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Who is the CEO?
I met with a pair of awesome founders the other day who have worked together for a long time, have been friends for even longer and, now…
I met with a pair of awesome founders the other day who have worked together for a long time, have been friends for even longer and, now, have started a company together.
Their roles were as split as their personalities, one focused on product and growth and the other focused on sales and technology. If I am really honest, as we started talking I didn’t know who was the CEO.
One of them spoke fast and frequently, jumping in and around and over every question and each answer his co-founder gave. As his hands painted a picture of the future, the sparks that flew from his fingers were reflected in his eyes and I could see the vision. The other was more reserved, critiquing the architecture of the market and drafting the engineering effort required to withstand the weight of such a massive opportunity. He pointed to strengths in response to questions and mapped out strategies to avoid weaknesses and mitigate the risks as he acknowledged them.
Still not clear on who was CEO, I asked,
How did you guys decide who would be the CEO?
After a quick glance and an almost imperceptible nod from his co-founder, the visionary jumped in,
My strengths are as a product person, as the idea guy, the one who can see disparate data points and pull them together to inform the next big thing. I am about the vision and growing it. My co-founder is more of an editor than a creator. He is unbelievably good at prioritizing what needs to be built when it has to be done and how best to build it. He is able to say “no” more effectively than anyone I have ever worked with and that is why he is the CEO.
The CEO nodded.
This answer surprised me at first, but as it sank in, I appreciated the team even more. Every company needs to have one CEO — one person who makes the final call and is responsible. Sometimes it is the visionary, but as a company scales, great CEO’s tend to get further and further from creating and spend more and more time editing. Saying no as the primary organizing principle for the limited resources of a startup is a critical CEO skill and one that is often overlooked.
This team figured it out early and I think it will pay off as a pillar of their success.