Dear SaaStr: How Do Founder CEOs Typically Transition Out of the Role?
It’s a complicated question.
Most founders that voluntarily step down tend to want to remain involved at some level, often as “Executive Chairman”. And the VCs and investors often like this. The founding CEO often has a level of fluency with the product, the markets, and the existing customers that no one else will ever have.
But to some extent, the new, “outside” CEO is never 100% in charge if the founding CEO remains on the board and especially as executive chairman.
Sometimes, that’s OK. But it also leaves the new CEO often looking over their shoulder, and wondering if they’re really the boss.
And it’s also complicated by the fact that the founder CEO often does come back again as CEO. And oftentimes, when the new CEO stumbles, for whatever reason. See, e.g. Twitter, Starbucks, and more.
In fact, whenever a founder CEO I know moves on for any reason, I give them just one piece of advice. No matter what you think today, you could be back someday. Act that way, every day.
Sharing the note that I just shared with the Flexport team about my return as CEO. pic.twitter.com/HezOXbtQXQ
— Ryan Petersen (@typesfast) September 6, 2023
(I’m Back image from here)
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