Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am sorry that you are going through this.
I understand that you are seeing shadows all around you. It’s good to be on high alert but at the same time you can’t worry about what you are hearing in the wind. This is not a time to hide or show that you are feeling anxious.
This is a time to run into the fire without being defensive. Go and present your plan for the company. Share what you are doing to lead this company to greatness. Start a dialogue about where everything is going and show how you are an integral part of that.
You may be right that the board wants to replace you. That certainly happens. It’s possible that they want to have someone more experienced—even if you are doing a great job. This used to be a playbook move for venture capital and private equity. It’s become less so for venture capital, but it’s still a frequent occurrence with private equity investors who often favor changing the CEO for an experienced operator. (This is why I always remind founders to be careful about who you sign on as investors and board members—you want people who have your back.)
You mention there may be one board member who is agitating this. But what about the rest of the board—especially any independent board members? Do you know where they stand? You should know where everyone stands.
This is why I recommend that founders have regular check-ins with board members outside of scheduled meetings. Ask them how they are doing, what they are worried about, and what advice they have for you. Ask how they are enjoying being on the board. If you have not been doing this, you can’t all of a sudden over-index for it. Be more nuanced, start by asking more questions and increase it from there. The information you’ll gain will be helpful; it’s always better to know where people actually are as opposed to where you hope they are.
Finally, whether your company is better off with a more experienced operator may or may not be true. But at some point, your company will transition to an entity that may scale beyond you. In my opinion, often the founder has a better sense of where the company is intended to go than anyone else. The best of all situations is when a founder can scale and help a company go the distance.
You have already gone so far. What you have achieved—building something out of the ether—is amazing. I hope you get this sorted out and can continue to grow what you started.