The Evolution of Founders

Today I had a great conversation with a founder friend that reminded me of something. The journey of a founder is an evolution. The needs and priorities of a founder will change.

Founders who build successful companies often end up selling them. What then? Many struggle to decide what they want the answer to that question to be. Do they start over with another company? Do they retire to a tropical island? Do they use their experience and skills to re-focus their efforts on giving back?

And it’s not just their professional lives—all aspects of a founder’s life evolve. I was 100% focused on CCAW as an early founder. I worked all-nighters and prioritized CCAW’s success above most other things. I don’t recommend that approach, but it’s what I did. As I’ve gained more experience, a lot has changed. I don’t do all-nighters anymore. My brain and body don’t respond to them like they used to. My priorities have also changed. Family and friends rank higher than professional success. And how I define success has even changed. I now think of success as helping others reach their full potential as opposed to building my own successful company. As I continue to live, I’m sure more changes will come.

Evolution is part of life. From my experience, it’s important for founders to recognize this evolution, embrace what comes from it, and adjust accordingly. I didn’t recognize that my needs and priorities were changing—I carried on with the same approach, the same habits. It took life slapping me in the face to change and make a ton of adjustments quickly. I wish that I’d taken time to regularly reflect on this and make gradual adjustments periodically. Now, I plan to reflect annually during the Christmas holidays. It’s a perfect time to think about the past year and the one coming next.

Founders should begin their journey with the understanding that who they are now probably isn’t who they will always be. This will make it easier to recognize their evolution, process it emotionally over time, make practical decisions, and implement changes gradually. Life never stands still!