Founders Syndrome, or what is otherwise termed as the 'founder's dilemma' or the 'founder's trap' is described by Wiki as "a popular term for a difficulty faced by organizations where one or more founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of the project, leading to a wide range of problems for the organization."
The 'Project', of course, being the establishment of the family enterprise where many times it was by sheer will, sleepless nights and years of toil and the step-by-step building of the foundations for business that the next generation is in line to carry on.
Although it is not exclusively the 'first' generation of family business where this 'syndrome' crops its challenging head as the same effect occurs in the second and third generations where each generation has difficulty passing the reigns to the following.
Whether you are the 'founder' (or the managing generation about to pass on the 'family farm') or you are the next generation in line to take on the management of the family trade, the approach to avoiding or getting out of this 'trap' lies in the willingness to be 'purposeful' in your plan of transition.
"Una Cosa La Vez"
One of my favorite expressions in Spanish is 'una cosa la vez' because it describes how to approach the most difficult challenges on any topic. In the following sentence in Spanish, the lesson learned by this shows clearly;
"Esforzarse en lograr hacer más de una cosa a la vez, aumenta los niveles de estrés y disminuye el sentido de control y la productividad." which translates;
"Striving to accomplish more than one thing at once revs up the stress level and decreases one's sense of control and productivity."
'One thing at a time' regarding the Founder's dilemma suggests that for a 'founder', after all the hard work of setting up or protecting the business through difficult times or any other sorts of challenges along the path, letting go of more that "one thing" at a time may be asking for too much.
In the example above, the reference states "One's sense of control and productivity". For the 'receiving generation', it is critical to consider what the founding owner/manager is feeling regarding their sense of purpose, control and playing a productive part in the ongoing operation. Transitions should always consider each element of the founder's authority and responsibility and work to transition every 'element' and not make the common error of simply asking the founder to 'step aside' before he or she is ready.
The first way to resolve this, or anything for that matter, is to recognize the issue or challenge and then secondly to have a plan or solution to work through it.
When one of my friends’ father was preparing to retire as General Manager of a huge conglomerate cereal company, General Mills, the company invested upwards of two years to evaluate the 'readiness' of their manager to enter into 'retirement' as the transition from intense management responsibilities to resting and 'sleeping in' is a transition that is challenging at best. The emotional and even physical changes in the day to day environment require transitioning and the process is set up to transition individual aspects of responsibilities one at a time.
When you are considering or moving toward transitioning one family member or a generation of family members from one level of responsibility to the next, remember my little saying "Una cosa la vez" and you may find that eating an elephant isn't as hard as you thought it would be.
Nick Karavidas has dedicated over 3 decades to building and managing family business in the wine and vineyard trades. His specialty is solidifying trust within the family and staff as a priority to effectively manage family businesses and transition successfully from one generation to the next. Sign up for a Family Legacy Session Today by scheduling a free Legacy Coaching Call here: https://calendly.com/consultingwine/45min-legacy