Founders Versus Growers

Her Corner

Frederique Irwin

August 1, 2018

It wasn’t until this happened to me personally that I finally understood what people mean when they say that sometimes the right person to grow a company is not necessarily the same person who founded the company.

Now I’m not saying for a minute that as the founder, I’m not going to be involved in growing Her Corner. What I’m saying is that I finally understand what it means to not think like a founder, but also how critically important it is to have a “grower” on your team.

Let me explain.

A couple years ago Kimby came on board as our COO and president and, more importantly, as my business partner. I often say that that was the best thing that could have happened to Her Corner (and to me) because, after four years of growing Her Corner, I was starting to have trouble seeing the path forward. I was just simply too deep into the weeds.

Kimby didn’t have any emotional baggage—no feelings about how something had gone wrong, or how great it was when we had done something else. She was able to look at the path forward in a completely objective way. By contrast, for every decision I made, I often started by looking at history or context.

IN SOME WAYS, MY HISTORY WAS HOLDING ME BACK FROM SEEING US AS A MUCH LARGER COMPANY.

For example, in the past, I had been completely immersed in all the details of running Washington, D.C. So the idea of taking Her Corner to another city seemed impossible—mostly because I assumed I would have to have my same level of involvement. Kimby pushed me to interview hard and select carefully, and to find people who could complement our skill sets and represent us well. I went from the founder who was simply grateful that anyone would want to work alongside me to the person who became more selective about who would represent us in other markets.

I can honestly say that had Kimby not pushed me to think this way—and to implement these changes—there is no way I would have ever been able to (or agreed to) leave the country for a year. And today I feel completely comfortable that I can run the business remotely with an incredible team in different locations.

There is a big difference between founders and growers. Sometimes, you really have to bring in the outside perspective to help you get to the next stage—whether that’s in the form of a business partner, an advisory board member, or a mentor who can challenge you to think outside your own box.