I often get asked 'what makes a good founder and can they really be the CEO longer term?'
Here are a few thoughts on what I look for in the stages of founder development:
- Operations Chops--for real early stage founders, I look for whether they understand their space and have the capability to build the solutions that match customer needs in the space.
- Organization View--later, as their staff grows, I look for the ability of the founder to look across their organization and see where connectivity needs to happen, like coordinating marketing & sales, or product development & customer support.
- People View--as the organization matures and the need arises for more senior management to run the company, I look for the founder's ability to mentor and develop new team members into managers.
- Strategy Skills--as companies evolve, strategies need to morph as the marketplace changes. I look for strategy skills form the founder that will help the company successfully introduce new products and services to their customers.
The reality is that you can never know up front if a founder has all these skills. Often, you will need to mentor them into the new stages as a board member or investor. If you see resistance to advancing to new stages, then it may be the time to bring in a new CEO.