You’ve decided to start a company, whether by yourself or with a few other folks, and now that company wants to actually do something. One of the first steps of every new venture is deciding who does what, and one of you will presumably take over the position as CEO.
Being the CEO of a company is much more than just a fancy title. There are millions of CEOs around the world, and most of them have learned a very important lesson: it’s hard work. President Harry Truman famously placed a sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here,” meaning that he accepted the responsibility for the decisions of his team and their consequences. For me, this is one of the most critical lessons for any CEO to learn, especially in the beginning of their career. You’ll make many of the important decisions, and eventually, you’ll hire a team and they’ll make more. However, when (not if) someone on that team screws up, the ultimate responsibility rests with the CEO. The CEO is responsible for the organization, and typically reports to a board of directors. The CEO’s job is to oversee the hiring, firing, training and employment of their team. If someone screws up, it’s because someone wasn’t hired, fired or trained correctly in the first place.
Many investors have given me the sage advice that my number one job as a CEO is to not let my company run out of money. Whether via fundraising, sales or cost reductions, I have several levers at my disposal. At any point in time, it’s my job to pull them correctly in order to put the company in the best possible position to return capital to the shareholders.
As your company grows through raising capital and adding customers, your responsibility grows as well. Being aware of, managing and understanding these responsibilities is your number one job, and as time passes, the more complex it will become. The most crucial piece in the beginning of your company is understanding what you’re responsible for, and how it impacts your company. Being a CEO isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone. If you don’t want this responsibility, find someone who does; otherwise your board will likely do it for you one day.