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Things to consider before transitioning from founder to CEO


You've thrown everything you have into your startup. You've been the one in charge from the start, making things happen, and gradually leading your startup to growth.

In the beginning, you probably had your hand in a little bit of everything – you were product developer, human resources manager, marketer, fundraiser, and several other jobs in-between.

At some point during this time and now, you might be thinking about transitioning your role into something more specific.

In this article, we look at things to consider before transitioning from founder to CEO. 

Do you see the Big Picture?

First, you want to take a look at your focus. Is your main focus on developing and managing your products or services? Or, are you focused on your entire startup?

Because you are the founder, you've massaged the idea of your startup from the beginning, and now that the idea has become real, you need to check your focus.

If you want to transition to the CEO role, you need to be able to see the needs of your startup as a whole. You also need to be able to lead your business as it continues to scale.

You'll find that being CEO is different than being the founder because you need to assume the role of thinker over doer.

For most of your work day, you won't be running from task to fire and back again. You'll need to take your time to create the big picture and then keep everyone on task. 

Is your team strong?

As you transition from founder to CEO, you want to ask yourself if you are adept at leading and executing an overall plan.

Right along with this, you need to know that you have a strong team of people around you who can take on some of the everyday tasks you will leave behind.

The management team you hire should see and understand the overall mission and vision of your startup. They should be able to complement your skills and productively work to scale your startup. 

Are you a strong leader?

Another consideration before transitioning from founder to CEO is the breadth of your leadership skills.

If you really want to assume the role of CEO, and your leadership skills aren't fine-tuned, consider taking a class or hiring someone to coach you.

Above all, you want to do what is best for your business. To do this, recognize your strengths and weaknesses so you can best use your skills.

Tips on the transition

As you transition, take these tips into consideration as well.

  • Make sure you define your role. Let your team know that your job is evolving so everyone knows what's going on. You are no longer a peer with co-founders if you have them. You are now CEO.
  • Find yourself some mentors. These could be board members, investors, or even an outsourced company.
  • Trust your staff to handle the day-to-day. Hand over the reins and leave them to it.
  • Solicit feedback. Ask your staff and your board members for their feedback and allow yourself time to respond to it. 

Final thoughts

According to studies, by the time most startups are three years old, 50% of the founders were no longer the CEO. By year four, only 40% still held the position, and fewer than 25% were still around to lead their companies into initial public offerings.

The bottom line when moving from founder to CEO role is to up your game. Learn what you don't know. Give up a little control of the small details and trust in your board and your team.

To be successful in your transition to CEO, you need to know what you don't know and be willing to work to learn it. 

Are you a new startup ready to succeed? Are you looking to get your new business off the ground and watch it rise to success? We are here for you. We can help answer your questions and guide you through the process. Outsource your HR duties, finances, payroll and more to us. Contact Escalon today to get started.

Image: Foto Sushi on Unsplash 

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