When in Doubt, Be First!

By: Andy Medley

It should be the expectation, if not the rule, that you as the Founder are the first leader in most departments.  In my experience, doing this increases the likelihood of success tenfold when it comes time to hire your eventual replacement.

Every time I have skipped being the manager in a particular department, the results were less than desirable.  More specifically, the person didn’t work out.  In most cases, I was to blame.


The beginning building blocks of a company or department are hard and full of gut decisions that are necessary to get something going.  The decisions are typically made with the knowledge only the founder or CEO possesses because they have 24 hour access to every other piece of the business. This isn’t right or wrong, but simply a reality.  During this time, lots of mistakes and learning takes place that usually isn’t the skill set of somebody whose job it is to scale.  As the builder, you are doing some very specific things.


  • Forcing learning and driving education.
  • Setting the expectation for you and the company for what the department should be
  • Crystallizing your vision for what role this department should play within the strategy
  • Dramatically increasing your confidence in making the right hire and leading that new manager effectively
  • Setting the right trajectory for the culture of this new department
  • Establishing the lines of communication between this new department and the other leaders and their departments
  • Creating the baseline KPI’s and goals that tie directly to the vision
  • Determining a realistic budget


Notice that scale isn’t in here.  It isn’t what you’re after.  You’re after that initial foundation.  Let the operators take it from there.  They create the scale by making great results repeatable.


I’ve done this with Sales, Ops, Marketing, HR, and Finance.  In some instances, there was a leader in waiting and we were able to build together.  Other times, I was starting from scratch.  In every instance, there was much better alignment and understanding from my time in those roles to better set the expectation for myself and that leader.  As a result, the new manager was set up for success and my confidence in the direction rose as a result.


I recently wrote a post on using the internet to lead.  This post focused on the wealth of information available which makes playing the first leader in multiple functions possible.  I have read more on sales, marketing, client success, etc. than I care to mention.  I pulled the best ideas, best metrics, best structure and starting moving.  Basically, there is no excuse for you to not feel comfortable doing it yourself and setting your next leader up for success by walking in their shoes and taking the first few lumps!