How to take over from a founding CEO

Real Business

Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are stepping down from the helm due to differences between their vision and that of Facebook. There will be no doubt that applications will be rolling in for their replacements, despite the big boots to fill.

For all new savvy business people looking for their next move, taking over a startup gone global is a once in a lifetime opportunity and exciting move.

Whilst you may avoid the early stage stresses of starting the company, moving it onto the next stage of its life and keeping growth on its existing trajectory, whilst simultaneously managing hundreds of moving parts is no easy task.

If you’re inspired to take over an early stage company as a CEO, make sure to take on board a few tips to make that transfer as smooth as possible.

Knowledge and experience is vital
When taking over a company, you need to have a bank of knowledge under your belt both from the perspective of your broad customer base and experience as a business leader.

As the person running the business day-to-day you need to be close to the detail, as well as trust your team to execute plans to the highest standards. As a customer, you know exactly how you want to receive a product the service that you expect should be provided.

On the other hand, as a business leader, you want to maintain loyalty to ensure you monetise your revolutionary business. A lot of balls juggling in the air at one time, whilst rocketing growth.

Coming into a new venture with these additional pillars of knowledge and experience and more importantly, from an outsider’s perspective, will ensure that that the business takes a new, revived and structured path.
Don’t be afraid of change
When taking over from a founding CEO, it can be hard to look outside the box. People have bought into the product and the founders and of course, it’s important to nod to that to not risk losing that authenticity. Yet, that doesn’t mean trying to live their dream beyond the grave.

Be open in the fact that you’re not copying the founders, and this is a new life cycle of the business, bringing in a new dimension to the team and a new vision that they can get behind. Make sure to take their ideas and reassure the team that they are on the journey with you, just as they were with the previous leaders. One must be careful of change for change’s sake though.

Create a shared vision with your new team
When the founders step aside, and a new CEO is introduced, it can be hard to motivate and inspire a team who have grown with the founders.
Ensure that when you begin, you create and share a short- and long-term vision that considers everyone in the team from the stakeholders, shareholders, the board to the people on the ground and how each team will help contribute to moving into the next phase of the business.

It’s important to remember that the company is built by the people who work there. A stable, happy team is your greatest business asset and bringing them into your new vision will create the feeling that they too are growing the company into its next phase with you and in turn, will remain loyal.

Meddling founder
It will be hard for the founders to step aside from the business they’ve put so much love into. Of course, advice and guidance from a founder is invaluable, respecting they will probably own a large share of the business still, yet you must be careful to not let the founder interfere or belittle your role.

Ensure that when you take over, they are ready to pass on the baton gracefully and with the trust that you will take the company to further success.

A mutually respectful relationship will make your life a lot easier when building relationships with your new team to earn their support, but be strong when ensuring that everyone knows their new roles to avoid the presence of the founder being disruptive

Taking over from a founding CEO can be a daunting but an exciting process. Make sure that you are equipped with the right knowledge to bring the company into the next phase of its life to inspire the team and bring them on your journey.

Instagram’s leadership future hangs in the balance and Zuckerberg’s overbearing leadership could alienate users of the app – an example no one wants to follow.

Andy Scott is chairman and founder of REL Capital (@Andy_Scott_REL).

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