Just like every tribe needs a chief, every startup needs a CEO, regardless of how small the business may be. So what is the role of the startup CEO, who’s usually the founder as well?
1. The visionary: In the early days, a startup’s prospects heavily depend on the strength and passion of the vision, as well as the determination to make it come to reality. As the chief visionary officer, the CEO needs to clearly articulate the vision and establish the path that will be followed to pursue it.
2. Create a differentiated strategic plan: Let’s be honest, few startups are unique, which makes it crucial to be different in some way. It may not be a huge difference but it is enough to give a startup a way to rise above the crowd. The challenge is the competitive landscape continually shifts so a CEO always has to be tweaking the dials.
3. Have the right resources at the right time: As startups grow and evolve, they need different people to do different jobs. Sometimes, the people who do the heavy lifting during the early days don’t have the skills or aptitude to thrive in a fast-growing environment. In other cases, more experienced people need to be hired, which could see the CEO replacing himself, which is always a tough pill to swallow. Bottom line: a startup without the right people is like a car with the wrong engine.
4. Tactical execution: The right product at the right time with the right people is a great formula for success but it won’t matter without tactical execution. It means making the right decisions at the right time, which includes everything from sales and marketing to communications and hiring. Like a car, startups need to fire on all cylinders to run well.
5. Making sure the business is properly capitalized: This is an interesting and dynamic challenge because the financial needs of startups can quickly change depending on the maturity and growth of the business. In the early days, proper capitalization may mean finding low-cost working space and small checks from friends and family. But as the startup grows, the financing requirements change to capitalize on the opportunity. As a result, the CEO spends a lot of time determining the capital needs, and then doing the blocking and tackling to attract it into the business.
In many respects, the startup CEO is the ultimate multi-tasker because they have their hands on all facets of the business. It is a make-or-break proposition depending on how well they do their jobs.
What do you think are the key responsibilities of the startup CEO?
More: To see more thoughts on the role of the startup CEO, check out Learn to Duck, which talks about the five “smells”.