Founders' reliance on IT manager/network admin


I am (co-)starting a company with the bought assets of my previous (software) company, dormant for over a year. The IT guy from the previous company is coming on board to help revive the server (needs some repair work), restore code and data, and help set up the new infrastructure.

In some sense the IT guy seems indispensable because he has all the key passwords, commands the security of the system, and possesses "native wisdom" about the hardware/software assets of the company.

As a co-founder, however, I have the instinctive anxiety about such a critical dependence on the IT/network guy to run the company going forward.

Unfortunately, IT/network admin is not among my or my co-founder's skills. Employees we have lanned to hire can take caer of certain things (like version control systems), ut we will need the services of a network manager anyway.

Ideally I would like to be able to hire any IT person any time (fitting our requirements), not be so vulnerable as to be held to ransom by an IT guy who may obstruct or hijack the company assets in case any of his demands are not met any time.

I will appreciate insights on how founders/owners of tech ventures go about ensuring that even though they may have an IT admin, they retain freedom to replace network admins and are not worried for the life or death of their venture because of dependence on an IT admin.

Many thanks!

IT Employees

asked Feb 1 '11 at 09:02
Aaron Smothers
56 points

2 Answers


I would recommend finding a small IT shop to do the work for you. Even if someone is very trustworthy, experience has taught me to have a very good backup plan and audit audit audit.

For someone with that level of access, I would demand documentation of every configuration and account. AND I would periodically bring in someone to verify/audit documentation.

Being "paranoid" has never let me down, but when I let my guard down, I almost always ended up with a "scar".

answered Feb 1 '11 at 12:07
Apollo Sinkevicius
3,323 points
  • Agreed, especially if the IT shop has been in business for several years and multiple customers, and has procedures in place for multiple staff members to be able to administer your system. You don't want a situation like you're in now, which is that if one guy gets hit by a bus, you're pretty much out of business. – Bob Murphy 13 years ago


Have you considered a 'carrot' approach.
While servers can be rebuilt with generic skills outsourced, what he brings sounds like more than this, in that he has knowledge of the internal processes that were built over time, the "native wisdom" you referred to. Is offering some amount of equity to start for current contributions, and more based on some specific performance goals met over time not a possibility?

It would give some measure of security to him knowing not only has his value been recognised, but is also being rewarded, and that his reward will grow so long as he continues to stay with the company and keep growing it.
It may also give you negotiating power when it comes to his full compensation package since if you want to maximise startup capital then with an equity stake you can justify a below market salary initially as he will in essence be trading the difference to the equity acquired.
His willingness to grow within the company, and hand over this high-value knowledge to others as he grows into new or more senior roles may also be encouraged now that he has a stake in the company to think about as well.
Getting your early employees to feel just as vested in the business as you do can be a powerful tool not just for lowering attrition rates, but also creating that sense of belonging and the 'shared value' culture that is needed for the growth of the company from an early stage startup to a fully self-sustaining and profitable business.

The answer I read before seems to have offered an approach that may be taken as the 'stick' approach to the IT guy/admin, however if he's smart he also knows his value to the company of the information he has, so the willingness to handover might not as present if you start demanding documentation, and if the topic is not brought up diplomatically you may end up creating more risk than you are trying to mitigate this way.

answered Apr 23 '11 at 04:05
Nissan Dookeran
177 points
  • This is insightful and well-considered. Thanks Nissan! Part of the anxiety for a backup stems from the fact that he is in his 60's. – Aaron Smothers 13 years ago

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