It’s great to be the kind of leader that employees can rely on for everything, from developing a comprehensive marketing plan to knowing where the last ream of copy paper is hidden. But sometimes there’s a price to pay if you’re the only one who can run the show.

Founder dependence is a phrase that refers to a company’s inability to function without the constant input and supervision of its founder. And it’s easy to see how it happens, since many small businesses start with a single person assuming all the roles necessary to keep the company afloat. Even when staff are added as the organization grows, it can be difficult for a founder to let someone else take on the responsibilities he or she always had.

Wondering if this may be an issue for you? See if these red flags apply to your business.

  • Your customers love you – but only you. They are not comfortable or accustomed to working with anyone else on your team.
  • Most of the knowledge and experience required to run your business is in your head – and not written down or passed on to others on your staff.
  • If you had to be gone for an extended absence (family emergency, unexpected illness) your employees would not be able to step up to the challenge and keep things on track.
  • You don’t take vacations (or you check in constantly) because your company can’t operate smoothly without your presence.
  • If you wanted to sell or pass down your business right now, you couldn’t because without you at the helm, it would not be profitable.

Founder dependence can easily thwart a company’s growth and success. What’s the antidote? Hire competent staff and share your knowledge. Train them in all aspects of running the company. Allow them to practice their skills under your guidance. And then get out of their way. Enjoy the well-oiled machine you’ve created, and spend your newfound freedom looking at big picture ideas that will take your business in whatever new direction is exciting to you.

Susan Bryant is a writer and editor who enjoys working on diverse subject matter and collaborating on interesting projects. She can be contacted at