It is natural for CEOs of startup companies to wear a lot of hats. Sales, marketing, product design, operations may all be part of a CEO’s responsibilities. If you are that CEO, at some point you realize you can’t do all this by yourself.

The first solution for many CEOs is to contract a person or service provider for some specific expertise to fill a gap. If there is a particular project that needs to get done, you might source a third party provider for a design/ build project. These options can be expensive and probably you are still doing a lot of the work yourself or at least managing the work of others.

At what point do you have to consider hiring someone to be your partner and take some of the workload off your shoulders? The answer may be metric driven: sales volume, number of customers, level of complexity. Or, it might be more subjective: You feel like your company could be running better; or maybe it is just a sense that you need to get your some of your life back.

In addition, you might consider looking at these warning signs of a CEO who needs to “let go to grow”:

  • You can’t respond to existing customer requests

  • You don’t have time to develop new customers

  • Your product development is behind schedule

  • You are not getting product/services done on time

  • You realize that you are the only one with operating or design knowledge, and if something happened to you, there is no business left

  • You don’t have a life outside your company

Are you at this point? Are you ready to consider adding a partner to work with you?

What to think about before you bring in a partner

As you would expect, this is easier said than done. First you need to figure out the skills gap you need to fill. Do you need help with procurement? Sales? Finance? Do you want someone with specific skills or general management skills?

Even more important than filling the skills gap may finding someone who will share your passion and values. Doing a quick assessment of your own passion, values, and goals is a must do before looking for a partner. You need a clear picture of your own priorities before you can translate those to someone else.

Finally consider what activities you are going to hand over to your new partner. Think about how to formalize that hand over so it is clear to everyone involved with your company who is going to be doing what. It’s also important that you check yourself from time to time to make sure you are not gradually taking back some of the activities you handed over.

Are you ready to let go to grow?

Photo courtesy

JaneAnn Westpheling works with startup CEOs through Launchpad2X and the Austin Technology Incubator to help design and build the operating teams they need to be successful. Her experience covers more than three decades with GE, Coca Cola and IBM. Beginning as a field engineer working with customers in the petrochemical industry for GE and ending as a services for consultant for IBM in Dubai, she was always focused on understanding why processes worked. As a senior executive working for the CFO’s of GE and Coca Cola she fixed and improved corporate operations to deliver improved compliance and costs.

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