Founders Syndrome


It has been a most peculiar week for me with all of the commotion and confusions of the many different tasks that we have under taken. We have partnered with an NGO in Kullu, called Shastra. Shastra was founded 11 years ago. In the first year they built a huge infant care hospital. After that year the society became almost totally neutralized because of loss of funding. Last May, ten years later, we came to Shastra giving new life and hope to this society that was about to be diminished completely. My father, the President of Y.M.A.D, has a great ability to look past the outward appearance of things and people to see the potential that something or some one has. My father is not afraid of taking risks and trusting people, he truly follows his heart. I wish that I could be able to have this gift, because when I was here with him in May all I saw was trouble.

In India, it has proven difficult to work with the people because of the cultural barrier that stands between us, however we have been able to manage. The real struggle that we are facing now is that we have 3 different cultural views in this organization because the current founder/president of Shastra is an elderly Hungarian women, the great self-proclaimed doctor, “Mother Wangamo.” She has a huge heart and wants to help. Sometimes her loud and colorful personality is a little too much for the quiet reserved people of India. The local community has had a hard time with her so Shastra’s reputation is a little less than good. She lives in the hospital and has for the past ten years, because the hospital hasn’t been running there are several legal disputes going on over the land. This was one “Extreme Makeover” I was skeptical we could “makeover.”

We currently live and work in the “Hospital” and don’t always see eye to with “Mother” (that is what she prefers to be called). Right now we are in the process of changing the view of Shastra and helping it become something greater than it has ever been imagined to be. The potential it truly great and some of the goals we have are to start the Hospital, run a nurses training program, build a school and build a bigger facility to house 60 orphan children. But we are facing a serious case of “Founders Syndrome.”

I was reading an acrticle this week talking about the transition when a founder is handing over their company and the struggles that one will face in that process. And I just had to laugh because it is the exact same thing that we are facing because Mother is Stepping down and Rakesh our YMAD director in India is taking over. One of the things that this article talks about it the level of attachment that the founder has to their investment and how changing things are personal to them. But something needs to be changed in the way things are running because if everything was running perfectly things wouldn’t be this way. It has mostly been a battle for us because Mother is a foreigner here and so there are a lot of corrupt people who have taken advantage of her and they know with her gone there will be no leaking of money, no taking advantage of her to get more money, and there will be a high level of integrity that is expected. It has been interesting to see who has come out of the woodwork and who you can trust and who you can’t.

In the “Founder Syndrome” article there were some great ideas on what we can to the situation. Like having specific strategy planning sessions and support the founder with ongoing coaching. So, I mostly got that communication is so important. It’s too bad that communication is the most difficult thing for mother to do. However, I go back to the faith aspect at this point. I can’t come up with the words to explain what is going on here and what we are dealing with I am simply not that great of a writer. I do know that everything will work out. I trust my Dad and I feel that we can achieve the goals we have set. There have been times I felt we should have backed out of this project; however, now that we have seven little girls depending on us to alter their future, it’s no longer about money or games, it is about real lives, real dreams and real hopes!

=James Baird