You’ve founded a company. Now, how can you lead it to sustained success? Today on the show, we have Todd Uterstaedt. He’s the host of the podcast, From Founder to CEO. He’s also the co-founder and CEO of an executive coaching firm called Baker & Daboll and a mentor with Cintrifuse. Todd is here to talk about stepping up and scaling yourself, your team, and your company. How can we do it as the new wave of “small business leaders” — whose businesses are growing so fast that they’re anything but small?
What are the common challenges of a founder pivoting toward becoming a CEO?
The From Founder to CEO podcast is a space where founders are able to be vulnerable and share what their journeys are really like. Todd observes that many of these founders try to cover up their very real fears and anxieties because, what if it gets back to the investor or their team?
They also struggle with the transition from founder to CEO. Founders have a very powerful emotional energy about “what can be.” That’s a very critical energy, but a major pivot that needs to happen is shifting the focus of their emotional energy, from being about the product to building the team that focuses on the product.
Building a culture and setting up your organization
As your company grows, you have to be more and more intentional with the culture you create. As the founder, you have an outsized influence over the culture that exists, so you’ll need to take into account: is that the right culture for continued growth? And are your employees aligned with this culture?
You’ll also have to decide whether or not you’re ready to be a leader. If you don’t want your company to crumble when you’re not there, you have to delegate to — i.e. empower — your team.
The most successful CEOs are absolutely fanatical about improving the lives of the people they serve. They also realize that, to make that happen, they need to a) bring in the very best people who also believe the same thing, and b) coach and guide them both as individuals and as a team.
Things move so fast in business that many founders are very reactive instead of proactive. One of the things Todd tells founders to do is to debrief the experiences you’re happening. Once a week, simply journal what’s going on, and answer these four questions:
- What am I feeling grateful about?
- What am I feeling optimistic about?
- What am I still wondering about?
- What am I feeling discouraged about?
This exercise is important to slow down the brain and allow you to sort through your thoughts, feelings, and ideas so you can gain some clarity.
Another exercise Todd recommends is a “360,” where you survey the people around you. Coming from a place of wanting to understand your performance, ask them: What are the behaviors that are working for you, in your eyes? What are the behaviors that aren’t working? He sees a lot of successful founders do this because they say, “I don’t have all the answers, and I want to get better at this job.”
This is a journey. If we look at the very long perspective, we’ll realize that many of the issues and problems that we think are big in the moment are not as big in hindsight. Things will happen, and we have to remind ourselves that it’s okay; things will happen along the way. Expect that there will be bumps along the road, and you won’t be disappointed when you have to slay another problem dragon.
FREE RESOURCE: Is your company culture toxic?
A toxic work culture can be costlier than you imagine, but hard to identify. Learn more about the 7 signs that there’s something you need to fix in your workplace.