Guest Blog: Cloning a Founder's DNA

Terry Ziegler

Ask an entrepreneur about their inspiration and it doesn’t take long to get to passion. For company founders, the connection between passion and product are closely intertwined. This is what justifies the late nights, the last-minute trips to see clients or the dedication to keep going after hearing “no” for the 100th time. It’s in their DNA. The ability to communicate their innate belief in what they are doing, and why they are doing it, is what leads entrepreneurs to growth.

However, while this growth is the desired outcome, it also creates the need to expand the company’s core team to serve new clients and sustain the momentum. This also means spreading the passion and focus beyond the founders by creating a company DNA.

Passion is contagious—until it’s not

For the company’s first employees, the founders’ passion can be contagious, inspire action and create a unified feeling of collective creation. As growth continues, the team expands, but maintaining the focus and passion becomes more difficult. Without the enthusiasm and clear definition of what the company wants to accomplish, the message shifts from being purpose-driven to product-driven. And products can easily be replaced.

Capturing the essence

When a company hits this point, it is critical for founders to set a clear and consistent definition of who the company is, what it is trying to accomplish and what it stands for—mission, vision, values.

Translating raw founder passion into a focused rallying cry can provide the foundation for future growth and reaffirm the principles that lifted the company from idea to action in the first place.

For some companies, mission and vision statements have become marketing fluff aimed at creating a perception rather than an extension of a company. To avoid this pitfall, there are several considerations when going through the process:

1) Talk to your team

As companies grow, people are divided into different departments and view the company in different ways. It is important to get the perspectives of people outside of the direct reporting structure to understand how your team perceives who the company is and what it does.

2) Have the difficult discussions

Developing a mission, vision and values that unify and guide the organization to the next level requires executives to challenge the founding principles of the company to see if they still stand up. For most founders, this is a personal exercise and works better if facilitated with input from trusted advisors or external resources.

3) Put it in writing

Once the guiding ideas are agreed upon, it is necessary to articulate them clearly and concisely. It is important to question how they sound, if they can be interpreted differently or if they need clarification. These questions will help as you redevelop your brand standards for familiarity and consistency.

4) Share and celebrate

The same excitement and passion that was connected to the company at its founding needs to be channeled into the sharing of the mission, vision and values. These are not mandates; they are milestones influenced by each person in the organization. Celebrate them as such.

5) Recognize them in action

For these messages to be embodiments of the company, executives must recognize the value in efforts to turn them into action. What makes the passion of founders inspiring is that they live it in everything they do. For these principles to be inspiring, the must be recognized and shared as people adopt them into their daily work.

There is no substitution for the passion of an entrepreneur and strong leader. As an organization grows, the ability to clearly infuse the motivation behind the passion will spread the feeling of ownership throughout its people and position the company for ongoing success.

Terry Ziegler is CEO of T-Pro Solutions. He has more than 30 years of consumer packaged goods management experience in the areas of trade marketing, consumer marketing, category management, sales and finance. His professional experience includes leadership and management roles at RJR/Nabisco, Borden Foods, Dairy Farmers of America, Synectics Group and AFS Technologies.       

Terry Ziegler