Are you the Chief Visionary Officer? The Chief Sharpshooter? The first step in building a great business is having a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and focusing on what you do best.
I often ask entrepreneur CEOs the following question: What is your responsibility as the person in charge of running your business? This is often met with a blank stare. Other times I get a vague response, something like, “Well, I do a lot of things. I guess my job is to keep the company or project moving forward.” These are not useful answers. To proactively drive your company forward, entrepreneurs need these 6 must-have skills:
1. Define Your Role
Before you assemble your team, the first thing you must do is get absolutely clear on what your role and day-to-day responsibilities will be leading the company. Knowing what to focus on will also help ensure you’re not spending your time in other people’s business and getting in the way of their doing their jobs.
2. Set the Vision
As the leader of your company, you are responsible for the vision and the direction of the business. You have to look at the horizon and know where you want to take your company. Your vision is a measurable three-, five-, or ten-year view of where you want to be. I recommend starting with the sales and profits you hope to achieve and then working backward to see what it will take to make those happen. You need clear drivers, processes, and a form of accountability to manage your company’s progress toward your vision.
3. Take Charge of the Finances
The CEO has the ultimate responsibility for cash. Wait, you ask, isn’t watching the cash the job of the CFO, accountant, or bookkeeper? No. For any company, cash and access to cash are the lifeblood, the air you breathe. If you run out of cash, you’re done. You’d be surprised at how even a company with high profit margins that is growing quickly can run short of cash. You may have to use up cash to add to your working capital or to build up inventory or to finance your accounts receivable. Managing the monetary ebb and flow is ultimately the CEO’s responsibility because it is so vital to the health and survival of the business.
4. Be a Team Leader
It is your job to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs at the right time.
As the business grows, needs change. The people who got you to one threshold may not be the people you need to take you to the next level. The CEO, hard-hearted though it may seem, has to be dispassionate about hiring and firing. If you can afford only two salespeople, they need to be the two best salespeople you can afford.
5. Be a Relationship Builder
You are responsible for key relationships. You have to “own” the key relationships in the company, such as those with bankers, key vendors, the most important customers, and shareholders. Any outsider who wields the power to alter the future of your company—by ordering, selling, lending, whatever—needs access to you (and you to them). You want them to be comfortable calling you up at any hour of the day or night. This is very important because too often business owners hand over these relationships to key employees.
6. Continue Learning
Be diligent about keeping up with happenings in your industry, with your competitors, and with your customers. Go to conferences, talk to consultants, and get to know your rivals. Use tools like Google Alerts and LinkedIn to automatically get news of what’s happening in your field and outside it. Read trade blogs and e-zines. Look to learn—as well as sell—when you’re out there, whether it’s one-on-one or at a convention with thousands.
Ultimately, your role is to be the Chief Energizing Officer. You must communicate what is going on to the rest of the team, explaining the company’s results and getting employees on board with the vision for the future.