The Founder’s Dilemma

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Your firm would take off if you could replicate yourself. The problem: You can’t.

Several months ago, I met with the founder of an advisory firm who expressed frustration at his team’s ability to execute the system he had put in place. “I’ve made it super simple. It’s a step-by-step process. All advisors have to do is run the process, but they don’t.”

Any parent who’s taught their child to tie a shoe (or, increasingly rare cases, a necktie) knows the frustration: You show them exactly what to do, step by step, you model it, and then you watch as they flail and end up with a knot.

But while the feeling may be familiar, the situations are very different. Tying shoes is a mechanical process, but an advisory process is an art wrapped in science. Thus, the way you teach someone to tie a shoe must be very different than how you teach them to execute an advisory process. In the former case, replication is the key to success… but in the latter case, it’s not.

This article explains why, as a founder, your process is not replicable. Then I’ll discuss what to do about it – how founders can replace the “replication trap” with a more effective alternative.