Men's Wearhouse Ouster: 5 Lessons for Founders - Free Enterprise
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Men's Wearhouse Ouster: 5 Lessons for Founders

Men's Wearhouse has ousted Executive Chairman George Zimmer, the face of the company he founded 40 years ago, sending its shares down as much as 6%.

Remember the guy with a smooth husky voice, who appears in TV commercials and closes with the slogan, "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it"? That's Zimmer.

The board gave no reason for the ouster, but Zimmer suspects it was to silence him because he expressed concerns over the direction the board was taking his company, Reuters reports.

Founders should take Zimmer's sorrowful corporate tale as a fable. Here are five lessons every founder should keep in mind:

  1. Do you even need a corporate board of directors? A small corporation might have one director (who may also serve as the sole officer and shareholder), while a large corporation may have 10 or more people serving on its board of directors. But if your company is expanding, there are a number of reasons why your growing company may need a board, as OneAccord points out.
  2. Secure your position as founder. Let George Zimmer and the late Steve Jobs serve as reminders of ousters. Don't feel like you're safe just because you're the founder. It's important to have open discussion with your board on whether you have a "limited life" corporation or one whose value to society supersedes the founder. Then function accordingly.
  3. Keep up with the times. It's important to stay on the same page as your board. Take it from ousted Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, who, as Yahoo! Finance reported, learned the hard way that the buck stops with you as CEO, so make sure your board has your back. Periodically vet your board and commit to regular meetings.
  4. Know your bylaws. The key is to make sure the board is acting appropriately. Like Olympus' ousted CEO Michael Woodford, you might find yourself on the chopping block when you whistleblow and expose an internal corporate scandal, as Forbes reported. But ousters are typically premeditated. Look into the notice rules about when your company must notify shareholders of any major changes to the board.
  5. Explore ways to sue over an ouster. Another lesson to learn from Michael Woodford is that you can potentially sue the company over your dismissal and seek damages for the remainder of your contract and additional costs. That's where an experienced employment lawyer can come in handy.

As a founder, you can put up a good fight against an ouster. But your board of directors is the most important link and bridge in your transition out. If you love your corporate brain-child more than yourself, help management understand aspects of the organization so they will have the necessary tools to hire and evaluate your successor. It will help your company in the long run.

"I guarantee it."

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