Leading at the Speed of Growth:
Journey from Entrepreneur to CEO

By Katherine Catlin and Jana Matthews
Published by Hungry Minds Inc./John Wiley 2001

For every Bill Gates or Michael Dell, there are hundreds who fail to lead their companies from promising start-up to dominant industry player. How do you avoid getting tripped up — and keep your company on the road to success


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What others are saying


Leading at the Speed of Growth: Journey from Entrepreneur to CEO, by Katherine Catlin and Jana Matthews, provides the answers. Drawing on experiences with the Catlin & Cookman Group’s clients, as well as the resources from the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the book guides you through the three stages of entrepreneurial growth — and explains how you must evolve as a leader at each stage to ensure continuing success:

  • Initial Growth: The first stage after Start-up, when you need to change from a Doer and Decision Maker to a Delegator and Direction Setter.
  • Rapid Growth: The stage when you strive to become a market leader — and need to change yourself into a Team Builder, a Coach, a Planner, and a Communicator.
  • Continuous Growth: The stage when you need to explore new avenues for growth — and transform yourself into a Change Catalyst, an Organization Builder, a Strategic Innovator, and the Chief of Culture.

Through incisive anecdotes and observations from successful CEOs — many of whom are Catlin & Cookman Group's clients — the book explains how to navigate each stage of growth successfully. It identifies “red flags” that indicate it's time to change your leadership style. It describes the personal changes you need to make and pinpoints the dangers that come with inaction. And it explains — in detail — what each new leadership role means... and how it will help take your company to the next level.

Acclaim for Leading at the Speed of Growth: Testimonials

Jeff Taylor, Founder and Former CEO, Monster.com

“The learning that my team and I had from our discussion of the `Evolution of the CEO' chart in this book was so important that I keep it on my office wall.”

Tom Byers, Professor, Stanford University

“Leading at the Speed of Growth is to entrepreneurial leadership what Geoff Moore's Crossing the Chasm was to high tech marketing.”

John Heron, Heron Gustafson & Co., LLC

“As a seasoned and veteran entrepreneur, my tendency has been to repeat in one version or another the same mistakes. This book provides a reminder of what not to forget in the heat of the battle.”

Brad Feld, Partner, SOFTBANK Venture Capital

“There are books about starting a company but they tend to deal with the mechanics of business plans and financing. Then there are books about `how to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.' This is the first book I've seen that details the role of the CEO of a small but growing company.”

Mark D. Gordon, CEO, Synergy Networks

“This book is the ultimate road guide for current and aspiring high-growth entrepreneurs. Read it before you red-line your company!”


Acclaim for Leading at the Speed of Growth: Reviews

Terry Gold, CEO, Gold Systems

“If you are leading a fast growing company you have to read this book. It is the first book I've found that clearly lays out the role of the CEO of a growing company. Your role changes as your company grows. This book helps you recognize when it is time to change and helps you understand what is required of you as a leader of a growing company. Many people would say that entrepreneurs are great at starting companies but there is a time when they have to step aside and let people who know how to run companies take over. Yet some of the greatest companies of our time have had their founders as leaders well past the start up phase. Wal-Mart, Fedex, Microsoft, HP, Siebel, Dell, Disney, Starbucks, Motorola, Sony - just some of the companies where the founders were able to transition from Entrepreneur to CEO. Leading at the Speed of Growth may help you create the next great company. It will certainly help you understand the transitions that a company and its leader goes through as it grows.”

Martin Babinec, CEO, TriNet Group, Inc.

“How many founding entrepreneurs are still in the CEO role at the IPO and beyond? If you look at those that are backed by professional investors, you'll see that the vast majority of companies reaching the public market are without their founding entrepreneur at the helm by IPO time. Leaders looking to build a company to last, and plan on being around to see it, will want to buy this book to help in their own understanding of the stages of company growth that are clearly profiled from the insights and quotes of real life entrepreneurs. More than just understanding stages that a high growth company goes through, it is the recognition of where one's own state of leadership maturity is that may make the difference between your personal growth or being forced to pass the mantle of your company's leadership to a "professional manager." I found the stages for both company and leadership growth to be dead on in recounting what has been a ten year journey for me - as well as consistent with what I see in the high growth venture backed companies that comprise my customer base.

