Don’t be intimidated, you can be a great CEO if you are willing to plan, focus and execute on the right things your business requires. Know that you don’t have to be an expert at everything but you do need to know what needs attention.
Here are 5 battle-tested recommendations to get you on the right path:
- Create a Compelling Vision – create a story for your business that explains the important problem you solve for your customers and how you solve it. Make sure it’s truly unique. Customers are attracted to businesses that are doing special things – it’s a rarity in today’s business climate.
Example: a CEO created a skin and hair care product line in response to her son’s severe dry skin condition. Her journey took her to Western Africa where she buys shea butter directly from rural women who produces it from the fruit of shea trees. Her vision is to support many more of these women by selling amazingly moisturizing products. That’s a goose-bump Vision!
- Cover all Business Bases– you don’t have to be great at everything yourself to be a successful CEO but you do need to get the people and resources in place that will enable success. George Washington surrounded himself with talented people he knew our nation needed. All businesses need varying degrees of expertise in Managing, Strategic Planning, Marketing, Sales, Operations and Finance. Grade yourself “A, B or C” on each of these and you’ll know where to get help. For some you’ll want to hire talented and experienced people and for others it may be smarter to outsource to experts.
Example: a husband/wife partnership built a great recycling company except for one thing – they didn’t devote enough time and resources to selling over the years to bring in enough sales to cover their overhead and they lost a great deal of money. They sold the business because they ignored a key success factor – sales.
- Build a great team – you will hear of most great CEOs that people like working for and with them. They bring out the best in others by challenging them, supporting them and holding them accountable. Your team includes not only employees but also outside resources. Hire the best, help them grow and prosper and keep them. That’s the ticket!
Example: Steve just couldn’t let go of any decision-making which of course meant that his senior team could not experience the professional growth to match the maturity and growth of his business. Guess what? He’ll now have to replace some people as the needs of the business have outgrown them.
- Set high expectations – small businesses are vulnerable no matter how good they are so requiring excellence in all aspects of the business will not only raise everyone’s game but also play a role in protecting you for the long term. Don’t settle for mediocrity – that’s a recipe for failure.
Example: the owner of a small advertising agency could never get monthly financial information from her controller in a timely manner despite asking and asking. Without that information, it was impossible to adjust to changes in the business in a timely manner and her business suffered because of it.
- Embrace Change – like it or not, change is going to happen both within your business and in the market you serve. If you don’t expect it, you’re going to be like a deer in the headlights. On the other hand, if you respond to it better than your competitors, you may create advantages for your business. Coach your team to embrace change too so everyone is on the same page.
Example: a hardware store lost significant business to online retailers when a number of the products they carried could be purchased for less money online and with no sales tax. It took a while but they woke up and made the adjustments necessary to recapture that business.
Great CEOs are made not born. It helps but is not necessary to have a dazzling personality. You CAN do it by embracing these best practices, working hard and treating people well.
Make every day count!