As a business owner, you want to develop options for how you position your business as it grows. Will you continue to be the driving force behind growing your business, develop a professional staff who can lead the company in your absence, or maintain ownership in the company and work in a different role? Regardless of where you want to take the business, the more options you have available to you, the better. By building a business that gives you the flexibility to decide how to be involved with it rather than being handcuffed to it, you’ve achieved Position of Choice.
“Achieving Position of Choice requires both self-awareness and courage,” says Mark Rittmanic, Founder and CEO of FortéOne. “So often, business owners never achieve a Position of Choice because they get stuck in the Founder’s Trap.”
The Founder’s Trap occurs when the founder is so essential to the day-to-day operations of a company that the business requires his or her continued daily involvement to sustain and grow. The founder doesn’t hand over key areas of responsibility to others—and therefore can’t attract or retain people who have the capacity to grow the business—nor does he have the many specialized skillsets necessary to help the business grow.
Owners often finds themselves working long hours, making little progress, and feeling as though the business has taken over their life. They no longer control the business—the business controls them.
The danger of the Founder’s Trap
Although retaining control of key areas may be a comfortable option for business owners, recognize that this ensures they will remain in the Founder’s Trap, which is the number one factor limiting business growth. It is also the most difficult situation for many business owners to escape. As a business grows, the resulting magnitude and complexity reduces the founder’s ability to effectively wear multiple hats. So they often become the limiting factor to growth. When founders fail to change their role in the company, they limit not only their own lifestyle options but also the company’s capacity for change and growth. Product quality, customers service, and talent retention all suffer.
“If you’ve hit the $5-to-20 million level and feel as though the “fun factor” in running the company is gone, you are likely in the Founder’s Trap,” states Rittmanic. “If you are making all the important decisions and you lack the time and manpower to carry out growth plans, it’s time to change your role at the company and relinquish some control. By building out a competent team and collaborating with them to make big decisions, you’ll start building a business that gives you options.”
Escaping the Founder’s Trap
A strong business requires both focus and a range of skills. No single person—not even the founder—will be able to develop the necessary expertise in all critical areas. To get out of the Founder’s Trap, start by investing in people with growth potential—whether that’s developing talent from within or hiring.
As your leadership team expands and team leaders are able to use their specific skills to grow various areas of your business, your next focus should be to collaboratively establish 3- to 5-year growth plans and host annual strategic planning meetings for your leadership team. These meetings should be focused on determining yearly goals and specific tactics that will help you achieve those goals.
Rittmanic notes that without a solid strategy in place, you’ll either be swayed by the winds of change or continue doing “business as usual.”
“Many businesses that lack a strategy authored and embraced by their team end up putting too much weight on customer feedback,” explains Rittmanic. “They allow their business decisions to be driven solely by perceived customer needs rather than funneling customer feedback through the litmus test of strategic goals. Often they’re left with products and services that are only suitable for small groups of customers that divert attention from the truly big opportunities that the company should be pursuing.”
Call in the experts
If you’re struggling to break out of the Founder’s Trap and achieve Position of Choice, we’re ready to help.
Ready to build an organization that gives you options? Contact FortéOne today.