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    How to be a Startup CEO

    Laying the groundwork for success

    A board of directors is tasked with making one of the most paramount decisions for their organization, selecting the chief executive officer (CEO). Although the board of directors is the supreme governing authority of the company, the CEO holds one of the most important roles within an organization. This individual will lead the institution in developing its vision, tone, culture, long-term strategy, and increasing shareholder value. Not to mention, a CEO is generally responsible for routine day-to-day business decisions that can make or break a venture. A successful CEO will need to put their ego on the shelf, roll up their sleeves, and be willing to do whatever needs to be done. As a startup CEO, prepare to be particularly hands-on and heavily involved in the day-to-day functions of the company. It is commonly said that startup CEOs wear all hats. This role will be demanding, responsibilities will be unending, and the struggles will be unexpected. 

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    Understand the Role of a CEO

    It is a popular belief that CEOs only deal with high-level corporate strategy and major corporate decision making. While that is often true for larger companies, a startup CEO must have an apt ability for both higher and lower level decision making. He/she will be held accountable for the performance and results of the company and must work to satisfy internal goals, external shareholders, and increasingly the public. This role will encompass making judgments and tough calls along with having a strong connection with the frontline of the business. Choosing the right CEO for a startup has huge benefits for the long-term success of a company. In this ever-changing work environment, the expectations of a CEO have become highly dependent on what is commonly referred to as soft skill: having strong interpersonal skills and a high EQ (emotional quotient) are now additional strengths needed to be a successful CEO. The responsibilities you will take on as a startup CEO will give you all of the tools needed to lead a successful venture while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your team.

    Does your CEO have what it takes?

    • Strong leadership skills
    • Approachable and personable
    • Communication and transparency
    • Invests time into company culture (being active and present)
    • Committed to the company mission
    • Willingness to provide leadership and professional growth opportunities for employees

    Startup CEO Responsibilities are Far-reaching

    The CEO of an organization is accountable for far more than ensuring substantial profits and making sound investments for the future of the company. They should have a clear perspective across the organization as well as accountability for the consumer. It is important to focus on the satisfaction of all stakeholders in the business, not only the investors and shareholders but employees, customers, suppliers, and most importantly the consumer. A successful CEO will know, it is critical to concentrate attention on both internal and external organizational factors. The ultimate goal is winning over the consumer. After all, what good are products and services that no one wants to use or be affiliated with?

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    Typical CEO Responsibilities

    • Provide inspiring leadership inside and outside of the company
    • Create an environment that promotes great performance and positive morale
    • Decide on a strategic direction for the company 
    • Make high-level decisions about policy and strategy
    • Develop and implement the organization’s operational policies, culture, its overall vision and mission
    • Lead in the development of the company’s short and long-term goals, making sure they are measurable and describable
    • Maintain a clear direction for the company
    • Remain focused on company goals
    • Oversee day-to-day operations
    • Be aware of competitive markets, industry developments, and expansion opportunities 
    • Find acquisition opportunities 
    • Oversee the company’s fiscal activity including budgeting, reporting, and auditing
    • Ensure risks are monitored and minimize
    • Maintain high social responsibility wherever the company does business
    • Act as the spokesperson for the company, be the public face
    • Create a business network
    • Build alliances and partnerships with other organizations
    • Communicate on behalf of the company with the public, shareholders, government entities, etc.
    • Carefully make hiring decisions (try to recruit talent who are smarter than you)
    • Report to the board of directors and keep them informed
    • Evaluate the work of others within the company including leaders, directors, vice president, and president
    • Work with senior stakeholders, chief financial officer, chief information officer, and other executives.
    • Manage your board and listen to them carefully
    • Believe in and trust the expertise of others
    • Ask questions of yourself and others, at all levels
    • Delegate effectively
    • Assure legal and regulatory documents are filed and monitor compliance with the laws and regulations
    Style Shifting: The Struggles of a Triumphant CEO

    While it is extremely rewarding to watch your company grow and thrive, a startup CEO will face some challenges in the shifting of their style as the business flourishes. In the company’s infancy, responsibilities seem limitless; a startup the CEO must be willing to do anything and everything. When the company evolves into an organizational ecosystem comprised of multiple departments and hundreds of team members, it is impossible to continue to maintain that role. Thus, the CEO must evolve as well. By now this individual has laid a solid foundation for the organization and a direct path for a successful venture. However, the next steps can be some of the most difficult challenges a chief executive officer will face. Stepping back, delegating responsibilities to team members, and letting go of some control can be cause for extreme consternation. Great leaders must learn to zoom out and stop doing everything. It is time to be confident in the painstaking strategizing, planning, and managing that has already been implemented. The best CEOs know or learn that, although they may make most of the final decision, those decisions should be informed by the advice of subject matter experts. Assuming a CEO has the right people in place, when in doubt delegate.

    Attorney, Matthew Rossetti, specializes in start-up businesses and the formation of companies. He is the premier “Slicing Pie” expert in the midwest. Rossetti uses a custom dynamic business formation model to create a perfectly fair equity split, in the early stages of a company. Set up a 30-minute consultation for guidance.