Rules for Entrepreneurs: 5 Ways to Avoid Founderitis

What is Founderitis? It is been called “Founders Syndrome” and it is not some type of medical disease but rather a disease that can infect your business if you are not careful.

The Wikipedia definition of “Founderitis” is stated as follows:

The term “founderitis” or “founder’s syndrome” refers to the unhealthy condition that afflicts many companies whose founders maintain a stranglehold on organizational leadership. While many companies owe their success “” and in fact their very existence “” to their founders, those same individuals can create chaos that ultimately leads to the organization’s collapse. The challenge to founding CEOs and boards of directors is to take steps to change conflict and chaos into opportunities for growth.

Diagnosing Founderitis

I came across this funny diagnosis from and it comes complete with a 12 step program.

“When Founderitis strikes, the Founder’s drive, energy and vision, characteristics crucial to the startup’s initial success, become a hindrance to the company’s maturation into a self-sustaining entity. To assess yourself or a loved one for Founderitis, determine if any of the following symptoms are present:

  • Inability to delegate
  • Anger when not included in every decision
  • Paranoia derived from a sense that the venture is “œslipping out of their control”
  • Ignoring input from subject-matter experts
  • Expressing prescient knowledge, even when lacking subject-matter expertise
  • Lack of respect for formalized planning
  • Subterfuge of efforts to institute procedures, processes and controls

Founderitis is akin to an active, engaged parent who is a wonderful caregiver until the child reaches adolescence. As the child enters its teens and requires an increasing level of independence to properly mature and prosper, the Founderitis parent futilely attempts to restrict the influence of outside factors and limit the child’s ability to act autonomously. The result is usually a fractured parent / child relationship or an “adult child” that never develops the life-skills necessary to succeed on their own.

One of the most insidious aspects of Founderitis is that the more profound the case, the deeper the denial on the part of the carrier. The afflicted Founder will honestly believe that all of his actions are in the company’s best interest, though their definition of “best interest” is actually whatever is in their own “self-interest”.

Like any startup executive, the Founder must honestly separate his self-interest from the company’s interest. For instance, it might be in his self-interest to lead the sales efforts, as well as a great learning experience and a heck of a lot of fun. However, it may not be in the company’s best interest to lose precious time to market while an inexperienced sales novice attempts to learn on the job.”

5 Ways to Avoid Founderitis

I have personally experience this running my own business. I have found some ways to avoid it:

  1. Respect the need for planning activities, staff meetings, and administrative policies;
  2. Realize that as the company grows circumstances may dictate new approaches;
  3. Institute new systems with approval of your board;
  4. Seek and accept input from others in making decisions;
  5. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Don’t worry if you can’t over come this there is a simple solution. The route many take is to get your board to hire a professional CEO and take a long vacation.

So how many of you have had problems with founderitis? What is your story? Have a great example to share? Let the comments be the conversation.