It’s amazing how easily we allow ourselves to be defined by titles. When asked what do you do? many people respond automatically with their job title and description, and even people who don’t have jobs in the normal sense have come up with pithy job titles for this purpose. We’re all chained to our titles, but normally those titles describe our purpose. When you’re the founder of the company, your title refers to the past – the company has been founded already – now what are you doing? Being able to define your role as your creation grows and evolve beyond you is difficult, but crucial.
A founder often plays many roles in the tumultuous beginnings of the company, often assuming official titles they may not be perfectly suited for as new challenges have to be met. Often a founder will spend some time in various VP roles until qualified candidates can be found, at which point they move on to plug the next gap. This sometimes makes the founder of the company a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ and keeps their role shifting, making it even more difficult to define what it is, exactly, that they do at the office. Finally, if the company is a success, all the gaps will be filled. Professionals will be humming along, keeping things smooth, and the founder finds themselves afloat.
The challenge is to define yourself. The company you’ve created will eventually be able to operate without you, but it wouldn’t exist if not for your initial idea and energies, nor would it have survived without your work in so many roles. If you don’t take action you’ll leave it to other forces to define who you are and the role you play, and you may not like or agree with the final assessment. As the founder of the company it’s up to you to make sure you have a clearly defined role for your ongoing contributions so you’re not simply a picture hung behind the reception desk.
Of course, in the scrum of getting the company off the ground and then keeping it there, often single-handedly, it’s easy to lose sight of something as subtle as your ‘role.’ You have to make time and mental resources for this question, though, and ask yourself that old interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years – what role will you be playing?
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