Founder’s Role Discussion

September 30, 2011 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

This post evolved as I wrote it over the past week or so and I learned, as I wrote it.  It starts in one place and ends up in another.  I should fix it so it tells one story, but I’m going to leave it as is.  Consider it like we are having a conversation exploring an idea.  We start in one place and end in another.  Here goes:

I started in entrepreneurship, got an MBA in bootstrapping and PhD from the school of hard knocks.  I read 50 books a year and have always.  I belong to mastermind groups and I take workshops.  The more I learn, the more I want to learn and the more I find that I need to learn.

As an entrepreneur, I know that business is simple – money in, money out – buy low, sell high – find a need fulfill it – make your customers deliriously happy and they will spread your story.  For a long time I thought that would be all I need to build Crystal Clear Bookkeeping.  I just keep plugging, keep figuring each bit out, I’ll keep growing and eventually get ‘there’.

As I work to build my business into something bigger than me and I look around for help, I see how all of this has already been figured out.  The businesses that make the transition from small to big or medium were all started with the infrastructure they would need when they were bigger.  Maybe bootstrapping the management is not the way to go.

So what will it take?  It’s a case of Seth Godin’s simple but not easy:

  1. I have to identify what I want to have happen,
  2. find a process that will result in that outcome,
  3. learn it,
  4. tweak it to fit us (culture, industry, staff ability, available resources),
  5. train the appropriate people,
  6. implement it,
  7. measure results,
  8. refine and repeat for each aspect of the business.

This is basic Business 401: it’s been done, it’s all figured out, cookie cutter, follow the steps.    Right now it’s my job as Founder and Leader of this little enterprise to do it.

Would an MBA get me there faster?  That information, those tried and successful best practices, the way upward are all taught in an MBA program.  I can see why CEO’s go back to school to get their MBA.  Do I think spending $100,000 and a year and a half would give sufficient ROI? Yes I do.  Not only for the knowledge, but for the contacts and more importantly, for the change in me.  I would think of myself as the CEO, I would have invested in myself big time and I would have to step up to make it work.

In order to take my business to the place in my vision I think an MBA will get me there fastest.  The way I see it there are 3 options to get one:

  • Join an Executive MBA Program (designed for working executives)  Rotman school has a VERY appealing International program (learning and travel.  Ooooh).
  • Prepare my own course of study using the Personal MBA model and resources.  I can find video lectures of all the top business gurus and they have all written books.
  • Hire one; she doesn’t even have to be full time.

The first and third options are faster – meaning changes must come more quickly and the results will show up more quickly.  They both involve a leap.  The middle ground is the longer, slower slog and the one I have been on.  It’s also what this, the Business Owners Success Club, is about – learning, implementing, being held accountable.  It’s a powerful model for success and it works.

Michael Gerber, in the E-Myth, talks about the need for the roles of Technician, Manager and Entrepreneur.  At first, we fulfill all roles.  As our businesses grow the roles become bigger and more specialized.  Eventually we have to choose which roles we want to take on and which ones we will have others fill.

When you see a founder hire a CEO and take on the COO or the CTO (in a tech company) or the Chief Researcher title, they are keeping the Technician role.  When they become the CEO, or CMO, or CFO (depending upon their strength), they are taking on the manager’s role. When they become the Chair of the Board, they are taking on the Entrepreneur’s role.

The Founder needs to choose a role and make sure those other roles are fulfilled.  The success of the company depends upon the founder’s ability to let go and hire people way better than themselves.  A business can only grow as big as the Founder lets it.  That means letting others who are better at what they do, step up and do what needs doing.

Time to check in.

Do I want to be the COO?  I love bookkeeping.  I’m really good at it – Master level. I can sit down with a set of books and lose myself in the flow of it.  Do I want to spend my days doing that?  No way, been there done that.  Do I want to spend my days training staff- transferring my knowledge?  To be honest, not really.  I would like to help design a training course for our staff.

I love helping our business owners understand their financial statements and the information in them.  I enjoy coaching business owners and watching them take a leap in their business when they master this part.  Do I want to spend my days doing this?  As much as my eyes shine while I talk about it: no.  I would like to help design a coaching program and resources.

Do I want to be the CEO?  I love the idea of it; I love the control I would have.  Growing a business is exciting.  I can very clearly see where I want it to be.

To get it there requires performing the process I outlined above.  That’s what the CEO does.  A good CEO will rub her hands together gleefully and get right down to work.  That’s not me.  I get it, I could do it, but I don’t want to.

Do I want to be the Chairman of the Board?  It’s funny how that seems like what happens to the Founder right before (or as a form of) retirement.  This role feels the most freeing to me.  I want to continue to assemble the team, guide them and help them establish a great culture, and move on.  I have other projects I want to get to.

I’m still exploring here.  Is this a cop out?  Is it a problem if it is? What would this role look like in a business of this size?

The business isn’t big enough for multiple layers of management and it certainly isn’t big enough to pay a board even if the Chair is the Founder.  That would mean I’m out of a paycheque!  (It’s okay, I’m still smiling)

We’ve worked on our business model, we have a clear vision, we see the steps to be taken; now we implement.  I have to figure out my role and after our discussion today (thank you), it looks like my role is the Entrepreneur’s role of finding, training, nurturing and retaining top people to fulfill the other roles.  I think this will be the key to our success – as it is with every great company.

As I’ve been hiring, I’m telling my staff that I’m working to extricate myself from the day to day work.  I’ve been setting this expectation for a while, without really figuring out how it will work out.  My staff have made it clear that they can’t do what I do in terms of being able to sit with business owners and talk about their businesses in depth.  I know more than I think I know.  I have to figure out how to continue to provide this service without it being me doing it.  I have to figure out a way to download this info.

Looks like I have my work cut out for me.  Thank you for this discussion and the clarity you bring.  That may sound silly, but I have had this on my mind for a while and have had parts of this discussion with others.  Writing it out so that it is coherent (more or less) helps with the discipline to think it through all the way and to really make it crystal clear.  Yes, thank you.

Your turn!


Entry filed under: 1. Know Where You Are Going, 2. Develop Strong Teams, 3. Do It.

Business Model Generation September Reading

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The Three Success Factors

I have worked closely with 100’s of business owners and I have seen too many struggle. I have seen what works and what doesn't.

It takes 3 things to succeed:
1. Hard work - and I know you do that already.
2. Knowledge - domain knowledge: you've got that and continue to learn; and business knowledge: this is where everyone focuses and it's easy to find
3. Mindset - This is the killer app. This is what makes or breaks small business owners.

We work on Mindset here at the Business Owners Success Club: how you think about yourself and your business.

When you focus on a business that gives you what you need to live a Good Life and gives others what they need to solve a problem, everything else falls into place and you have a successful business.

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