Founder Syndrome

 In Sailing

The 2018 Golden Globe Race has been an object lesson in the widespread problem of founder syndrome. This is when those who came up with the initial idea for a business, charity or project, (in this case a round the world sailing race) remain in an executive position even though they aren’t very well suited to this management role.

The interpersonal sensitivity and detailed, often mundane, management of a project requires a skills set that is very different to the single-mindedness required to imagine and start a new organisation. There are countless start-ups in the UK that are badly managed by whimsical, stubborn and tyrannical founders. Their employees are often overworked and underpaid yet are still required to make a big commitment to the founder’s vision. Even if they are commercial they may not be being run as businesses yet, stifling profits. While they are the organisations greatest asset the employees in these firms are often on a revolving door. They get burnt out and fed up and soon start looking elsewhere. This high turnover of staff compromises the success of the organisation and only increases the burden on upper management. I have started and gone on to mismanage a few projects over the years. Of all the above I am guilty as charged.

The recent announcement from French Sailing Federation – Fédération Française de Voile (FFV) that the 2018GGR in its current form cannot start and finish from a French port is the most recent of a long line of debacles surrounding this event. You can read more about the FFV announcement here. To have moved the whole 2018GGR to France without first getting the full support from the body responsible for the sport shows an amazing disregard for detail. It’s as if they climbed to the highest diving board. They’ve leapt – completing a near perfect double somersault – but they failed to check if there was any water in the pool!

 

The new route of the 2018GGR, now starting and finishing from Les Sables-d’Olonne in France where the Vendée Globe is based from. Although it seems that, due to the FFV rules, this event can no longer even be run as a race.

 

I explained why I left the race in Goodbye GGR, Hello World. There were two main reasons: The move of the race from Falmouth to Plymouth was a disappointment. The second; the change they made to the rules that meant the rights to our film footage was to be owned by the race organisers rather than the 50/50 split that was originally established. With this change the entrants were now risking their necks, and filming it, to line the pockets of the race organisers and their production company.

The result of stealing the film rights from the entrants, generally chaotic management and being unrealistic about the needs of sponsors is that the youth have largely been drained out of this event. If it had been managed differently I am confident that it could still be starting and finishing in Falmouth and had many in their 20s and 30s participating. Instead what we have is a high average age of participant funded entirely by their own personal savings. The original vision for the 2018GGR was for it be an accessible ocean race. Instead it has arguably become less accessible than the Vendée Globe, as it has such little appeal for sponsors.

As a working sailor I am saddened that they have been unable to keep to the original vision. It was set to be a brilliant event; a UK race that could really help to bring adventure back into the stuffy, elitist and over-moneyed world of sailing in this country. An event that could make sailing in the UK a little bit more like it is in France, a national sport that is genuinely open to all. Last week, after a meeting with the FFV, it looks like they can no longer even run the GGR as a race. If I was an entrant who had paid their full race fees I’d be livid. Instead of the Golden Globe Race vision they’ve paid for they are now a participant in the Vendée Pension Pot Historical Sail Festival – with no film rights to boot!

I wouldn’t write so critically of anybody who is honestly trying their best to create a new project, event or business. It’s always going to be hard work. We need entrepreneurs and people willing to take risks and start new ventures. But when founders fail to recognise their own failings, and these repeatedly threaten to undermine the very thing that they are trying to establish, can it still be claimed that they are trying their personal best to make it a success? I would argue not. If you think otherwise then please comment below.

I have massive respect for all the entrants of the GGR. You are all true adventurers. Don’t forget that one way around the FFV rules is to forget all the formalities and uncertainty now surrounding the 2018GGR, claim your money back, and simply join Le Longue Route instead. This event has really captured the original spirit of the 1968 GGR. You never know – you might find a broadcaster interested in the rights to your footage and you can refill that pension pot after all!

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