What’s the meaning of a CEO for a Startup

This post is for young entrepreneurs worldwide so they can understand the real meaning of the role; this will change as your startup matures, and it will be very different in a corporation.

Let’s go for the beginning. What’s a CEO? According to Wikipedia is:

 Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking corporate officer (executive) or administrator in charge of the total management of an organization. An individual appointed CEO of a corporation, company, organization, or agency typically reports to the board of directors. In British English, terms often used as synonyms for CEO are managing director (MD) and chief executive (CE).

As you can see, the term “I’m the CEO” sounds nice, but, in reality, it is one of the most diligent positions in the company; now, let’s review the functions that a CEO does (again, according to Wikipedia):

Typically, the CEO is a decision maker, leader, manager, and executor. This role involves high-level decisions about policy and strategy. The CEO leads, reports to the board, motivates, and drives change. The CEO presides over the organization’s day-to-day operations as a manager.

The main purpose of a CEO is to serve the company not the other way around.

Now let’s go to the real world of a CEO for a Startup:

Usually, a startup is born with one, two, and sometimes three founders; in most cases, one of them will be the face of the company and, in time, will become the CEO, so for that reason. Usually, the characteristics of this person could be:

  • People-oriented
  • Sales and commercial focus
  • Dreamer and visionary (I’m not saying that rest of the people are not, it is just that a good CEO is like an astronaut who is always in the skies but always in constant communication with earth)
  • Always trying to explore new areas/countries/territories/partnerships/technologies/products
  • Motivator (at least should be)
  • Build Strategies (if this person plays starcraft is a plus)
  • Have a growth mindset

And his responsibilities:

  • Propose the strategy of the company
  • Motive the company
  • Manage the critical KPI of the company to achieve goals
  • Manage key accounts
  • And do whatever else is a need to make the company moving (this means everything, from making invoices, delivering the invoices, cleaning, interviews, QA, code, testing, everything, and more)

In my experience, a CEO must deeply understand their employees, facilitate growth, and unite everyone toward a common goal.

Also, remember that the higher the position, the lonely it is, especially when there are rough times like putting all your time, effort, holidays, and even your own money to help the company. Here I will try to write some items about the most complex situations. 

  • Trusting a team member and being betrayed, and phasing the consequences (losing a project, client, or money)
  • In case of unforeseen challenges, like development failures, team member errors, or even minor issues like poorly written emails, it often falls on the CEO of the startup to address the client. This seemingly simple act requires a great deal of courage, a challenge I’ve personally faced on numerous occasions.
  • Realize that you are not getting paid on time or that your client doesn’t care about you. This causes payment delays, especially in certain South American countries, where payments are made after 30, 60, or even 90 days You’ll be in trouble if you don’t have enough money in the company’s bank account.
  • Decide without consulting your mentors and realize that you just made the worst decision ever and even worst inversion of the company that, in some cases, could take the company into bankruptcy
  • Realize that you didn’t put enough effort into the company’s financials because of your lack of experience (what is good until some stage of growing).
  • Learn how to involve everyone in the company’s decisions, and even harder, learn how to recruit new team members because that’s key; if you don’t have good people, you’re dead.
  • Fail to someone (employee/client) who trusts you. That’s something that hurts.

Recommendations for the future and actual CEOs

  • Be honest and transparent with everyone and accept your mistakes and that you are wrong if you are! That’s the basic
  • Never end a relationship on bad terms.
  • Learn how to manage your emotions because it represents a company and not a person
  • Anticipate and prepare for various scenarios, even playing chess in the dark, to be well-prepared.
  • Do not make a financial decision until you have the cash in the bank.
  • No one is indispensable, not even the CEO, and always build your company based on roles and responsibilities and not on person names; this means a person could leave the company, but if you have his responsibilities will avoid in some measure, any damage to the company
  • Plan as big as you can, else why you even bother? Not even the sky is the limit, even when people close to you say the opposite.
  • Being a CEO is a privilege, and you exist in the company to serve the people working there also; you must inspire with example and do what you say and never take advantage of your rights as CEO
  • Also, remember that Founder =! CEO =! employee what I’m trying to say is that even when you could be the Founder, you are also an employee, and if your job is to be the CEO is nothing more than that, so I recommend that you forget that you own part of the company in that way you’ll be able to understand more (at least that help me a lot)
  • The only way to be a good CEO, I believe, is to involve everybody in the company. Building a strong team and instilling belief in their potential is essential, but it won’t be easy.
  • CEOs experience ups and downs – that’s life. If you aspire to be one, be ready for the journey.

I hope this post helps. For questions, comment or email me I’ll be more than happy to help.

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About Me

About Me

I'm a crazy entrepreneur with a computer science background; I love to create startups and help entrepreneurs worldwide; my motto is: Fail, fail again, fail better!