Solving the ‘Founder’s Syndrome’ Problem in Nonprofits

by | Mar 30, 2022

When a founder plays a significant role in building and running a nonprofit, it’s easy for people to think that the founder “is” the nonprofit.

They often have an out-sized influence on the board, the staff and even donors. When that happens, it makes the transition to new leadership very hard, when they do decide to step down.

Darcella Craven of VetBiz joins me for this episode to talk about the warning signs for when a founder is “too important” to a nonprofit and how to handle the transition when you’re taking over for the founder of an organization.

Darcella is the President of VetBiz and replaced a founder when moving into her role 17 years ago. Now she helps counsel nonprofit leaders on how to make their transition successful. In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • Darcella’s 3 tips when taking over for a founder (4:05)
  • The first things to do when moving into the leadership role (14:00)
  • Why you MUST have uncomfortable conversations with your board members. (19:20)
  • What is “Founder’s Syndrome” and the key words that let you know if you have it. (23:35)
  • The 3 signs that it’s time for a founder to step away from their leadership role (28:20)

 

Thanks for listening and be sure to subscribe for new episodes every week!

For more nonprofit accounting resources check out http://www.thecharitycfo.com

For more information on Darcella and the good work she and her team do, go to https://vetbiz.com/ or follow VetBiz on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn!

For more nonprofit accounting resources check out www.thecharitycfo.com

🎧 Click here to listen to the Podcast on  AnchorFM or Apple Podcasts

👇 Or scroll below the to read the full transcript of our conversation

Darcella Craven A Modern Nonprofit Podcast

 


A Modern Nonprofit Podcast

Solving the ‘Founder’s Syndrome’ Problem in Nonprofits

4/6/2022

Tosha Anderson:

Hey friends. Welcome back. We’re having another episode of a Modern Nonprofit Podcast. I’m Tosha Anderson, your host. And I brought a friend, uh, kinda personally and professionally Darcella Craven to have a conversation about what it is like when transitioning from a founder to a paid employee, not necessarily related to the founder, not the founder spouse, but truly moving from a founding organization or founders organization to an organization that is ran by someone independently. So Darcella, I wanna say thank you. I have these conversations all the time with current and prospective clients are in this weird limbo spot. And I know you’ve successfully navigated this transition, and I’m really grateful that you’re willing to chat with a little bit more about your lessons learned and what we should be keeping in our eyes and ears open for. So Darcella thank you so much for coming on board.

Darcella Craven:

Awesome. Um, yeah, I’m so excited. You said successfully navigated cause – whew- there were some times,

Tosha Anderson:

So Darcella tell us a little bit more about just kind of briefly your organization and you know, a little bit about your story. Certainly gonna get into some more questions, but tell us a little bit more about the context of what you’re working in right now.

Darcella Craven:

Sure. So vet biz spelled V E T B I Z, is a nonprofit that assists veterans with, startup and expansion of small business. We actually just recently went through a name change. We used to be called A Veterans Business Resource Center, but apparently no one else could say that. So

Tosha Anderson:

That’s is it’s, that’s so much easier.

Darcella Craven:

This is so much easier. We, uh, we assist veterans and we’re headquarter here in St. Louis and we take care of all of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Southern Illinois. So we have a huge footprint and we’re traditional business consultants. Our job is to ensure that, uh, veterans, military spouses get up and running in business and make an impact in their community. We’ve been around for 18 years and we’re actually getting ready to celebrate our 18th year in business. So super excited about that.

Tosha Anderson:

That’s amazing.

Darcella Craven:

I have been around 17 of those 18 years. I started, um, about a year and some change into, and they began, I started as the business counselor. And then, um, we’ll talk a little bit more about how I became the, the president, uh, or, or as I say, the, the CEO, which is chief everything officer, right?

Tosha Anderson:

Yes, yes, yes. I love that. I should add that to my title too. Absolutely. Really. I’m responsible for everything ultimately.

