Last week, we examined the conditions under which a founder should leave the company that they started and grew. This week, we look at when a founder should remain active in their baby.
How can founders be involved?
- Critical Relationship Management--Founders often have very close relationships with key customers, channel partners and employees. Finding ways to take advantage of those relationships on an ongoing basis is an excellent way for a founder to stay involved and help grow the company, as long as it is in conjunction with existing senior management. Having a founder "responsible" for the relations with a key customer is not a good idea, either from the company or founder perspective. For example, the founder may not be fully aware of all that is going on in the company and could make mistakes advising customers on new product enhancement timetables.
- Science Advisor--Founders are often the brains behind the technology. If the founder has remained current in the field, then they can be valuable contributors to product development plans. Let the founder chair a scientific advisory committee, but make sure that management is heavily involved so that the recommendations are in tune with evolving customer needs and marketplace challenges.
- Institutional Memory--CEO's need sage advise to make sure that they do not do something stupid. Founders likely made a lot of mistakes early on and can help the current management team avoid them in the future. There is a fine line between advising and meddling, however. A founder should only act as institutional memory when asked, and not run around the management team regaling them with stories of "how I did it in my day".
It takes a special founder to serve as the right type of adviser to their start up. Understanding that someone else is now responsible for driving the company forward is a hard transition for many founders to accept. That is why you see so many of them sitting on the sidelines and stewing about the value of their founder's shares . Get over it, founder, and get on with your new life. Offer to help but don't be upset if no one calls. And remember, if all is successful, everyone will give big credits to the founder, no matter who made it ultimately happen.