Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

Female founders: Learning to let go when your startup takes off

Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

Article by Sara Teare, co-founder of 1Password

Today, 1Password is one of the world’s most popular password managers, valued at $6.8 billion USD with a global team of more than 800 people.

Yet when the company started out, back in 2005, it was largely run by just four people – the co-founders: myself, my husband Dave, and our friends Roustem and Natalia Karimov. While Dave and Roustem focused on building the product, I became a one-person finance and HR team overseeing all the crucial administrative aspects of managing a dynamic startup.

As the company has evolved, my role has transformed beyond recognition from how it began – especially as I’ve brought in more management, scaled my teams, and learned to delegate. Learning to let go is far from an easy thing to do, especially when you still remember the time when you knew the names of all your employees – plus their partners and their pets too! Here are some of the most important lessons I learned along the way.

Don’t be afraid to loosen the reins

It can be hard when you’re used to wearing 10 different hats and juggling so many projects, but learning to let things go and delegate is an essential skill. Going through that process and giving others the opportunity to lead is scary, but every time you do it, you get better at helping others succeed. People who join your business want it to succeed and grow, so trust in that passion and help them to grow as well.

I knew we’d found the right candidate to bring on as our Chief Financial Officer – Jeannie De Guzman when she asked me point blank during her interview whether I’d actually be able to give things up so she could get things done. She gave me a lot to think about, and I realized that by not letting go, I was holding others back from growing us to where we needed to be. In setting up our hiring process, I knew we were talking to amazingly talented people, and it was time to step back and trust in that process.

Don’t skip the small stuff

Often when you are building things, it’s easy to focus on the big goals and all the pieces that go into that. There are a lot of day-to-day things that need attention too though, and while making sure your filing cabinet of accounts receivable is organized doesn’t seem like fun, it is 100% not a task you want to put off “for tomorrow” because the pile only gets bigger over time!

Plus, as your company grows, you’ll bring in more team members and that means more people getting involved in certain functions of the business. So, the more organized you can be at the beginning – as a small team and as you’re growing – the easier it will be to handover and train new team members to understand, adhere to, and develop the systems and processes that you have put in place.

Step back but avoid becoming distant

My husband and fellow co-founder, Dave, always used to say my role at 1Password was to “keep the trains running on time” – and that certainly has been the case. More recently though, I’ve been able to step back more and more from the ‘station manager’ role to focus on the bigger picture: strategic planning, brand development, and providing advice and insight where needed – all while knowing that the fantastic team we’ve brought together over the last 17 years can more than handle the day-to-day.

My role now centres around ensuring that we stay true to the company’s founding principles amid its rapid expansion, while also playing a key role in our ongoing growth strategy. I don’t have any plans to ever step back from 1Password completely. The company we’ve built, and the incredible community of users and employees that we’ve brought together over the years, mean far too much to me for that. I’ll stick around making trouble for as long as I can!

About the author

Sara TeareIn 1Password’s infancy, Sara Teare made sure that all the legal paperwork was done, taxes were filed, and bills were paid – all so co-founders Dave Teare and Roustem Karimov could focus on the fun side of building a product. When Sara reflects on how 1Password has grown, she’s awed by everything she’s helped build with the support of 1Password’s loyal customers and employees. Working with a team of people who are passionate about what they do drives Sara’s excitement. Now, making it a point to be involved in several projects, Sara gets to keep shaping the exciting future of 1Password as it continues to grow.