3 Biggest Challenges Founders Face and How To Solve Them

The founder’s role is complex — and so are their problems. Lead with confidence by understanding what causes these common startup issues.

Written by Roza Szafranek
Published on Dec. 04, 2023
3 Biggest Challenges Founders Face and How To Solve Them
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Being a founder, at a minimum, encompasses three or even four full-time jobs. A founder’s role always involves new responsibilities, requiring excellent focus and orientation. Founders must remember that as their team grows, the type of challenges they face will constantly change as time goes by. Here are three of the biggest challenges founders encounter and tips for conquering them.

What are 3 issues for founders?

  • Recruiting and hiring fairly.
  • Managing people relations when splitting off from the rest of the C-suite.
  • Balancing being hands-on with letting employees have autonomy.

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Recruiting and Hiring Roadblocks

Every founder’s vision is not worth much without a team to implement it. Hiring and recruiting skills are of the utmost importance, even when hiring the first three, five or ten people. Usually, that is the stage when a founder does all the hiring on their own. The most common hiring problems founders face are lack of time and inconsistent dedication of time to hire, as well as operational aspects, like failing to document the recruitment process by making notes and, most commonly, hiring based on gut feeling. It is usually difficult and rare to standardize the hiring process at this stage.

Also, founders often think that it’s possible to condense the recruitment process into a few days or a week. That approach can be a source of much disappointment in the area of talent gathering. In reality, hiring is all about planning, scheduling and calibrating expectations to the market; interviews and feedback sessions require a lot of time.

A common pattern can be observed in founders’ approaches to hiring. At first, they spend a lot of time meeting candidates and reviewing their experience, presentation and knowledge. Then they become disappointed with not finding the perfect candidate, and spend less and less time trying to recruit talent. The result is a significant slowdown in recruitment.

Eventually, the founder painfully notices the lack of a desired employee in the organization, and the deficiency intensifies. So, the founder intensifies recruitment and hires one of the candidates (not always the best one, unfortunately) in a hurry. It is not difficult to notice that such dynamics do not ensure a rational comparison of the candidates and are not optimal for finding the ideal candidate for the team.


Difficulty Maintaining Employee Relations

The closer the founder’s relationships are with their team, the more complicated changes become during the company’s growth. This is particularly true for the relationship with the core team, who work closely with the founder from a very early stage of the company’s lifecycle

In the beginning, the founder’s relationship with the team is based more on informal communication. Rules and reporting structures are neither written down nor precisely defined. However, communication during this stage is the basis of the company’s organizational culture. As the team grows, the founder needs to formalize many rules, and it becomes impossible to make ad hoc decisions.

A founder cannot turn away from their team with the message: “You have a problem — deal with it.”

Often, people who have been a part of the team from the beginning oppose these changes. They may perceive the introduction of rules as “making our cozy cool company into a corporation.” It’s important that the founder negotiates skillfully with this resistance, so as not to lose valuable people and not set different standards for different employees.

It’s also important for founders to approach friendships with team members with special caution. Of course, a founder, like every manager, has the right to discipline or, as the next step when no changes have taken place despite being warned, fire a person who does not perform well in a given position. No one, however, not even someone performing in the worst possible way, should be denied basic respect in the workplace. The founder’s disappointment is understandable but cannot move into dehumanizing or unprofessional behavior.

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Managing by Stepping Out of the Way

Management is the most extensive and complex challenge that founders encounter. The overriding goal of management should always be to help team members understand and navigate their responsibilities.

There is no management without trust. Trust is about empowering employees and giving them space (after a well-planned process of transferring knowledge) to lead things and be a real owner of the project. The role of the manager is to motivate them to develop their competencies and delegate tasks to them.

However, it is much more difficult for a founder to delegate than for other managers. Founders must overcome this barrier as quickly as possible in order not to hinder the development of the organization. An Culturivy book coverearly goal for a new company should be to create an organization that can function with minimal participation and the presence of the founder. When a founder monopolizes details and information, team members are unable to work independently, and the founder is unable to set general goals because they are overly involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization. 

Another founders’ responsibility, like any manager, is to solve problems and create an environment in which employees are able to perform their duties well. In order to properly perform this task, it’s necessary for a founder to provide support for their employees, especially in difficult situations when expected results are not achieved. In that situation, a founder cannot turn away from their team with the message: “You have a problem — deal with it.” In times of crisis, they have to be with their team and support them, no matter the seniority of the employees. Even managers with significant professional experience need attention and help.

An advantage that founders have in managing is knowing the context of the organization. They know best where the organization is going and what its mission and purpose are. Sharing this knowledge makes it easier for many other people in the company to accomplish tasks, so the founder should develop a habit of communicating these to the team as soon as possible and regularly update employees’ knowledge of the company’s mission. A founder manages not by controlling working time, but by showing employees the overarching goal of their work.

Excerpted from the book Culturivy: The Power of Changing a Workplace: How to Create a Resilient Culture Where People and Business Flourish by Roza Szafranek. © 2023 HR Hints. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, manual, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher.

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