With such high stakes and low standards, it’s not hard to imagine many startup Founder/CEOs are sitting around wondering “Shouldn’t someone else more qualified be better at this job?”
The answer is “Yes” — and yet you should probably be the one doing it anyway.
“There has to be someone more qualified, right?”
If we’re looking at just resumes, yes, our resume would probably not make the cut. We don’t have that MBA in Finance, we’ve never grown a big brand, we’ve never hired a full staff, we’ve never raised money for a company before.
Wow, now that we think about it, we’re more unqualified than when we asked the question!
But that’s not what qualifies a startup CEO in the formative years.
In the formative years, the qualification to be a startup CEO is having the will to run through the abyss in spite of every notion that says we shouldn’t. It’s having a unique vision burned in our brains that no one else sees. It’s being willing to risk everything because we believe in something no one else has — our own spirit.
We can’t hire for that job (people have tried, it ends poorly).
“Will there be a time to replace me?”
There very well may be, but perhaps not for the reasons we might think. Many of the skills we don’t have (yet) will develop over time, such as leadership, hiring, and planning. Some of those skills we will hire for within our team, such as finance, marketing, and business development.
When it comes time to replace ourselves, it won’t likely be for a single skill we lack, but more for an entire set of experiences that we lack, such as how to scale a company past 100 people, or to prepare a product for international expansion, or, if things go well, for IPO.
By that time we will have a lot of inputs to tell us where we’re falling short. For now, we can probably keep the ship moving forward just fine.
“But what if I WANT someone to run the company?”
Well then, things get even harder.
Finding someone to replace the Founder is a really dicey proposition at a lot of levels. First, we have to consider the fact that it’s hard to ever find someone who is as passionate and committed to the business as the Founder. People really overlook that a lot.
The second is that as a Founder, we’re not always willing to totally let go of the reins, which often creates a weird power struggle, making the situation even worse.
In many cases what we may be looking for isn’t someone to replace us, it’s someone to augment us. We’re looking for the Sheryl Sandberg to our Mark Zuckerberg, the Johnny Ive to our Steve Jobs or the Wags to our Bobby Axelrod.