Darcella Craven:

Absolutely. I came from a, a military background, so I’m an army veteran and, um, had a small business of my own, a small construction consulting firm long time ago, uh, when dinosaurs were long in the earth. And, um, that’s sort of how I kind of fell into this. I was working with women, helping them start small businesses and then came over here.

Tosha Anderson:

Love it. Not only do I love the mission, but love you. You have like so many multiple missions, right? So not only just helping veterans and their spouses, but also helping them start their own businesses, which, you know, working with a population of, of, of anyone really is, is hard. Not in getting them resources, but then doing something as significant as starting a business. That’s that’s no small undertaking that’s for sure. Oh yeah.

Darcella Craven:

Yes.

Tosha Anderson:

So it, what’s what I find really interesting and fascinating because I’m kind of in a consulting role where I am helping other people running businesses and I’m also running businesses of my own. And I find that’s a really interesting dynamic to be in when I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m expanding. I’m, I’m always being challenged. I’m also dealing with challenges in the environment that many of my clients are dealing with. So sometimes it’s not just like a peer it’s, it’s like, you’re a peer to peer, you know, we’re trying to figure this out too. And yeah, you’re in this new climate and when you work with business owners, it’s, it’s kind of a different set of rewarding. And if nothing else, it makes you feel like you’re not alone entirely. So I’ve always really liked that about my role, but let’s talk more specifically about your kind of current role and kind of dive right into the conversation today. So coming from someone in your role, someone that took over for a founder, um, what are some of the lessons that you learned when the founder left that position that maybe were obvious or weren’t so obvious?

Darcella Craven:

Uh, so lesson one run faster, right? Um, so the first lesson I think I learned was in ensure that there’s a true succession plan in place. Um, especially if you are really serious about the mission surviving beyond you. Like if you want the agency to actually live and exist beyond your name and your face attached to it, having a true succession plan is really important. Um, probably the biggest lesson that I learned, um, and then also comprehension and understanding that a large part of a agency is wrapped up in the founding members. And it doesn’t just mean the founding president or executive director, but also the founding board. Um, so big, big lessons, I think. Uh, and then the second, the third really big lesson is a reminder constantly that the, that a nonprofit is not owned by an individual, that it is owned to use that word by the community, the community, which it’s impacting the community, which it’s in the people who are supporting it, it’s owned by those folks. It’s governed by a board of director and you, you run it.

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah. Yeah. Even if you were the founder, especially

Darcella Craven:

If you were the founder, especially if you were the founder,

Tosha Anderson:

All of the things you mentioned, especially with the succession plan and, and especially, especially with, um, uh, that so much of your business is wrapped up, whether you want it or not. In the fact of, in the founders story, I should say really? Yeah. Um, in their persona oftentimes, and the conversation around, um, you don’t own the nonprofit or its assets or what’s in the bank account. Um, and really, uh, you could, as a founder be fired from the own, your own organization that you created. I think those are things that people don’t really realize when they start a nonprofit. I talk with founders and they’ll say my nonprofit or, or, you know, my nonprofit company or something like, no, I’m not gonna correct anybody, but right, right. Um, I think that is a big wake up call for people. And I love your comment about, you know, creating a succession plan, knowing how much of the founders story is tied into that.

Tosha Anderson:

And I say this again, this is why I love having this conversation because I’m the founder as well as you know, and this business was created off of my story. And absolutely, I, I think through working with nonprofit organizations that have struggled during this transition, we’ve only been around six years, but I’m always plotting in some weird, morbid way, my departure. And I had to almost check my ego aside and put my, this is my identity. And this is a big part of who I am for the betterment and longevity of the company. Oh yeah. Knowing that if I don’t disassociate myself from the forefront of, of everything that we’re doing, then that just creates vulnerabilities for the company. And I see this happen, especially with nonprofits, fundraising, significant fundraising are connected with that individual or programs or community relationships.

