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Why the Best CEOs Are Also the Most Dispensable Ones

Pitch-your-own-invention company Quirky kicked off a new ad campaign with a video stressing how its leader is "The World's Least Important CEO."
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As a CEO, you should be delegating tasks to the point where you're almost irrelevant. You're not doing your job unless you're free to think about the company's vision and other big-picture issues. 

One leader who appears to be embracing this notion is Ben Kaufman, the founder of Quirky, a company that produces and brings to market consumer products submitted to its website by inventors and entrepreneurs. As part of his company's new three-month national ad campaign, Kaufman is starring in a video entitled "The World's Least Important CEO."

In the video, Kaufman is strapped to the front of a runaway train bulleting through a tunnel to demonstrate how little his presence matters to the work Quirky does each day. The narrator explains: "At Quirky, our products are invented by real people who submit their ideas through our website. So whether our CEO makes it or not, Quirky will continue to invent incredible new things."

Bret Kovacs, Quirky's head of community, tells AdWeek that the campaign is attempting to stress the company's process. Each Thursday employees, market experts, and the community of Quirky's website visitors vote on which products to develop. "With who Quirky is, what better way to highlight how unimportant our CEO is? The campaign highlights how important our community is to us," Kovacs says.

In another video campaign, Kaufman is rubbing the feet of Garthen Leslie, a "regular guy" who developed the Aros smart window air conditioner with Quirky and a partnership with General Electric. During the spot, a narrator says: "At Quirky, real people invent all of our products. Ben just runs the company."

Quirky's campaigns are just getting started, AdWeek reports. On Saturday, Quirky kicked off a partnership in which customers in New York City can purchase an Aros air conditioner through Uber's app, and Quirky-branded ice cream trucks will deliver it.

At the helm of all the promotions is Kaufman--the disposable, unimportant, replaceable CEO. Clearly he is on to something. During Inc.'s 2013 GrowCo conference, Sir Richard Branson, the founder of more than 400 companies under the Virgin umbrella, told Inc. Editor-In-Chief Eric Schurenberg about how he delegates his job functions:

"If you've got a business and have been building it for four or five years, you need to find someone else to run it on a day-to-day basis. Don't try to always sit in the driving seat yourself, or be the top person in the building. If you can be brave enough to find someone to run the day-to-day and even give them your title, you should stay back and work from home for a while so all the nitty-gritty daily issues get dealt with by the other person and you can think about the bigger picture issues. ... If you put the right person on top, the company will thrive."

So, if you want your company to be successful, you had better start working toward becoming irrelevant. 

Inc. Live: Sir Richard Branson - Think About the Big Picture

Richard Branson says to think about the big picture, you have to delegate the nitty gritty tasks to someone you trust.

IMAGE: Courtesy Company
Last updated: Jun 2, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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