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新创企业创始人能当好CEO

Joel Bomgar 2011年04月06日

人们往往认为科技公司的创始人不应霸占CEO的职位,因为他们缺乏带领企业更上一层楼的技能。不过现在越来越多的公司正在重新审视他们的这种成见。

    正所谓“外来的和尚会念经”,父母的建议无论怎样头头是道,也不如一位新朋友的建议更有说服力;一位预言家可能在外地声名远播,但在他的老家却恐怕很少有人相信他的话。同理,科技公司的创始人也很难让别人相信,在公司的成长历程中,他们应该一直坐着公司的头把交椅。

    好在现在关于科技公司创始人是否应另选贤才就任CEO的话题又重新热了起来。多年以来,人们普遍觉得科技公司的创始人并不是领导企业的合适人选,原因很简单——就因为他是创始人。

    我本人就是一家公司的创始CEO,尽管许多人觉得科技公司的创始人往往不具备领导公司的才能,但我认为这种成见是全然偏颇的。创始人是最初构思出了公司理念的人,除了他之外,还有谁能更好地领导公司经过不同的成长阶段呢?

    23岁那年,我创立了自己的公司,我还没有哈佛MBA的文凭,也并不渴望成为企业家。那时我刚刚大学毕业不久,还是一名现场系统工程师,每日奔波劳碌,总是要开车从一个客户站点赶往下一个客户站点,在路上白白耗费了大量宝贵时间,因此十分苦闷。于是我开发了一款可以让我对客户进行远程支持的软件,然后在2003年创立了一家公司。

    说我当时毫无经验也并不过分。在我创业之初,我自己同时管着产品研发、财务、人力资源和市场营销。我对这些领域都不熟悉,急需有人帮我指明方向,于是我向许多资源寻求帮助。不过在公司成长的过程中,我也成长起来了。现在公司做大了,尽管我也面临着许多显著不同的挑战,但我坚信,作为公司的创始人和CEO,与公司一起成长,是有其价值所在的。

    不过,许多公司都有一种用“职业CEO”来取代创始CEO的倾向,这种作风现在仍然有大量拥趸。2009年马克•安德森和本•霍洛维茨曾经宣称,自从他们创立自己的风投机构以来,他们一直非常青睐创始人兼任CEO的公司。正因为人们普遍倾向于支持用职业CEO取代创始CEO,因此他们这番“离经叛道”的言论立时掀起了轩然大波。

    他们指出:“尽管并非所有的创始人都能成为杰出的CEO,但大多数科技界的杰出公司都在创始人的领导下运营了很长一段时间,往往长达数十年,而且我们相信这种模式还会持续下去。我们不能保证创始人一定可以成为卓越的CEO,但我们可以帮助创始人培养CEO的必要技能,充分激发他的领导潜能。”

    安德森和霍洛维茨的立场与主流观点大相径庭,就连他们自己也觉得有必要重新解释一遍他们的逻辑,于是2010年他们就此问题写了一篇博文。

    这篇文章首先引用了马丁•L•马顿斯2005年发表于《哈佛商业评论》(Harvard Business Review)上的一项研究,该研究对比了创始人领导的公司和非创始人领导的公司的股市收益率。然后文章写道:

    在三年期内,由创始人领导的公司的市场调整收益率为12%,生存率为73%;而对于雇佣了新CEO的公司来说,他们的收益率为-26%,存活率也仅为60%……

    事实上,创始CEO的退位让贤,无论是自愿也好,非自愿也罢,都对公司的财务业绩造成了很坏的影响,导致许多已经退下来的创始CEO不得不重新就任CEO,以挽救或振兴他们亲手创办的企业。其中也不乏大公司的身影,例如谷歌(Google)的拉里•佩奇、戴尔(Dell)的迈克尔•戴尔、星巴克(Starbucks)的霍华德•舒尔茨、嘉信理财公司(Schwab)的查尔斯•施瓦布、美国著名快餐品牌奎兹诺斯(Quiznos)的理查德•谢登、社交网站LinkedIn的里德•霍夫曼、电影院线Alamo Drafthouse的蒂姆•里格、沃尼奇公司(Vonage)的杰弗里•斯特朗,以及这股潮流的领头羊:苹果(Apple)的史蒂夫•乔布斯。小公司的例子也有很多,比如Etsy公司的罗布•卡林、OpenDNS公司的大卫•尤勒维什和Second Life公司的菲利浦•罗斯戴尔。

    不过,再度出山的创始CEO也并非总能力挽狂澜,有时候公司已经积重难返了[例如雅虎(Yahoo)和Myspace]。不过创始CEO的再度出山已经成了一种趋势,这不禁使我们提出这样一个问题:如果创始CEO一开始就没有退位让贤,或是被“逼宫”下台,事情会不会朝着不同的方向发展?