Darcella Craven:

Oh yeah. I mean, it’s no different than any other, any, any small business. Pretty much the, the big difference though, is if you have a, for profit, you are, there are some ownership, there is ownership of it. Sure. A not profit. You, you don’t own any of it. It’s, it’s not yours. So I do teach, I do talk to people about using the words, the agency, the mission, you know, our team. Now, there is some component of you saying my and me at the beginning when you’re trying to get it up and running, because a lot of it is you and your cash. You’re bringing into it. Yeah. Your reputation, et cetera, uh, should be a point where you’ve decided, okay, that part is done. The mission is more important than my ego.

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah. Yeah. And I wanna highlight on one more thing before I ask you my next one, cause I have lots of questions that I don’t wanna, I can talk to you all day about this. Um, I think another area, speaking of founders, that I think that ownership association gets connected. I, I have from the financial side of things, I see a lot of founders put up a lot of their own personal and family resources by way of loans or contributions. I’ve seen many founders that make loans to the nonprofit to get things up and running. And there’s this idea that the, the nonprofit owe pays, you know, must pay you back. And of course that, that is absolutely not true, which by the way, you should draft up a or dropped up a loan document. You have the board sign all to make sure it’s very clear.

Tosha Anderson:

However, again, just because the organization owes you money doesn’t mean that number one you’re ever gonna see it, cuz it could go out of business. Number two, it doesn’t mean that the board can’t remove you from your position and number three, it doesn’t mean that you own it simply because you put in the money for it, the seed. So I’ve seen that on the financial side, which is risky. And by the way, I always advise my clients do not put personal resources into organizations. Um, certainly we can all make charitable gifts and things, but you know, I’ve seen people drain their retirement accounts, take mortgages out on their homes, like very, very significant. Um, and, and just like a for-profit you probably advise us with your clients, Darcella getting to a place where if you’re a founder separating again, the succession plan separating the financial organization, like the financials of the organization, whether it’s through bank account or lending any sort of like credit or whatever, separating that from your personal life as quickly as possible again, succession planning, right?

Darcella Craven:

Yeah. No, absolutely. And you know, and I, and I’ve seen it, I’ve seen a lot of it, seen it happen where a founder or founders have because of who they are. They were the ones kind of really bringing in the funding. Yeah. And now that they’re about ready to go, you know, they’ve been doing it for 20 years. They’re about ready to go. And boy, they’re, they’re fail. They’re failing because everything was attached to them and it wasn’t attached to another president or the staff or the mission itself. So it’s tough. It’s tough to get there. And then, and then you, then your Eagle then becomes a real big issue because you don’t wanna see it fail you 20 years of your life into this thing.

Tosha Anderson:

Absolutely.

Darcella Craven:

We could be here all day.

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah. Yeah. So talking about some of your own personal challenges, like, so when you entered into your role, what are some of those immediate challenges that you face? Maybe it was some of those, you know, words of wisdom that you gave before that most founders face themselves themselves. But what about you specifically are some of those Reacher ring true to you personally? Or are there other challenges?

Darcella Craven:

Oh, absolutely.

Tosha Anderson:

Absolutely. All the above,

Darcella Craven:

All the above, all the things. Well, like I said, I came here are not really, I mean, I was the, the business counselor and, and that was great and I loved it and I didn’t know that I was necessarily gonna be here for 20 years or 18 years or 17 years, like I am. Um, and, and um, when the founder quit, he actually just quit and told us all at a staff meeting that he quit and inside his, his resignation he put, and you should hire Darel as your next director. So that’s actually how that happened.

Tosha Anderson:

Oh

Darcella Craven:

Yeah. So, so I think that the, the thing, the, the personal experience was, um, was one being stunned, kind of going you, I do what, okay. Um, two digging in then and saying, okay, well, you know, doing what I teach clients to do, which is, okay, let’s take an assessment, what’s your market, et cetera. And finding all kinds of things. So I think, um, the benefit was that I didn’t have my ego wrapped up in the founding of the agency. So I think that is what did allow us to move forward. There was some piece of it though, of my ego that had to be inserted because effectively I became the founder. Um, and that happens a lot. Sometimes if it’s, there’s not a good succession plan for the person that next person ends up almost starting all over.

Tosha Anderson:

Right. You, you recreate the business.

