What it takes to start a company is not what it takes to scale a company. In fact, the mindset and skills that made you successful as a founder can work against you as you step into the role of CEO. Your strategies and your focus need to change, and if you fail to make those changes, you'll hinder the development of both you and your business.
As a strategic coach, here is what I zero in on when working with Founders versus working with CEOs. Each role has a unique and different area of focus and skill set that makes it successful. Through coaching, I help my clients identify the role they need to be in, based on the stage of the company's development.
What makes a great founder...
1. Finding unmet needs in the market
To start a business, you need to find that unmet need--the one that causes a lot of problems. Great founders can hone in on problems that haven't been solved well, and when solved will generate value.
2. Developing early solutions
Once you find a problem, you need to develop a solution. This could be either a product or service, but it needs to directly address the problem in a way that is truly a solution in your customer's eyes. The best way to know you're onto something is if people are willing to part with their hard-earned money.
3. Defining a clear vision
You must see into the future and paint a vivid picture of a better version of the world that you see. Not only will this drive your own passion and motivation, but it will also help people get on board and drive engagement within the company.
4. Selling to customers right away
Good founders might not know the latest sales tools and techniques, they are natural storytellers and highly persuasive. As a founder, one of your core jobs is to meet with the right prospects and convince them to buy what you have to offer.
5. Securing early-stage investors
Startup capital is key to a healthy launch. Getting money from friends and family, angel investors, and venture capitalists is one of your top tasks. Knowing how much you need, what you're going to do with it, and who to get it from is key.
6. Recruiting founding team members
Finally, you must build the initial founding team with the right people and put them in the right seats. And while skills and experience are critical factors, so is getting the right culture and core values. At this stage, one bad apple can be disastrous.
What makes a great CEO...
1. Developing market segments and channels
Once you have traction and your business is growing, one of your key tasks is to identify the best segments to sell to and what channels to sell through. By slicing and dicing data and looking at who buys at a good price, who is easy to serve, and who promotes you in the market, you ensure that your company continues to make progress.
2. Refining and optimizing products/services
With a product or service successfully in the market, your job is to ensure it is continuously improved and optimized. As CEO, when you improve the value you deliver to customers, while also looking for ways to remove waste that doesn't add value, you will drive growth.
3. Setting strategy and key milestones
Once you have a foothold in the market, the CEO's job is to plot the course for growth and success through strategy and focused execution. Defining your strategic position and articulating the key operational milestones for getting there is your responsibility.
4. Developing marketing and a scalable sales process
While early sales are opportunistic and ad hoc, developing a defined and repeatable sales process will be key to scaling the business. As CEO, you need to put these in place and ensure they are being followed.
5. Managing investors and the board of directors
Investors need to be informed and managed. They also need to be leveraged for insights, contacts, expertise, and resources. A good CEO leverages their board for the success of their company.
6. Organizing your team and developing your culture
Rather than directly recruiting individuals, a CEO needs to create a people system that will serve the future vision of the company and a culture that attracts and retains the right people.
While these are not all of the differences between a founder and a CEO, they are some of the most important ones. While nobody goes to sleep a founder and wakes up a CEO, making the transition quickly and efficiently can help fuel your company's growth and evolution.