14 Ways to Become a Successful Startup CEO

Published on June 05, 2012

14 Ways to Become a Successful Startup CEO

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    From the translator. The author of this publication is the CEO of OnSwipe , and the former CEO of Publictivity.com and Miami Merchants.

    Everyone thinks that being a startup CEO is a glamorous, fun-filled job.
    I call it "glamorous thinking." It's about the life of startups, which is described in the press. You know what articles I mean. Those who talk about how easy it is to make money, how many company users are attracted to, and how cool it is to be a CEO. Very rarely you will hear how shitty it is to be a CEO, that not every startup can be an entrepreneur. It turned out that in order to become a successful CEO, a project founder needs to follow a number of rules.


    1. Be a custodian of ideas of the company.

    CEO - the face of the company, the custodian of its ideas. And I'm not talking about ideas for the next few months, but about long-term solid plans. The CEO must be able to keep the business afloat over the long term to ensure that the company's ambitious comprehensive plans are feasible. Public opinion about a startup usually cannot develop in one year, or, even in some cases, like Google, in a decade. CEO will have to try to form this opinion. A successful startup CEO will constantly rake in all incoming initiatives, realizing that even small details are important for the whole puzzle.

    2. Take the brunt

    CEO should be a personal voodoo startup doll. They must withstand a heavy burden of stress, pain and torture, and all this, in the process of making important decisions. You cannot allow your team to get nervous because of every difficulty. A good CEO at any moment will cover the backs of his teammates. He also needs to hide the manifestations of stress and pain. Not that you need to hide something from the team or lie, I do not suggest this. Most of the startup’s everyday nuances and stresses are not worth the concern of the whole team, and the CEO has to take the brunt.

    3. Find the smartest people and rely on their knowledge

    Startup CEOs must have excellent talent search capabilities. The trick is to find people smarter than you in certain areas. This may be a member of the technical department of the team, or a new vice president. The CEO of a startup should be able to find these people and make quick, right decisions in order to interest them. It is also necessary to be able to show all charisma and passion in order to convince them in most cases to leave a better-paid and reliable job and join your team. In fact, the success of attracting a new participant is revealed after the attraction itself. An excellent CEO will be able to trust those he has hired and rely on their skills. It’s hard to get used to it, but you’ll have to, especially during the development of the company.

    4. Be the link between the company and investors

    Whether you want it or not, but believe me, you are not the only company in the investor's portfolio. Even if you are a superstar, still they have many other invested companies and even more potential companies for the portfolio. A good investor chooses 2-3 new companies per year for cooperation. A good startup CEO will be a reliable link in progress, contentious issues and areas in which investors will need help. Most start-ups that are already making money are led by a team of three people: a CEO, an investor, an investor, and an independent member of the team.

    5. Be the link between the company and the market

    I am convinced that the best companies are those that retain the founder for the long term as CEO. Not because the founder has the right to be a CEO, but because the CEO must be closely acquainted with the concept of the product. The CEO founders understand this best of all and can defend the same single point of view for a long time. To fill a gap in the management of a good CEO, other team members and heads of departments agree. This strategy was used on Facebook, and it was thanks to it that Apple got such a rebirth with Steve Jobs at the head. The thing is that the CEO is as close to the product as possible.

    6. Learn how to work

    Most CEOs started without a Master in Business Administration or other conditions for creating and developing a company. The best have the ability to learn in the process and use their own mistakes to become a better leader. Zuckerberg started when he was 19 and now, he runs the most influential Internet company. Do not worry about your qualifications, because as such there is no typical concept of qualifications in your work. You will learn the whole essence of the matter in the process itself. The best CEO startups surround themselves with smart mentors to constantly move in the right direction.

    7. Lack of experience is a plus

    For a CEO startup, perhaps it’s even better not to have any experience in this area. If you have previously acquired knowledge and ideas, you better be the manager of a larger company than a startup with up to 50 employees. This is a completely different type of leadership and company.

    8. Know how to say NO

    You will be drowning in lists of offers from potential partners, investors, employees and others. They will all seem great. As you grow, you will have resources to deal with most of your needs. Do not do this! Saying YES is very easy, saying NO is, on the contrary, very difficult. Learn to say NO, and you can keep your company at the right level and in the form in which you want. It will also make your team members (note, I do not like the words “subordinates”) more focused, as they will be able to focus on one goal for a long period of time. I saw a lot of startups that failed because CEOs continued to change what managers and technical workers should do.

    9. Acquire technical knowledge and skills.

    A good startup CEO should not be afraid of code and text. They do not need to delve into the source code every day, but understanding the technical features will not hurt. It’s easy to say “go and do it”, but it’s a completely different thing to know how to do it. What seems simple at first glance may require a huge mountain of technical work, which is unrealistic to do with dedicated resources and established deadlines. It will also help earn respect by attracting techies to the team.

    10. Divide tasks into stages, designate dates

    Remember those big ideas that you are the custodian of? The trick is that only you and your co-founder understand this. You will have to break the tasks into pieces and designate dates for them so that the rest of the team can understand everything. You also need to choose where and when to make strategic decisions. What is the path of less resistance to achieve results? What can you do first with available resources?

    11. Know how to solve everything at the last second.

    Everything is not going according to plan. Ideas fail, people leave, servers fall, failures lie in wait at every turn, and ordinary things become nightmares. You will have to cope with it and cope quickly. Here is an example from American football:

    “To see how the quarterback, who is approaching the rally line, sees the construction of a defense that he did not expect and regulates the attack, shouting out a new scheme .

    You have to face problems that you did not expect and succeed in solving them. Run faster, spend more money, or even leave the project.

    12. Learn how to motivate a team in difficult moments

    In this business, people like to talk. People love to talk even more when your company is not going smoothly. Excellent CEOs will be able to cope with such moments and maintain the integrity of the company. They will be able to expose rumors or be above them, focusing team members on more important tasks for the company. This is decided by ordinary five-minute conversations or motivational letters. The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation and take an aggressively passive stance. I repeat: DO NOT BE RAG.

    13. Be a great communicator.

    You have to project your energy and passion onto others ... over and over and over and over and over again every day. As the founder of a startup, you must convey the vision and concept of your company to the rest of the world. You must be able to share your company’s ideas into something that mere mortals can understand. You cannot speak too technical slang language and use complex terms. On the contrary, your words should be simple, clear and catchy. You also need to be able to defend your point of view. Many will want to “fight” with you just to understand how strong your will is. Be respectful, but be confident in your answers. You can make mistakes, but never doubt.

    14. Do not become “falseSEO”

    Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, strongly recommends not to be false SEO. In short, worry about things that produce results, not fame. Between going to a conference / interview or doing some business, choose a business. Do not drop it on someone else's shoulders. You will have to get your hands dirty every day.