From founder to CEO: Tips for leading your start-up to successJanuary 29, 2015 5:06 pm Leave your thoughts
The heads of start-up companies face even more challenges than the typical chief executive officer. A founder must do all of the heavy-lifting and hustling that comes with opening a new company, while also beginning to assume some of the responsibilities of a more traditional CEO. It can be difficult to move between these two roles with the necessary agility, especially as your company grows and its needs evolve. Here are some tips for successfully juggling the positions of both start-up founder and executive.
Create a culture
As a start-up founder, your primary goal is to do whatever it takes to get your business off the ground. As a CEO, however, it becomes important to invest in your people as well as your product. Creating a positive professional culture will help you attract and retain top talent, which is perhaps one of the single greatest predictors of a company's success. Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz has said that his company is in the people business serving coffee, rather than the coffee business serving people. That distinction is important as you create an internal workplace culture that will breed loyalty among employees.
Delegate and outsource
It's tempting as the founder of a start-up to try to do everything yourself. However, you will quickly realize that this is neither wise nor possible. Instead, gather an exceptional team that you trust and delegate and/or outsource tasks to them. This group will eventually consist of full-time employees, but should also include third-party experts, such as an experienced small business attorney who can ensure that you are legally protected as you grow. A good lawyer can guide you through everything from dispute resolution to corporation liability protection. Wiley Cerilli, Founder and CEO of SinglePlatform, writes on firstround.com that hiring a team of great attorneys was one of the most important elements of his success.
As a founder, you know that you need to sell your vision to investors. As a CEO, you also have to inspire your employees to buy into your mission. Much of an executive's time might be spent on administrative tasks, but remember that you should also regularly invest time and energy in motivating and inspiring your team.
Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal, recently told CBS News that start-up CEOs comprise a special breed — risk-takers who may even be a little unstable. After all, fortune favors the bold.
"It's important for the founder to be led by a distinctive individual, which can be powerful yet dangerous," he said. "You often have these really extreme personalities starting these companies. You have to maybe be a little bit out of your mind to actually start a business. The people are charismatic. You have to motivate people, you have to inspire them, then you have to make sure you don't blow the business up."
However, Jennie Enterprise, founder of lifestyle company CORE, tells Forbes that an effective CEO also needs to be nice and stay humble, always maintaining a sense of humor. While an "extreme personality" such as Thiel describes is likely to take the kinds of risks that pay off big, remember that no one wants to work for a jerk. This is perhaps one of the most difficult balances to strike as a founder and CEO. You need to have unlimited confidence in yourself and your vision. However, you also need to respect the people who work for you.
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