One CEO’s Definition Of A Perfect Day

December 15, 2011

A week ago after I had a discussion with a good friend who is also a successful former CEO on several topics I wrote a blog titled “So You Think You Want To Be A CEO: What You Should Do“.

During our discussion, we talked about his definition of a “Perfect” day as CEO. I thought I would share this with you.

This CEO’s Perfect Day

The perfect day for me as a CEO is to be 100% externally focused: meeting with your customers, the customers themselves, analyst, partners, as well as insightful employees who really understand the market …to understand the outside (the market), interpreting it, and taking action not only to sustain the existing business but also to change the game and be truly disruptive. In my opinion, this is uniquely the job of the CEO.  It requires a schedule that is not back to back. It requires think time.

I always smiled the most and felt I was adding the most value when I was not in internal meetings talking about operations… focused internally.  I wanted to have leaders that eliminated internal friction and maximized productivity without me getting involved.  That does not mean a CEO should not focus internally but ideally the CEO should focus internally only to:

  1. Define and interpret the meaningful outside….the market to the company – Answer time and again what business are we in and business are we not in.
  2. Shape the culture and values of the organization – Create an environment where you get the most out of your people, and they’ll get the most out of the company.
  3. Manage talent – Hire brilliant people that you would respect, enjoy working with and could be friends with outside of business. Then work to retain the best people as the company grows.
  4. Balance smart investments in the present business with the scary investments or bets for the future that are game changing – Getting consensus on future game changing bets is almost impossible…. so you have to stick out your neck and make those decisions.

I was really interested in hiring or promoting people that could help me with those 4 things.

My experience was this perfect world hardly ever existed because… in a hyper growth company it is very hard at any moment in time to have all the right people in place who are all capable and can remove unnecessary friction or churn with their peers. When the right leaders are not all in place…you dip into the organization, roll up your sleeves and get muddy doing their job, fixing problems, refereeing fights, interpreting data that should have been interpreted for you, removing churn and friction.  You get scheduled back to back….no think time…no fun.

I was really interested in finding out who had peaked relative to competence or was counter culture….causing unnecessary fiction or churn and counseling them out of their role or out of the business.

As I think about this discussion, the insights and my past experiences in software companies and as a Venture Partner at OpenView I come away with:

  • Focus on the business you are in and more importantly the ones you are not in so you are not spending precious people and capital in areas that don’t matter.
  • Mission, Vision and Values matter. That is what creates culture and culture helps a company scale and is important to the people who make up your company.
  • Hiring the best and retaining the best people is how great companies are built. Counsel out team members who do not play well with others or were political. You need to always weed the garden if you want it to grow.
  • Standing still is a recipe for failure. As CEO you have to continually make the right bets. These bets might be on the next management team member, product direction and development, distribution channel expansion, new market segments, etc.

I hope you enjoyed this and I am sure you may come away with a few thoughts of your own.

All the best!


Venture Partner

<strong>George Roberts</strong> is a Venture Partner at OpenView. He enjoys partnering with companies and helping them achieve their goals through strategy, focus and operational execution. From 1990 to 2003, George spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, most recently having served as Executive Vice President of North American Sales. While at Oracle, George was responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and more than 2,000 employees, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and Chairman, Larry Ellison.