After four years as CEO, I recently decided to take a step down as the CEO from a startup I built and grew from the ground up. Although I am still involved in the business, I have stepped aside from the day to day activity to make room for a new team that will help grow the business globally.
As much as it is a momentous decision to begin a startup, it is hard to find the right time to exit the company you had built from your sweat and blood. Here are five tips on how and when to know the right time to take exit a startup.
People always say that timing is key. When looking to exit a startup timing plays a very important role. Starting and running a business is a very challenging task and comes with many highs and lows. During the first two to three years you are building and forming the foundations – sometimes this groove happens a lot sooner, but being able to leave the office and know things will function is a great milestone. Once you feel that the business is able to function without your input, it gives you confidence that taking a step down won’t impact the day to day activity.
The team of any business is the single most important asset. Without a world class team, you are unable to build world class products. When starting out my goal was to grow and hire a big team – people always asked ‘how many people work for you now’. After a while it became clear that a big team meant a bigger burn rate, and ultimately more stress. Last year we became a lot leaner and Brndstr now has a small team of engineers and designer who are more than capable of delivering quality products. Having the right team and diverse set of skills means that stepping down and exiting a startup has an easy transition into new management.
When starting a business and launching a new product, it is always a challenge to partner with clients and get them to pay for what you have built. Being able to do business with a large number of clients across many parts of the world allows you to feel confident that the product you have created can generate money for the business. Taking a step down from your startup when you have a great pipeline of business is a true boost to know the company will continue to succeed once you leave.
Most tech startups enter the market with a new and cutting edge product. The first version however is not always the one that ends up being successful. Our offerings were no different. Over the past four years we have evolved and pivoted our product line to suit what the market needs. Having a product that you believe in and actually use yourself means that you can be confident that this tried and tested asset will be around long after your departure.
As an entrepreneur you need to know what your strengths and passions are. My true strengths and passions lie in the branding and initial stage of a business. Since my start up is now four years old and well positioned for a successful future, I felt the time was right to make way for people who are experts in the growth stage and can elevate it to new heights. For me it means I can explore other opportunities to apply my branding skills and hopefully launch another new and exciting startup into the tech eco system.
The past four years have been the hardest, most exciting and most challenging of my career – but the experience and people I have met have been life changing. When asked if I have any advice for someone looking to start a company, I tell them to make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses. Delegation is key to the success of any company and knowing when to make key decisions in both business and personal life is what keeps the fire burning. Business is hard – but never give up. If you believe in what you do, others will too.