring Lacrosse player starting out as goalie this year…high school freshman. I’m going to pass your comments along to him. Hope he learns something out there they he will take beyond the field. Your words encourage me.

          1. reece

            So exciting! It’s only just the beginning for him, but if he’s got an open mind he will learn so much in the course of his playing career.Feel free to ping me with any questions about the game and how to approach it.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Hey, thanks! That is so kind. He just finished a season of football where he was low man on the totem pole as a freshman offensive lineman but for lacrosse, the goalie is a senior so they are treating my son like a king since he is the only viable replacement. I just hope that gear works — balls flying at him 90 mph…bracing myself. What position do you play?

          3. reece

            defenseman. i’ve been hit with my fair share of hard shots. not fun, buthe’ll survive.email: reece [at] teamhomefield [.] com if you’ve got more questions…

  6. Ayush Jhunjhunwala

    When you have great people in your team, making them CEO’s of something is a good way to channelize there energies.

  7. Dave Pinsen

    I wonder to what extent this strategy is dependent on having heavy VC backing, e.g., delegating the purchase of the new phone system to the receptionist. I can see how a bootstrapping entrepreneur might be wary of giving her his checkbook for that. Also, implicit in Zynga’s soccer story seems to be a lesson about a benefit of private school. He went to a private school growing up, right? I’m guessing that because of the paucity of soccer players he refers to in a school in Chicago. I’m also guessing that it’s typical that, because of their small size, at elite private schools, most kids get to play the sport of their choice. At public high schools there are often more students who want to play than can be on the team, so there are tryouts for the teams. Either that, or some kids are let on teams but never get to start the varsity games. It seems that one benefit of private schools is to give your kids the experience of being big fish in a small pond. Maybe they come out of the gate with a confidence advantage because of that. How would Zynga’s life be different today if, instead of having that formative experience of being a soccer player, he had the formative experience of sitting bench on a larger team, or getting rejected by the team in the first place?

    1. fredwilson

      i’m not sure that is universally true. my son plays in a public basketball league at the tony dapolito recreation center in lower manhattan. he and his friends have played on the same team since first or second grade (i can’t remember). like mark and his friends, they’ve learned to play together as a team, pass, set picks, block out, etc.now that they are teenagers, the kids they play against are bigger, faster, stronger, and better. their opponents play street ball. and although they often lose against these “street ball” players, they can put up a good fight because they know how to play as a team.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Interesting. Where I grew up, I think there were only public sports leagues for age levels that weren’t represented in public schools (e.g., pre-high school football).Sounds like your son and his friends have learned some good lessons from the team/fundamental approach to the game.

      2. peaceofcode.com

        Hey good example!I notice in software development we keep gaining knowledge on how to do the latest and greatest stuff which keeps us on the front line.However when growing a team it is almost like the new guys are first graders playing with high school ball players.We have two offices – one for the all-star players and one for the normal guys. Some guys work on Saturdays and do what is needed to get the job done, well. Others seem to be regular working class guys who can’t wait until their shift is over.

    2. reece

      There are tryouts in private schools as well, and the competition is often tougher because the level of play is higher. Many private school athletes are there for that level of competition.There are kids riding the bench in public and private schools. What do they learn?Either they learn to be a role player and be a part of a greater cause – which means working hard in practice to make your teammates better – or they learn that football, basketball, soccer, whatever – isn’t their sport and they move on. They find the activity where they can shine.Stellar people – athletes, musicians, students – don’t let the competition stop them. They either compete well enough to be at the top, love their experience for what it is regardless of ‘playing time’ or they find a more efficient use of their time.Disclosure/example: I did 2 years in public school and 2 years at private school. I played hockey and lacrosse. I was on varsity at my public school hockey team as a freshman and sophomore. I transferred to boarding school where I only made JV hockey.My former public school went to the state finals. My boarding school JV team, however, was 18-0 and would’ve wiped the floor with my public school team.Regardless, I loved my experience playing for my private school team.

