One step forward, two steps back?
When you’re the Founder of a company, you never think about what it would be like to go back to being an employee. It doesn’t usually cross your mind. Why would it? You’re at the top. Until it happens. Suddenly, you’re not the Founder. You’re stepping down from the top as lead manager and are now an employee at a company you once called your own.
All at once, you’re bombarded with questions, racing in your mind. How am I supposed to act? What am I supposed to feel? What should I be doing? How can I get back on top? What did I do wrong? Is this how it is supposed to be? What could I have done better? What is next for me? Feeling overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at the same time.
So far it sounds like doom and gloom, but this happened/is happening to me and it is something most entrepreneurs strive for - an exit to a big conglomerate.
After my company was acquired by a conglomerate, which traditionally would have Founders celebrating and patting the backs of everyone involved; the reality of what happens after the celebrations sets in.
I suddenly had a boss in my (or what once was) own company. The corporate structure took to play. Regional level implementations took priority, and simple decisions became complex projects with multiple workstreams. Needless to say, I felt uneasy.
Part of me knew it was one huge step forward for my company but it also felt like two steps back for myself.
The hardest thing I came to realize is that it was no longer my company. And, while there are benefits to not having to worry about fundraising or being able to pay your employee’s salary, you quickly come to realize that there are also no longer your employees. People who you trained, taught, and hand-selected to create the perfect office dynamic were no longer working for you or in the direction you set.
As frustrating as it is, I did learn a lot of things.
The skillset for founding a company often differs from the skill set needed to successfully navigate the intricacies of a corporate giant. Skills such as lobbying the multiple executive leadership team members to make a decision that is in line with your thoughts, or setting up multiple reports in a vast array of formats for finance, HR, strategy, and etc.
While some of these tasks might sound tedious (some of them really are), they work on helping entrepreneurs polish their ideas as well as reduce the risk of the decision that traditionally use to lay on the back of the Founders.
The experience has also taught me to see the company from the perspective of a more mature audience. While I see potential, they might see risk. Where I see growth opportunities, they see losses and expenses.
Eventually, these are both different sides of the same coin, the only shift is the perspective and priority. As the once Founder, you might have to settle down for the smaller, less shiny, less pioneering option to satisfy your new overlords.
From what I see, you’d be faced with a decision. To stay and be a cog in this large machine, or to leave. The decision might seem difficult. You are leaving your “baby” behind. All the employees who used to turn to you and rely on your vision and direction. To that, I can only say this, that company doesn’t exist anymore. It is no longer yours to take care of.
To those who choose to stay on, it is a struggle to adapt to a different speed. How far do you go to push others around you to match what you are doing and how far are you willing to slow down to be a part of them? There is no right or wrong answer. However, I’m choosing to stay because a part of me wants to see what else I can learn from a corporate mega-machine.