    埃里克•施密特当政期间,谷歌完成了华丽转型。人们不禁要问,如果谷歌背后的风投机构当初没有逼迫谷歌雇佣一位外来CEO的话,也就是说如果谷歌创始人拉里•佩奇还是CEO的话,那么施密特在总裁和首席运营官的位置上,是否也可以把他在谷歌的诸般丰功伟绩做得一样好?我认为答案是肯定的。

    不妨看看Facebook的马克•扎克伯格。有人怀疑他领导Facebook的能力吗?如果说Facebook的COO谢尔乐•桑德伯格能在COO的位子上带领Facebook在正确的时机、正确的轨道上发展,那么施密特是否真的非要挂着CEO的头衔,才能在谷歌做到同样的事情?

    事实是谷歌和Facebook都成功保证了企业列车的运行,但是Facebook让扎克伯格这个梦想家坐了头把交椅,因此它也拥有了独特的优势。而且这位梦想家也不受谷歌的“三头统治”掣肘(所谓“三头统治”,是指谷歌的大事都是由埃里克•施密特、拉里•佩奇和另一位创始人谢尔盖•布林三人共同研究决定——译注)。企业之所以存在“总裁”和“COO”的头衔,是考虑到了高管层的运营能力。如果你的企业处于高速发展模式,这一点非常重要。

    谷歌却恰好跟Facebook相反:管理型人才手握权柄,梦想家却郁郁不得志。幸好随着拉里•佩奇重任CEO,这种情况已经被纠正过来了。如果谷歌需要一位总裁或COO的话,他们就该去雇一个总裁或COO。

    我知道当谈到创始CEO和“职业CEO”孰优孰劣时,我可能带有一点偏见。不过我从不认为,我之所以应该当CEO,原因仅仅因为我是这个公司的创立者。我一直努力工作,向我的员工和投资方证明我是领导公司的正确人选。这并不是一条总是好走的路。

    我的公司创立几年后,我们一度想要扩大公司产品线,不过我们马上意识到,如果我们更专注于一个细化的领域,那么我们很可能获得更大的成功。我们避免了扩张可能带来的损失,事实证明,这对公司来说是正确之举。作为创始人,我不想看见我亲手打造的公司因为企图过快地走多样化战略而承受盲目扩张的恶果。然而如果是一位新CEO的话,他可能会继续扩张,来证明他有向新市场进行扩张的能力。

    创始人不仅应该一开始就当CEO,也应该一直留任CEO,除非事实清楚地摆在眼前,人人都能看出他绝对无法带领公司继续发展。如果创始CEO缺乏运营技能——就像当年的我一样,那么公司就该雇佣一位非常强力的首席财务官(CFO)或运营经理,甚至不妨雇佣一位总裁或首席运营官。如果创始CEO需要辅导——也像当年的我一样,那么董事会或者公司自身应该提供这种辅导。一家企业就是一个鲜活的有机体,创始人就是它生命的一个关键部分。

    本文作者Joel Bomgar是Bomgar Corporation公司的创始人兼CEO,该公司是一家远程IT支持解决方案提供商。

    译者:朴成奎

    In the same way that a parent's advice never sounds quite as convincing as a new friend's, and a prophet is hardly ever as believable in his hometown as he is abroad, tech founders have had a hard time making the case that they should, in fact, keep the top seat as their companies mature.

    But thankfully, the conversation over whether a technology company's founder should be the CEO is back on the table. For years, there was a pervasive assumption that a founder was somehow unfit to lead his or her organization by the sheer fact that he or she was the founder.

    As a founder CEO myself, I find the suggestion that a founder is somehow ill-equipped to lead a company to be entirely misguided. Who better than the individual who originally conceived of a company to guide the organization through its various stages of maturity?

    When I launched my company at 23, I wasn't a Harvard MBA with a burning desire to become an entrepreneur. I was a recent college graduate and a field systems engineer, frustrated by the amount of time I spent driving from one client site to the next. So I developed software that allowed me to do remote support, and started a company in 2003.

