Having been a CEO [Andrew] of three startups, I can honestly say that I have never been a great CEO. I probably thought I was at the time, but that’s part of what being a Startup CEO is all about…not knowing what you don’t know but having the courage to give it a shot anyway. Maybe I’ve picked up some lessons along the way…let me know what you think.
1) Remember You Don’t have all the Answers
- CEOs are expected to have all the answers. They are the final decision maker, the law, the place where the buck stops. There is a weird dynamic in being the CEO…people, especially those that work within the company, expect you to have all the answers. It’s quite a pressure…because, inside, you know you don’t. But as an early stage company, when salaries are low and team commitment is hanging on the potential upside, admitting you are fallible, nervous and sometimes unsure of the answers is not easy to admit.
2) Remember You need Different Skills at Different Times
- Visionary Sales
- Tactical Builder
- Obstacle Remover/Facilitator
3) Remember You own the ‘Big Picture’:
- As the CEO, you are setting the agenda of the company. You are not developing the technical strategy of the product folks, the marketing strategy of the marketing folks…well, you get the picture. You need to be thinking about where you want the company to be in 6 months, 12 months, 36 months. You need to be thinking of all of the component parts (i.e. resources) and milestones to get it there. You also need to try to anticipate ‘big’ problems and make sure you have figured out how to address them. However, when you are turning your big vision into the plans to deliver, make sure you focus.
4) Remember You have to Focus:
- Don’t get diverted by a ’sexy’ opportunity but try to stay flexible enough so you can be responsive. It’s a tough challenge to know the difference but I have seen a few young companies ‘flip flop’ between two or three strategies and never really make much progress in one direction…its often because there are too many opportunities, they all seem attractive and the CEO does not put a flag in the ground and say “That’s it! That’s what we are going after…”
5) Remember You can’t be Nice all the time
6) Remember You will Need to Fire Someone
7) Remember You Are Responsible for Making Sure there’s enough Cash!
8) Remember You will have to give up the Company One Day
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