A successful startup CEO is one who excels not only in building a game-changing product, but inspiring the best from their team, being the public face of a rapidly growing company, and ultimately raising the capital needed to keep the company afloat while it scales.
Running a company alone is a challenge, but in a startup environment, the balancing act required can be exhausting in a variety of ways. Let’s take a closer look at how successful startup CEOs balance their time and how fundraising fits into an already very busy schedule as a company matures.
Building a Successful Team
A startup succeeds or fails based on the talent hired to execute the vision of its founders. And it’s up to the CEO and their leadership team to clearly articulate that vision in a way that is attractive to top talent. Competition is fierce – not just for engineers, but leaders, HR specialists, marketers, and sales pros.
A CEO must therefore take an active and continuing role in identifying and recruiting top talent, providing the resources to help them develop once hired, and investing in maintaining a robust, supportive culture. In the early stages, especially when fundraising is so important, it’s a hands-on process, and for many CEOs remains that way for years, even as new leadership comes on board.
Shifting to a Strategic Role
The earliest stages of a startup involves a lot of tactical, day-to-day challenges. Pushing a new update out the door. Hiring the next developer to keep on track with production targets. Promoting the product and building the initial user base. As the company grows, however, the challenges evolve.
Startup CEOs will shift from being in the trenches every day to keep the company afloat into a more strategic role. They will need to delegate responsibility to a team of experts they trust to run their business successfully. They must also clearly communicate the core values upon which the company was founded.
A unique challenge in its own right, culture is the glue that holds a company together through those periods of rapid growth and change. If the CEO steps away from this very important role without a strong leadership team and clearly defined values in place, it can undermine years of effort.
Being Part of the Team
In the early days, a startup’s office might consist of half a dozen desks and a plant. No privacy. No hallways. A constant huddle in which all hands are constantly on deck to tackle the next challenge. Exhausting as this might be, there’s a freedom to it that dissipates with time.
As a company grows and becomes more successful, the size of the office grows, departments are built into the org chart, and CEOs spend a larger percentage of their time in meetings, traveling, and fundraising. This is normal, but it’s easy for a CEO to step back from the day-to-day of the business and, without realizing it, effectively disappear. Problems can arise when employees no longer see the CEO on a regular basis and the company’s previously cohesive culture begins to fracture.
Balancing These Requirements as a Company Grows
So how does fundraising impact these different roles, and how can a CEO make sure they maintain a healthy balance to avoid becoming too distant and unaware of what is happening in their own company?
Fundraising is incredibly important, and will be a major part of a CEO’s job duties every 1-2 years. For this reason, it’s important that they clearly communicate with their team and set expectations of what these phases will look like. During these stages, the CEO will be less present and must depend on the leadership team they have developed. By preparing for fundraising periods and coordinating with the rest of the company, the CEO can make it clear what impact this will have and what the expectations are for their surrogates while away. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for existing leaders to stretch their responsibilities and for new ones to emerge.
For a CEO to be successful while being pulled in so many directions, they need to carefully balance how they invest their time. Fundraising will always be a necessity and the CEO is the face and voice of the company. It’s one of the few roles they will have difficulty delegating. By understanding the diverse roles they hold and the impact those roles have on the success of the company, chief executives are better able to balance the time they do have to bring the most out of their teams while meeting the requirements set for them.
To learn more about how a CEO can build a strong foundation for future success by clearly communicating values and providing structure for the culture that’s developing in their company, download our eBook, 7 Tips to Build a Values Driven Organization in a Fast-Paced Environment.