Are You Intentionally Transitioning From Founder to CEO?

Leading a Company is Completely Different from Starting One

If you are a company Founder, you know that every day there are hundreds of things to do, but time only to do one or two well. You need to transition to CEO before you lose sight of your role.

In the first weeks of your company's life, you worked on the business, developing strategy, figuring out product and market fit, assessing customer demand, and planning for the future. Then, as the idea and company begin to take shape, more and more of your attention is drawn to the details.

LaborerEarly on, you do everything. You develop and broadcast the vision; you are intimately involved in product development; you have the role of chief marketer; you lead fund raising; you are the head of sales and the lead salesperson.

Everything that happens demands your involvement.

“Becoming CEO
CEO is about

Soon, you are talking to customers every day, resolving supplier issues, deciding what button goes where, and entering transactions into your accounting system. All of these things may be necessary, but they require that you work in your business.

Long-term, using your time in this short-term focused manner is not worth much to the company. In fact, it may lead to your business's demise.

It's All About Transition

There is a difference between a good founder and a great CEO. It's all about the transition from inward focus to forward focus, from maintenance to growth, and from the urgent to the important.

CEOA CEO's primary role is to support the business in such a way that the day to day continuous functions can occur without your input. In contrast, a Founder focuses all of their energy on doing the tasks required to maintain the business. This internal orientation is a key reason why investors almost always replace Founders.

The business won't thrive, however, absent your leadership.

Be the Leader Your Company Needs

The transition is when you start working (again) on your business and leading for the long term rather dedicating all of your time and energy to the present needs in your business. You must remove yourself from doing things to leading the company forward.

Female ExecutiveAs CEO, you recruit, hire, coach, and retain your top level team. These are the individuals with specific areas of expertise that will carry the business well beyond where you can carry it on your own. You accomplish progress through the leadership of people rather than through your individual efforts.

When you can do this, it produces margin for creativity, focus and thought.

It is at this point that you can create the structures, systems, and processes for a sustainable business.

Working on your business enables you to step back from the day to day details of running your business, and to think proactively about what propels your business forward.


Become the Intentional CEO

  1. Writing Ideas Rick CoplinClear a day on your calendar and get away from the business and write out everything you do. Impossible you say? Yes, it might be hard, but if it is impossible, that's a sure sign you are mired in Founder mode. Make the time.
  2. Divide your list into two columns: CEO and Founder. Where do you spend most of your day? Where should you be investing your time?
  3. Seek a mentor with deep business experience and discuss your list with them.
  4. Develop a strategy for extracting yourself from the Founder tasks. It could be outsourcing jobs that require expertise, it could be hiring an assistant (real or virtual), it might be dropping an activity altogether.
  5. Watching TimeSet time frames for transitioning back into your CEO role.
  6. Communicate with your team and ask for their support. Explain what you are doing and why, and what the expected result will be for the company.
  7. Evaluate progress every few days at first, then weekly, then regularly with your mentor(s).


Few entrepreneurs set out to remain Founders of their business forever, but the pull of day to day activities will keep you from being CEO as long as set your focus on the urgent. Make it a priority to be the CEO your company needs to meet the vision you initially set in motion.

Please email me a PDF of
“Are You Intentionally
Transitioning From
Founder to CEO?”

Are you ready to transition back to CEO?


Rick Coplin







Photo Sources: Worker via Pexels; CEO via pexels; Female Executive via iStock on Flikr; Writing Ideas via Pexels; Watching Time via Pexels;


I work alongside emerging companies on business formation, commercialization strategies, and capital planning. My passion is to find, support, mentor, coach, incubate, & fund start-ups engaged in innovative technology businesses.

Connect with Rick on