Founders: Do You Want to Be Belichick or Brady?
February 6, 2012
Sunday’s outcome aside, Tom Brady is a great football player. He is the quarterback who leads the offense for the great New England Patriots football team. He calls and coordinates every play and then leads the execution of each play.
Bill Belichick is a great football coach. He leads the entire team and is ultimately responsible for making sure the entire team is fully aligned with its mission each week (to win) and each season (to win the Super Bowl). In order for the team to win, he knows that he needs to get the right players, develop them, have a great strategy that his current players can win with, and then make sure that the players and other coaches have what they need to win the game. In essence, he needs to make sure that he has the right players doing the right things in the right way.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick work together very closely, but they have separate and distinct roles that each of them need to execute well in order to win the game.
Founders of start-ups generally start their companies playing both the Bill Belichick role and the Tom Brady role, but as your company grows it becomes impossible to play both roles. Founders who try to play both roles become a bottleneck for the company. (a great management guru once said “the bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle”)
At some point in a growing company, you as a founder need to answer the question: Do you want to be Belichick or Brady? Being Brady means that you are responsible for an important part of your company and you are driving it to be successful. You are in the game in an active way, calling plays and then leading the execution moment by moment. Being Belichick means that you are responsible for the overall success of the company and are working to get the great players to join the team, developing each and every player, setting strategies that they can execute, and spending your time trying to address the holes that materialize as your team executes the strategy.
The Brady and Belichick roles are separate and distinct. Both are admirable and the right answer to the question depends on where your passion and capabilities lie. Belichick would not make a great quarterback and Brady would not make a great head coach right now because their passion and capabilities lie in the roles that they have chosen.
There is another option. If you are a natural blend of Brady and Belichick and you want to play both roles then you should consider starting another company where playing the blended role is important.
Who do you want to be, Belichick or Brady?