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What The Founder of a Company Cannot Do

Starting a company is not a one-time activity, it's a life-time responsibility.
What The Founder of a Company Cannot Do
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You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

'My Business, My Way' does not seem to be working out for many companies worldwide.

Uber’s Travis Kalanick’s leave of absence soon after a series of leaks about the ‘sexist’ culture that he has built at the company is testimony to the fact that no founder is irreplacable at their own company.

India too has had its Kalanick moment this week with The Viral Fever’s, the company popularly known as TVF, founder Arunabh Kumar stepping down post a string of sexual assault allegations.

Another popular Indian name who had to step down from a company he built is Tarun Tejpal, the former editor of investigative magazine Tehelka. Post charges of rape and sexual assault on a junior journalist at a company event, Tejpal had to face prison sentence denting the image of Tehelka beyond repair.

All these three cases have one thing in common – founders having to step away from the companies they built. The question arises what is a company really withouts its founder and can a company survive without its founder.

Image is No Play

Companies need to be cautious of their image. A founder’s behaviour with an employee or allegations especially of sexism and sexual misconduct can mar a company’s image forever. No matter what the company has achieved since it’s inception, a founder’s slip up has grave ramifications.

Uber has been a pertinent Silicon Valley startup story of how a small startup could become a global name. India’s answer to Disney, TVF,  caused disruption in the content business by making the Internet a mainstream medium for original content consumption. At the time Tehelka started doing investigative stories, the Indian journalism industry did not see such long-form writing. None of the three companies were insulted from stark criticism arising from their founders’ alleged deeds.

Vision Vs Impundency

The vision that a founder has for their company cannot be replaced by another professional’s is a given in. However, a thin line of difference exists between vision and impudency. A company cannot be taken for granted by its founders. From employees to the office culture that is created, the founders need to be mindful of drawing that thin line. Any blurring can cause a serious dent to the growth of the company.

In its attempt to break barriers, Uber got entangled in several legal suits worldwide and has been fighting its employees’ grievances ever since. The company’s approach towards allegations of sexist behaviour at work has also been looked down upon globally. TVF’s fierce rebuttal and failure in acception any misconduct by its founders drew criticism from the entire Indian startup community. Tejpal’s brazeness struck a big blow to Tehelka’s employees, half of who left the company to less tainted companies. The line that their founders crossed led to the breakdown of the company structure and in some ways also the company.

No Getting Away

Once a founder’s vision translates into the magic of a company, there is no getting away. Every decision personal or professional gets associated with the company one builds.

Kalanick’s leave of absence could truly be to grieve the tragic loss of his mother in a boat accident; Kumar’s stepping down could no where to related to him being guilty of sexual misconduct allegations; Tejpal may have been able to prove himself not guilty of the charges imposed. But getting away is something none of them could do.

The hit that a company takes on account of their founders’ behaviour is insurmountable. The loss of credibility, question on work ethics, investors’ interest in further support and sometimes even the continuity of seamless operations lies ahead for companies. 

 
Edition: August 2017

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