Have you ever seriously thought about all the responsibilities of a CEO? Basically, he/she sets the strategy, vision and values of the company and makes sure that there is a team management, for the whole team to be constantly aligned – both in information and deadlines. The CEO has meetings with partners, suppliers and should know to convince and negotiate with investors, and also to participate in the team’s recruitment. To help you deal with these and other difficulties, I selected some of the most voted reflections in the discussion “How Difficult is to be the CEO?” on Quora, a creative online community of questions and answers.
The first year of a CEO
The CEO of Travis Perkins, a building materials company, that had a £5bn turnover in 10 years, Geoff Cooper reveals he kept a timesheet for the first year as CEO to check that his activities matched his priorities. Then, Cooper has divided his time into four parts:
- He spent the 1st quarter of his time on strategy: thinking, researching, consulting, defining and communicating the company’s future. “The structures used were normal: where to compete, how to compete and what strengths to develop (especially people and company culture)”, he says.
- The 2nd quarter of his time Cooper used to monitor performance and risks, with regular reviews and also major project reviews, in addition to dealing with crises and unforeseen events. But he points out: “the number of revisions fell because after 18 months there was a wonderful staff that made did this much better than me.”
- Cooper spent the third quarter of his time discovering and encouraging the strengths of the staff, “teaching the culture of the company, recruiting people, consulting my HR director, making the succession planning, thinking and researching what makes people in our business efficient and successful.” The most important conclusion of Cooper was: be clear what you expect of people, equip them, and then bugger off out of their way
- The remaining time of Cooper was used between dealing with important stakeholders – mainly shareholders, but also the government, and the main suppliers – and unproductive guff.
Reflections of a CEO
Cooper believes he did OK as a CEO, and that he should share some of his experiences:
- The people who have a burning ambition to get there, excluding founders, are probably not completely suited to the role.
- If you do your job properly you will work every waking hour, and need to be disciplined about keeping your body and mind healthy; Never forget of making sports and keep friends near;
- You are the only person in the organization with the heavy responsibility to ensure the long-term survival of the enterprise. You can’t think about that with a full email inbox and a desk covered with papers. As CEO, if you don’t respond instantaneously, you can actually stop the organization getting on and doing things.
- Be accessible. Wander around purposefully. You’ll pick up what’s really going on, what people are really worried about, and then you can add value to the decisions your people are grappling with;
- Facilitate training, lectures and courses for your staff. Stay informed. Read a lot;
- Be very sensitive of your symbolic behavior, because people notice and ape your behavior. Smile when saying hello. If your office environment isn’t egalitarian, you’re in the wrong century.
- Remember that on a daily basis you are probably the least important person in the organization (most CEOs get this wrong). The person serving a customer is the most important.
- Your success will be measured by growth and development after you’ve gone. If it tails off after you leave, you have been a terrible CEO. That’s why you have to think about your own succession from the first day you were appointed;
- You are not defined by your job. You will go and be forgotten. Seeking a legacy is a fool errand.
First steps of a startup CEO
Usman Majeed, CEO of the electronics e-commerce TechTwurl.com, says that it is necessary to discern between a corporate CEO and a startup/small business CEO. As a startup CEO, Majeed can give some experience from the perspective of running and maintaining an online business. I started up with just me and another guy – who later left – so it was just me entering college. So, I decided to look for more people to bring onto the table. This was the best decision I had made so far. That’s what I basically had to do:
• Hire programmers and designers;
• Build blueprints for programmers to code on;
• Make sure every feature needed is known from the beginning to save costs;
• Testing the website to make sure every functionality works and keep it updated
• Have backup;
• Working with other companies I may need like FedEx and USPS to achieve the right permits to conduct business;
• Learn how to use the back-end and front-end and web host panel to be able to control the website solely on my own.
• Use SEO for the site;
• Think of Facebook/Twitter marketing;
• Find suitable websites to post banner ads on;
• Use Mailchimp to build a newsletter to send out to customers;
• Design and print flyers and business cards to pass around campus;
• Go to social networking events and challenges.
• Create several bank accounts for business use, one for receiving payments, one for sending payments, one for investments, etc;
• Manage the cash flow between accounts;
• Record all items, customer names, bought prices, sold prices, fees, profits, revenue, etc;
• Manage returns.
• Send payments to customers foremost;
• Keep track of payments such as web hosting, trust seals, SSL certificates, shipping fees, licenses, and any other recurring payments.
• Handle all customer service issues via email;
• Handle all PayPal / eBay issues.”
Wow! Enough, right?
(Bonus) Steve Jobs: How to live before you die
No matter how big or small your company is, one of the saddest problems of the CEO is the low productivity of the team, for lack of an innovative team management. However, what if you could automatize the bureaucratic work and know exactly what each one is working on, and even when the tasks must be delivered? Try Runrun.it, the project and team management software that do it for you. Test for free: http://runrun.it
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