When companies stumble, they bring back the founder.
Jane Berentson, editor of Inc.
America, they say, is the land of second chances. No one knows this better than our readers, many of whom have started businesses and failed. True entrepreneurs never leave it at that, however. They start again and often succeed, occasionally beyond their wildest dreams (though wild dreams are often at the heart of start-ups).
There's another kind of second chance, and that's the one given to companies that start well but falter as they mature. There are many reasons companies head south, but boards of directors tend to gravitate toward the same cure (or hope of a cure): bringing back the founder. Famous examples abound: Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Howard Schultz.
In this month's issue, we have two cases of founders who removed themselves from active leadership and then returned. One is Schultz himself, the man behind Starbucks. On the occasion of the publication of his book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, he talked with senior editor Bobbie Gossage about the strategy he employed to turn around his troubled company. Not surprisingly, they met in a Starbucks, in New York City, where, within minutes, he was spotted by fans, some of whom paused to snap his photo. (The fact that he and his interviewer sat by the window, separated from the crowd by a velvet rope, might have had something to do with the instant recognition.) Gossage quaffed a gingerbread latte, Schultz his favorite—doppio espresso macchiato.
Though modest in size compared with mighty Starbucks, the company that is the subject of our cover story also brought back the founder when it began to stumble. Thirty-year-old Rob Kalin is once again the prime mover at Etsy, the rapidly growing online craft fair. We look forward to reading his book, should he write one, on his experiences steering his fascinating company forward.