Are entrepreneurs bad employees?

Who, me?
Who, me?
Image: Reuters/Stephen Lam
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This question originally appeared on Quora: Why are entrepreneurs bad employees? Answer by Auren Hoffman, former CEO of LiveRamp.

Why are entrepreneurs bad employees? They’re not. Entrepreneurs are usually the very best employees.

It is actually the opposite problem—most companies are really bad employers of super talented and entrepreneurial people. Most companies cannot cope with the top 1% and they end up losing their most talented people.

Entrepreneurial employees cannot be micromanaged. They will not last in an organization that gives them a very short leash. This means that if a company wants these types of employees to thrive, 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.

Companies also lose their most talented people because they do not promote them fast enough. They think these people are too inexperienced to handle more responsibility, which ends up forcing these people to leave. Great companies recognize talent and promote them fast.  They give them more responsibility. They give them a bigger leash. Your most talented employees should always be growing, be stretching, be reaching, and always feel a bit uncomfortable… otherwise they will leave.

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. One way to attract and retain amazing entrepreneurs is to try to systematically scrap rules—when appropriate—and be extremely vigilant when adding more rules. And “rules” include meetings. Some meetings are really important, but only the ones that are important and well-run should remain.

Now there are some people who can ONLY be entrepreneurs because they just cannot have a boss, and they think everyone around them is stupid. (I used to be this person when I was younger). But most people can thrive within an organization… if the company is set up well enough to allow top performers to truly excel.

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