In today’s start-up culture, “professional CEOs” have widely been replaced by visionary Founders. These entrepreneurs bring charisma, passion and a view of the world that inspires employees, attracts customers and disrupts industries. The company's success and the Founder’s raison d’être are tightly intertwined. And also, these Founders often have no idea how (let alone interest in) developing strategic plans, managing teams, or building operating systems. Aka, running a business.
For the successful ones, that means, eventually, they as leaders, and the business as a whole, hit an inflection point. A tricky maturity chasm that accompanies their triumphant growth.
The realization crashes in. “What got us here, won’t get us there.”
The business outpaces the capabilities and capacities. And they say. “I need help!”
More often than not, the immediate response is to hire. Find a partner -- bring on an expensive and experienced Chief-so-and-so as soon as humanly possible.
That’s how we first started working with first-time, self-made Founder, Janessa Leone.
Janessa reached out to THE BOARD in the Summer of 2021. A caregiver turned entrepreneur, Janessa was fast approaching burn out after more than 6 years of turning an idea into a multi-million dollar luxury fashion namesake brand, Janessa Leoné. Her self-funded, profitable business had never been more successful, growing more than 70% during the first year of the pandemic, the brand equity was stronger than ever, and the team was highly engaged.
But Janessa’s battery was at zero. She was at a crossroads for herself as a leader and for the company as a whole. Janessa was searching for a self-described “Savior” -- a strategic operating partner that she could trust to execute her creative vision for the brand and lead the team to scale the business to the next level.
Janessa could have hired a recruiter, drafted a generic job description for a President, and went straight into interviewing. But instead, she called The Board and we started working together.
After having fallen into the trap before -- jumping straight into hiring to solve a problem before I really understood the problem itself -- I suggested to Janessa that we take a step back. That we audit the financials, evaluate her role, and assess the talent and capacity of the existing team before we start hiring.
After a month of working together, with revenue soaring, Janessa hit the wall. I encouraged her to take a sabbatical, 8 weeks away from the business. This would give her a chance to re-evaluate her goals for herself and the company -- and me a chance to get an uninhibited look under the hood. I stepped in as interim COO for 15 hours a week.
Now, nearly 12 months later, we retrenched and refocused the company. We developed a multi-year strategic plan and an annual goal setting process, we redesigned the organizational chart, hired a VP of Marketing and a Design Director (instead of a President), brought on fractional experts in Planning and Supply Chain to help develop and execute long-term strategies for key areas of the business, we upgraded our systems, increased funding, rolled out half a dozen new employee policies along with a new compensation philosophy and bonus program, we transitioned out stale team members and agencies, invested in diverse marketing channels, expanded product categories, diversified our supply chain and made a commitment to regenerative agriculture.
Janessa has a renewed sense of passion and conviction for the business. The team is stronger. The operations are more efficient and more resilient. We pivoted the mindset from reacting in the short-term to building for the long-term.
All without hiring a full-time COO.
THE BOARD is paving a new way for how Founders build and lead successful companies in today’s unpredictable, fast-paced, ever-changing world. The shape of the workforce has changed. Now, THE BOARD makes it possible for companies to move quickly, to challenge norms, to react to change, and to transform their businesses without bloating their org charts and weighing down budgets.