The job description for CEOs is simple on paper. Lead your company to success.
But, as any CEO will tell you, it's anything but simple. There are no manuals for how to handle the curveballs that get thrown your way. When you have so many people to answer to--board members, investors, customers, and employees--it's easy to lose your way. That's why so many founders, the ones with the big idea, don't last long as CEOs.
I'm lucky to count myself among a dwindling group of founder/CEOs still at the helm of a growing public tech company. To put it into perspective, the average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is about seven years, and the average life expectancy of a public company is less than 10. Needless to say, I've been on quite a journey and learned some important lessons along the ride.
While we are entering a generation where we see entrepreneurs "make it" with their first big idea (e.g., Zuckerberg), the reality is that most leaders try, fail, and fail again before tasting success. Before I started LivePerson 20 years ago, I had already started (and lost) one company, but without that failure, I never would have found success.
As LivePerson is now celebrating its 20th year in business, I wanted to share the 20 most critical lessons learned that brought us here today.
1. A company's purpose has to be greater than the product or service it's selling.
2. Meaningful connections are everything in business. Taking the time to personally connect can significantly impact how you work with your employee, customer, or investor for the better.
3. Losing a big customer isn't the end of the world and sometimes is necessary. It can spur you onto even greater things.
4. Learn to find the value in failure. Instead of defeat, failure is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and create a better outcome.
5. Don't obsess about the stock price. Just focus on delivering value to your customers.
6. Complacency is a disease. Even when things are good, motivate yourself to constantly evolve and change. Standing still is what kills a company.
7. Growth and innovation happens when you take risks, so it can be a good sign if you're feeling uncomfortable.
8. Never follow. Copying and one-upping will lead to a lifetime of being compared to other companies, so create your own journey. Invent your own category.
9. Take a competitor's eye to your offerings and build the product that could kill your business.
10. If you're in a rut, "fire" yourself and treat the next day like day one of a whole new, better, you.
11. Never let anything get in the way of a good night's sleep. True success is a long game; to go the distance, you need to reset and refocus every day.
12. A good leader creates other leaders. He doesn't "manage" his employees: he empowers them.
13. A strong culture is what will sustain a company -- not just high growth and high profits.
14. Company culture is more than great perks and a cool office -- it's the how and why you do what you do.
15. Kill the corner office. Sitting in an open format will improve your work culture and dynamic dramatically.
16. Keep good ideas in the company by investing in your employees as entrepreneurs and owners. You never know where the next great idea will come from.
17. Finding the right employee is not unlike marriage. You need to share the same values to make it work.
18. If you find yourself talking about someone's character more than the quality of their work, then it's time to evaluate whether they're a right fit for the company.
19. Don't hire people whom you can control, but those whom you trust to help you build an outstanding company.
20. The most valuable employees are the ones that have more than the right skills for the job. They have the will to do the job with passion.
Whether you're just starting out in business or already running a company of any size, I hope the lessons here can serve you and help you in your journey. What are some important things you've learned in your life as an entrepreneur? One never stops learning, so please share in the comments below.