HBI Deals+Insights / News

How do you know when it’s time to go?

The problem with being the founder (and often also CEO) of a company is that it’s difficult to know if you’re doing a good job. Or – even if you are – when it might be the right time to make way for someone with fresh ideas. How do you know when it’s time to step down? And how does it feel when you do?

There is a real buzz of excitement and rush of adrenalin when a new venture is getting off the ground. “You think it’s simple”, one founder and former CEO told us – you need to make a profit, you need to grow the business. Or at least, it seems simple and it seems that that’s all you think you need to do. The reality is different. It is “a moon landing”.

What follows is, HBI hears, “exhausting, but exhilarating”. The pressure is relentless. There are endless meetings. Endless decisions. Legal considerations. Holidays are not taken. Spouses and children are overlooked. And the phone doesn’t stop ringing.

Until it does. When you do stand down. The silence is deafening and unfamiliar. This at least was the reaction of one founder, interviewed elsewhere in this week’s edition.

In his case, the board had begun to think it might be time to bring in new blood, and he didn’t want to outstay his welcome despite being the one who conceived then built the business through his own blood, sweat and tears.

Walking away, he concedes, was very difficult. But how many other founders in a similar position would walk away? Would you? How will you know when it’s time to move on, and who would dare to tell you?

There are more than a handful of dynamic, driven founders running the healthcare services groups they set up with style and panache. But what about the rest? And is anyone telling them if their KPIs are not being met – if they have any – and do they need to listen if they do?

For the older founders reading this, it is something to consider. As our recently stepped-down founder puts it, “you should, because you’ll have to consider it sooner or later”.

And for those founders nearer to the beginning of the journey, there might be merit in reaching out to some of those who have walked the path before you. They will certainly have wisdom, and advice to share – and may have time on their hands to do so.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to David Farbrother or call 0207 183 3779.