The ideal scenario is that we start a business that is highly successful, that has a unique place in its market and that continues to innovate to meet changing market needs. Others often regard our success in these terms.
But there is very much a personal side to the building of the business. It obviously takes effort, ideas and persistence. Whether a founder of a business or a manager or team member… at a personal level we all want to contribute to something larger than ourselves. Ideally we want to leave a legacy – to have made the world a better place in some way – it gives us our sense of purpose.
Our job as founders is also to know when to get out of our own way. And for many (including myself) we often cannot see this – which means we rely on strong people around us to hold up the mirror. It is now been four years since Jemma was appointed General Manager – and with every year that has passed I stepped further away from the day to day operations. I was still in the business, leading, mentoring and building external relationships because as I have always said my job is about ‘vision, values and alignment.’
Ultimately however, the business must grow beyond the capabilities and personality of the founder. It must be an entity in it’s own right – not dependent on any one person (even its leader.)
One of the most confronting things to deal with is when is the right time to pass the reins to someone else (how can I trust them – what if they don’t do things how I like them to be done?)
In Built to Last, Jim Collins writes extensively about the ability leaders of great businesses to choose the successor. And organizations that choose a successor from within are likely to be more successful than organizations, which choose from external people.
I find myself personally in a very fortunate position. To have a colleague who is gifted, talented and prepared to take over the CEO title at RedBalloon and really on a day to day level not much will actually change – in fact it is business as usual, but we’ve made Jemma ‘officially’ CEO. What a delightful position to be in – to have worked with someone for more than eight years… this means that I know very well her strengths, talents and aspirations. And of course the shared sense of values makes such a decision easier.
This is the next step in my personal entrepreneurial journey. To have the independence to work on some other things (eg the next book, board roles).. but I get to do what a love for RedBalloon as Founding Director which is building external relationships through my speaking, blogging and other media activities.
The dream is coming true.