Founder vs. CEO: How to Scale Your Business

Gini Dietrich Chief Executive Officer, Arment Dietrich, Inc.

Posted on May 28th 2014

Founder vs. CEO: How to Scale Your Business

Founder vs. CEO- How to Scale Your BusinessA few years ago, I was in a meeting with my mentor and coach and he said to me, “Do you want to be a really good communications professional or a really good business grower?”

I was reminded of this conversation recently when a friend asked for my advice on growing his PR firm.

He told me he spends the good majority of his days with clients, doing the work. He said he loves it and it’s the reason he started the business, but he never has time to do any business development.

I said, “Do you want to be a really good communications professional or a really good business grower?”

You can imagine he chose the latter.

Founder vs. CEO

It’s not an easy transition…going from founder to CEO, but it’s one that is necessary if you want to scale your business.

It requires you to work differently. It requires you to give up – in a sense – what you love and develop a new passion.

The difference between the two?

A founder builds a team. A founder goes out and finds customers. A founder rolls up their sleeves and does the work. A founder gets financing. A founder focuses on finding the right product or service to sell.

A CEO positions the business for scale. A CEO gets the heck out of the way of the talented people on the team. A CEO stops doing everything him or herself. A CEO delegates effectively. A CEO empowers their team to do really great work. A CEO spends most of his or her time coaching the team.

A CEO, to draw an analogy, becomes the head coach of a sports team. He or she builds the All-Star team and gets to work to bring out their very best.

The Transition

Going back to the conversation I had with my friend.

We talked about how upset clients will be when he begins to transition work to his team.

Yes, they will.

It’s not easy to transition. Even if your clients intuitively know you need to get out of the weeds, they’re going to think they’re the exception (multiplied by the number of clients you have).

It won’t take weeks. It won’t take months. It will take years.

In some cases, you’ll help existing clients feel special as you “grandfather” them into the new approach.

Eventually, they’ll either transition with you or they’ll find another firm.

Either way, the transition is painful for you. You’ll have to be prepared to lose some clients.

People don’t like change and, though they’ll understand this change is good, some won’t like it.

Keep the bigger picture in mind….and always remind yourself it’s about the journey.

This blog post was inspired by John Dineen as he wrote about his transition on Medium (my new most favorite site).


Gini Dietrich

Chief Executive Officer, Arment Dietrich, Inc.

Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc., a firm that uses non-traditional marketing in a digital world. The author of Spin Sucks, the 2010 Readers Choice Blog of the Year, a Top 42 Content Marketing Blog from Junta42, a top 10 social media blog from Social Media Examiner, and an AdAge Power 150 blog, Gini has delivered numerous keynotes, panel discussions, coaching sessions, and workshops across North America on the subject of using online technology in communication, marketing, sales, and HR. One of the top rated communication professionals on the social networks, Gini was recently named the number one PR person, according to Klout and TechCrunch, on the channels, and number one on Twitter, according to TweetLevel. She also can be found writing at Crain's Chicago Business, AllBusiness, and Franchise Times.
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