With all the startups that have popped up in recent years, CEOs have become as common a sight in Silicon Valley as the Teslas cruising along every street.
But while CEOs are a dime a dozen, a good CEO is a rare breed. Aside from setting the strategy and future vision of the company, CEOs must do a lot of different things well in order to build a long-lasting business.
We sorted through a Quora post titled “How difficult is it to be a CEO?” and put together some of the best answers that explain what makes the CEO job so challenging.
There are more scars than trophies.
“CEO is a thankless job, there are more scars than trophies. You must motivate yourself, your employees and partners no matter the financial obstacles and ensure the integrity of the business. Praise must always be distributed for great work and you personally accept all errors in strategy, judgment or performance.” — Christopher Justice, Chief Marketing Officer, Magnolia International
You have to wear many hats and figure out which ones to try on.
“There are always a million things you can be doing as a CEO, and so a lot of my time has been spent .. trying to figure out what is worth spending my time on. Every month or two, I take on a new role, and then I try to figure out if that role is vital to our company, and how to structure the role, so that I can hand it off to another member of the company, and look for a new hat to try on.” — Lauren Kay, Founder of Dating Ring (YC W’14) and SmartSitting
You have to be able to make the big decisions and take heavy risks.
“I am working to build a relationship with larger clients and in order to do so there is some heavy risk involved due to the capital required to partner. A CEO is always weighing risk and evaluating decisions in order to make the correct one, it can be very stressful at times.” — Usman Majeed, Founder @TechTwurl and @Protection
“At any point in a company’s life, being the CEO, is different from every person who did it before. Everyday is unique, and therefore unscriptable. There is no universal playbook, even for a given company. So you cannot be trained to be a CEO.” — Justin Spratt, Founded Web tech incubator, angel investor, advisor, mentor
You need to learn how to make as few decisions as possible.
“Great CEOs should be pushing most of the company’s decisions to other people in the organization. The CEO should try to never be a bottleneck for decisions. This frees up the CEO’s time to focus on the most important decisions (and has the added benefit of growing people in the organization because of the trust that’s put on them).” — Auren Hoffman, former CEO of LiveRamp
You need to earn the respect of your employees.
“The hardest part of being a CEO is convincing everyone that you should be the CEO. I don’t mean getting the job in the first place, though that is hard in itself. I mean that in a 30 person company, or a 30,000 person company, there are 30 or 30,000 people who have an opinion on what the CEO should do in any situation…You need to listen to them (that’s why you hired them), but then make a decision (that’s why you were hired), and convince them not only to follow it, but to convince their teams to follow it, even if they still think their idea was better than the one you chose.” — Richard Russell, Started two startups, and worked in one other startup
You need to keep tabs on your budget and spending.
“Make sure there’s money in the bank – with enough to provide a runway to execute the company vision. Not many people can do this.” — Rob Hill, Dolphin speech therapist
You need to set the right work culture.
“…the CEO should lead their executives, employees and partners toward a healthy culture. And culture is the hardest thing to manage in business.” — Shelley Steigerwald, Marketing, Strategy, Branding + Startups
You need to be a great salesperson.
“As a CEO, you have to be able to sell. Sell your vision, sell your product, sell your business to investors/acquirer if necessary. If you can’t articulate what you are about as a business, person, product, you shouldn’t be a CEO. Some of the best hires I got are random people I ran across and I decided to pitch them to join us, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with them (these are impressively smart people).” — Anonymous
You need to communicate well and motivate your team.
“I’ve successfully chaired many meetings now where I’ve been aware that I lack the specific knowledge of every person in the room – but my job isn’t always to know; it’s to bring information together to solve problems that enable the business’ objectives to be met as effectively as possible, without compromising any of our core beliefs.” — Dominic Tyler-Lovett
You have to be technically savvy.
“A CEO has to understand technical issues while developing the product and still excel at it by providing viable solutions as per the situation allows (chances are there is no CTO or CPO or shared technical responsibilities in a startup).” — Altamash Jiwani