Applying Founder's Mentality when attracting and recruiting the right talent for your organisation

In their book The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth, Bain & Company strategists Chris Zook and James Allen look at the paradox of growth. This is where growth in an organisation leads to complexity, and complexity is the silent killer of profitable growth.

In their research, the authors found that only 1 in 9 organisations could maintain sustainable growth for more than 10 years, and the majority if those maintaining growth had leadership who applied a Founder’s Mentality.

The elements of Founder's Mentality®

The Founder’s Mentality has three elements, namely an insurgent’s mission, an owner’s mindset and an obsession with the front line.

The book looks at how management needs to focus on, and drive, these three elements to avoid or address the challenges that come with growth restricted by complexity.

There is value in applying their definition of Founder’s Mentality to how you assess and recruit talent into your business. In a complex business new hires need to not only support a Founder’s Mentality approach to management but also need to be able to navigate in a complex environment where the growth could be at risk.

If we consider each of the above elements they are very applicable to your talent acquisition decisions and can be applied throughout the process.



Insurgent’s mission

This is the business’s sense of insurgency and is the special unique higher mission and elevated purpose of that specific business.

When hiring, it is important that a business’s unique mission is accurately communicated throughout the process and candidates are screened against their buy-in to this mission. Not everyone wants to or is able to, work in an environment where the mission takes overall priority and the entire team is willing to go the extra mile to make it happen.

Recruiters and leaders need to question whether candidates who have not worked within an insurgent environment previously, how are they going to fit into an organisation with a higher mission or purpose.

Owner’s mindset

An owners mindset can be defined as an obsession with speed and aversion for bureaucracy. Organisations with an owners mindset have a willingness to take action and then also to take responsibility.

Called the “Owner’s mindset” because it means employees would need to view their role in the business similarly to how an owner would view the business. Talented individuals who are looking for more than just a job, and are looking for an opportunity to own their role and take responsibility for the success, or failure, of the initiatives they drive.

Leaders can go a long way in assessing for these traits in the recruitment process but it is also important these traits are stimulated through the correct compensation structure negotiated in the recruitment process. 

Obsession with the front line

This is the obsession with customers and with elevating the processes and teams responsible for customer service. It requires an obsession with the detail of what customers want and what customers need.

This is not as common a trait as we would expect, especially in candidates who have spent many years in back-office or support roles. However, this trait is critical in ALL roles across the organisations facing the growth paradox.  The challenge for your business in the talent acquisition process is assessing whether, even if they have not previously worked in a front line obsessed business, the candidate would be able to develop this obsession within your business.


The Founder’s Mentality gives good insight into not only how growth organisations stall, but also into what can be done to reverse the damage caused by growth inflicted complexity. Considering the capability in new hires to drive some of these remedial actions is critical in implementing a successful Founder’s Mentality programme. 

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