Top 5 Roles of the CEO

I was asked recetop5ntly by a CEO, “What should my time allocation look like?  I know every sector and company has unique traits, but is there a baseline?”

Background:  His non-technology company was over $5M in revenue and profitable for the past 2 years.  He was considering expansion capital (he was 100% bootstrapped so this would be the first investment capital of any kind) and along with it he knew there would be a call for professionalizing the company by the new investor(s).  As part of that analysis, he confessed that he had allowed “to-do” items to be “dumped on him by staff” – but this was being addressed.

I summed up my assessment of such a “baseline” as follows:

  1. Ambassador: Get out to see at least 2 key customers per month.  That’s 24 customers or 24 visits per year.  Even a CEO that is really a CTO should get out and meet customers (or key partners).  The head of sales should appreciate the help (and the CEO can evaluate his/her performance).
  2. Direct Reports: 2 hours 1:1 with each direct report every week.  Don’t get too busy to meet and remember to ask “so what do you think?” (AND LISTEN TO THE ANSWER).
  3. Dashboards: Demand each Direct Report provide a simple set of metrics / KPIs each week along with a VERY short narrative about the comparison to the prior week.  Don’t micro-manage the list – demand execution by the responsible people (mentor if needed, but don’t “take back” any item).
  4. Strategy and Vision: Articulate a three year plan with attainable numbers and relate the current year progress to it at all times: “We are going to do $7M this year and be profitable while launching 2 new products.  This is just a stepping stone to our $20M goal.”  There is power in simplicity!   Consistency and repetition (not changing strategy every month) also breeds certainty about the mission.
  5. Company: Walk the halls and be visible.  Encourage people and mention specific facts when you do (such as point #4!).  This tells people that they matter -AND- you are paying attention.  It is an encouragement to them and breeds accountability.

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