It Takes Courage for a Startup Entrepreneur to Exit Stage Left

I met an entrepreneur recently who had just left a company he had co-founded after it had raised a large financial round from a high-profile group of corporate investors.

With the company well on its way to becoming a leading industry player and more than 100 employees, the entrepreneur said the time was right to move on. He wasn’t pushed out or lost his passion for the company’s vision; it had more to do with recognizing the role he wanted to play and his strengths. To him, the fun is creating and growing a startup from an idea into a viable company with a solid foothold. Being a senior executive within a large company wasn’t his thing, and he was happy to let others run with the proverbial ball.

Letting Someone Else Run With the Ball

For many startup entrepreneurs, the decision to move on can be difficult, if not impossible. After all, a startup is like a baby – you create and nurture it, so having to let go can a huge challenge because someone else will become responsible for your baby.

The reality, however, is startups can require different people and skill sets as they evolve. An entrepreneurs’ skills may be necessary for a startup during the early days, but they not be applicable, required or valuable after a startup has matured into a larger entity. While the entrepreneur may be engaged, smart and committed, there is simply less or no role for them.

At that point, the entrepreneur has to decide if there are other ways they can support the company’s growth by assuming a different role (if they have the skills or aptitude), or whether it makes more sense to step aside so others can do the job.

It Takes Courage to Watch from the Sidelines

In an ideal world, an entrepreneur not only sees the writing on the wall but recognizes that creating and building startups are what gets them out of bed in the morning. These people don’t want to be senior managers; it’s not something they’re excited about or want to spend their days doing.

The decision to move on takes courage, faith and self-awareness. At the end of the day, every entrepreneur wants their startup to be successful, but sometimes it means happily watching from the sidelines rather than playing a starring role.

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  • Jim Rudnick

    Truer words… my own exp you’re spot-on, Mark. Those of us who can build an empire and rather enjoy – with passion – that build, continue to be involved….others as you note, want to create but not build…and hence, they exit stage left! Good piece here. Always new this…just never much thought about it…. :-)

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