The 9 biggest reasons people get fired by companies they founded

caption
Apple cofounder Steve Jobs
source
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Being a founder doesn’t prevent you from potentially getting fired.

Guys like Apple’s Steve Jobs and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are some of the high-profile founders that once got pushed out by the board, one way or another.

How does it happen?

This Quora thread offers a few good answers to why people often get fired by the companies they founded. We narrowed the responses down to 9 of the most compelling reasons.

Here they are:


They stopped being useful to the company.

source
Flickr / Julian Youllhavetobuymeadrinkfirst

“Founding a company doesn’t entitle you to lifetime tenure. Like every employee, you have to earn and re-earn your standing – and companies are pretty unsentimental about that stuff. If you stop being useful, you get quickly shuttled to the side.” – Tim Westergren, Founder/CEO of Pandora


They got too greedy.

source
IMDB, Twentieth Century Fox

“If you push the investors too hard in particular in valuation, out of their comfort zone … sometimes they will still do the deal. If you do a deal like this, you may get a great deal. But you will be resented.

And that means, you better hit your numbers. Every month and every quarter … take one misstep, miss one quarter, and he or she will take you down if they have someone else ‘better’ to put in.” – Jason Lemkin, VC and founder of Echosign


They were not the right fit.

source
Flickr / Yoel Ben-Avraham

“Generally it is because the founder no longer fits the organization. This happens for several reasons that are often variations of the founder is good at starting companies (discovering markets and solutions) but not good as stabilizing (making routine) or scaling (adjusting to shifting markets). Sometimes founders need to make the difficult decision to hire their boss, sometimes they choose to leave, often they are fired.” – Joe Albano, Over 30 years experience advising business leaders around the world.


They had a bad board that made bad decisions.

source
Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

“Nowadays I have seen many investors make rash decisions about founders/CEOs. In a startup there will be things that go wrong. That is the nature of the game. Those problems get discussed at the board. If the board does not know how to help the CEO solve them, too often the board solution is: get someone else in to solve these problems. Instead of helping the CEO solve the problems.” – Mansour Salame, CEO of FrontSpin


They failed to adapt to a maturing company culture.

source
A24

“The close relationship between founders, forged over years of all-nighters and ramen, can become an obstacle rather than an asset. A roommate from college isn’t necessarily going to have the same type of professional relationship that is appropriate for a CEO and a head of product or head of engineering, for example. What used to be (appropriately) a come-to-consensus process is now (appropriately) a gather-input-and-make-a-decision process. That can be a tough cultural change for best friends to swallow.” – Anonymous


They fell victim to power struggles and office politics.

source
Flickr / Jason Eppink

“Often founders accept to bring in a CEO, and then there ensues personality clashes, power struggles, and related politics. I experienced this myself, and have written about it elsewhere.” – Sramana Mitra, Founder/CEO of 1Mby1M global virtual accelerator


They failed to meet the numbers.

source
Flickr / Alan Levine

“Founders who don’t meet their deliverables may get a ‘pass’ for awhile if the overall brand of the company is publicly tied to their personal identity. However, eventually shareholder pressure will send them packing.” – Thomas Frank


They simply gave up too much control.

source
Jim McDougall/Flickr

“The founders get fired when they’ve turned over majority control of their company to others in exchange for working capital, and the investors lose faith in the founders’ ability to create value.” – Ian McCullough


They hung on to their original vision for too long.

source
Alan Crowhurst / Stringer / Getty Images

“Founders can often hang on to a vision they originally had for the business and not see the different perspective an exec board has the experience and view to see … if you are a founder that constantly questions yourself as well as your business then the founder concerned is better positioned to carry on making the right decisions for the business.” – Guy Lewis