We all have successful friends who we wouldn’t trust piloting an airplane or wielding a scalpel. It’s understood that many professions require years of training and experience to master. So, why does everyone think that he/she can be a successful entrepreneur? The next Steve Jobs, in fact.
Is it because certain notables, like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson, never finished college? Entrepreneurship 101, no post high school education required?
No, the explanation lies elsewhere.
Experts often cite the cause as Founderitis, or Founder’s Syndrome. While definitions vary, organizations suffer from Founderitis when inventors/founders maintain undue control and influence over the business after its initial funding. Successful engineers, programmers, and scientists are not “born” business administrators. Just because someone developed new IP does not mean that he/she can effectively manage a business. Much less a fast-growing, evolving business.
The road to success is littered with great products that failed. Some of those products had no markets; others were ahead of their times. Many, however, failed because of founders whose managerial on-the-job-training and/or reluctance to delegate exacerbated simple problems.
The world is awash with apps that encourage such Founderitis. Apps offering step-by-easy-step instructions on how to do critical business tasks (accounting, project management, legal advice, social media posting, salesforce management . . .). That does not mean that entrepreneurs should spend their time mastering them. “Wearing all the hats” in an organization, while a point of pride for far too many founders, is more often an indicator of future failure. Bookkeepers are relatively inexpensive. Social media help, too. Good legal advice can be priceless. Investor advice is more valuable still.
Most investors will recommend that founders concentrate on what they do best. Product development or, perhaps, sales. Other organizational roles can easily be filled with experienced individuals. Yes, investors are well versed in how to deal with Founderitis.
After all, not every founder is destined to be a successful CEO.
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Peter has spent the past twenty-plus years as an acting/consulting CFO for a number of small businesses in a wide range of industries. Peter’s prior experience is that of a serial entrepreneur, managing various start-up and turnaround projects. He is a co-founder of Keurig.