I came across a great article that challenges founders to go flip some burgers – i.e. do the grunt work. Amen to that!
In fact I think this should apply not only to the founders, but to everyone in a startup. I have no patience for people who give me attitude about doing tasks that are “beneath them”. If that’s your attitude, don’t work in a startup. Join a large company instead.
I’ve seen a lot of startups raise a round of capital, which they then use to hire a seasoned management team to take the company to the next level. Alas, they picked people who are so seasoned (e.g. “Our new VP Sales was the general manager of a division with 300 people!”) that they’ve forgotten how to do the work. Not only that, but they have forgotten how to directly manage people who do the work. So they hire a middle manager, who then hires the actual technical contributors. The org chart is now so nested that you have to hire a skilled Visio monkey to get it to fit on one page (since none of your highly experienced new hires remember how to use Visio anymore).
I can’t speak for other disciplines, but I can say from experience that this is almost always the wrong model for an engineering team of 5 or 6. Much better to have one contributing manager directly working with the engineers instead. The contributing manager has to be happy flipping burgers too, sometimes for extended periods of time. The right time to add in a layer is when the group gets to 8-10 people, so each manager can work with a small nimble team and give them the leadership and mentorship they need.