Two weeks ago today I completed a transition that began six months ago to hand off day to day control of my company, appendTo, to my Leadership Team. You can read the official announcement on the company blog.
I’ve wanted to write a post explaining my motivation and feelings behind this transition and to answer the many questions I’ve gotten. However, I have struggled to find words until today. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
To truly understand appendTo, you must understand our purpose. We were working to build a very different company, one that “Hacked the American Dream“, did things differently and demonstrated a different set of values. The cornerstone of this goal was embodied in our core purpose, which states:
appendTo exists to equip and serve innovators through technology to positively transform lives.
As Founder & CEO, I took this purpose very seriously and constantly measured myself and the performance of our organization against it. It was the ideal corporate purpose, inspirational but infinitely unattainable. Lives can always be positively transformed and this was a purpose that transcended financial gain and extended the goal of “Hacking the Dream” out towards our employees and our clients.
Transformation through Mentorship
Mentorship in many forms became my preferred method for transforming the lives of my leadership team and I worked to model and teach the importance of mentorship to my team so they could replicate it to their direct reports. This mentorship & growth extended to all facets of what we were doing and became a key component of our success.
We believed that success looked like helping the people we work with every day transform, grow and achieve their version of “Hacking the Dream”.
In late 2013 I came to the realization that in order to fully grow to the next level, my team would need to shoulder more responsibility in our organization. This presented a dilemma because I had handed off most of the responsibility that was easily delegated to their roles. I realized that the only way to push my team to grow was to get out of their way.
The fear of separation
At first, this realization produced an immense amount of fear around worst case scenario’s. Would the company fall over? Would they make a bad decision?
These fears quickly gave way to rationalizations of how necessary I was to the day to day operation of the organization. This smacked of self-centeredness and quickly gave way to the worst fear of all.
The darkest place before I committed to this path was the fear of letting go and forcing myself out of my own comfort zone. appendTo was born under my watch and grew from a simple dream to a growing and thriving organization that was the single biggest achievement of my career to that point. I defined it as the founder and I was now in danger of it defining me.
It was in the darkness of this realization that I realized that I had no other choice but to follow through with a full separation from the organization because the danger of personal creative atrophy was far greater then anything negative that could happen to the organization as a result of me stepping back.
Planning my funeral
Having worked this through, I presented my team with a 6 month plan to hand over everything I’d been hold back as CEO and provide them with full autonomy to run the organization within our corporate structure. This process began with promoting John Kellar to COO and culminated in the leadership transition that I mentioned earlier in this post.
Death, then freedom
Coming to the realization that the next logical step in the growth of the organization I birthed 4 and a half years ago was killing my role within it was the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career. It’s been two weeks and I couldn’t be more impressed with my team and how smooth the transition has gone. I fully expect them to run into challenges and problems along the way but I have complete confidence in their ability to do so. They have exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be more proud.
As for what I’m going to do next? I have a few ideas but I’ll share those later. I do want to say that the feeling of freedom after the intense ownership that develops from running a startup, then leaving it is overwhelming. It is incredibly satisfying and has filled my entrepreneurial engine with more fuel then I’ve felt in a long time.
Our world defines success by an organizations bottom line, growth hacking metrics and how many big accounts you’ve closed. Going forward, the world will be a better place if we value these things but also measure success by how many lives are transformed and how many dreams we have helped others achieve. Money and metrics come and go but a changed life endures and makes our world a better place.