Darcella Craven:

Yeah. Yeah. You’re recreating everything. So some of the challenges that I’ve seen out there when I’m working with other folks is there is no assessment of the staff or the board. There’s no assessment of policies and processes kind of, no one really knows what we’re doing. We’re just kind of doing it, right. Yeah. Um, and a lot of silos. So it does end up, it it’s very much like a regular for-profit business. I mean, all the same concepts, um, are there difference is, is how you, how you report it. Right. And the fact that you could be,

Tosha Anderson:

That’s what I tell people all the time, because I, I run a for-profit business and I help. So many of our clients run, help run non-profit businesses. And I say it all the time. And I think people just think I say it, but I there’s so many parallel, I mean, far more parallels and similarities than there are differences in my opinion, but

Darcella Craven:

Yeah, you still need a strategy. You still need markets. You still need clients. You still need whatever you call them. If they’re calm clients or participants or, you know, whatever, you still need, professional development of your staff, you still need all of those things. Like those are all things.

Tosha Anderson:

Yep. So have to make sure the money’s flowing in and out. Absolutely. Um, in the right direction, in the right, right direction for that in the right direction, more coming in than going out. Um, it’s definitely all of those things. So you’ve probably thought, and I’m sure you’ve talked with other people, or maybe even, again, some of the, the vets that you talked to, um, about coming up with a plan of action, like when you start this role or you’re, you know, you’re gonna be dealing with these issues or maybe you have found yourself similar in a situation like us at surprised you’ve been promoted today. And it’s really over time, you start lifting up the rocks and uncovering I’m like, oh gosh, uh, what, what is the kind of a plan of action that, that you might recommend? Or what, what are some of the, maybe the initial bullet points of things that you should probably pay attention to these things first, if you find yourself or somebody listening, finds yourself on situation.

Darcella Craven:

Absolutely. So, so fortunately I had run a nonprofit before, so I wasn’t completely, uh, unclear as to how nonprofits worked. Yeah. Um, it had been a couple of, you know, jobs, uh, in the past. And I also had most recently been an entrepreneur myself. So I was familiar with kind of both of those spaces. Sure. So those, everything I learned really, uh, quickly mashed in together. Yeah. Some of the things that we did was that, well, the first thing we did and the first thing you should do is assess your situation.

Darcella Craven:

What does your staff look like? What does the board look like? And not just, what did they look like physically, but what are some of the internal feelings happening? I mean, I had to deal with, uh, uh, staff members who looked around and said, why her? Right, not me. I’ve been here for five years. She just got here two years ago. Yeah. So you’ve gotta deal with all of those feelings and all of those challenges and all those issues. You gotta, you have to deal with the fact that maybe the founder does and have the best interest at heart. Um, so you might have a founder who isn’t really interested in the organization lasting past him or herself. Um, and so people sometimes do things, uh, purposefully you’ve gotta deal with, like I said, an assessment, that’s the first thing, staff board financials feelings. And then, um, quite frankly, where are you? What’s your position in the market?

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah.

Darcella Craven:

Yeah. Is your nonprofit really something that is needed? Is your mission something really needed or was it a pet project of the founder and the board?

Tosha Anderson:

Good point.

Darcella Craven:

That could be a thing.

Tosha Anderson:

And that’s the thing. Yes. Yeah.

Darcella Craven:

And if you’re sure. Okay. So you got that, you know, that it really is. It’s a, it’s, it’s an important mission. You’re gonna continue to move forward. Then you gotta really look about, uh, you know, how do we, how do we set goals? And then what are the tactical things that you need to do in order to make sure that goal happens step by step? What are your steps? It, it is really no different than in a for-profit space.

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah.

Darcella Craven:

With the exception is that you’ve got to definitely, um, obviously report the funding differently. You can’t still make money. There’s nothing that says you can’t make money. And some profit.

Tosha Anderson:

Yes.

Darcella Craven:

Um, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. You can make money. You’ve just gotta be able to, to tell people where that money’s going and what you’re doing with it. And how is it moving the mission forward?

