Are you Suffering from Founder’s Syndrome?

Some lessons are hard learned … and despite everything I know about running a sucessful consultancy, I’ve been stung several times over the years as a consequence of not sticking to an effective framework.

The experiences have cost me time, a great deal of money and, if I’m going to be brutally honest, some small measure of professional integrity.

I’m a believer – it’s part of the problem. As much as I pride myself on not drinking the Kool-Aid (how else can I be effective?) and not inserting myself into the conversation (despite the potentially attractive and seemingly lucrative offers that come my way from under-funded organisations) …

… like many who operate in the Impact sector, my eyes are always open to the projects that, if successful, have the potential to achieve significant and lasting impact.

Problems always arise, however, when vision, strategy and operations aren’t working in sync … and try as you might, when you’re a believer, it’s sometimes all you can do to not take just one little sip …

Effective relationships are built on mutual trust and respect – in this case, the respect an advisor has for your motivation and idea, and the respect you have for their expertise.

To that end, if you’re a Founder, it seems useful to consider that independent, apolitical, (dis)passionate counsel is essential for your success and understand that

the role of an effective advisor is to discern the difference between what you want and what you need, and to give you what you need

My primary responsibility to my clients and their projects is to advise them of the actions they need to undertake, in sequence, in order to achieve their outcomes – and to ensure that the pathway proposed is discussed, refined, ratified and implemented. Of equal importance is ensuring that I retain structural independence in order to ensure that the proposed strategy and tactics are not polluted by bias. The inevitable consequence of not following the rigor of this approach is that we are required to address issues that exist solely due to not following it!

While there are many institutions, organisations and industries I would love to see fail (Smoking for a Cause, Insanto, Cola Coka) …

there is, frankly, no excuse for a venture that is seeking to create a beneficial social or environmental impact through its activity to waste time and money and opportunities by going about their business in ways that are fundamentally flawed.

If you are a Founder, and stronger on vision than you are on operations, I recommend taking a massive step back from your project, radically assess your strengths and weaknesses and engage a board and advisors who are going to be ruthless in their assessment of your venture, its activities and your approach.

Because if your venture is unsuccessful, you’ve taken time, money and attention away from other ventures … and even if it is successful, we have no way of measuring what may well be a yawning chasm between what you have achieved and what you could have achieved had you approached your venture more effectively.

At the end of the day, do it right, or go and do it for someone who is – our collective future depends on it.

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