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How to keep a founding CEO engaged post IPO

Rob Enderle | Nov. 26, 2015
What do you do with a founder post IPO? Ixia’s CEO tells Rob Enderle about a process they’ve implemented that has proven successful.

This effectively allowed Ginsberg to have his cake and eat it too.   As chairman he still has oversight over the company he created, but he can focus on the part of the job he loves. Ixia gets to retain the talent that built the company and Bethany gets her shot at CEO.

What this also speaks to is one of the strange practices in companies where if you get promoted from a job you did very well into one you either don’t do well or hate. Your next step isn’t a step back to where you performed very well, but rather it is a step out. Recalling the book the Peter Principle, this would suggest we have put in place an institutionalized process that assures virtually everyone eventually reaches a job they neither like nor do well.

At least in this case Ixia took what is arguably their best human resource and rather than kicking or forcing him out, it found a job he loves and they would love for him to have. Shame this kind of thing isn’t more common.

Why you should hold on to founders

Of course the best example of a founder who got booted is Steve Jobs. When he initially got fired from Apple the firm almost went under. In hindsight that was a horrid decision, but it was also the one proscribed by policy.

Given how valuable this class of person is I think it might be better to look at Ixia’s process (one that it appears Oracle has also implemented) to suggest there is a better way to treat folks of this class that better benefits them and the firm. It also suggests that maybe instead of firing or forcing out someone who rose beyond their skill level or interest, we find a new opportunity that better matches both so a wonderful asset isn’t lost.

I’ll close with a story I watched develop back when I worked at IBM. We had a female sales rep who set sales records and got promoted to sales manager, a job she was not good at. But apparently management didn’t want to fire her so it had facilities dump, I kid you not, the buildings full air conditioning output into her office. While it was in the 90s outside it had to be in the 40s in her office. They did this until she quit voluntarily. Decisions like this destroyed nearly three quarters of our revenue. A far better way to address this could have and should have been found that would have corrected the problem and allowed her to go back to being a sales rep and incredibly productive for the firm.

Something to noodle on this weekend, particularly if you have suddenly found your office suddenly feeling like Alaska.


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