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah. I, I wanna go back to something you said about the board. And I think one of the things too, that I’ve noticed when you have a founder, you also have this concept of a founder’s board, which is oftentimes people that are in close relationships with the founder and I totally get it. You want people to help you move this idea, this concept of forward, and you usually tap in on friends or family members or, uh, longstanding colleagues or people very near and dear to you that I have found sometimes the founding boards have a very biased perception of things through the lens of the founder. So if you are stepping into an organization that has a founder, you likely could potentially still have board members that are from that founding board, um, mentality as well. And I’ve noticed that once a founder leaves, it’s often a, a big transition with the founders and moving from maybe a passive board to an active board, or maybe a board was too passive. And in a out, we gotta get them really engaged or you realize these are really lovely people, but they don’t really have the skill sets needed. The expertise specifically, I’ve got, you know, finance person, a legal person, a programmatic person, you know, diversifying the talent pool on your board. Oh yeah. So to your point, all going back to assessments, um, and not just their, their mindset and where they’re at mentally or emotionally about the transition, but you know, how supportive are they gonna be if you’re not the founder.

Darcella Craven:

Yes, absolutely. I mean, you, you, you really do need to look cause you remember, that’s why, that’s why I don’t like to use the word founder. I, I like to use the word founding founding board members, founding director, founding president, whatever you wanna call it, because it does, it does indicate that you are thinking about the agency beyond

Tosha Anderson:

Yes.

Darcella Craven:

This current space, but going back to those founding board members, those are usually the people who brought the money in to begin with. Right. It was, it was your best friend and you got him or her to write you a check for $10,000 or they, they worked for a bank and that bank floated the, you know, whatever. Um, and if you don’t nurture those relationships, the next person is, uh, gonna be in trouble.

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah. Yeah. Right. And it’s funny, I’ve seen where sometimes for, um, incoming new executive directors or CEOs, some of their biggest challenges are with the board members, especially if you had board members that are used to, um, not really under yes, yes. Rubbers that, especially I think with founders, you have this issue of the boards, just go with whatever the founder says. And in some cases though, too, I’ve seen where board members served as almost an employee of the comp of the organization by helping right. And not understanding that their role really is oversight. And so if you have an experienced CEO, that’s stepping into this and they’re, they’re thinking, okay, responsibilities, boundaries, um, you are responsible for overseeing me. I am responsible for the day to day operation. Yes. That can be a little challenging. I I’ve seen for some founder or with some, um, founding boards and new incoming leadership. So

Darcella Craven:

No, absolutely. You’ve gotta have that conversation with the board individually. So I kind of, the other first step there with the board is you have individual conversations, maybe take ’em to lunch or breakfast or on zoom. If we’re, if we’re doing that and you have a conversation that says, what were your expectations as a board member? What would you like to see the agency do going forward? What are your expectations of me? And then set your parameters. You understand that I am your only employee. You do not call the staff. You don’t ask them to make your copies. You don’t, you don’t do any of those things. You don’t just show up on announce. I mean, there’s all these things. Yes. You’ve gotta set those things in into perspective and sometimes it can be very uncomfortable, but you’ve gotta be able to have those uncomfortable conversations. Um, I know I’ve, I get a lot of pushback from people and they’re like, oh, but you know, you’re gonna ruin the, the flow and feel of our agency. It’s all on your goals. If, if the flow and feel of the agency is more important to you than actually meeting the mission of the age organization. And maybe that is what your mission is then cool. Keep doing that. Right. But understand where you’ve, you’ve set some parameters and limitations that may impact your mission continuing beyond you. Yeah.

Tosha Anderson:

You bring up a really good point, but I think, I, I don’t know this, cuz I’ve never taken the position of a CEO of a nonprofit or organization before, but you bring up a good point. Date, you as the, you know, senior leadership with executive director CEO, president role report to the board. And I think a lot of boards don’t necessarily spell out strategic plans and, and set out what their goals are, what their intentions are for the organization. And then this CEO’s responsibility is, is seeing those plans through, right. And certainly they, they participate in the decision making or, or they, they provide, you know, input about what’s going on about the organization, but where I’ve seen really effective boards, they lay out the framework or, or the goals or reinforce the mission. And then they break it down into multi-year goals. Going back to, you mentioned at the very beginning of our conversation about more tactics, right.

