Twitter’s Elon Musk Problem Is Just Beginning. These 5 Words From the Company’s CEO Explain Why

If Elon Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board of directors after acquiring a 9.2 percent stake in the company’s stock came as a surprise, Musk broke the news on Monday declined the seat was both shocking and, at the same time, not at all surprising. It’s also an important lesson for any entrepreneur, and not just because it serves as a case study in dealing with volatile individuals. It’s about avoiding distractions and focusing on what matters most.

As for Musk, the move was shocking because he bought shares in a company, spoke to its CEO and board, convinced them to offer you a seat, and agreed not to try to take over the company, only to decline in the morning, when you should take it is not the way things are usually done. Then again, it’s not surprising at all, since Musk rarely does anything the way it’s usually done.

You see, serving on the board has had very little benefit for Musk. Most of his influence over the company stems from his huge following as well as the fact that he is now the largest shareholder. In proof of this, Twitter revealed over the weekend that it is indeed working on a long-awaited edit button but felt the need to point out that it hadn’t, in response to a user poll published by Musk last week.

Being a director, on the other hand, comes with the burden of a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. As in – everyone – not just himself. It seems pretty clear that the richest man in the world isn’t particularly interested regulatory restrictions.

For Twitter, on the other hand, offering a board seat was a stroke of genius. Not only is it better to have an intense critic like Musk inside offering constructive ways to improve the product, but the move had the added benefit for Twitter that Musk agreed not to try to take over the company or even to buy more than 14.9 percent of the company’s stock.

In theory, it would also have ensured that the eccentric billionaire wouldn’t keep fooling the company on the platform it’s built — something that seems to be one of Musk’s favorite pastimes, especially lately. That seems to have been a strong motivation for the company, as the shows Statement shared by Twitter’s CEOParag Agrawal on Monday:

We also felt that having Elon as a trustee of the company where he, like all board members, must act in the best interests of the company and all of our shareholders is the best way forward.

Instead, however, Musk chose not to join the board. It’s not entirely clear why, but apparently some talks with the company have ended. I suspect the conversation included a reminder of that onerous fiduciary responsibility, and Musk realized it would be a lot more fun to retain his shitposting rights while maintaining the influence of his “largest shareholder” status.

I point to this last line of Agrawal’s testimony as Exhibit One:

There will be distractions, but our goals and priorities remain the same. The decisions we make and how we execute them are in our hands, no one else’s. Let’s turn off the noise and focus on work and what we’re building.

That’s an understatement, to say the least. These first five words are perhaps the most important of the entire message, and they are a valuable lesson for any entrepreneur.

There will certainly be distractions. Twitter’s Elon Musk problem is going nowhere. He’ll still troll the company, and if he does, he’ll draw a lot of attention.

Agrawal is trying to help his team refocus and not get distracted by what’s next from Musk. That’s important because Twitter’s real problem isn’t with Elon Musk. I know this is counterintuitive, but I’m serious.

The real problem with Twitter is that it never figured out how to become a good company. That’s not to say it’s not important, but it’s especially important for people who spend a lot of time on Twitter. For the vast majority of Americans, Twitter is mostly irrelevant. If that’s going to change, Twitter employees need to stop themselves from getting distracted and focus on making it better. It would also be nice to find a way to make it a sustainably profitable business.

The same goes for Musk, who — I think we can all agree — is easily distracted. I suppose if you’re the richest person in the world, you can afford a $3 billion stake in an underperforming social media company to be a distraction. The thing is, there are certainly a lot of things Musk should be focusing on.

For example, Tesla, the company that’s believed to be Musk’s day job, still promises things like “fully self-driving” cars are “coming in the next few months.” Or how about the delivery of the CyberTruck? Tesla’s futuristic-looking pickup truck was announced in 2019 and should start shipping to customers in 2021. That was later pushed back to 2022, and now Musk says he expects them to roll off the assembly line in 2023.

Perhaps he would spend a little less time on distractions, such as B. turning Twitter headquarters into a homeless shelter or dropping the “w” from the company name, and a little more time at his job would help bring his promises a little closer to reality.

Lest you think I’m picking on Musk, I’d argue that the same is true for any leader. It’s so easy to get distracted by the shiny new. The world we live in is full of distractions, which means it’s very easy to lose sight of what’s important. Except that there are people who count on you not to lose focus and do what you said. this is your job

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own and not those of Inc.com.

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