The CEO Imperative – Focus on the Three Things that Matter

September 14, 2010

In a recent blog post, my partner George Roberts referred to another blog post by Fred Wilson, entitled “What a CEO Does”. I think this is the most powerful description of what a CEO is supposed to focus on; powerful in the simplicity of the focal points, their breadth and depth, and the message that they are intended to deliver to the aspiring CEO.

Fred was advised in his past by an experienced VC that…

A CEO does only three things.

1. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders.
2. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company.
3. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.

When Fred asked “Is that it?,” the VC correctly replied…

“…the CEO should delegate all other tasks to his or her team”

Amen! Brilliant! I can’t think of a better way to describe what a CEO should be focused on. I think this is especially true in the case of start-up company CEOs trying to mature their companies and themselves to the expansion stage.

What you typically find at the start-up phase is that the founding CEO is not really acting as a true CEO, rather he/she is mostly acting as a small business entrepreneur. The founding CEO tends to be a jack of all trades — trying to get the work of 4-5 people at once — with lots of multi-tasking across multiple functions. The founding CEO can be at a any moment a developer, product manager, accountant, HR manager, sales rep, marketing director, etc. That is the necessity of a start-up.

In the expansion stage, the CEO needs to start making the transition from the multi-tasking role of the entrepreneur to a highly focused role of the managerial CEO. The three focal points described above are a perfect synthesis of what a CEO needs to do.

How to get to that level of focus is another matter… It takes the expansion stage CEO at least a year or two to make that transition. And some never do, and end up passing the baton to a more experienced CEO. More on that here.

On setting the overall vision, here’s a good high level insight I found

I have written about building the senior team here. I would add to that the building of a cohesive board.

For more on OpenView Venture Partners’ thoughts on the topic, check out Scott Maxwell’s blog series on The Lonely CEO.

The Chief Executive Officer

Firas was previously a venture capitalist at Openview. He has returned to his operational roots and now works as The Chief Executive Officer of Everteam and is also the Founder of <a href="">nsquared advisory</a>. Previously, he helped launch a VC fund, start and grow a successful software company and also served time as an obscenely expensive consultant, where he helped multi-billion-dollar companies get their operations back on track.