Tosha Anderson:

And, and goals and, and metrics for an accountability plan to get these things done. And then the CEO is the one executing on that and through delegation also with the, um, with the team members. And so if you are considering anybody listening, considering taking a position at an organization, ask to see their strategic planner or ask when the last time the board set that strategic plan, because I think sometimes boards don’t do that. And then they kind of get more involved in the day to day and really their involvement should be much higher level. And so make sure that you and your vision for the organization maybe aligns with of strategic plans. Um, oh absolutely. Maybe it won’t.

Darcella Craven:

Well, you know, here’s another thing that you can do if you are considering taking over for a founder, ask each individual board member to tell you what they think the organization does. Mm. You might find 12 different answers, which could tell you what kind of challenges you may have as you move in. Because that, to me, that’s an indication that it was a rubber stamp board that they did whatever the founder said. Um, and that means you probably have some bigger bylaw issues.

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah. Yeah.

Darcella Craven:

So,

Tosha Anderson:

So speaking of founders, what kind of advice would you give for those current founders out there listening that are falling into this founders, drum trap and, and how to avoid it? Maybe we should define founder syndrome. Although I think probably most founders have heard of this concept before. Um, so we could talk about that a little bit more and then how to either get out of that mindset if we’re in that or not fall victim to that mindset, um, or just how to avoid it.

Darcella Craven:

Well, sure. So there’s a big, huge academic definition of founder syndrome. I’m just gonna break it down to basically you started an agency and basically the agency is wrapped up in you and you don’t think it can survive without you, or quite frankly, maybe it can’t survive without you because you’ve wrapped it up inside you so much. Um, the founder, I see, when I see people who have founder syndrome, they can’t hear what people are saying to them and they’re not, they’re not listening. Right. Right. They hear the noise. There’s people are talking to them. It sounds like Charlie Brown’s, you know, mom, they’re not actually hearing anything cuz they’re not listening to what people are saying. They use the words, me, my mine a lot. So how do you stay out of that couple, couple of things, one, it is about language changing. The reason I say use the word founding director or founding CEO or whatever it is is because it is projects, an image that this agency I get past you, Right? When you say founder, it’s full stop I’m founder, it’s me versus saying founding director or founding whatever. That’s the first thing. So it starts to attend to your language and change the language. The second thing I would say is make sure you have a job description. If you have a job for your position, would you qualify for it?

Tosha Anderson:

Mm.

Darcella Craven:

So assume you’re going to go retire, go do something else or found another agency, right?

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah.

Darcella Craven:

Create a job description and then see whether or not you qualify for your own position.

Tosha Anderson:

Mm.

Darcella Craven:

That might be, that’s oftentimes very dark, a jarring to folks. Yeah. To realize they’re not actually qualified to run their own agency. Right?

Tosha Anderson:

Yeah.

Darcella Craven:

So, have job description for your board members. What do you really truly expect from the people volunteered to, to work and help you out

Tosha Anderson:

Right. And hold them to that. Right.

Darcella Craven:

And hold them accountable. Yeah, absolutely. So it is really about mindset changing and thinking through. And I think the biggest question to ask yourself is, do I really care about this mission? Or is it my ego? There are great cases. That’s

Tosha Anderson:

Hard to decide.

Darcella Craven:

Oh, absolutely.

Tosha Anderson:

Yes. Yes-

Darcella Craven:

There’s some really big cases out there of people who you can, that you can certainly Google that you can see, there’s some really amazing agencies that are not gonna survive their founders because their founders ego just won’t get outta the way.

