A founder frets that the board wants to replace them as CEO

Editor’s Notice: Every week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will supply candid, sensible, and generally stunning recommendation to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a query, write to Webb at [email protected]

Q. My firm is doing nicely, however my “Spidey sense” is telling me that my board—or a minimum of one seasoned board member—is making an attempt to replace me as CEO. I’m unsure what to do.

—Anxious Founder


Pricey Founder,

I’m sorry that you’re going via this.

I perceive that you’re seeing shadows throughout you. It’s good to be on excessive alert however at the identical time you possibly can’t fear about what you’re listening to in the wind. This isn’t a time to disguise or present that you’re feeling anxious.

It is a time to run into the hearth with out being defensive. Go and current your plan for the firm. Share what you’re doing to lead this firm to greatness. Begin a dialogue about the place all the pieces goes and present how you’re an integral a part of that.

It’s possible you’ll be proper that the board wants to replace you. That definitely occurs. It’s doable that they need to have somebody extra skilled—even if you’re doing a terrific job. This used to be a playbook transfer for enterprise capital and personal fairness. It’s develop into much less so for enterprise capital, however it’s nonetheless a frequent incidence with non-public fairness traders who usually favor altering the CEO for an skilled operator. (Because of this I all the time remind founders to watch out about who you signal on as traders and board members—you need individuals who have your again.)

You point out there could also be one board member who’s agitating this. However what about the remainder of the board—particularly any unbiased board members? Have you learnt the place they stand? You need to know the place everybody stands.

Because of this I like to recommend that founders have common check-ins with board members outdoors of scheduled conferences. Ask them how they’re doing, what they’re fearful about, and what recommendation they’ve for you. Ask how they’re having fun with being on the board. If in case you have not been doing this, you possibly can’t hastily over-index for it. Be extra nuanced, begin by asking extra questions and improve it from there. The knowledge you’ll acquire shall be useful; it’s all the time higher to know the place folks truly are as opposed to the place you hope they’re.


Lastly, whether or not your organization is healthier off with a extra skilled operator could or might not be true. However in some unspecified time in the future, your organization will transition to an entity that could scale past you. In my view, usually the founder has a greater sense of the place the firm is meant to go than anybody else. The very best of all conditions is when a founder can scale and assist an organization go the distance.

You have got already gone thus far. What you’ve got achieved—constructing one thing out of the ether—is wonderful. I hope you get this sorted out and might proceed to develop what you began.