In the excellent article, "What Sets Successful CEOs Apart" by Elena Lytkina Botelho, Kim Rosenkoetter Powell, Stephen Kincaid, and Dina Wang in the May-June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, the authors site 4 key traits that mark the success of CEOs appointed by boards.
For many smaller companies and start-ups, though, the selection or rise, to CEO or President of the company may not be as formal as those in the article's study. It would seem though, that the observations are still valid and valuable.
So, I would point out that not only the observations about successes are worth noting, but also the advice, buried at the end of the article, about the biggest failure made by CEOs:
The single most common mistake among first-time CEOs — committed by a surprisingly high 60% of them—was not getting the right team in place quickly enough. For CEOs choosing talent, the stakes are high and the misses obvious. The successful ones move decisively to upgrade talent. -"What Sets Successful CEOs Apart"
So many Start-ups and Entrepreneurial companies have these 'first-time CEOs.' The inclination is to do it all in-house...that is, after all, how the business got to be, well, a business instead of just a hobby. There is a time, however, when dedicated resources need to be brought in to help get the organization to the next stage.
I've witnessed companies which have tried to have their sales, product team or front-desk admin do their Marketing. It's a haphazard, inconsistent and ineffective set of activity - without focus or momentum. In other words, it's a distraction for the employees now tasked with these additional duties and it's confusing to the would-be clients/customers, who are exposed to conflicting and incomplete messaging that can turn them off of your brand.
Trying to go "cheap" and not bring in professional marketing talent is short sited. Or, trying to go on the cheap and get low-cost, low-experienced people to do the level of strategy, plans and processes that advancing your business really requires. It's the strategy, more than the activity (or tactics) that really matters:
- whom are you targeting
- why are they your target market
- how does this fit into the business objectives
- how do you evaluate if this is a profitable investment
- what data will we want/need to track
- what are the trends that we want to watch
If you are serious about growing your business, it is worth investing in quality talent who can get the fundamentals in place. Depending on your business, rate of growth and business plan, you may need these more expensive resources for a time, to be replaced with lower-priced talent for the long-term maintenance...or these may become your most valuable assets, who keep accelerating the business and solutions for long-term growth.
Anyone who accepts the responsibility of leading a company is someone who wants to do it well and to see the business succeed. Taking advice is cheaper than failure. According to the researchers, it looks like "penny wise and pound foolish" is advice a first-time CEO should take.