By Jim Estill
A start up CEO needs a different skill set than a growth CEO or a steady state CEO. In most respects it is a harder role. Recently I was asked for advice. I have found it very difficult to know what to advise – all start ups are different. And by nature – entrepreneurship is uncertain and there is no one right answer.
Some rules and secrets on how to deal with things:
1 – You have no money. What if the office needs vacuuming? You vacuum it. What if you do not have a vacuum at the office? You bring it from home. What if you have none at home? You borrow it. Ironically, the highly frugal times will be the fond memories (I recall sleeping in my car to save the motel bill, I always took food, never bought tea or coffee since they are low cost to make etc)
2 – Should you spend time on vision? NO. Vision is just something you wake up thinking about and think about on the treadmill and while driving. Time needs to be spent doing.
3 – Who sells? You do. Partly because you need the sales but partly because you need to listen to prospects. You need to hear what they are saying – figure out what resonates. More companies fail from low sales than any other thing (close second – overspending – see rule 1 and third – low margin).
4 – No Magical Thinking. Some CEOs imagine they will raise cash or make sales but they do not do the work to make it happen. CEOs who succeed do the work.
5 – “Successful people do tough things”. We all like to stick with what we are comfortable with but often what will move us forward faster is doing the uncomfortable, out of our comfort zone tasks. This requires eliminating excuscitis (We cannot do this until this happens, or this did not happen because that – in the end, the start up CEO is responsible for everything – even what happened to them that seemed out of their control)
6 – There is no serial. Successful start up entrepreneurs do things in parallel. Be a juggler.
7 – Know the big important things. For most start ups it is cash and sales. Work on the big important – and deal with the little things in the gaps. This ties to time management and is likely why I wrote my first book. I struggled with the juggling so had to devise systems to deal with the volume.
8 – Study and learn but filter advice and what you read/watch/get coached on. I see many start up CEOs fail because they think they know it all.
9 – Your title is janitor/receptionist/sales person/order picker/shipper/customer service/accountant/collection clerk/delivery driver etc. Do not fall in love with title. Many start up CEOs like the title but not the work it takes to build a company. If you want to be more than these titles – make money so you can build a company to do some of the other tasks.
It is all about being effective. This is the focus.