Tosha Anderson:

You know, it’s funny going to that. I tell people that I had a moment of vulnerability. So I’ve had this business for six years and it was probably three years ago. I just hired my first full-time staff, a few staff people at one time, first full-time hires. And I got pneumonia for the first time ever in my life, as far as I remember. And I was, I don’t get sick very often. You know, I get allergies, a sinus infection or something like that. Not, you know, just completely out I am in a very vulnerable. And then I realized this was about two months, two weeks into hiring these individuals. And then I realized, oh my gosh, the vulnerability that this company has because everything is dependent on me, me showing up me, interacting with the clients, me doing the work, me, everything. I had an immediate humbling experience of, well, first of all, I got into this thinking.

Tosha Anderson:

It would be freeing and I would have more flexibility and I have more work like that, that anybody that’s been an entrepreneur knows that is not the answer. Don’t go be self-employed if you think you’re going to have all of this, you know, work life balance. Um, certainly it takes a very long time to get there, but really this, to your point, the sustainability, I immediately thought what would happen to my family and their livelihoods, what would happen to our clients? What would happen to our employees? Um, if I just got ill or God forbid worse, and something happened to where I couldn’t show up every day for a period of time. And that’s where the ego had to be set aside. And I joke with my friends that also own other firms and other, uh, leaders of nonprofits that I, I work every day to figure out what that succession plan is.

Tosha Anderson:

And, or a more like tongue in cheek way of saying it is just saying, you know, I have to make myself, I real with as many things as possible because if other people assume responsibility for it, or at least they know how to deal with it, if I’m not here, then I feel so much more at peace knowing that this, this business can continue on without me. So absolutely of working your way into some sort of I relevancy. Um, and you’re truly there for a vision and culture building and setting the direction of the business rather than the day in and day out tactical things. I wanna throw a curve ball, um, at you Darcella a little bit, but what maybe what are some of those signs that, that you’ve seen in all of your years working with nonprofits that maybe it’s time that a founder steps away?

Darcella Craven:

Ooh, okay.

Tosha Anderson:

Piggy backing off of the founders syndrome. Um, like that’s a hard thing because some like, you know, you’re, um, the founder of, of the organization you work just abruptly decided to leave. And sometimes I think some founders will stay a really long time. Some start knowing, look, this is not my full time life purpose. I’m only doing this for a brief period of time. And I just think it’s really fascinating to me, how it’s all a little bit different and then some, or the betterment of their organizations say probably pass their, um, time. And then other times they, they don’t wanna stick around so much. Um, right. I think about this for my own self too, I’m like, how does one know when it’s their time to move on? So-

Darcella Craven:

Right, Ss there are a couple of, there are a couple verbal cues you can listen for. So if you, if you constantly hear your board or other people say, boy, I don’t know what would happen if you left, you’ve probably over stage your welcome it. It means you don’t have that means, that means the, the agency isn’t seen beyond you. So there are some really great agencies in town that have really amazing founding, um, directors. And when they left the organizations doing just fine, because that, that leader understood that this mission is beyond me. It’s not just me. Um, certainly if you realize that you are so stressed and overwhelmed because you’re 10 years into this and you’re still doing all the same jobs that you did 10 years ago, uh, either you haven’t raised enough money to be able to hire on people or you haven’t delegated.

Darcella Craven:

So there’s some, some pretty specific, sorry. Um, so like if you’ve raised $500,000 and, and you can have, you know, a staff of five, but you are still upright the grants at two o’clock in the morning either. That’s what you really love to do. And you should move out of the way and do that. Um, or you haven’t delegated enough to let somebody else do it. So there’s some, some visual and verbal cues that you can look for. Um, if you turn around and realize that there are now 10 agencies doing the exact same thing that you did or do, and you are not the leader of them, You’re not, you’re not the people that you’re not the one they’re looking to and going, oh, how do we do this? Yeah, you are not positioned well.

Tosha Anderson:

Right, right.

Darcella Craven:

You haven’t moved forward now again, that might be okay. That, because that may be where you like to live and where your organization wants to live. But those are just kind of ways for you to turn a around and go, wait a minute. Now there are 10 people doing the exact same thing and I’m not the head of it. Oh, right. Yeah. So, so there’s some things like that. And again, I think it goes back to, what did you mean for this agency to do?