      1. reece

        Further, I ended up focusing all of my time on lacrosse my senior year (didn’t play hockey) and went on to be a starter as a freshman at Division I.

      2. Dave Pinsen

        “Disclosure/example: I did 2 years in public school and 2 years at private school. I played hockey and lacrosse.”Almost no public schools where I live have a hockey team or a lacrosse team, so had you gone to a public school here, you probably wouldn’t have had a chance to play either of those sports.

        1. reece

          The specific sports are not the point. Where I’m from (MA), private schools generally field much better teams in most sports with the greatest exception probably being football (which thrives on high volume). Perhaps that is the disconnect we’re having, but I think there are lessons to be learned either way – starter vs. role players, public vs. private schools…

          1. Dave Pinsen

            The specific sports are salient, as are the respective numbers of students relative to the spots on the teams. And the respective demographics of the schools. Sure, there are lessons to be learned either way — as a role player or bench warmer on the football team at an urban public school, or as a starter on the lacrosse or hockey team (or soccer team) at an expensive private school.Considering that Pincus mentions as a formative experience his playing for undermanned soccer teams as an undersized player growing up, I suspect he’d be a different person today had he gone to Chicago public schools instead. Probably still successful, but perhaps not a serial entrepreneur with confidence bolstered by his early soccer career.

          2. reece

            Conversely, he may have spent less time playing soccer and maybe more timelearning computer programming or the flute… who knows? We could spend allday guessing…I guess I’m just trying to understand if your underlying point is thathaving VC funding in your startup is akin to being a private school studentand if so, how does that shape an individual?In my experience, you have to go waaaay-back to early formative years as ayouth and look at family heritage to explain how someone reacts in newsocial settings – private or public school, funded or bootstrapped startup.Personally, my core principles were really in place prior to private schooland I have always felt like I have to work and compete for everything.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            I’m sure you would have been a superstar whatever your background. But back to Pincus, yes, he may have spent more time playing the flute or programming the computer had he gone to a public school — which supports the point I made in my previous comment that he probably would still be successful today, but perhaps not a serial entrepreneur.”I guess I’m just trying to understand if your underlying point is thathaving VC funding in your startup is akin to being a private school student”No, you are confusing two different points I made in my first comment (to be fair, it didn’t help that I used “Zynga” in that comment where I meant to type “Pincus”). The point I made in my first paragraph was that Pincus’s strategy of everyone being a CEO of something might not work in a firm that wasn’t venture-backed, for the reason I mentioned. That point had nothing to do with public or private school.The point I made in the next two paragraphs was that what Pincus describes as the formative experience of his upbringing — playing on an undermanned soccer team as an undersized player — likely would not have happened had he gone to a public school.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Thank you — you have just given me the perfect ammo for my newly minted high school freshman lacrosse player — next time he complains about the rigor of being in a private school (usually after a report card).

  8. mikescheiner

    I really enjoy reading these various CEO perspectives every Sunday in the Times, and this approach that Mark discusses I found incredibly valuable. Not only does it empower and make everyone accountable towards their own tasks and goals, but also it really teaches people the idea of focusing in on objectives and time management. When scaling to the larger number, I do think the same principal can apply, just managed through direct reports. This is a great example of a way to create a sense of autonomy and companies not micro-manage their employees, but teaching their employees how to manage themselves, and at the same time be productive and creative. Thanks for the post Fred.

  9. Matt Mireles

    Empowering team = Good.”Everyone is the CEO of Something” = Lame.

    1. fredwilson

      can you elaborate?

      1. Matt Mireles

        Sure. I just think that there’s really only one CEO of the company. Freely dispensing the CEO title to everyone in the organization with a pulse cheapens the title and seems cutesy and lame.The real goal is to empower employees and clearly delegate responsibility to them. You can do this without a cutesy title. Just simply tell people “dude, you’re responsible for this. You’re the expert on X. It’s your call. You own it.” Repeat it and stick to it. The right people will love the respoonsibilty and take ownership of X.In my mind, that’s the whole point that Pinkus is trying to get at.Also, on a separate note, you should start SpeakerTexting the videos you post here. Here’s your man Mark on Charlie Rose: http://speakertext.com/play… (works with YouTube).

