How to handle the do-it-all founder?

Herman has been invited to join the board of a not-for-profit organisation that provides specialist education and training for the non-profit sector. The invitation was extended to him by the CEO who is also the founder and the principal deliverer of services.

Due diligence shows that the company is profitable (making a small but comfortable surplus every year) and has some funds banked to tide it through any tough times that may arise. The staff are paid reasonable salaries and the CEO earns well but is not over-rewarded. Clients appreciate the CEO’s expertise and the forward bookings are healthy.

On the down side – there is nobody apart from the CEO with any real profile or expertise and most clients specifically request the CEO deliver their programs. Staff seem to join for the experience of working with the CEO and leave after a few years. Board members also seem to churn rather more than normal for a healthy company. A former board member told Herman that she felt her time on the board was un productive as there was nothing to do since the CEO had it all under control.

The CEO is 67 and Herman is concerned that there is no succession plan or viable business without her.

What should Herman do?

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What would you advise?


Julie Garland-McLellan has been internationally acclaimed as a leading expert on board governance. See her website at or visit her author page at

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