Even with several aspects of those stages behind me, I find the book to present a useful framework that helped prompt healthy discussion within our management team to stimulate further change.”

Gab Goncalves, CEO, PeopleAnswers

“What I really liked about this book are the pearls you walk away with. Catlin and Matthews do a good job in tying down the three stages of entrepreneurial development (initial, rapid, and continuous) with anecdotes of successful entrepreneurs. They effectively communicate a lot of "meaty" information in an enjoyable format. This book has a pearl of wisdom for every entrepreneur. I found myself relating to the stories and learning from the insights that fill every chapter of the book. This is the kind of book that I expect to re-read several times. I am sure that each reading will provide new insights. Catlin and Matthews did a good job providing great "take-home" value, yet keeping the book easy to read and enjoyable. As an entrepreneur myself, I commend Catlin and Matthews for their great work. This book is truly written by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.”

Daniel R. Gould, CEO, Synergy Investment

“Catlin and Matthews have captured the essence of the struggles and pitfalls that face a rapid growth entrepreneur. This book is MUST reading for any entrepreneur. Does the company really know where to focus if there is no vision and plan for the company? Are we trying to win the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup is my analogy. This book illuminates the underlying bottlenecks to growth and alignment within a fast growing company. The book is easy reading with numerous quotes from other entrepreneurs that support the themes of the book.”

Reviewed by Debra Sherman, Foundation for Enterprise Development

“The title page of Leading at the Speed of Growth indicates that this is a book about the journey from entrepreneur to CEO. You may wonder why this is noteworthy. After all, many entrepreneurs become CEO by virtue of having successfully started a business. And many figure out how to succeed in the transition from bootstrap to brass ring.

But most have struggles along the way. Some of these struggles even become crises where the life of the company is actually on the line. What is remarkable about Leading at the Speed of Growth is that it actually blazes a trail for sustainable leadership in a successfully growing company. It is a well-drawn map, replete with markers, detours and dangerous precipices for which to be on the lookout.

Just as the human concept of childhood is a homogenous notion actually made up of many different states - infant, toddler, child, adolescent - so too is the “growth” phase of the business life-cycle made up of several stages. The authors clearly identify these stages — initial growth, rapid growth, and continuous growth — and lay out the common identifiers, themes, and requirements relevant to each stage.

For each stage of growth, the authors point out red flags, which help the entrepreneur recognize that the company is moving out of one stage and into the next. They provide direction about how to get there relatively unscathed, including the type of management team and the personal characteristics that will be required as the needs of the company change. They even point out “habits to break” and “personal transitions required” so that the entrepreneurial leader is able to make the necessary changes that will allow the company to keep moving forward. Catlin and Matthews make a logical case for giving up some of the habits often held dear by entrepreneurs, such as resistance to structure and process, and shooting from the hip. They spell out why these are harmful to the growing company and what can be done to replace them with better ways of leading.

The authors listened to over 500 entrepreneurs in developing the novel and insightful ideas put forth in Leading at the Speed of Growth. They have included many of the observations and perceptions of these entrepreneurs who have “been there, done that,” both successfully and unsuccessfully. These leaders share their triumphs but also tell us of the pain of getting there. All of the excuses — ego, stubbornness, lack of wisdom among them — are cited in retrospect as hindrances to success. One eloquent entrepreneur sums it up nicely:”

“For a long time after I started my company, I made every decision. I was the only real expert, so I ended up teaching everyone I hired all about it. I also had an ego, so I felt I could make better decisions than anyone else. I ended up being an ill-informed, uneducated dictator. It was very hard to get past that stage. In hindsight, I see how it held everything back. We weren't able to really grow until I was able to change my leadership style. I wish I'd figured that out sooner.”

“Leading at the Speed of Growth is an invaluable resource for those who are on the entrepreneurial trail. Inevitably, some will succeed and some will fail, but those who read and heed this book's message will know ahead of time where many of the traps lie. Mapping your own course is so much easier when you have navigational tools. Use this one wisely.”

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Jim Collins, co-author of “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”

“Matthews and Catlin do the entrepreneurial process a great service with this book. Their single greatest contribution is the very idea that an entrepreneur can evolve through predictable stages to become a superb manager, leader and community builder.”