Before you say “both” you may want to give it some thought. The person who starts a company and sells the first few customers is very rarely the person that gets the company to 50, 60, 70 customers and beyond.
BUILDING A PRODUCT VERSUS BUILDING A COMPANY
Starting a company is a fantastic experience when you look at it from a distance. If you ask a founder on any given day if they love the process, you may be surprised when they tell you no. Starting a business is a daily diet of problems and challenges. Ask them if they would instead do anything else, and they will also say no without hesitation.
One of the most significant issues founders have is that they don’t realize that they are probably not the right person to build the company. They are the perfect person to take an idea and turn it into an early stage startup. After finding the first few believing customers, things begin to change. The great idea or product starts to feel like a business. A business means customers and their issues, employees and their issues and all kinds of things that didn’t occur back when the company was a few people in a shared workspace.
After the first handful of customers, many founders can’t see that their idea wants and needs to become a company. They also don’t know that they are probably standing in the way. The founder is most likely the domain expert, but they are most likely not qualified to build a company. They don’t know what it looks like; they can’t detect BS from consultants, they are not experts at hiring people or handling employee issues. Combine this with the fact that most founders will tell you that being the CEO isn’t what moves them. It isn’t the reason they do what they do.
THE FOUNDER’S TRAP
Founders often feel like it isn’t the right time to bring a CEO into the picture. Perhaps it’s a cost issue. Maybe it’s a lack of awareness of the need. It could be the founder is just so busy paddling they can’t pay attention to anything else. It may even be a combination of all of these. The reality is that bringing the right talent aboard to build the business should be done much earlier than most founders think. The founder’s trap is that they start hiring sales people or more developers without the strategic leadership and experience that is needed first.
The person that taught me about this topic is Ted Dacko. Ted is the CEO of Arbor Dakota. Arbor Dakota (arbordakota.com) is a valuable partner to any company trying to make the jump from product or idea to becoming an actual company. He has been a crucial part of the success I have enjoyed. You may want to connect with Ted if you are in a position to scale your business.
Your idea needs to be out in the world. Is this the year you scale your business and start enjoying life again?
- Founders tend to be domain experts.
- CEOs build companies.
- It is rare for a founder also to be a good CEO.
Don Turner is an operations professional and author. His most recent book is called The Good Professional. More about Don at DonaldTurner.org.