This week the Founder of Sweet Leaf Tea, Clayton Christopher, officially steps down as CEO. Clayton bootstrapped his company in 1998 starting it with $10,000 initial investment, his grandmother's iced tea recipe, pillowcases for brewing and crawfish pots for steeping. He turned his dream into a national brand. Last year Nestle invested over 15 million in the company. Clayton recently won both Austinite of the Year and Austin under 40 and has graced the cover of Inc magazine. I admire Clayton's honesty, acknowledging that the company had grown past him and it was time for him to move on. That decision takes a lot of bravery.
Founders a forces of nature. Their guts, vision, determination, drive and charisma are critical to getting a start up off the ground. It can be hard to say goodbye to founders, especially when their personality is infused with the brand. Leaving the organization you started takes copious amounts of courage and humility. Leadership transitions can be hard not just for founders, but for the staff and supporters they leave behind. Handling them with grace requires openness, honesty and sometimes forgiveness.
How do you know when it's time to let go? You may feel burned out. Your company may be poised for a growth step (national or international expansion, franchising, etc) that extends past your passion or your skill set. Or, you may just be ready to pursue another opportunity. Whatever the reason, proceed with a healthy dose of gratitude, patience and optimism. Saying goodbye can be hard but when one door closes, another opens.