        1. daryn

          The CEO label is a little cutesy, sure, but it leaves no question about who is ultimately responsible for that piece. I’m guessing these are only internal titles, b/c I agree if I saw CEO of ____ next to every name on a team page, I’d puke a little in my mouth :)The key thing with the idea of ownership and empowerment is that every employee buys into it. Especially in startups, you can’t have people pointing their fingers in both directions, when they need to be pointing at themselves as being able to make decisions and execute against them.

          1. Adam Wexler

            i think the “CEO of something” mentality is more of an internal thing. I too would frown upon 15 different CEOs in a company, but I tell all the guys on my team that they are all entrepreneurs. Empowerment is key.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Mark’s willingness to use the term CEO in reference to his team members says something about him and sends a clear message to his team. One of the most painful phenomenons I’ve seen out there is the over-controlling CEO. Sure, there is a lot at stake and it is in some ways understandable to want to exercise control. But, I’ve seen organizations lose really good people (sometimes with my help) because the CEO snuffed the life out of them. Using the term CEO has a powerful punch — but certainly only if used internally. Otherwise, it loses a lot — I agree.

          1. Matt Mireles

            Totally agree on the importance of empowering people, delegating andnot being the obsessively controlling CEO that drives people away. Myonly objection was to the cutesifying of that process by callingeveryone the “CEO of x.” It strikes me as a bit too self-esteempsychobabble-ish. But the fundamental thought is good.____________________Matt MirelesCEO, [email protected] 347.263.7929c 646.241.8544

  10. davidbryce

    Thanks for sharing, Fred. Great interview! Asking everyone to be the CEO of something clears up accountability (“nowhere to hide”). That’s valuable. But the BIG gain, in my opinion, is the increase in engagement. It’s exciting when you’re allowed to pick something important to the company, that you’re also passionate about, and you get to own it (like the receptionist in the article).I’m reading “Freedom, Inc.” by Carney and Getz right now. Good book. Lots of discussion about empowering people.

    1. fredwilson

      i’ll check it out

  11. Keith B. Nowak

    Reading the full interview reminded me of the bit in Good to Great about “getting the right people on the bus”. As Mark says, it takes a certain type of person to be able and willing to become CEO of something within the company and he looks to get those people on the team. For Mark, as in Good to Great, the right people are defined more by their personalities and characters rather than specific knowledge or skills.

  12. Chris Phenner

    I am in the midst of goal-setting for a six-person team, and agree with the (i) CEO-of-something principle and (ii) nowhere-to-hide principle. I offer below four, tactical means for doing this within a 65-person startup that has little patience for ‘strategic planning’ (rightly so):- Three hours off-site should have everyone write and then discuss aloud ‘What I want.’ In other words, draw out all team members in written and then spoken, in-person form to ask what they hope to accomplish. These are principle-level statements of intent, and it forces team members to think in advance and the team leader to listen — before any goals are drafted.- Create a Google Doc whose Top Sheet is the team’s annual goals, with each tab having each team member’s name on it. Each tab contains that team members’ more detailed goals, and the tabs’ metrics roll up to contribute towards the team’s Top Sheet metrics. Everyone is their tab’s CEO.- From the above two exercises, have each team member distill his/her goals into ‘5x5s. This means five goals of five words each. It’s a faster and more specific means by which to generate your ‘personal mission statement.’ A 5×5 is a brief reminder of what you said you wanted to accomplish in 2010.- Each Friday, everyone one the team submits the results of their work in reply-all bullets on the team, and these are summarized shared to all other managers in the company. Everything submitted can only be past-tense accomplishments, no ‘in-process’ status updates allowed. It reinforces Pincus’ suggestion to think with a weekly focus, as well as the ‘nowhere to hide’ principle. If you have nothing to say at the end of the week, that will show to your other team members.As the team leader, I also found it useful to ‘road show’ my goals with each of the other team leaders, and get their feedback. It’s created a reason for one-on-one lunches that I think each has appreciated, and I’ve certainly learned from it. Total time for all of the above is about three weeks, which seems right to drive a short-yet-thoughtful goal-setting process.

