Although there are famous examples of company founders who were able to switch gears as their startups expanded - Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell are often cited - there are many more examples where founders start to quickly flounder as a company takes off.
Sometimes they decide to sell, letting another company handle the challenge of scaling a startup into a business, but sometimes they take the company down with them as they fail to adapt.
If you want to grow with your business, these factors will help you scale with your business, instead of staying locked in a startup mode.
Entrepreneurial skills and executive skills aren't the same
Successful entrepreneurs are a special set of people. They inspire loyalty in everyone around them, have laser focus on the task at hand, and are capable of working hard, on their own, late into the wee hours if it gets their project a little closer to completion.
Executives are also a special set of people. They are similar in many ways to entrepreneurs, but their focus by definition has to be a great deal broader. After all, they're running an entire organization, not a tightly knit start-up family.
It is certainly possible to transition between an entrepreneurial skill set and an executive skill set, if you're self-aware enough to see where the transitions and changes must be made.
The first step is simply understanding that different skills define success for each group. Consider executive or life coaching program to improve particular areas of the business.
Loyalty to original team
An entrepreneur is by definition loyal to their team, and inspires loyalty in them in trade. With a start-up, there is often one person handling the marketing, one person handling the financials, one person handling development, and so forth. If any single team member is unable to get their project done, then the whole project suffers, so it makes sense to divert all necessary resources to each person in term.
As a business scales, however, people who can't pull their own weight become more apparent. In start-up phase, there tends to be a huge amount of work for one person at a time, but in a growing business, everyone has a lot of work to do, and it's harder to steal from Peter in order to pay Paul.
An entrepreneur will stand by their original team even when the business starts to suffer. A successful executive will begin to consider whether or not their original team is up to the challenge of scaling the business, and kindly steer the team member out of the organization if they can't get the work done.
Too much focus on detail work
As an entrepreneur, it's crucial to focus on the task in front of you. The product has to ship on time, or it's worthless, and that often means adhering to painfully tight deadlines. But as an executive, it's often necessary to begin to shift your focus towards big picture conversations.
Executives spend less time managing the day to day operation of the company, and more time considering what the project will look like in a day, a week, a month, and a year.
If an entrepreneur can't make this transition out of daily function into bigger picture, then the company is likely to get swamped in details and blindsided by transitions, which will eventually cause the business to fold.
When you're starting up, you develop laser point focus on each target as it approaches. You need to get capital funding; you need to get marketing established; you need to ship on time. Nothing can be allowed to distract you from completion of your tasks.
But as your business moves out of start-up, it's necessary to let your vision expand, taking in a broader understanding of the industry at large. This lets you see upcoming challenges and make preparations for them. Without that expanded understanding, a business will never thrive.
Tendency towards isolation
Entrepreneurs are known for their ability to get everything done themselves. After all, in start-up, that's often how things work. You get them done, or they don't happen. But as an executive, this concept will destroy a business. An executive who can't delegate or trust their people to accomplish tasks will never succeed.
To successfully transition from entrepreneurial mindset to executive functioning, practice building in accountability in reporting, but force yourself not to micromanage. Ultimately, the company has to be able to run without you in order to be truly successful.
Successful entrepreneurs can absolutely become successful executives, if they choose to do so.