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When transistioning from a startup to a growth-oriented, mature company, there is a sense of low-tide, similar to the image of Mont Saint Michel in France.

The founder has built this castle, glorious, awe-inspiring, and grand, from the foundation up to the spires. Up in this castle, he is King. He is imbued with wealth and power. But alas, all the king’s men who helped fund the castle have conspired to dethrone him, wielding their great collective power over him and all that he worked so hard to build. He has the option to step down peaceably, which means he is more likely to retain at least some control over the kingdom he has built. But, if this low-tide shift in power comes unannounced, he will be dethroned quickly and suffer a great loss in the workings of the kingdom.

He has weathered other storms that threatened, watched the tides change around him day in and day out. But this tidal change is different. This one affects all the kings men, both loyal and new. This is a great sea change, one that erodes the bedrock of the castle on the sand. What did he do wrong? He thought he was a good kind, a fair king, efficient, capable, and beloved.

But his performance was not necessarily the reason the change began. The kingdom needed a new direction, to prosper and grow beyond his skill. Perhaps they could find a new king who had reigned in other lands? They may even ask the dethroned king to help find his replacement. Surely the vetting of a new king would help entrust the continued success of the kingdom!

And so, from founder to king to servant once again, he watches the tidal change. The vast expanse of low-tide will soon well up and surround the castle and its new king in wealth and power. If the founder can weather this change with the grace and dignity befitting a king, then he will see his former kingdom flourish. And perhaps he will retire at high-tide in a beautiful ship  on which to survey all he has accomplished.

5 Comments

  1. Joy,
    What a wonderful post! I was reading it like a poem. I liked the comparison of an entrepreneur with a king and his castle. I think you’ve found just the right words to describe the king, his possession and achievements, and reluctance to lose it all.

    Like

  2. Hi Joy,
    I love the way that you related the chapter of Wasserman’s book to a well-written example in a story format. The kingdom had outgrown the King’s skill level and although he appeared to be doing everything correct, it is indeed time for him to step down and allow his kingdom to flourish with different leadership. Do you think if he planned his exit earlier and was aware of the big picture rather than his small world that he wouldn’t have to worry about being overthrown? Perhaps proper planning could have led to a grandiose exit with a retirement befitting a King. However, if he accepts the fact that change is needed and helps find a replacement King, a wealthy retirement could be in his future.

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    1. Your writing is so descriptive and visual Joy! This thoroughly demonstrates the potential pitfalls that a founder may face. There are so many ways that things could unfold from startup to maturity, and you really hit a bunch, and in such an interesting way with your imagery of Mont Saint Michel! Great post!!

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  3. Joy,
    This is such a creative approach to the topic of succession, and I love that you used the story of the king and reinforced that it wasn’t his performance, but rather a shifting of the tide that was requiring a new king with a different vision. Great job! Jill

    Like

  4. Joy,
    This post is amazingly well written! Great job! I love it! Your post sums up the founder’s dilemma perfectly! I loved your line “from founder to king to servant once again, he watches the tidal change.” That’s exactly it!

    Like

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