    1. fredwilson

      if all the end of week reporting is done electronically it may not be as potent as if it were done in a group setting

    2. joshwatkins

      There is a lot of good in your process.I am a big fan of daily/weekly updates to the group. I don’t know of any other single tool that will so effectively eliminate the hiding places.

  13. paramendra

    I have exchanged emails with the guy. When I told him getting an email from him was like getting an email from Fred Wilson – exciting – he said he was flattered by the comparison.The New York Times interview is great. Despite his great raw numbers – Zynga beating Facebook itself – I think we still underestimate this guy. (I have been excited about Farmville since December – okay, okay, I am late to the game, I know, finally I caved in, there was too much buzz – the way I got excited about Twitter February 09.) There are those who have been touting the iPad as the media savior. I don’t think it is. I think it is Zynga. Let 99% use it for free. The 1% that will pay for premium products will give you all the money you need. Freemium + premium is what will save media. There is no going back to making people pay for content the old way. Murdoch does not have the option to deindex from Google. The New York Times can’t go back to charging for all its content the way it used to in the days of paper only. But they could do the Zynga thing.As for soccer: http://twitter.com/paramend

    1. fredwilson

      you may be late to twitter and zynga, but i am late to soccer. didn’t play it growing up. didn’t enjoy watching it until the past few years. it is a fantastic game.

      1. Aviah Laor

        It’s one of those games where nothing really finished until it finished

  14. Adam Wexler

    i may be in the major minority, but i think strrict titles is a 20th century form of business. i’ve always considered it extremely silly that certain folks work their entire lives just to attain a title. when the focus is on that, you lose track of the team concept.i encourage my guys to think & act like entrepreneurs. especially in a virtual company, i tell them that each one of us is an entrepreneur in our own right (some mroe advanced than others). if i don’t, they won’t have confidence in their abilities to make decisions on their own.-adam w

    1. fredwilson

      titles are very 20th century

  15. Aviah Laor

    The recognition for pure accomplishment and nothing else should be encouraging and a great place to work in. Pincus talks abount meaning in the job, so I’ll avoid the natural Farmville jokes here, but i have to say that this interview make me thing that he can probably do much more bigger and significant things than these games.

  16. Aviah Laor

    Fred, a little of topic here about CEO-employees: do you think that plans like First Round Capital exchange funds are good for the companies (after all the founders took most of the risks), or that they create a small but important crack between the founder and the employee incentives for the company?

    1. fredwilson

      i am not a fan of exchange funds.they are a good deal for the entrepreneurs who are not successful and a baddeal for the entrepreneurs who are

      1. Aviah Laor

        thought so. thanks.

  17. Chris Dodge

    I caught that article this morning and it gave me some immediate ideas to apply to my current team. Learning how to be a good (or daresay great) manager is such a selfless pursuit as one must confront ones own limitations – something that I can imagine is a different type of challenge for the typical Entrepreneur.Is that talent something you actively seek out when you review a particular opportunity?It seems very exciting that you are able to work with such interesting and wise Entrepreneurs in your portfolio.

    1. fredwilson

      mark is proof that you can become a strong CEO with enough willpower andcoachinganyone who worked with him early in his career will attest to thathe has always been an amazing entrepreneur but possibly his greatestaccomplishment with Zynga is that he learned to become a great CEO on thiscompany

      1. Aviah Laor

        If I was Washington DC I would ask him to take 180M$ and build the first real platform that engage mass of people in real policy decision making and public action. To give a voice and influence to the silent majority. This could be the next internet revolution. A non virtual one.

  18. Cody Swann

    Also, set up a system where you can quickly check up on your reports who AREN’T on deadline.Don’t berate them. Just find out why they aren’t on schedule and offer help. Good stuff.

