Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Working for a fashion icon

If you have ever worked for a founder led company, you know how different it is than a company run by a hired leadership team. In my career to date, I have worked for two founder led companies and a handful of others led by a hired leadership team. People have asked which I prefer. The reality is that there are positives and negatives to working at a founder led company, so let’s take a closer look.

Positives: The founder is incredibly passionate. This energy can transform an organization. The vision and mission of the organization are clear. Everyone is behind that leader to build a fantastic brand and product. There is little wavering as to who has the final decision on most matters.

Negatives: The founder is incredibly passionate. This can involve some eccentricities, yelling, and sometimes temper tantrums. Depending on the founder, there can be little room for outside opinions. Revenue and profitability can sometimes take a backseat to ego.

I was recently interviewing for a role in another founder led company. The recruiter asked ‘how do you balance what you want with what the founder wants?” I thought that was a profound question from someone who clearly understood what it meant to work in a founder led company. The reality was that in my youth, I didn’t even think about it. I followed what it was the founder wanted without question. It wasn’t until I gained experience, business savvy and maturity that I learned how to properly work with a founder. Since I have grown, I have no problem talking through ideas and voicing my opinion. I understand that while the founder may have the final say, I can respectfully and intelligently contribute to the success of the brand with my skills. After all, the company hired me for a reason.  Once I mastered that relationship, I developed a preference for working in founder led companies. In the end, I love the passion, drive and energy that permeates the corporate culture.

Which company type would you prefer?  What have you found to be the positives and negatives of working with a founder or fashion icon? How have you managed your relationship working with a founder?

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

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