Selena Cuffe’s company, Heritage Link Brands, imports wine from South Africa, exclusively from vineyards owned by members of the indigenous black population. If Cuffe could improve in one area, she would like to bolster her delegation skills. “When you come into a company as the CEO, you can identify the existing experts,” she told Inc. in 2007. “But as someone who founds a business, who helps to build the organization and identifies all the human capital and the resources that go into taking the business forward, it’s very difficult to let go. To me, delegation is all about feeling comfortable with the fact that people are going to do things better than you, because that’s why you hired them.”
Twitter is one of the breakout business success stories of the past few years, but building an organization to capitalize on widespread success can be tricky, according to co-founder Evan Williams. He told Inc. in 2008 that he would like to improve his ability to assess people, including potential employees, more accurately. “I’ve always had a tendency to be much more optimistic about people than I should be,” he said. “I’d like to be a little shrewder.”
“The skill I would like to improve has to do with managing the board and our investors,” says Tan Le, CEO of Emotiv, a San Francisco company that is creating innovative gaming technology. “I think the board and the relationship that you have with yours is very important. Most of my time is spent building my company, not just my product. A lot of that has to do with team building, the culture of the company, trust, and good relations internally and externally. One of our challenges has been that most of the members of my board are located overseas. So we don’t have as many people on the ground here, feeling the vibe at the company. Maintaining the communication channels with the board, across that distance, is very important and something I would like to work on.”
Paul Graham of Y Combinator, a group that invests in start-ups, has a good investment track record--but he wishes he were even more astute when it comes to picking entrepreneurs to back. “Y Combinator is pretty good at picking start-ups by comparison to most other people,” he told Inc. recently. “But they’re wretched and we’re merely bad. I would like to advance from bad to mediocre.”
Zappos founder Tony Hsieh is a nice guy and an accomplished entrepreneur, but he’s not a natural backslapper. So, to become more sociable and put business partners and employees at ease, he told Inc. he would like to develop a better sense of humor. “I’ve been researching the science of humor, and I think it can be learned like any skill,” he said.
Andy Taylor, CEO of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, is a hard-charging CEO, and he knows that his brisk schedule can sometimes wear out his staff. So what would he like to work on? “Patience,” he told Inc. in 2007. “There’s an expression around here called 'Taylor Time.' If you have an appointment with me, you better be 10 minutes early.”