We’ve all heard this story before. So you and your awesome start-up team built a great product, hits the jack-pot and starts on a trajectory of exponential growth. You just can’t believe your luck, everything is picking up at full speed and every day feels like a victory. But soon, you as the CEO, starts to realize what used to work doesn’t work anymore, things change, costs sky rocket and soon it is time to let go even the most stellar members of the founding team who helped you build the company from ground up. All because the times have changed and the company no longer needs them. As you sit across the table from the guy who pulled countless all-nighters with you figuring out prototype #126, you look down at your script for firing him, and a little voice at the back of your head goes, “Why is he going but not me? Is it just because I own the company? Has my company outgrown me, too?”
It is hard to fire long-term employees whose skill sets are no longer applicable to the company’s growth, but what’s even harder is seeing the same restraint in yourself. So when exactly should you fire yourself? Here are some tell-tale signs that it might be time for you to hand over the reigns.
The passion is gone:
Do you still jump out of bed every morning excited to tackle the day? Or are you dreading to leave the bed when you think about all the burning fires that seems to never go out? Running a company is never without challenges, but if you see each hurdle as an enemy who you are running away from, maybe it is time to stop running and go fight a different war that you’re actually excited about.
You’re struggling to keep your head above the water:
Does it seem like the behaviors that have gotten you to where you are today no longer works to take you to where you want to be? However, despite all the investigation and experimentation you’ve did, you still couldn’t find out what’s going wrong and it just seems to get more and more out of hand. If it just feels like you’re drowning under waves of new problems and couldn’t keep up and grow as fast as your company changes, that might be a sign that your company has outgrown your skill set to lead.
There is disconnection between you and your company:
Are you constantly making decisions that contradicts your board or your exec team? Is there a lot of tension in your meeting rooms about what direction the company should go? This could mean that the company is no longer growing the way you would like it to, or that you haven’t created enough buy-in for your vision. The reason behind this could be that you really had an unique vision that the common eye couldn’t detect, or that you are the one who is actually limiting your company’s growth. Sometimes it is just time to admit that your initial vision of what you wanted to build and what the market wants are two distinct things.
Nobody wants to admit that their company has outgrown their skill sets, especially when the company is their baby that they’ve nurtured from Day 1. If you are indeed not the most qualified to lead your company forward, the ultimate question becomes: “Do you want to be remembered as the boss who stayed beyond his ability to lead? Or the leader who recognized his limitations, have the courage to step down when needed and ensured the company is in good hands?” Your choice.