Workshop: Personal trainer

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

Q: I set up a charity with a friend five years ago. It is very successful but I feel I am carrying her. How do I get rid of her?

A: Founder's syndrome is a familiar one to many of us in the sector.

It is clearly a problem for you and your friend. And for the good of the charity, you had better sort it.

It sounds as if you and your partner have different ambitions and even different career 'anchors'. You need to discover what these are and come to a shared view on how they might be accommodated.

A great deal of research has been carried out on people's career anchors, that is, the core motivations that affect their choices of jobs or careers.

A whole range of factors govern our job satisfaction and our objectives in what we do. For some, the enjoyment comes through risk and achievement.

For others, a prime anchor is to be seen as expert and professional, for others stability and security may be the motivator. What motivates you?

And what motivates your business partner?

You clearly need to have a discussion about this. What is your friend's perspective? I am sure that both of you still retain the passion and commitment to the cause that led you to set up the charity all those years back.

You need to have an off-site discussion, fine wine and fine surroundings.

Allow plenty of time. You may even want to get an objective third party or sommellier to help facilitate.

You have presented this as her problem rather than yours. Any discussion will need to focus on your own attitudes and aspirations. Do you really think that "getting rid of her" is going to be helpful or useful? Is it that you want an argument? Disruption? Upset?

There are two types of founders - the wise and the foolish. The wise founder realises that all organisations have a life cycle and that the original drive and enthusiasm must transform into a more steady professional state. The foolish founder will continue to assume that it is only their drive and determination that moves things forward, and this increasingly frustrates those volunteers and staff who join for other reasons.

I remember my own experience in founding a charity. It was exciting and challenging, but after five years, it was time for me to step down and move on. I found it hard to let go, but it needed to happen. If you both put the organisation first, you may decide that both of your futures lie in different directions. The important thing is to explore this while there is still enough goodwill to find solutions.

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