Are you a CEO or a CeO?

In my work with business leaders, one of the first questions I ask them is: What kind of CEO are you – a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or a Chief everything Officer (CeO)?

Business owners who thrive act like CEOs by focusing on the direction, strategy, structure, systems, people, and goals of the business. They view the business as an entity that is separate from themselves and an asset that needs to be managed for growth and for value.

hourglass and book

Starting a new business and growing a business are two completely different experiences. In the start-up mode, you will likely do a lot of the work yourself. This makes sense; you are too small to have a team of employees to do the daily work for you. However, as your business succeeds and grows, you will have to adopt a mindset that allows you to leverage employees and external resources so that you focus on running the business and not running around doing tasks that are not worth the time and effort of the CEO.

Here’s a few steps to get you started done the path of becoming the CEO of your business:

  1. Change your title. Put CEO on your business cards and include that title in your email signature and stationery. Using that title regularly will begin to have an affect on you, your customers, prospects, and employees.
  2. Understand your value. The CEO of a corporation is often the highest paid employee. That makes sense since they are responsible for the growth and value creation of the whole company. Tell yourself that every hour of your time is worth $300 or $400 or more. When faced with any new task, ask yourself if it is worth doing at that CEO rate. If not, hand it off to an employee or a part-time “gofer” that can run errands and complete less important tasks for you. There’s a great article in today’s Wall Street Journal (“Do You Know What Your Time Is Really Worth?”) about online services that calculate the value of a person’s time to help them make tradeoffs between which tasks to do and which tasks to outsource. I wish more business leaders would apply this kind of analysis when making decisions about there time usage and task prioritization.
  3. Focus on effectiveness. Many business owners feel that if they get a lot of items crossed off their “to do” list each day, they are begin productive and helping grow the business. In many cases, this focus on efficiency produces very little in terms of strategic change or growth. Being efficient means doing things right but being effective means focusing on the right things. As a business owner and CEO, you need to focus on the high impact, high importance activities: planning, managing, and cretaing a vision for the business.
  4. Daily and weekly planning. Spend quiet, uninterrupted time every day to define your top three strategic activities. Get away from the daily distractions and sit somewhere where you can review your long term goals and create a short list of things to do that will move your business closer to your ultimate vision. This daily planning time can be as little as 15 minutes to start but I wouldn’t be surprised if that grows to 30 or 60 minutes as you see the dramatic results you will achieve through this daily ritual.
  5. Find a role model. Do you know a business owner who you admire? Buy them a cup of coffee and spend some time learning how they run their business. You could also read articles and biographies about great business leaders. Always focus on learning how other successful business owners have grown their organizatons. Imitation is the highest form of flattery!
  6. Outsource the technical activities. Are you still doing your own bookkeeping? How about managing your payroll or social media? Hire outside resources to do the work that is not strategic in nature. Business owners often argue they don’t have the budget for outside resources but I am not suggesting hiring full-time employees to do this kind of work. A contract bookkeeper can be hired for a a few hours per week or month. The cost is negligable when you consider how many more proposals or sales you can consumate with the time you won’t be spending on bookkeeping. High school and college students can be hired to do office work at a very affordable rate and they would only need to work for a fewhours per week as well.
  7. Document repeatable processes. You must become the least important part of the daily operation of your business. Create written processes, checklists and systems that can be used by your employees to do the work the way you want it done. That way, you can check the quality when necessary but not have to do the work or re-do the work to get the results you expect.