When people ask me how to build a company, one of the things I say, is that I work all the time to make myself redundant. This sounds facetious and I don’t mean it to be but as CEO in a startup, you inevitably get involved in doing everything. At one time or another, I have done everything in the company from cold-calling (smile and dial), to account management (I’m your friend, buy from me), to marketing (I have some magic pixie dust that might help you!), to book-keeping (1 and 1 makes how many?) to working in the warehouse (should I really be stuck to the box?) to changing the photocopier ink (another pair of trousers ruined).
This is not scalable and not the way I want to live so at ever stage I looked to see which bit of my role I should or could make redundant and hired people with the existing or potential skills to fill fill that role better than me. The first thing that went was accounting and credit control, then warehouse, then sales, then marketing and so on. Now, I am pleased to say as CEO I do very little and I am pretty much redundant on a day to day basis. I am surrounded by good people whose individual skills far exceed my own. So what do I as CEO (or Managing Director in English English) do?
My remaining role really comprises of 4 things:
Refereeing between departments when perspectives or priorities seem to be irreconcilable, which mostly involves acts of translation from sales speak to accounting speak and vice versa. Sometimes, to move forward I have to remind people, ‘This is not a democracy, it is a benevolent dictatorship.’ and just make a decision. Mostly, they sort it out themselves.
Thinking about where the business should be headed and suggesting ideas and experiments to test exactly how bad an idea it is, because then everyone can blame the dumb MD when it doesn’t work.
Making sure we hire the right people, as I have the time and perspective to do it and I will fire myself if we ever allow an HR Department to hire people for line roles, but that is a separate blog
Shmoozing customers and suppliers and occasionally our staff, whilst trying not to show my ignorance of the detail of the business.
Being a CEO of a growing SME is a pretty amorphous set of tasks. I suspect I am becoming less good at schmoozing as I get older, so perhaps that will be the next thing to go. We don’t even photocopy as much as we used to so what next for me?