Not long ago, a story had appeared in the media about a startup founder whose company was acquired. The startup’s team was brought on board at the new company, but the founder wasn’t. It brings up a common potential challenge for many entrepreneurs, as well as co-founders, and early stage employees — where and how to maintain a position as the company scales, receives funding, or sees an acquisition. While in the instance referenced above, the founder was a woman, it’s not an uncommon issue for male founders, too. While it is impossible to know what will really happen in the event of a major business milestone, such as growth, funding or acquisition, there are some things that can help entrepreneurs and executives maintain their position.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of assuming that just because a business was their idea, or that they launched the company, that their long-term value is an automatic. But, unfortunately, it’s not always the case. There are many instances where a board might vote out a founder of a funded company, or where a founder might become too myopic with part of the business while letting others on the team take a greater part of the reigns. Often, it isn’t done with intention on anyone’s part — but can often be realized when it’s too late.
Many say the answer is to avoid co-founders, investors, or partners, it’s often not the cause or the issue. Though every situation and every company is unique, there are a few key practices to keep in mind and maintain diligence about at every stage of the business.
1. Grow With The Business – The early days of any company is often limited to a small, intimate group of people where the founder wears many hats and has his or her hand in everything. As the company scales and more team is added, many are relieved to let go of some of the duties — but that doesn’t mean you should let go of your involvement and interaction in everything. I don’t mean micromanage your team, but playing an active role in all areas of the company can be a critical piece. Staying engaged and involved in the business, maintaining leadership and input in strategic areas can help maintain value and position within the company.
2. Stay Flexible – Many founders are passionate about their business and ideas. But while this is an asset to the company, if it limits your flexibility to adapt, grow or evolve with the company it can potentially weaken your value and position. You don’t want to be so flexible that the company or leadership lacks focus, but if you’re unwilling to explore or learn about a department or function you’re not particularly familiar with, or play an active part in something that is outside of your comfort or skill zone, you can dilute your place in the business. You may not be the one doing the coding in development, or handling the spreadsheets in accounting, but scale with the business.
3. Stay Involved And Informed — Staying present, involved and active in the company goes beyond just the walls of your building or solely among your team. It includes within the industry, market and among your customers as well — including maintaining a pulse on industry trends, new innovations, companies, ideas, and technologies in the market as well. Many founders gain business success or launch ideas because they’re experts in their industry or field, only to let that go by the wayside later in business. It can be a challenge to keep present/relevant, ahead of the curve and in the know in your industry, but doing so can help keep your stance within your business.
4. Keep A Positive Attitude — The rigors of early stage business, particularly among team and partners, can take a toll on everybody. But it is important to keep your attitude and approach in check in this aspect to maintain a solid stance in your business. Many let relatively small issues grate on them, hold onto grudges or negative feelings, over or under-address issues to the detriment of their own work. By first expecting there to be tension from time to time, knowing when and how to pick and fight battles, and developing communication skills in addressing issues, you can maintain a greater value in your company, long after it hits its major milestones in its business.