Brian McAndrews’ Management Maxims from the MIT VC Conference

Brian was CEO of aquantive and now with Madrona Venture Group.  Here shared his management maxims with the audience at the MIT VC Conference at th Charles Hotel in Cambridge and I thought they were worth sharing.


Quick background on aQuantive

aQuantive was founded as Avenue A in Seattle in 1997.  The company went public in 2000 with $44M in revenue at $24 per share, which then went to $30M and $0.65 per share (the same year they launched the Atlas ad serving techology and started selling it to their competitors).  By 2004 the revenue was $158M and launched DrivePM ad network and acquired Razorfish.  In 2007 the company was sold to Microsoft for $66 a share.


McAndrews’ Management Maxims

  1. Set clear objectives, hold accountable and get out of the way.  Objectives should be aggressive but achievable.  Delegate, let go, let your managers be as good as they can be.  People who are willing to be kept accountable are the people you want to keep !  And make decisions as close to the customer as possible, and put the right incentives and P/L in place carefully to achieve this.  When running a single P/L, everyone is a cost center so getting to individual P/L’s and force managers to make the cost/revenue tradeoffs.  Otherwise everyone is coming to you with resource requests.  As a manager, you also need to keep the ability to override incentive structures when the market changes fast, so maybe the CEO needs to keep the ability to override.  You should also let your team pick their team.  Input and mentorship on recruitment are fine, but let the manager hire his team.
  2. Micromanagement does not scale.  Micromanagement in the early days is not only acceptable but expected.  Everything at the beginning is critically important and can make the difference between success and failure.  But this does not scale; it’s quickly time to get out of the way.  Micromanagement is also a virus.  Micromanaging CEO’s turn all their own reports into micromanagers by default.
  3. It is far more important to be respected than liked.  Give respect, get respect.  Many managers care too much about liked to become good managers.  If you communicate with people with integrity and with directness, and you give people the explanation they deserve, you will build respect even when making unpopular decisions. 
  4. Give employees the right to be wrong.  “To swear off mistakes is very easy, all you have to do is swear off ideas” (Leo Burnett).  If we are not making enough mistakes, we are not taking enough risk.  Or turn this around, we become more successful by making more mistakes than the competition.  Two caveats: learn from every mistake (and share the learning) and never make a mistake of integrity (for those, there are no second chances).
  5. No jerks. Just don’t tolerate jerks (as defined as people who do not respect others and do not treat them appropriately), no matter how good they are.
  6. Have a bias for action.  the best decision is the right decision, the next best is making the wrong decision, the worse is not making a decision at all.  You also need to align accountability with decision making.
  7. Live and run your business according to your values.

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