A trap I have seen many founders fall into is being perfectionists. It is an easy trap for founders to fall into because the product and company are often very personal to them. Their professional and personal identities are wrapped up in the product and company. Founders identify with and become inseparable from their products and companies, especially early on. While founders’ objective to enforce high standards is admirable, it sometimes can lead them to strive for perfection instead of good enough, damaging the company’s culture, relationships with service providers, and progress.
Founders who hold others to their lofty and unreasonable levels of perfection believe they are doing so in the company’s best interest, but they aren’t. They are doing it in their perceived best interest. Founders endlessly tweaking and refining the work of others to the extent work gets delayed and causes churn is only serving to meet their ego, perfectionist tendencies, and to cover up insecurities. Striving for perfection becomes negative for everyone involved and serves as an anchor in the company.
Founder perfectionism can cause founders to hold on to and stay involved in too much of what someone on the team should be doing and prevent a founder from delegating properly. Founders will defend staying involved in areas they shouldn’t and holding on to work they shouldn’t by claiming no one is as good at it as they are. This thinking protects a founder’s ego but also likely prevents them from focusing on the most important things they should be.
A founder who is getting lost in the weeds and changing things like the roundness of button edges or the transparency of a visual, when both are acceptable the way they are, will position the changes as necessary and will substantiate them by expressing the striving for perfection. Perfectionism in a particular area is most challenging for founders from a specific professional craft. It is natural for founders who have a background in engineering, design, sales, or operations to focus on and be most involved in their area of expertise. The challenge develops when the founder doesn’t leave the area of their most profound knowledge to others on the team who have been hired to lead the area.
I was having a conversation with a founder recently about this subject. He referenced the belief…