Retiring the Founder’s Mindset

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Founding a company.  It’s an adrenaline-filled, sleep-deprived, high-fiving, teeth-grinding, emotional roller coaster. For those who embrace it, the experience can be a hell of a lot of fun. Especially for the first couple of years.

This roller coaster comes at a cost, however. That being, primarily, a life.  As any founder will tell you, there are many sacrifices made to start and nurture a business to any level of, even modest, success: physical health, financial stability, personal friendships, and family to name a few.

Sometimes, those sacrifices lead to unfortunate endings. But this certainly isn’t always the case. (As a matter of fact, it’s been my experience that most successful founders eventually find a way to manufacture some degree of “life balance” once they find their groove.

My early years as founder certainly saw some pretty significant personal sacrifice in all of the aforementioned areas of life. But it was a choice, and for the most part I loved the thrill, excitement, and sense of accomplishment I got from founding a company and seeing it grow into something I considered to be pretty cool.

Through the better part of 14 years, I’ve spent nearly every waking moment thinking about Funnelbox. Sometimes, it was thinking about how to keep it above ground. Other times, how to turbocharge its growth. Most often, though, it was simply thinking about how to make payroll and keep the thing going.

With this single-minded focus, resolute determination, a willingness to learn, unshakable faith, and a lot of luck, I’ve been fortunate to experience a modicum of success in not only “keeping it going,” but also in seeing it grow.

And as this baby grew, so to, did I.

In reflection, it’s apparent that a part of the process of growing up together also meant growing up to become remarkably entwined and entangled in each other.

Like emotionally conjoined twins, Funnelbox’s success was my success. And its failure…mine as well.

I felt like any Funnelbox victory or misstep was a direct reflection of my self-worth. And, in turn, this drove me to lead the organization, and the people within it, like a micromanaging perfectionist.

I’d fathom a guess that most of my employees, both current and former, will tell you that, while I was difficult to work for because of my hard-charging, micro-managing ways, I always did my best to treat them with all of the kindness and respect I knew how. (Then again, maybe that’s just the story I tell myself.)  I truly did care about everyone on the team, and wanted to see each of them reach their best and highest potential, as creatives, leaders, and human beings.

I guess you could have called me a benevolent micromanager.

Unfortunately, it took me the better part of 13 years to learn that a benevolent micromanager isn’t a whole lot more enjoyable to work for than a semi-evil dictator.

Now, that’s not to say that this 14+ year journey has been all bad.  It hasn’t. Leading as a benevolent micromanager has gotten the organization to where we’re at today.  We’ve produced some great work.  We’ve cultivated many meaningful relationships with a ton of amazing people and organizations.  And, we’ve also been able to have quite a bit of fun along the way.  By most external measures, the journey hasn’t been half-bad.

That said, it hasn’t been nearly as good as it could have been either.

With this in mind, I’ve realized that in order for this pretty cool organization to recognize its true potential, I need to lose the micro-managing founder’s mindset that’s kept us in the business and leadership rut that I’ve created.

That’s why I’m retiring as founder.

As long as I see Funnelbox as a literal part of my physical, emotional and spiritual being, it will never be able to achieve the goals that the collective Funnelbox team wants for it. To that end, I’m giving up the emotional ownership of the company, and instead, letting the entire Funnelbox team take possession.

For me, this won’t be easy.

I’m a pretty voracious reader of business and self-development literature. And, while there are a ton of great books that teach business growth, leadership skills, and how to hire and manage “A players,” I’ve yet to find one that really explores the emotional toll that running a business takes on a founder, especially a sole founder.

The emotions I’ve experienced in coming to the conclusion that I’m a benevolent micromanager have been fascinating. Equally interesting is the difficulty with which I’ve had in making the commitment to change, in spite of the fact that, logically, it’s clearly the right thing to do.

I want Funnelbox to be great.  Not just great, uncommonly great. I want Funnelbox to be the employer of choice for every smart, creative, industrious person in the video production or marketing field who wants to learn, grow, and serve others. I want to revolutionize our industry.  I want to help our clients achieve unimaginable success. And I want Funnelbox to make a healthy profit to share with both our employees and our community.

To make this happen, though, there needs to be change. What Funnelbox needs right now isn’t a founder, but an honest-to-goodness Chief Executive Officer.

With this in mind, I’m setting upon a course to reinvent myself with the intention to take the helm as Funnelbox CEO. A true leader who builds and nurtures a Core Values based culture; a strategist who casts a compelling vision of the future; and a coach that recruits, trains, encourages and supports amazing talent. Ultimately, I will work as CEO to ensure that every stakeholder in and around the organization is given ample opportunity to realize their best and highest potential, all while helping our cool little company realizes its full business potential too.

I will no longer associate my personal success to a Funnelbox financial statement, trophy case or Facebook like. I’m burying the founder’s mindset that hinders our organization from reaching our collective goals and aspirations. And I’m putting all of my faith and trust in the incredible people that I’ve managed to recruit and hire. (There is a God. My people are proof.)

On February 13th, 2014, I’ll be making a very deliberate and public declaration to my family, friends, employees, partners and clients that the micro-managing, know-it-all founder is no longer a part of the organization.

I’m handing the emotional and operational reigns of Funnelbox (Flixio and Uberstock too) over to the amazing leadership team and incredible employees who make our organization truly special.

And, if they’ll have me, I’ll return in six weeks to interview for the job as CEO, without the emotional baggage of a founder.

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