Sunday, 6 November 2016

Webinar- Transition from Founder to CXO

Grey tip Software Pvt Ltd is a software solutions company in the HR domain that seeks to provide relevant and cost effective solutions to corporates worldwide. The areas covered include employee information management, leave and attendance management, training, appraisals, compensation etc. As a part of value addition and customer engagement, the company organizes "expert webinar series"  periodically on topics of interest and of benefit to their customers.There are many customers who are start ups with few years of existence. Hence the relevance of doing a webinar on the subject , which happened on 28th Sept'16. 

The expert who interacted with the participants was Mr. Rakesh Mishra, Co-founder & CEO, Excubator India whose company has been helping start-up companies to set up high-performance incubators.  I got to attend this webinar on the invitation of a friend Mr Sayeed Anjum, Co-founder & CTO, Grey tip, I am happy I accepted the invite since it turned out to be a very informative and insightful session. The webinar kicked off with Mr Dinesh Babu, Application Trainer, Grey tip, introducing the speaker and the subject . He said that the top challenges for young companies in the 21st century are having a mission and vision, raising funds, hiring the right employees and managing them

Mr Rakesh Mishra began the session underscoring the fact that the role of the founder changes as the company grows and many new challenges are confronted by him/ her.The company moves from the seed phase to the stabilization phase and then to the growth and evolution phases. In the initial stages passion and dedication could primarily be the driving force that propels the creation of the company. At the stabilization phase however, you realize that you need to start focusing on a vision and that a different kind of leadership which  is more structured becomes essential. The transition calls for changes in aspects such as core attitudes, skills & competencies,  growth as an entrepreneur and sharpening of role design in terms of what you do and how you operate..

The founder needs to introspect and get clarity for himself  as to what role he is now playing- CEO? CFO? COO? It is essential  to acknowledge that some founders may not necessarily fit in to the role of a CXO. It is this clarity that would lead to role design sharpening and facilitate the founder to contribute effectively in the present times as well. Managing the transition from the seed phase to the stabilization phase and beyond  would involve the following:

Managing the business effectively  

An important aspect here would be moving from doing to leading. It is necessary to recognize one's limitations, protect quality and control economics as you scale. It also means facing what doesn't work and maturing functional processes in terms of  financial, hiring, procurement etc.Proper processes need to be in place as you grow bigger, as reputation issues become more important.

Building the organization

At this stage building the organizational culture, developing leaders,selling the vision, communicating and drawing up responsibility matrix etc is very important. One has to guard against the tendency to become disconnected on moving to senior positions. One relevant question that needs to be asked is "What do I have in my organization in terms of culture in various areas like collaboration, growth prospects,ability of employees to move to the next role, delegating and developing leaders? " If this is not done, the founder will end up doing everything himself.The staff would still be depending too much on him. The founder would do well to hire and groom someone   better than him.

Selling vision and communicating

The vision of the company needs to be developed and communicated widely throughout the organization to ensure that everyone is on the same page.There should a clearly defined responsibility matrix with everyone being clear about their roles.

Building growth horizon

From the stage of a start up, as the company matures, it needs to have growth horizons short term and long term ranging  from 3 years to 5 years  and 10 years. Horizon 1 would be focusing on defending the existing core in terms of existing markets and existing solutions. Expanding the core would be the Horizon 2 wherein new  markets and solutions get attention. The focus in   Horizon 3 would be Transformative growth when questions of the amount of investment in R&D  , leadership talent that would be available  after a time span of say10 years etc get priority attention.

Building  growth horizon would involve seeding new markets for products and services, providing cross functional innovation support system, arresting activities of  silo functioning  and encouraging a team working culture.

Managing corporate governance

As the transition happens from a young company to a mature company the processes in place for a transparent corporate governance is very significant.This will need to address the following effectively:

-    Develop policy infrastructure:   Proper documentation and processes in areas such as procurement, compensation etc.

-    Manage the Board of Directors:  More external members get inducted in to the board as the company grows.Alignment with them becomes a crucial requirement.

-   Manage investor expectations :  The bigger the company, the more engagement would it have with its investors. IPOs etc are  likely to be issued and hence more transparency about projections and focus on meeting investor's'expectations.

- Manage Compliance : When  a small company, compliance of all kinds  may be viewed as a necessary evil. For a bigger company its credibility and reputation is at stake and therefore it is necessary to manage in a more thorough fashion for ensuring strict compliance.

Work and life discipline  

The speaker Mr Rakesh Mishra explained how there is a lot of passion at the founding stage.Later the passion tends to get dissipated and one may feel exhausted. Looking at the next ten years can be challenging. Every human being has to pay attention to his family and his health also while focusing on his career.
The CXO is not a settling down role and  the incumbent  is required to continuously focus on the Growth and long term vision. In the process, the family or one's health may get ignored. Small activities addressing these needs are to be done; "collective wellness" is the key and not just the business.Your own 'machine' should be strong and powerful enough to meet the challenges in all fronts.

In the question- answer time, the question posed was "How do you solve the problem of  managers behaving like CXOs and stifling the juniors from expressing themselves and being visible to the senior level?"
The solution suggested was  informal meetings over lunch or tea where juniors can interact with the senior executive  without the presence of their immediate managers or supervisors.It was suggested that  HR can facilitate such meetings.    

Note: CXO is a short way to refer, collectively, to corporate executives at what is sometimes called the C-level, whose job titles typically start with "Chief" and end with "Officer."
  Officers who hold C-level positions are typically considered the most powerful and influential members of an organization; consequently, they make higher-stakes decisions, their workload is more demanding, and they have relatively high salaries.

CXO titles include CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

CIO (Chief Information Officer), CCO (Chief Compliance Officer), CSO (Chief Security Officer)


  1. It is indeed great to attend such events. Coming from management background, I can so relate with what they said.

    All said, it is a good time for startups to boom in India!

  2. Thank you so much Alok for sharing your thoughts.It is all the more valuable given your background and inside knowledge about the subject.

  3. Brilliant article with Useful tips for candidates aspiring for these top jobs.

  4. Thank you so much Journalist! Happy you liked the post.