As I work as a startup co-founder, I get to think a lot about what it is to become a CEO of a startup company.
Up until this point, I have identified several key aspects that CEO should excel in. Although the list of the bullets aren’t exhaustive, I just wanted to jot down here to remind me of the things that I should always care when the day comes where I become the CEO - which I eventually want to be.
When some people think about startups, they tend to associate it with great and unique ideas that will rock this universe. Obviously, there are some companies that truly is exceptional in building new things - a la Apple, but you will be surprised to know that most, if not all, of the startup’s ideas are mere change of an existing idea, and at times, a total rip-off of other competitors idea.
As a consequence, not a thundering idea, but having a keen eye to read the macro structural change, enthusiasm and determinism to attract the brilliant minds, empathy to sympathize and communicate with others, discipline and system to try and test multiples ideas are important.
1. Eagle eye on reading the macro trends.
- Keep up yourself with the industrial pundits and innovators
- Hone your view on several important trends
No startups could truly succeed without reading the minds of customers. Even B2B ideas, seemed as an indifferent matter about customer minds, needs to be constantly adjusted and fitted to customers needs. Add to this assertion that you will be targeting a sizable market where one could reap the benefit, then you will instantly know that satisfying the ‘mass needs’ is crucial. On top of that, add this crucial fact that human, as a highly social animal, usually moves in droves when they change their behavior, lifestyle, and culture. In sum, ‘mass needs’ sometimes reveal themselves as a ‘macro trend’, and as an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to win the minds of the mass, you gotta be an expert on this realm.
2. Vigorous enthusiasm
- Work on the things and needs that you understand the most
- (Or if it isn’t the case) Try to understand the problem and internalize your understanding as fast as possible
- Become the aggressive proponent for your idea anywhere, anytime (You can’t be a thing if you don’t act in that way)
Buying people’s minds aren’t as easy as one might thought. Without your exuding enthusiasm combined with bright optimism, people will easily notice the agitation. Who on earth could throw themselves into a cause that even the founder doesn’t truly believes in?
3. Experience on how to understand people
(As a CEO)
- Build two active channels (one upward, one downward) with which people can communicate and allay their concerns
- Proactively seek out moments to bond with others and become a true friend of others
- Ask about each person’s short-term objective and agenda
If you don’t have any money, you could vociferously sell your ideas to potential investors. If you don’t have any ideas, you could discuss with your peers to discover a stunning idea. But without good people, you are doomed to fail. Why not look for good people when you don’t have any? If the problem was that easy! To iterate and maintain an idea for such a long time where you can finally greet the moment of epiphany, without peer’s strong support, nobody could withstand the emotional, financial roller-coaster without exhaustion.
As as result, understanding people and having a strong relationship that could last is a crucial tenet a CEO should have. Every person have their unique agenda. Some people try to become a startup founder afterwards, while some people want a exciting working environment, while another group of people want a stable job security. Even though you may not be able to sooth everybody’s discontent, you could sympathize their concerns and seek out the ways where you could alleviate those. Another crucial reason for CEOs needing this ability is that CEO is in the best position to initiate the understanding. Especially in some part of the world where hierarchy is easily accepted and respect a social norm, one cannot easily express their concern to their direct reports, and understandably more hard to the CEO.
4. Discipline and methodology on how to solve the problems
- Through multiple trial and errors, hone your personal problem solving methodologies.
- Meet with people who have their view own methodology, and learn from them
Although, even start-up experts say that ‘running a startup is more of a magic’, it surely doesn’t imply that we all should be putting our hands off the table and wish for the magic to happen. There are some aspects that are worth having discipline. Such as, ‘how should you interpret customers feedback’, or ‘how could we change the course of our service based on current assessment?’. And these are the things that cannot be learnt through the textbooks. You gotta be testing multiple concepts starting from your initial belief on how things should work.
Seems like a pretty long list huh?