Troubles with Team Member/VP

Unsure of what to do with/about a team member who has overstepped his position in terms of power, which i sort of graciously gave the title of Vice President to, and has brought a great deal of negative energy, as well as combativeness and false sense of authority to my workplace.

I founded and am CEO of my seed stage startup, with 100% equity, have worked for just over a year, with many long days/nights on my own to build the company to where it is now. I am part of tech garden/business accelerator which is of amazing help for growth, networking, advisors and even pre-seed funding. But for the most part, the entire development and real work part of it is done all on my own.

I came across an individual at the tech garden/business accelerator who works for a company dealing in international trade, as I aim to build additional factories in a region they have connections for, it was a productive strategic plan to establish and move forward with that. The trade company is a small 2 person company, with the individual i met owning 49%. His position in the company as he stated is to merely serve as credibility for the company, because he is old and has white hair, in which their main dealings with china give the company reputability. So basically i guess he is there and his presence gives credibility in that culture.

Over time in working with him, he became more and more interested in being a part of my company. His skill set was not at all attractive to anything my company is doing or really will do, as it is in tech writing, crisis management and sort of quality systems control or something … basically from my gathering, when something is messed up he figures out what happened and who did it, so it can be addressed, in which case the person who made a mistake bad enough to need someone like that can be fired. Im still under 15 employees so, i have no need for a person like that.

Anyway, over time he pressured his way in more and more and we worked together a bit on some planning things. Until he finally got me to give him a position as VP. I started inviting him to meetings, he made a few introductions to an attorney i am using, a person who may be a good chief engineer and an accountant.

All was well enough, until he became ornery and brought negative energy. I refuse to work with, near or even be around anyone with negative energy; will try to help them resolve their problem, but if it continues, it rubs me the wrong way and they fall out of my good favor.

It happened once, when we were working together … him being negative … attempting to take power over the company and over me and being combative. I asked what was wrong, he acted as though nothing was. We attempted to then file a report, where basically he just picked my mind and wrote it down … it didn’t work out well and he left, i did it myself and it came out much better.

Then the other day, similar situation, bringing a lot of general negative energy, complaining about petty issues. Questioning me and trying to tell me how to think and how to do things. I got the sense he though he had control of the company … no f*in way. We began to develop a plan to get from seed to series a. It was blatantly apparent he has absolutely no idea about how companies are formed, no idea about finance, no real sense of how our company and product works, and no idea about anything that goes into the development of this … raising a wantrepreneur flag. As we were attempting to document a rough sketch of the plan, he begins asking ridiculously irrelevant detailed things, such as the fact that when they ship equipment they must close the door on the container, that the container must be moved from a truck to a boat, the gauge of the padlock on the container, the color or the padlock (not really but you get the idea). This detracts from the whole building of the company and strategy and gets things off topic.

Anyway, he is about 80 and is only in this so he can retire and does seem to have a passion for it. He is asking for equity in the company. I plan on using all the company funds to build more factories, after paying salaries, and making sure there is more then enough money for all operations to be completed and managed but only for the most capable people. Unsure if to pay him salary, give small equity and how to disburse that or change our working relationship to take a step back. He has been personally helpful. As i broke my leg and he has been assisting me. What are your thoughts?

  • This guy needs you more than you need him.

    I’d give this guy 0 equity.

    Pay him a flat salary-if he doesn’t like it he can leave.

    And hope he keeps his mouth shut..

      • I find it difficult sometimes when feeling the power. When doing financial projections and dealing with finance, as well a big power plays i can feel it course through my veins, from that, i know exactly what needs to be done; when writing emails and such, i don’t want to be too demanding though and try to maintain my niceness as a person, maybe people misconstrue that as weakness. It seems being assertive is a very artful form of communication, for me at least. With the exercising of power comes great responsibility along with a plethora of political bs. Hence in aptitude for remaining reclusive and in constant stealth mode. I feel he may be f*ing up that plan, with his inept exercise of power , drawing unwanted attention, which at this stage, can ruin everything

  • I think you should seriously talk to him. First thing to do: make a clear separation between the past and the future. In the past, his help was valuable for your company. So from the past acts, your company owes him something (the VP title is already something, very small equity could be another thing). But your company has also a future, and in his current position he can’t help. You must talk with him to address this issue. Maybe you could find a role where he would be efficient and happy, and you too. Maybe you should part ways. The main thing to avoid is staying in this situation where nobody is happy and the company will suffer. You must talk. Probably many times.

  • 0 equity. I skimmed what you wrote but didn’t see what value he was bringing? Sounded like 3/4 negative and still am unsure how he’s helping you.

    If it’s a power grab for him now, once you give equity just wait until he starts talking about how he now is an owner in the company and decisions need to be run through him, affect his lively hood etc etc.

    Arm chair call from here is NO EQUITY, you’re already not happy with the situation, why would you give him more.

    If you do give equity, just make sure he vests for 2 years at least. I made that mistake personally bringing on a 3rd partner and giving a small piece of equity with no vest. The guy eventually tried to worm his way into taking over as CEO and had me all twisted up. Once I came to my senses I gave him the boot and got one of our investors to buy back his shares for a steep discount.

    Things are a lot better now and I wish I just had more faith and self-belief at the time, instead of letting someone put me in that situation.

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