Carbon Copy

Why Clone?

You don't have to be in love with yourself to want a clone. There are several solid business reasons why entrepreneurs may choose to clone themselves. For instance, a clone can make it possible for an entrepreneur to divert his or her attention away from daily concerns and have time to seek and develop new markets. A clone can also help deal with purely growth-related problems, ease succession planning and, in some cases, provide the only way for an entrepreneur to sell the company when the time comes.

Growth of a particular sort is Katharine Paine's problem. At The Delahaye Group, her 50-employee marketing consulting firm, international business is exploding. As CEO, Paine spent all of December 1997 and much of November and January in the Far East, half a world away from her Portsmouth, New Hampshire, office.

The extended absence was no problem, Paine reports, thanks to her clone, longtime employee and COO Jill Ury. "Things were fine," says Paine. But without Ury, it would have been difficult for Paine to develop any new markets at all. "The customers feed the vision, so for you to get the inspiration, you need to be out in the field," Paine says. "You can't be at home implementing. You need a clone at home [to do this]."

Even slow- or no-growth businesses must clone if they plan to survive after their founders depart, says Paul Karofsky, executive director of the Center for Family Business at Northeastern University in Dedham, Massachusetts. According to Karofsky, entrepreneurs often want to pass the reins to someone exactly like themselves in order to feed family pride, to assuage the entrepreneur's own anxiety or even to foster a sense of immortality.

Successful founders naturally want to hand control over to someone who will continue to make decisions and run the enterprise in much the same way they did. Entrepreneurs, after all, form powerful emotional attachments to their way of doing things. "It's the notion that if you do things differently from the way I do them, you're not doing them well," says Karofsky. "Therefore, I'll clone myself."

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Carbon Copy.

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