Nearly two years ago I had to make the transition from working in the business to working on the business. It was a difficult transition (still is sometimes) because no one tells you how to do it. When I asked my peers, friends, and family what a CEO should be doing, no one could give me a straight answer.
I read a ton of books. I read every article I could find. I brought it as an issue to my Vistage group. I asked other entrepreneurs turned CEOs. I kept a list of things I thought I should be doing as a CEO.
It turns out being the CEO of a company you founded means different things to different people. What is important to me may not be important to other business leaders, which is probably why I couldn’t find the magic answer in all of my searching.
Following are some of the lessons I’m learning in my journey to the top:
* Cash truly is king
* Debt isn’t bad, unless there is a recession and you can’t get access to capital
* Big is not always better; profit is always best
* Leadership is not about being the first one in and the last one to leave, nor about working the most hours
* Employee communication should happen only in person; internal email sucks
* Just because you have three letters after your name does not mean you have to be all business all of the time, if it doesn’t fit your personality
* If our clients aren’t happy and want me working on their accounts, it’s because I haven’t done my staff coaching and mentoring job well enough
* My time is best spent on innovation, coaching and mentoring staff, landing the whales, and being the face of the company
* It’s okay to say no, if it’s for something not in the four areas listed above
* It’s good to shake things up every once in a while, in an effort to stay ahead of the trends
* It’s great to have friends who run competitive companies; if the relationship is set up correctly, we work very well together
* People like working for a company that stands for something and lives its values
* My gut is ALWAYS right
* Engagement, connection, and transparency are the most important communication tools – with employees, with clients, with prospects, with talent candidates, with vendors, with partners, and any other stakeholder
* Bad news does not go away and it does not get better with age; no matter how much I hate conflict, sometimes it’s worse in my head than it is in reality
* Having fun with my colleagues, and connecting with them as people, is what I truly love about getting up and going to work every day
What have you learned? What do you do that is not on this list?