The kickoff of the 2012 Olympic Games evokes certain timeless imagery--the flag procession by the athletes, tearful medal ceremonies and, of course, the prideful passing of the torch. The latter is especially emotional for me and the rest of the OtterBox family because this week we have officially announced that I will be passing the chief executive torch to a new leader that will take the company into the future.
I announced to the company and our customers this week that my role at OtterBox is evolving. As the founder of OtterBox, I've worn many hats. In the early days, it was everything from accountant to chief toolmaker. Things have obviously evolved since then in every aspect of the business. My role at the company is no exception, so I have gladly handed over the title of chief executive officer to long-time OtterBox President Brian Thomas.
Today, I don't want to run the day-to-day operations of a business, if I can help it. It's not where my passion and strength lies. My goal from early on was to get this company to run without me. That should be the goal for every entrepreneur because most are not best suited to be the manager and technician (the business personalities detailed by the E-Myth) for the long-run. Entrepreneurs are all of these things in the beginning out of necessity but should not remain in those roles as their businesses evolve.
Preparing early for this evolution is the trick to making it a seamless transition for the organization:
Being able to step away from the wheel should be the goal of every entrepreneur, but it's not an easy transition to make. If a company goes down because a founder can't properly transition into a new role, then it was built to be too dependent on a person. Businesses should actually depend upon ideas, products and systems-not a single figurehead. A company must be set up early for this type of evolution.
Mentoring the new managers and technicians becomes crucial. They must be attuned to and in line with the culture and processes that drive the business and also be adaptable to handle the change that is sure to occur. Even these leaders must be ready to see their positions change and evolve.
Founders and owners must honestly ask who they are and how best to serve the company they have nurtured. A lot of people can't take their hands off the wheel when the time is right. This can be a company's downfall. Passing the torch doesn't mean that I will be leaving the company. My role is evolving, not ending. This is a hard truth for some owners to come to grips with, but it's at the detriment of the company to be blind to it.
Handing over the reins does not negate who you are; rather it states who you are better than anything else can. I can honestly say there is nothing about operations that I enjoy. I'm an entrepreneur and plan to remain in that role as chairman-driving the spirit of innovation and vision at OtterBox. I am now the founder and chairman of OtterBox.