Darcella Craven:

I will tell you with us, we initially started operating just in St. Louis and our job was to do entrepreneurship for military members and their families in St. Louis, Metro area. Sure. That was it. The nine counties when the founding director took a contract with the small business administration, without talking to the board about it, which expanded our mission into four states, that became a problem, right. With no plans. And so I think that’s what happens when you, when you don’t have a goal and you don’t know what steps and strategies and tactics you’re gonna take to get to the goals. You just do anything. You’re like, oh, money. Oh, money. You do the money chase. Um, so I think the other way, you know, that you’ve maybe reached your limit is when you are doing money chase, you’re just running around. Yeah. We’ll do children. Oh yeah. We’ll do light bugs, right? Oh, you, we do snakes.

Tosha Anderson:

That’s that’s all really good. That’s really good. I, I think that’s definitely, um, I’ve seen all of the examples that you, you were kind of listing out there. Um, so thank you for sharing that. Cause I think that’s also a jarring exercise and decision. And, you know, I think one of the things that I’ve told a lot of my founding, uh, you know, director clients, that they have a really unique position that no other person will be able, that comes after them will be able to have. And that’s the story. Um, oftentimes is a very personal story and they’re at a very unique, um, position to tell that story themselves, no one will be able to tell it as good as you tell your own story. I think maybe not, maybe that’s not true, but in many ways it’s just very genuine. I think the most interesting thing for founding directors that usually will start an organization with the idea of the programmatic focus of the business, um, and realizing that their job has now, and I will say any leader of any business, um, their primary job is to make sure that the money continues to flow in.

Tosha Anderson:

I mean, that’s a, yeah, I used, used to be an accountant. That was my main job, right. I’m like, I’m just an accountant, you know, well now I have all these other hats and making sure that growth and strategy and, you know, a vision and, um, just not even just growing financially are in size, but also in depth. And, and meaning in the work we’re doing, that is a really, um, difficult transition for many, um, founding directors that if they wanted to, you know, work with, you know, teen moms and newborn babies, and they came from the nursing background, for example, and, and that’s their passion. And to your point, they find themselves continuing to go back to that and still doing that 10 years later as it organization hasn’t grown, um, and its reach by the clients that they’ve served or the funding that they’ve come up with or their program hasn’t been enriched in some way.

Tosha Anderson:

Um, your really your shift focus is, and that’s the hardest part. I tell my founding directors, I work with that, your job, isn’t just the programmatic side. And that’s the hardest part, cuz that’s the part you love the most. Absolutely. This is the parallels that I have with my clients because I get it like, you know, um, in a similar way that, that those founders do. So anyway, this has been such a great conversation. Darcella and I’m, I’m sure people have heard you talk a little bit about VetBiz and interested to see, um, or follow you along and, and see how things are progressing for you. What’s the easiest way. If people wanna check out VetBiz, is there a website or maybe social media, what’s the easiest way for people to follow along work? You’re doing,

Darcella Craven:

Oh yeah. So VetBiz, V E T B I Z on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. We’re we’re, we’re on all the things, Twitter. Um, YouTube and Alignable we’re we’re in everywhere. Certainly our website, you can come check this out. We do have a, what we call VetBiz activate, which is coming up and it’s designed to really talk about you. What does success look like for you? Language? What does language mean? If you’re trying to move towards that success and then some technical stuff we throw in there, you know, accounting and all that kind of good stuff, but that’s but yeah. So just VetBiz on any of those social media platforms will get you to us. And, um, uh, we do a lot of partnerships, so we actually have a really good partnership out now for some money for veterans. So go check that out.

Tosha Anderson:

All right. So if you’re veteran listening, so Darcella, thank you for all the work you do for our vets and sharing your words of wisdom, not just on the entrepreneur side of things, nonprofit leadership side of things, transition from a founding director to now, um, in your role, lots of good nuggets here and words of wisdom. So thank you again so much for joining us. I appreciate you as always. Thank you.

Darcella Craven:

Thanks for having me.

Tosha Anderson:

You bet. Thank you everybody until next time. See you soon.

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