It might sound impossible, but without proper planning, self-awareness, effective relationship management, and understanding that someone, somewhere, at some time might consider you dispensable, it’s surprisingly simple to find yourself being asked to leave the company you founded.
You don’t have to look far to find some big names who found themselves in exactly this position:
- Andrew Mason – Groupon
- Mike Lazaridis – Blackberry
- Rob Kalin – Etsy. …
- Jerry Yang – Yahoo, Inc.
- Steve Jobs – Apple, Inc.
- Martin Eberhard – Tesla Motors
How Can This Happen?
A founder or founding partner can find themselves forced out of their own company for a variety of reasons:
- Poor contractual protection
- The company outgrowing their ability
- Loss of control
- Get Your Clause Out
As jovial and full of camaraderie as those first few weeks and months might be, the people you partner with to get your dream off the ground may one day be fighting you in the courts for millions.
Get contracts drawn-up, in place and, most importantly, signed by all interested parties. You don’t even need to be in the same place, using something like Docksketch’s electronic signature tool means that contracts can be signed in minutes, from anywhere in the world.
Know Your Limitations
Just because you had the idea and started the company, there’s no guarantee that your knowledge won’t eventually fall short of what’s required to maintain growth. Just because you had a vision and the ability to create a business that could serve 10,000 customers, that’s not to say that you’ll be as effective when attempting to serve 1,000,000.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but surrounding yourself with smart people from the outset can help to prevent you from finding yourself being ousted months or years down the line. Not only can those who know best help to steer a steady course in the early, uncertain infancy of your business, but they can also offer the opportunity to learn while the stakes are low.
Protect Your Slice
When you started out, you most likely had a large slice of (if not the whole) pizza.
At some point, most small businesses reach a point where the only viable path to maintaining growth is equity investment, which means cutting your pizza into smaller slices, in the hope that the pizza will become more valuable and your smaller slice will be ultimately more valuable than its (relatively) larger predecessor.
It’s important to approach investment in the knowledge that while it may grow the company, make it more successful and you more wealthy, it may ultimately lead to your share being so small that you’ve no real control over the direction of what was once yours.
Avoid Complacency and Protect Your Place
By avoiding these, just a few of the common pitfalls that can lead to founders becoming ex-employees, you can ensure that you remain a part of your company’s story and continue to benefit as it goes from strength to strength.
Many articles (like this one from Zealed) outline the importance of setting goals and hard work to achieve success, but protecting your business interests is an equally essential measure to ensure your long-term future.