This Question was asked this week in the FT influenced by the embarrassing debate over the future of Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Groupon. The answers by an investor, a current CEO and an academic were helpful and can be summarized as:

  1. When someone else can do the job better.
  2. When the best interests of the company are not being met.
  3. When the founder has moved way beyond his level of competence?

However being an operational guy I want to take this massive issue a stage further and give founders some specific tests. 10 questions, 1 to 5 scoring. Less than 35 and founders really need to bring someone else in to help them. Ideally in the COO role. A score below 25 means founders should find a CEO. By the way in all cases founders should not underestimate the power and profitable insight they can offer as Chairman. Scoring of 5 for a question suggests the answer is a definite yes. Scoring of zero suggests the answer is a definite no.

  1.  Are you still passionate about what you do every day?
  2. Do you still believe in your story your web site is telling the world?
  3. Are you optimistic that your team and products can gain profitable market share over the next 3 years?
  4. Are you proud of your top five managers?
  5. Are all operational priorities aligned with the company’s strategic objectives?
  6. Is it fair to say that legacy products DON’T dominate the Sales line?
  7. Is it fair to say that no one customer accounts for more than 5% of annual sales?
  8. Is it fair to say that the business is not dependent on you?
  9. Do you spend at least 30% of your time acquiring and developing talent?
  10. Do you understand the difference between how you improve the life of your customers compared with your top 5 competitors?
Founders of businesses deserve massive respect for creating something special – a real business. Fulfilling its potential means if you care you need to look at all options.