Skip links

Founders want to control you. For how long will you endure and will it be worth it?

The process of growing a company demands compromise from Founders who are, by their very nature, uncompromising.

Founders refuse to accept things for the way they are and then seek to affect that change on the world. They channel their obsession in to total commitment, in an attempt to control outcomes in their favour – ‘control’ being the operative word.

Most Founders feel alone but, really, they prefer it that way. It feels like confirmation that they’re leaving behind the herd; an essential step in ending up on the cover of Time magazine one day.

Whilst they won’t like to admit it, they have a subtle distrust of others. They know their team are good people, but do they truly get the vision of the company? Do they really care enough?

Their team feel this lack of faith sometimes.

Like all leaders, they’re sometimes let down by their staff… Ben was “all talk” and Sally left for a rival half-way through a project. This makes them bitter and they interpret it as validation that the only person you can really rely on is yourself.

The more the company grows, the higher the stakes feel and, thus, the temptation for the Founder to control becomes ever greater. Their team feel this tension.

Pumped up on “hustle-porn”, they continue to turn the screw. They’re told this isn’t sustainable but refuse to believe it. “If you want to be an anomaly you have to act like one”, they repeat to themself.

Then one day, the screw snaps.

…a few objects fall and break.

A humbling realisation is in tow…

They reluctantly hand over a few toys.

Their team feel recognised. No, let’s do it justice – they feel liberated. Liberated to become leaders.

And so, they step up to the plate and produce great work. Work befitting of the trust with which they’ve been bestowed.

The Founder pauses for thought: what if the team have always had this potential, but have been restricted from showing it? What else are they capable of?

Now the business is free to grow.

As a Founder of a small recruitment company, I speak from personal experience here. I’m still battling my instinct to control my team, and I’ve also recruited many people in to Founder-led start-ups. I’m sad to say that some of them haven’t enjoyed it.

And so, as a prospective early-stage start-up employee, the question is – how do you consider the merits of this higher-risk career move?

My advice would be to accept the inevitability of the aforementioned journey and, instead, consider two contextual variables within the domain of control:

  • What stage is the Founder personally at in their relationship with control?
  • How quickly are they progressing through the stages?

Beyond that, the final considerations are:

  • Your own personal appetite for risk at this point in time
  • Your expected willingness to persevere (deploying strong self-awareness)

Those joining early in the Founders journey must be ready to endure the suffocation of being controlled for longer.

That said, they may also profit from the potential of rapidly-expedited career growth and the possible stock pay-out. Assuming you back a winner…