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The Growth Founder Transition

[TD;DR: Ideas on how to re-orient yourself to build the machine, not run it.]

The standards you set in terms of what feels like “a good day” are everything.

Imagine you’d play video games the entire workday. It feels gluttonous. That does not feel like a good day. You’d self-correct and refocus on work tomorrow.

On the other extreme, imagine you spent the entire day unblocking every team at your company. They were all blocked at 8am, and all unblocked by 8pm. That would feel extremely satisfying to me. I’d go to sleep feeling calm and eager to repeat the performance.

The A-days and the C-days are the easiest. In the middle we have the B-days. These are the devil. A B-day is filled with tasks that seem deceptively productive, yet don’t really cause movement. Email is such a task for me. Spending the entire day doing it feels satisfying, but it’s extremely unlikely it was the correct allocation for my time.

For most CEOs past a Series B, doing 1:1s with ICs is also a B-day. It might feel accompliful, meetings had, documents written, etc. but it is extremely unleveraged. You do need to do skips and check in with the team periodically! But spending the entire week being a personal Tony Robbins to your company just won’t scale. You need sufficient time to find the right heading for the ship, not spend the entire day fretting about sailors electrolyte imbalance.

It’s easy to say this and hard to do. I can recommend two things:

Envision the alternative. To realize you actually had a C-not-A-day, consider what you could have done at the end of the day. I think about this a lot. Instead of reacting to Slacks and Emails all day, I could have been driving my own agenda. Imagine the day with you as the principle, not the agent. Once I got in the habit of doing this, I significantly raised my standards for what excellence looks like.

The company doesn’t work if you’re personally supporting every person daily. The penultimate worry of every founder is that people quit. The lights go on, Journey starts playing, and everyone thinks, this sucks, time to go!

To compensate for the insecurity, we all have a phase where you feel like you personally need to get everyone excited by the vision. What I’ve learned is this: people rise to the challenge you set. If you baby your employees that way, they will need constant nourishment from the CEO.

If you openly tell people you expect them to act as owners, not cogs, and you do not expect them to need constant pepping like an over-eager parent, they’ll either quit (great!) or more likely, breathe a sigh of relief and develop their own corporate mantras.


Twitter card image is made by Fran Rodriguez, go buy his stuff!