  19. Isao

    Making everyone CEO of their expertise – it really embodies the idea of everybody being a team player with different roles, not hierarchy. Saying is easy (people do so more often) but putting it into action is tough because you always have to remind yourself. But a title – bingo, no need to remind, the title reminds you that you treat everybody as a boss.

  20. Karl Rossmann

    Sorry to ruin the love fest here, but you may as well praise Amway for great leadership. Zynga went back on its promise to stop scamming people with predatory cell phone payments, but when it stopped making money, it reneged. I don’t put much stake in what Pincus has to say. Empowering people to make dirty money is nothing to laud.

    1. fredwilson

      karl, please don’t be spreading misinformation on this blogzynga makes plenty of money with our with or without lead gen offerswhen they stopped the offers, they barely noticed it in their P&Lbut there is a reason for lead gen offers and it is this:there are many people who play Zynga games who cannot pay for tractors infarmville or a gun in mafia warsZynga wants to make game play as even as possible and so they let thosepeople use lead gen offers to earn virtual cash to buy these itemsthey don’t need lead gen offers to make profits, they do just fine withoutthemthey need them to make the games a fun as possible for everyone

      1. Karl Rossmann

        Fred-I apologize, I don’t mean to spread misinformation. Can you clarify what “lead gen” means? Does it mean:1) A player who can’t buy a virtual good with a credit card enters their cell phone, and companies pay Zynga for access to that cell phone number for the purposes of calling them? (i.e. that player agrees to be a lead)or does it mean2) A player pays for a virtual good by agreeing to have a charge placed on their cell phone bill?My understanding is that it’s 2, and that’s why I called it predatory, because people don’t realize they’re sending anyone money by entering their cell phone number (why not just use the more honest language “pay by cell phone?).I apologize again if I’m misunderstanding lead gen.

        1. fredwilson

          that’s not lead gen at allthat is a mobile payment service offered by zong and others

  21. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Trouble is, a lot of folks want to be a ‘CEO’ (literally or figuratively as in this case) primarily/solely for ego purposes – nothing more, nothing less.It’s not about the title, it’s about finding people who are genuine, unpretentious, empathetic, aspirational.I ‘get’ the pseudo-CEO tag from a motivational perspective, but don’t like the CEO connotations.

  22. ShanaC

    I don’t like the CEO of something plan. Great- however reality is that companies change, people change, and eventually a good number of people will move one.What does it mean when you will write on a resume that you were the CEO of x? How does it actually get you to the Ceo position. That just seems so strange when you can write down that you did something important. Everyone can tell in the end that the network still has some sense of hierarchy towards it…I mean at the end of the day, you still knew the receptionist was the receptionist, even though she ended up in charge of running the office and choosing the phone system. And you knew Mark Pincus was the CEO. When push came to shove, Mark had to make final decisions, or delimit a budget, not the receptionist (otherwise we’d be interviewing the receptionist….)I rather just say- “we were a rather flat organization I took care of xyz, and xyz meant I grew in abc ways.That’s all.

    1. Joe Siewert

      I agree Shana. I think passing out CEO titles becomes unsustainable as the company grows too. It maybe works with as many as 50 people, but as you grow to 500, 1000, and so on it doesn’t really make sense.As you mentioned the important component is giving real ownership and responsibility for something. Again though, as the company grows it becomes more challenging to give someone ownership of something meaningful. Probably gives way to where a team owns xyz instead of an individual.

      1. ShanaC

        That can be bad too though- how do you as CEO person make sure you keep arelatively flat structure. I mean for all you know certain teams arepoliticking and others are not…Scaling =Difficult.

        1. Joe Siewert

          Yeah, scaling is hard. I think today’s big corporations are struggling withthis constantly.

    2. fredwilson

      don’t take it too literally. this is for inside the company. not outside.

      1. ShanaC

        I recognize that. I still think my inner snark would laugh if I were working there. I’m oddly glad that Jobvite ate my resume then -probably not the best cultural fit (though they seemed very nice when they pitched to campus- and I’m not saying that because I won a computer. I’m saying that because they answered questions as completely as they could)Jobvite is you are reading this- you ate my resume. Bah you.

