The Early-Stage Leadership Curve is Steep

Most fast-growing CPG founders get replaced by the time the brand exits. This is mainly because the amount raised involves so much founder equity dilution deliberately intended by the lead investment firm. They want to take control. Even when they ‘trust’ the founder/CEO, they still want control.

Most seasoned PE firms have a stable of BigCo operating advisors who get ‘assigned’ to deal with inexperienced CEOs the firm has taken on. But these advisors generally function as hiring mechanisms. Their networks end up sourcing the founder’s replacement. I’ve spoken about these puppet CEOS before. 

Much of the underlying skepticism in amateur founders is the history of recent early-stage innovation. It has come from very non-traditional garage sources with little CPG industry experience. 

While the population of founders is more business-savvy today, they are often leading their first company. And as the team grows, the complexity of their leadership challenge is also new to them. If they even recognize that challenge. And I’ve found that many do not understand the challenge of shifting from buddy co-founders to C-level leadership required to discipline a larger company’s organization. 

This discipline and maturity can be learned on the job. Absolutely. But, it takes intentional work to mature in this way. It’s unlikely just to happen magically. This is why it’s more important than ever to work on your leadership acumen early on, at least for managing a leadership team at a higher level of discipline than in the early days (when breaking things is almost impossible to avoid). 

Develop yourself and keep the puppet CEOs away. 

Dr. James Richardson

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