Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. My startup was bought by a big company. I am now in charge of a really large group. It’s been going well, but I’m not sure that I want to stay. Is that normal?
Congrats on being in this position. Obviously, you built a great company that continues to grow and provide value, and you’ve done a great job scaling an idea and leading people.
But your question raises another question: Do you want to be a leader in a massive company, or do you want to be a builder in a small company?
I believe you’ve already answered this question for yourself, but let’s dig into what’s happening here. Though you are in a great position, it’s a tough position. That’s because it possibly cuts against what you want for yourself.
Do you want to get world-class at what you are already doing? There’s merit to that; in fact, it’s a natural progression. But for some people, scaling a big and sprawling company will never be satisfying. Those people are builders—and they want to be creating something new.
I loved my earliest days at eBay. What I had to do was so clear and I was so focused on the task: Fix things.
The truth is that I felt very needed. I learned how important that was to me when I stepped into my next role as COO and was responsible for making sure we could scale. It involved heavy lifting and was important work, but it wasn’t as much fun. That’s because I did my job, which meant enabling others to make decisions and run their teams, and I no longer felt as needed. That’s when I knew it was time to move on.
Here’s my advice: Do your day job beautifully, so that you have options, but get ready to do what you are called to do. Focus on getting everything set up perfectly for you to leave this company so it can fly without you. At the same time, think about what you want to do next and how you want to do it. You don’t need to tell anyone until you figure it out, but don’t wait until you leave to start this work—that will take time away from actually doing it, and you will never get that time back.
Continue to honor your contract and execute flawlessly. Simultaneously figure out what you want to build next, and then when the time is right, go do what really motivates you.