“I’m just out to find the better part of me.”
– Superman, Five for Fighting
Where is that guy?
The guy who built the company. The visionary who went out and created it and secured the first deals… designed the product… saw the soft spot in the under-served market… raised the capital… hired the core team.
He was alive. Stretching the bootstrap money and, yes, living on the edge of disaster… but he was alive – and he loved it. The people around him fed off his energy, vision and enthusiasm.
I was there too – building a company on the metaphorical mountain climb. I would have gladly fallen to my death 1 foot from the top of Mt. Everest than spend my career trapped in the the purgatory of the ordinary… feeding breadcrumbs to pigeons in the park during my lunch hour. Yes, the fall from Everest would have led to a closed-casket funeral (if they even found me) but no one could say I hadn’t truly lived.
Back to you. So, where is that guy?
I found him working IN his business versus working ON his business. He was chasing the little blue number in Outlook that said 827 unread emails and was late for a meeting that was already double booked. The people around him no longer fed off his energy. Oh, they still liked him but they all knew the company was at a point where things needed to change and they longed for the better part of him.
How did this happen?
In short, the business grew and you, the founder and CEO didn’t defend and maintain “the better part of you.” Instead, the pie chart of your time became clogged with things that felt to you like “stuff I had do… because I am the CEO.” Like weeds in the garden, that stuff invaded and grew until the garden was fully consumed.
How do we get that guy back?
Here’s an overly simplified starting point:
– Draw a new pie chart of your time and block out 50% for the role / function where you drive the most value. It’s probably the role you had when you where you started the company. It’s also probably the role that gives you the most satisfaction. The other 50% needs to be ONLY the absolutely necessary CEO functions: setting strategy, driving execution from the top, top-level financial and operational elements and mentoring C-level / Sr. Staff direct reports. All the other stuff needs to be given to someone else. Soon.
Now, go show the new pie chart to your spouse / significant other, a trusted investor or board member and at least one key Sr. Manager. Explain that the goal is to get back to the better part of you and how you KNOW it’s right for the company – and yourself. You should expect surprise and relief followed by ratification, hugs and even tears.
I have been privileged to engage with many other founder / CEOs – usually under $100M and under 250 employees. Truth be told, the obstacles they faced to change their own pie charts were not financial, product or operational issues. The obstacles were all-too-often management issues and they fell into three major buckets:
– Removing or demoting people they knew and had known were not right fit, right skills or otherwise over their head. (They were scared to do it or feared the process itself and, thus, were procrastinating or just ignoring it.)
– Adding positions and skills to the organization. (They felt like they didn’t have time to slow down and run the process and some were fearful of the impact on the current team.)
– Personal management in three key areas: (A) delegating and trusting (B) communicating & confirming and (C) holding people accountable. (It’s what a few brave souls had been telling them for years.)
Make it a personal quest to take back 50% of that pie chart. It will, however, take a determined, progressive, ongoing effort. It’s not a simple takeaway from the last seminar or conference you attended – it’s much more than that. How well you do on the quest will be directly related to how bad you want it.
Getting back to what you love will very likely drive more value and drive its faster that it is growing today. Are you all-in?
Your family, board and team will also love the better part of you.