In a world where we are constantly checking the to-do list and racing from one meeting to another, how do successful startup founders, entrepreneurs, and CEOs manage to stay focused and rapidly grow a business?
It's about knowing where to start by defining what the matters most to grow the business as quickly as possible, and center your efforts there.
Here are the five must-have skills every startup founder should hone:
If you don't have a vision for what you want your organization to achieve, it's going to take a miracle for your team to follow along on your journey. The vision must extend to every aspect of the company, from the branding and messaging to the product and team you hire.
Most importantly, the startup leader must live the vision. This starts with being crystal clear about the problem you're solving with your investors, customers and staff at every level.
Embody the vision and your team will follow. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is a great example of living out his vision. He's done a fabulous job building not only a transformational company but a category, too.
Once you have a vision for what you want to achieve, knowing how--and when--to raise money is critical to business-building. One of the biggest traps a startup leader can fall into is failing to recognize when their company is running out of money.
A CEO has to understand his company's burn rate in order to determine when it's going to need an influx of capital. Startup leaders should be checking their burn rates weekly, at least.
This is key: You do not want to raise money when you're broke because you lose your negotiating leverage with investors. CEOs who miss this point will burn out before they can extend their runways.
No one said this better than Jim Collins: Get the right people on the bus first. People is what companies are made of, not technology or processes.
Your people define your culture, and great people can be the difference between great companies and good companies. Wrong hires can literally be the death of certain companies as they could be a drain.
The biggest consideration when hiring is always fit. I've made the mistake of hiring people who look great on paper but didn't fit our culture. In retrospect, it would've been better to not hire those people at all.
Startup CEOs must emphasize culture first, and job title second. The reverse can be costly.
This is especially true for startup CEOs. You're being pulled in a hundred directions. Failing to recognize the importance of delighting rather than satisfying customers can be a death knell.
Selling product is crucial of course, but if the customer isn't successful, he or she will churn eventually. It's the responsibility of the startup CEO to ensure that the sales team understands not just what they're selling but how.
Are they selling features or value? Are they delighting customers? Are they proactive with them?
It's not about features and functions. Creating a meaningful experience can be a company's most important differentiator.
One of the key parts of being a startup leader is being fired up--so much so that because you're fired up, everyone around you feels your energy. This should come across every time you shake someone's hand, share a story, talk to a customer, meet a new employee or even send an email.
What matters is how much you believe in what you do. You can't fake inspiration.
Amazing leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali spent enormous amounts of time perfecting every word in their speeches and how they spoke those words because they knew they wanted to inspire people.
Just remember: You can't fake leadership. You have to have it in you, or you won't be respected or trusted as a leader.
To recap these five key areas of focus for startup leaders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs:
1. Vision - dream big, and share your dream with your team, investors, and customers
2. Funding - watch that burn rate! Know when to raise funds, or reign in spending
3. Hiring - bring on new team based on who they are, and not just job titles
4. Experience - surprise and delight all your customers (both internal and external)
5. Leadership - believe in what you do and others will too
By paying attention to these core skills, startup CEOs will be more prepared to weather the storms of competition, product issues, and unpredictable customer demand.