What is important to you as an entrepreneur? What is a “company” in your opinion?
Ideas for your soul searching
What is soul searching, and why is it important?
When looking for a suitable ownership form and legal structures, the most relevant question is: What is important to you as an entrepreneur and what fits your ideas best? Consider what is important to you and what your vision is for yourself and your company. This is what we will begin here: an examination of one's own motivations and wishes for the company. A search for and discussion of one's wishes or needs in the team of founders or entrepreneurs. Only by discussing these needs, ideas and desires for oneself (or in the team) and stating them sufficiently clearly can a legal framework and ownership structure be developed that is coherent with what you are looking for.
This might sound a bit abstract and, in the context of all the technical and operational questions of a startup, like something too 'deep' and basic. However, the entrepreneurial process of transitioning to steward-ownership is always about these core questions. The processes that tend to run well are usually also the ones in which these questions have really been dealt with in depth and with a certain openness. And the processes that tend to go less well, take a long time, or are stopped are usually those in which the entrepreneurs do not have a close connection to their own needs, motivations, and desires, or perhaps there have not been sufficient discussions about this among the team. The recurring question of why what kind of ownership structure is the right and appropriate one for the company, as well as the relationship to individual fears, wants and needs, can only be addressed if these thoughts, and preferably conversations, take place. Even independently of steward-ownership, these fundamental questions around corporate image and motivation can serve as an anchor and foundation in the future that should not be underestimated.
Food for thought!
Below, we list some questions and suggestions on how to approach the soul-searching process. Basically, we just want to give you a few ideas and inspiration. They have worked in some cases; in others, they have not. Dealing with these sensitive issues is a very individual process. It can be guided by the following points – or not. So in a nutshell: this is not a "manual" for the appropriate way, but only a suggestion on how to start the process.
Suggestions for initial questions to start soul searching
All the questions we offer here naturally do not have to be answered before proceeding further in the process. However, we recommend getting in touch with them and your personal answers at least once at the beginning before taking further steps.
- Attitude: What is your image of a company? What is a company to you? What is a company not?
- Future: What do you wish for your company in 5, 10, 15, or 100 years? Which scenarios would be great for your company in the future? Which scenarios would not be so great? What is the worst-case scenario? Why?
- Motivation: What motivates you personally to be an entrepreneur for this company? You can always come back to this question as an anchor because ultimately the organization’s structure and its development are in your own hands.
- Resonance with steward ownership: Why are you currently using this toolkit and thinking about the principles of steward-ownership? What is your motivation for dealing with steward-ownership?
- Tensions: What are your critical voices about the organization’s structure and the company? What fears do you have? What makes you insecure? What internal conflict or tension do you experience, particularly in relation to steward-ownership?
- Stakeholders: What are the important groups around you personally and around the company whose opinion is important to you: family, investors, partners, customers, employees … Put yourself in the shoes of these stakeholders and think about what would be important for them regarding a suitable organizational structure.
Suggestions for the process
One way to approach this is to find different people to talk to about your questions and ideas – friends, partners, coaches, pastors, grandparents – whoever is most suitable for you individually.
Should you decide to work with the questions provided, the following approach may make sense:
- Introspection: Everyone reads the questions for themselves first and thinks about them – at least at first – without giving too much thought about the motives and insights of other entrepreneurs who have already gone this way.
- Inspiration: As soon as everyone has answered a few questions for themselves, get inspired. Read stories,
motivationsand insights of companies that have already implemented steward-ownership.
- Check-in: After that, revisit the same questions to see if anything has changed and, if so, what has changed. Why? Keep checking in on the answers during the process to see if they still feel right for you. You do not have to answer everything 100% yet, just answer as much as it makes sense for you.
- Stay on high-level: Even if this is often difficult, try to stay on this rather abstract level of ideas and needs and do not swing into the concrete questions of (legal) implementation yet.
If you are a team of founders or entrepreneurs, the joint discussion and examination of the different perspectives is particularly exciting.
It can also be useful to write down the answers to these questions together as a team, where they align and where they don’t align, so that you can reflect back on them.
We have experienced everything – from teams and founders who write down the answers in an hour to exciting and long processes that ignited around these questions. We hope you enjoy exploring your personal, individual answers.