  23. peaceofcode.com

    This is a very interesting topic.Techcrunch wrote about China yesterday and the censor issues around free speech.We have been running development team/s out of China for the past 2 years creating Open Source apps/sites, mobile apps and games (Android/iPhone and soon iPad and Chrome OS).Interesting thing about running “development” teams is my partner and I have tried it in USA, India and China. Without a doubt (profits win) China is the best place in my experience for setting up, running and managing large teams. In the last two years we built a 2 person a development team to 77 persons, running per hour ticket development services. Our main issue seems to be how much budget is available to expand. There are many issues around teams such as project management, collaboration, training, equipment, payment, and even managing these elements can take alot of time.What I do is break my teams in to 12 persons.- 1 Team Manager- 1 project Manager- 10 DevelopersI start teams with as little as a few people and then as new workers become trained and I can get more funds then I hire more guys. But the top-end of manageable teams seems to be no more than 15 persons.In my company a team can produce about 1400 hours of billable time per month or roughly $50k. This becomes very exciting because as a owner I make roughly $5 per billable hour but at the same time this becomes a double edge sword because I have to save money to grow the teams. More teams means more cash.I hold daily meetings with each team manager who give me the run down of all the projects. This takes about 4+ hrs of my time which can be difficult when working with customers and my other work. It seems that on a large scale I need to hire more admin type guys like myself to be able to hold meetings and work with customers. This would allow me to make more strategic relationships and travel. I also manage the money, banking, accounting, corporate stuff and work with our attorney. My partner manages the marketing, customers and sales.Seems in order to grow passed 100 workers I would need a boost of money in order to get ahead and hire admin (managers ) type guys.So the obvious question becomes how to grow a development team to 500+ and keep everything together. I think alternative income streams such as using the development teams to create “internal” mobile apps and projects is a good way to earn alot of money. We have been trying things like taking 20% ownership in startups if the startups covers the actual salary of each worker (which is cheap in China) and we manage the development. Issue we have had is we produce great projects but the startup is not always so great at running the company and startups have a hard time taking our advice on big decisions.The CEO idea could work….have to test that out a little.I would REALLY love to hear how others manage their development teams. Mark Pincus talks about teams but he does not go into any actual details about costs and what issues he actually faces on a day to day basis.Thanks in advance!Also thanks Fred I always appreciate your advice. I wish you would write more blog postings like this one. I like your family and music/life postings too but your business stuff “excites me…….mind”.

  24. Michael Diamant

    Excellent interview. What I’ve found is that it often comes down to trust and your willingness to give it. You have to be inherently trustful in people – obviously to your team in particular. Be willing to give them the ultimate trust to fully utilize their abilities and talents to help grow a business. To believe that people are driven to achieve, and then let those people look out for the company’s best interests. I’ve found that executive managers who are generally distrustful or feel people more or less are looking to take advantage of most situations are unable to scale their teams. With trust and an optimistic viewpoint of the human spirit, you can let your team accomplish great things.I’d rather have employees who take initiative and make mistakes ANY day over ones who take no initiative and make no errors. Those people don’t last long….

    1. fredwilson

      hi michael. nice to have you here commenting.you are totally right. this is about trusting others

  25. Gucci Sale

    nice post.

  26. Rob K

    Looks like Mark should be hanging out with an old colleague of mine, Aaron Ross. He has a whole thread called CEO flow. http://pebblestorm.com/ceof

    1. fredwilson

      very nicethanks for the link

  27. Rob K

    Also, a lot of this comes down to hiring for culture fit and not for skills. Bullhorn, where I am now, is religious about hiring for culture, including things like “Passion,” “Accountability,” and “Edge” (resiliency).

