A company's owner and a hired chief executive can both hinder its growth; the determining factor is timing.
Earlier this year I stepped back into my old job as chief executive of Acronis. I founded the company in the early 2000s and decided this year to return to my original role, not just to focus on the overall strategy but also to take operational command.
I have been chief executive at several companies but this is the first time I have returned to my original role.
Each company goes through various stages in its life influenced by various internal and external factors – such as market conditions and the level of competition.
Internal factors might include, for example, strategy, objective product quality, team make-up, internal processes and internal structures. When the market is stable, company strategy is rational, established processes work and the team is fine. A professional manager, more often than not, would run things effectively.
During a turbulent period and under different external factors, however, a different type of leader must take the helm – an entrepreneur who can embrace changes and challenges, and turn them into opportunities.
In calm spells, an entrepreneur type could actually hamper the business. In such times, a well-qualified professional manager could be more effective.
A good manager enables the company to function without resorting to micromanagement and nitpicking. If there are clear challenges and the route to success is tracked and measured, the team should be making the right decisions most of the time.
However, in extreme conditions or unforeseen circumstances, such as a contracting, stagnating or unexpectedly rapid market growth, the team may start to cause problems, as they may not have been trained to deal with these scenarios.
So an entrepreneurial leader is needed once again, to take the reins and guide the team in the right direction.
Their motivation and attention to detail tend be of a much higher standard than those of hired managers, boosting the effort and intensity of any intellectual and creative work.
Entrepreneurial types may also dedicate more of their personal time to perfecting their ideas or products and thinking through difficult decisions.
Professional managers most likely have never had to do everything at once and dig down into every detail of their companies – because someone else generally would have done all of this.
The CEO on the other hand has had to learn everything. Many may be able to write code, manage servers and other IT systems, keep company books, draw up business contracts, do sales, structure strategic partnerships, and almost everything else.
In times of instability, it takes a good leader to keep the business afloat. The original founder may be better equipped to deal with certain pressures, compared to a hired manager.
Also, most managers have a family and outside interests that they are not prepared to give up in order to dedicate themselves to the business.
The entrepreneurial type, on the other hand, may have a single motivating factor: his or her business. Their family and even their health may take second place.
No one can solve all of the problems a business might face, and every company is different, but the original founder of a business may well know how to prioritise and be good at making difficult decisions.
In my view, despite actual competitive advantages and positive KPIs, Acronis entered turbulent waters because of a failure to pay attention to detail and a strategy that wavered. This is why I came back.
The first job on my list was to fix some of the damage. The business had become dysfunctional because of the turbulence caused by a sharp change of direction, and the team needed to be motivated.
I want to simplify the company's products while focusing on the business's strengths. It is time to hit the restart button on the innovation engine.
We have already seen signs of success. From losing money and being on course to insolvency the company has returned to reasonable growth, enjoying a 25 per cent profit margin. But there is much more that could be done and needs to be.
I will continue as CEO for as long as is necessary because I want to bring out the company's true potential.
Serguei Beloussov is chief executive officer of Acronis
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