Today, I want to talk about somewhat of a debatable issue: What is a startup founder’s role once the company is up and running in a somewhat healthy state?
Now, depending on your pace of growth, this day could come as early as a few months into your journey (if you are extremely lucky if there is an unconventional market opportunity) or it could be a few years in. In either case, I think the following pointers still make sense.
Switch from a maker’s calendar to a manager’s calendar: In the second phase of your startup’s journey, there is a good chance that your organization now comprises teams of product, tech, customer etc. By this time, if your role as a founder has not shifted from a doer to a company builder, this is indicative of a problem in your organizational design. Look for opportunities to delegate your day-to-day to your teams and let them consolidate or “re-problematize” the flows you have designed while your team was smaller. This doesn’t mean you have to stop coding or designing if you have a unique skill set that you cannot afford outsourcing (either financially or operationally) but you need to be intentional about balancing your maker’s energy and manager’s energy.
Company Culture is important
Shape and foster your company’s culture: This is very much connected with the first pointer. After all, you need to be creating the time to start working on some intangible assets your organization needs like your organizational design or the culture you want to foster in the team. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, at this stage, your product and the problem it solves will largely impact what type of a purpose your team will rally around. But it is wise to be intentional about this as your purpose will turn into a living thing and will be enriched by each hire.
On the subject of hiring people, one of the roles you will assume as a founder would possibly involve creating a leadership team and leadership culture. I say possibly because there are other ways to approach leadership in a company, however, companies are rarely built on a “self-managing” culture (even though some achieve this until they get to 10 people). Instead, companies set out on a journey to become self-managing organizations (check out the concept of teal organizations and what it takes for a team to get there).
One of the things you will be responsible for as a founder and leader is to ensure that your leadership team is made up of individuals who can work in harmony. They don’t have to be best buddies (in fact this might cause more harm than it does good), but they need to understand what leadership entails in your organization.
One last remark I can make on the subject of culture and purpose is this: Oftentimes the subject of culture and purpose open a can of worms and lead to discussions about product, customer service or even the technologies you use. Be ready to revisit your business and product strategy at least once a year and make sure your team and your living culture provide input into these discussions.
This is all for today. Don’t forget to comment below and add your own ideas.