  28. RichardF

    There’s some nice stuff in that article.Apart from empowering the team I liked the Mark’s strategy of employing someone into a position one place below where they maybe ought to be because it gives that person somewhere to grow to and also gives the company the option of hiring above them if it hasn’t worked out.I think one of the biggest problems of scaling is keeping the essence of optimism and excitement that exists in an early stage start up. I’ve been involved in a couple of VC backed companies as one of the first hires and they both scaled very quickly (one to over 150) and it is very hard to keep bureaucracy out and also keep the level of creativity and enthusiasm of both new and older employees up.This post by Steve Blank which was reblogged on Venturebeat sums it up for me http://entrepreneur.venture

  29. Richard Jordan

    Good thoughts. I liked the idea recently retweeted by another tech/investor blogger who I won’t mention as I’m mad at his constant stream of spammy tweets (I forget the original source of the suggestion): It was about turning people’s job titles and roles into mission statements. Apparently this is old hat to many folks, but it got my team thinking a little and helped provide a language of empowerment that helped people focus their minds. It also helped us think through our hiring a bit more – we’re in the process of figuring out key hires, and thinking of it from a mission angle, not just a functionality and skillset angle is much better.

  30. Clay Schossow

    Fred, I agree with you that the number is much smaller than 50. In everyone’s experiences, what do you think is the employee count where you start to take strong delegation steps like this?My company doubled in size in the past year from 4 to 8 and we definitely felt some growing pains, and even with 8 people, I am now much more hands off on many projects. I’ve heard people talk about it in “groups of 7” — that a company becomes significantly more complex and harder to manage everytime 7 employees are added…at least until you reach about the 100 employee number.Curious what others have done with smaller teams to add in accountability like Mark? What number did you take the leap at?

  31. kidmercury

    i just wanted to leave a message for pincus and zynga. in all honesty, pincus has a brand management problem. he has a lot of bad media about him out there. i’m not saying that with any hostility, i don’t know the guy, i’m just saying as a neutral observer.so as society continues to crumble, there will be an opportunity for pincus to go kook with virtual currencies, solve his brand management problems, make more profits and help clear out more market space for virtual currency businesses, and help create the new world order the way it is meant to be created. i’m just saying, keep that in mind, and look for that opportunity, and it will come to you.

  32. Donna Brewington White

    Thanks for sharing this, Fred. I was quite inspired.Not everyone with an entrepreneurial spirit can become the CEO of a startup and yet that energy, drive and courage (etc.) can be such an asset in team members if the CEO knows how (and is secure enough) to create room for these attributes to thrive…and can provide the direction needed to maximize and channel the contribution. Seems like this is exactly what Mark has done.Clone him. Wisdom like this is desperately needed in the entrepreneurial community.

  33. Shiva Ramabadran

    Doesn’t work by itself.You create many single points of failure, and delayed reaction time when a project depends on multiple CEO’s who have to waterfall stuff iteratively thru one another to get stuff done.But layered with some redundancy capability and communication channels, and frameworks for ensuring complex solutions can be snapped together in a single iteration by the various CEOs, it might work.

  34. rrajkumar

    Thanks for Sharing!!!!!!!!!

  35. fredwilson

    i haven’t tried threats but i have tried ranting and it has been spectacularly unscuccessful

  36. ShanaC

    I firmly believe people take intiative at what they love in their personalities. And good people managers will help fit individual needs into a job. Like we’re slowly finding out a friend of mine probably should go into running a restaurant/hospitality. He loves being friends and welcoming people to places. There might be a strong mismatch and most people never come to terms with that mismatch.He was originally trained as a biomedical engineer…and he’s thinking going back to school for it, but he finds motivated in resteraunts…so…maybe he should do that?

  37. pangaro

    the question is, why does “everyone is CEO of something” actually work? a simple answer is, because it brings clarity and validity across the entire organization. clarity about who does what; and validity that each action fits in a relatively coherent system that delivers the strategy. at a micro scale, each individual is empowered and responsible, and also clear about WHY what the do fits into the whole; knowing the WHY let’s them interpret new situations correctly and to act autonomously, without seeking instructions. at a macro scale, it’s a focused effort for everyone. there are other advantages too, see http://tinyurl.com/yhqhcy7