    To say I was inexperienced would be an understatement. When I first started out, I found myself in charge of product development, finance, human resources, and marketing. I needed help navigating these unfamiliar environments, and I sought it out from a variety of sources. But as the company grew, so did I. And while I face significantly different challenges as the head of what is now a larger company, I firmly believe that there is value in growing with a company as its founder and CEO.

    Unfortunately, the tendency to replace founder CEOs with "professional CEOs" still has a strong following. If it didn't, then Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz wouldn't have gotten so much flack for insisting from the outset of their venture capital firm that they had a strong preference for the founder to be CEO in 2009. They stated:

    Not all founders can become great CEOs, but most of the great companies in our industry were run by a founder for a long period of time, often decades, and we believe that pattern will continue. We cannot guarantee that a founder can be a great CEO, but we can help that founder develop the skills necessary to reach his or her full CEO potential.

    Andreessen and Horowitz's position was so counter to the prevailing wisdom that they felt the need to write a blog post in 2010 explaining their logic again.

    Their preference was preceded by a 2005 study of stock market returns for founder-led vs. non-founder-led companies by Martin L. Martens, which was featured in Harvard Business Review. The article states:

    Founder-led companies had a market-adjusted return of 12% over the course of three years and a survival rate of 73%, compared with a return of -26% and a survival rate of 60% for firms that hired a new CEO…

    In fact, financial results in the wake of founders stepping aside -- voluntarily or involuntarily -- have been so bad that they caused many founders to return to their companies as CEOs to try to save (or reinvigorate) the companies they established. Large company examples of this trend include Larry Page at Google (GOOG), Michael Dell at Dell (DELL), Howard Schultz at Starbucks (SBUX), Charles Schwab at Schwab (SCHW), Richard Schaden at Quiznos, Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn, Tim League at Alamo Drafthouse, Jeffrey Citron at Vonage (VG), and the pioneer of the trend: Steve Jobs at Apple (AAPL). Small-company examples abound as well, such as Rob Kalin at Etsy, David Ulevitch at OpenDNS, and Philip Rosedale at Second Life.

    To be sure, the founder-returning-as-CEO medicine doesn't always do the trick. Sometimes the patient is too far gone (i.e. Yahoo (YHOO) and MySpace). But the trend is strong enough to raise the question of whether things might have been different had the founder not stepped down (or been forced aside) in the first place.

    Eric Schmidt's transition (or ejection) at Google raises the question of whether Google would have been even more successful had their VCs not forced them to hire an outside CEO. Could Eric Schmidt have accomplished everything he did at Google as president and COO just as well with Larry Page remaining CEO? I think so.

    Look at Mark Zuckerberg. Is anyone questioning his ability to lead Facebook? If Sheryl Sandberg, as COO of Facebook, can keep the trains running on time over there, did Eric Schmidt really need to be CEO to do the same at Google?

    The reality is that both Google and Facebook successfully kept the trains running, but Facebook has the benefit of a visionary at the top. (A visionary who isn't tied to a "triumvirate" of leadership like at Google.) The titles "president" and "COO" exist to allow for executive-level operational capabilities, which are critical when your company is in hyper-growth mode.

    Google had things upside-down: A manager at the top and a visionary stuck underneath. Thankfully that has now been corrected, with Larry Page returning to the helm. If they need a president/COO, they should hire one -- with that title.

    I'm aware that I may be a bit biased when it comes to founder/CEOs versus "professional CEOS." But I've never assumed that I deserve to be CEO simply because I founded the company. I've worked hard to demonstrate to my staff and investors that I'm the right person to lead my company, and it's not always been a simple road.

    A few years into my company's life, we attempted to expand our product line but quickly realized that we'd achieve more success by keeping things more narrowly focused. We cut our losses on the expansion, which proved to be the right move for the company. As a founder, I didn't want to see the company I'd built struggle under the weight of our own attempt to diversify too quickly. A new CEO may have continued to push forward to prove his or her ability to expand into new markets.

    The founder should start as CEO and remain CEO unless it is blatantly clear to everyone that it absolutely, positively isn't working. If the founder lacks operational expertise -- as I did -- the company should hire a really strong CFO or head of operations, or even a president/COO. If the founder needs coaching -- as I did -- the board or company itself should provide it. A company is a living, breathing organism, and the founder is a key part of its lifeblood.

    Joel Bomgar is the founder and CEO of Bomgar Corporation, a provider of remote IT support solutions.

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