The Entrepreneurs Transition: Flipping the Switch

Donald Trump is an entrepreneur and a highly successful one at that. One needs to look no further than the Business Empire and brand he has created, maintained, and grown. He ran his campaign for President of the United States, as an entrepreneur would, and built a business and that served him very well as his win would indicate.

UPS online advice column for business owners, in August 2015, identified 6 way that entrepreneurs think differently, including:

1. Entrepreneurs find their own way of thinking- and don’t need your approval
2. Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo
3. Entrepreneurs see opportunities, not problems
4. Entrepreneurs take measure risks
5. Entrepreneurs are relentlessly passionate
6. Entrepreneurs learn from failure

As I re-read this list, I found myself acknowledging that this is the very way President Trump ran his campaign for the Presidency, and from the outside it appears it is the way he is running the White House. I think this is a good mirror to how he thinks with one notable addition – fights back when attacked.

From the success he achieved in being elected President, it is easy for one to assume that the same style will work in running the country. This is the very challenge that entrepreneurs face in transitioning from the innovation part of the journey to the managing and running of a company part of the journey- now with employees and a growing customer base. It was the battle that challenged Steve Jobs and others as they tried to make the adjustment to satisfy investors, stakeholders, employees, customers, supply chain and their corporate boards.

The change from a founder mentality to CEO mentality is not a natural progression for most entrepreneurs who are very accustomed to captaining their own ship and taking it where they want to sail. They fear they will lose touch. Many founders reach a point, where there are too many nuisances in managing the business and there are simply not enough hours in the day. Founders who do not let go become a logjam to their organizations and progress and growth is halted; or they become impairments to the organization and, at some point, are replaced.

Many founders (entrepreneurs) believe they can magically transform themselves into CEOs. Unfortunately, that role is often antithetical to how they think, act and where their strengths truly are and ultimately, lack the patience for the mundane parts of the job. Yes some have been able to make the transition while others find roles in (our outside) the company that better play to their personalities.

Battles between corporate boards and founders to make the change, often acrimonious, see the company suffer in the process. The founder wants to pull the company in one direction, while the corporate board or funders see a much different path based on the current state of the company and the needs a for a more cohesive strategic approach that focuses on growth and management.

During the campaign for President, we heard candidate Trump indicate, “when I need to be presidential I can flip the switch and be presidential.” Which is the same as many founders saying, “when I need to be CEO I can be CEO,” without really understanding all that entails.

We are witnessing a very interesting dynamic in the psyche of an entrepreneur trying to “flip that switch”. We are learning it is not as easy it appears. Do I have the belief that as President Donald Trump can make the change? I think he can, but he needs to understand the different roles and accept the need to change in thinking, style and strategic interaction. It is not if he will get there, but how soon?

For entrepreneurs this is a valuable learning opportunity. How do you move from founder to CEO and can you get there? What are the skills and behavior changes you will need to exhibit? If you step back from you political leaning and watch the transformation of our 45th President, you will learn what it takes and if you can get there? and if you even want to get there?

For our 45th President, he has the absolute ability to make the transition.  It is now a matter if he will fully afford himself that opportunity.  And for the entrepreneurs looking on, this could be you and your business. Learn from it.

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