Founder’s Mentality defined

growth-paradox-500Just one in nine companies sustain more than a minimum level of profitable growth over 10 years. And 85% of executive blame that shortfall on internal factors. This is the paradox of growth: Growth creates complexity, and complexity is the silent killer of growth.

Most companies that achieve sustainable growth without falling victim to the growth paradox share a common set of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can usually be traced back to a bold, ambitious founder who got it right the first time around. The companies that have grown profitably to scale often consider themselves insurgents, waging war on their industry and its standards on behalf of an underserved customer, or creating an entirely new industry altogether. They possess a clear sense of mission and focus that everyone in the company can understand and relate to. They foster in their employees deep feelings of personal responsibility for the company. They abhor complexity and bureaucracy. They are obsessed with the details of the business and celebrate the frontline employees who deal directly with customers.

Together, these three main traits—an insurgent mission, an owner mind-set and obsession with the front line—constitute a frame of mind that is one of the great and most undervalued secrets of business success.

Research by Bain & Company finds a consistently strong relationship between the traits of the Founder’s Mentality in companies of all kinds—not just start-ups—and their ability to sustain performance in the marketplace, in the stock market, and against their peers. It is a key source of competitive advantage for younger companies going up against larger, better-endowed incumbents. For mature companies that have retained—or regained—their Founder’s Mentality, it is a key to ensuring sustained, profitable growth in a fast-changing world.

The Elements of Founder’s Mentality

Companies with a high Founder’s Mentality possess three overarching elements: an extraordinary sense of insurgency, a frontline obsession and an owner mindset. Within those three elements are nine sub-elements (see figure at left), and it is within these elements that the richness of the Founder’s Mentality truly comes to life. Read the articles below for more details on each element:


Frontline Obsession

Owner Mindset

• Bold Mission • Customer Advocacy • Strong Cash Focus
• Spikiness • Frontline Empowerment • Bias for Action
• Limitless Horizon • Relentless Experimentation • Aversion to Bureaucracy