If you are going to interview for a startup, between 30 and 100 employees, spend your focus probing one thing: what is the role of the founders?

That’s a critical phase for a founder to change their role: from guiding force to supporting resource. All the energy, the motivation, the knowledge, the urge that has led the founders to start the company needs to be passed over for it to scale, and the only way to do that is if the founders are capable to take a supporting role and let go of things, responsibilities, decisions.

It’s not really a matter of roles or of titles, but a matter of attitude. Look at three things.

  1. The tenure of the people who have joined the startup in the second phase, from 15 to 40 employees. If they leave soon, particularly if they have previous experience and success, that’s a sign the founders are still very much in control.
  2. The way the company spends money to train and promote (promising) employees. If there’s little to no money invested in personal development, salary adjustments, perks and benefits, that’s a sign the founders are still very much in control.
  3. The dynamic of the leadership team, the people who manage people. If there’s separation, factions, silos instead of unity, togetherness, mutual projects, that’s a sign the founders are still very much in control.

It’s important, because when founders act as a support to a growing company, it can be a beautiful opportunity. When they aim at retaining control, instead, well that’s not for everybody.

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