There’s a scene in Black Hawk Down in which US forces have taken such heavy attack, sustained massive injuries, and cannot get out that they call back to base they are “combat ineffective”. It’s a powerful scene and circumstance that shows the casualties of war and gruesome fighting during a firefight. It’s also not the typical Hollywood hero story where the good guys win. It may be callous to compare this to startups but I think about it a lot in the context of people and companies “fighting” to win. As Ben Horowitz says there is a peace time CEO and a wartime CEO and they are rarely the same person.
Sometimes, when times are tough, and you have done everything you can, it makes more sense to “call it” rather than continue losing. It’s hard to do, but when so much is at stake it can mean stopping losses and saving what is left. Sometimes this means making an executive change, cutting a product, shutting down a division or winding down the entire co. The reality is that many of these decisions are incredibly hard and don’t happen soon enough. In the abstract its easy to make strategic decisions and cuts, but when humans and people you have worked with for years are at stake, it becomes incredibly difficult.
This topic has come up often recently, and while I won’t get specific, action usually takes too long. I have found that nobody looks back on the decision and things “wow, I am so glad we waited”. Waiting too long can be too late, and that doesn’t end up helping anyone. Taking a pride hit and “calling it” earlier is almost always the right decision. I’m never sure what the right decision is the more experience I gain.
What I do know is that it always makes more sense to live to die another day.Tags: Leadership