7 Key Strengths for Startup CEOs
Regardless of how disruptive your startup concept is, the path to startup success is long and difficult. Over 20 percent of startups fail within their first year of business in Australia — 60 percent will fail within their first three years of operation. In order to succeed as a startup CEO, a startup idea and a business plan is not enough. The level of success achieved by a startup is determined by the people that drive it. Modern leaders must possess a wide range of skills and strengths in order to grow and scale their business in the competitive startup environment. Successful startup CEOs come from an extremely wide variety of backgrounds across a vast spectrum of expertise. All successful startup CEOs, however, share a series of identical traits that help them drive innovation, cultivate company culture, inspire their teams, unlock collaborative power, and identify then grasp critical opportunities as they become available. What strengths do startup CEOs need to succeed, however?
Managing communication between key stakeholders is a highly important task for any startup CEO. Communications between strategic partners, team members, investors, and vendors must operate smoothly and without friction. Startup CEOs face a variety of challenges and must take on many different roles during the early stage of a business. A startup CEO must be able to operate as the foundation of communication between different parties — mistakes or miscommunication at critical stages can cause overwhelming problems. The approach taken by a startup CEO to communications within a startup environment sets a long-term standard for a new business, establishing a clearly-defined culture. By focusing on clear and effective communication from the earliest stages of startup operation, a startup CEO can prevent problems before they occur.
The CEO defines the business case and plan for a new startup, inspiring stakeholders to perform to the best of their ability. Leading from the front is one of the most important tasks for a startup founder — it’s important that a CEO takes the position of a strategic leader. As the strategist guiding the development and future growth of a company, the CEO must direct individuals and team members in order to manage three distinct types of effort. Firstly, a CEO must align, inspire, and direct a team. Secondly, the CEO must develop the structure and organizational capability to meet customer or client requirements, such as securing financing, quality control, and personnel management. Lastly, a CEO must execute the business plan in a manner that captures opportunities while minimizing strategic risks.
Any successful startup CEO must possess the capacity to provide both internal and external vision for the business. Remaining grounded and maintaining a contextual perspective of the current status in the marketplace is a key characteristic of an effective CEO. The external vision of a CEO must integrate market actions and maintain awareness of the position of the startup in the marketplace as the business grows. Internally, a CEO must oversee operational structures and ensure they are running smoothly, while setting realistic goals and expectations that reflect external observations. The process of maintaining perspective as a CEO is a balancing act that demands the ability to internalize the possibility of failure and anticipate obstacles while sustaining the momentum of a business throughout the growth process.
Observation and perspective work hand in hand with strong listening skills. The ability to listen to key stakeholders in order is a key CEO competency that drives the success of a business — CEO alertness is a key differentiator between successful and unsuccessful CEOs. Strong startup CEOs must possess deep knowledge of their business. Unlike large-scale organizations in which multiple subject matter experts are able to contribute to the decision making process, startups operate with limited personnel. A successful startup CEO must therefore leverage the information provided to them by both internal team members and external resources such as legal or accounting advisors. A startup CEO that is able to listen to and take direction or advice from key advisors accesses perspective and knowledge that would otherwise be unavailable, assisting them in anticipating obstacles and prioritizing functions or tasks that must be actioned as soon as possible.
The CEO of a startup is, in many cases, the founder in addition to the product developer and marketing lead. Working as a creative innovator or engineer is insufficient, however — a strong startup CEO must also function as the best-performing salesperson of the startup and the products or services it offers. Successful startup CEOs work as the human sources lead, hiring the best possible team members to fit company culture. A CEO must work as a CMO, proselytizing the business they have founded and catalyzing market interest. In addition to these roles, a startup CEO also takes on the role of a chief fundraiser, developing the perfect pitch to deliver to potential investors. Before a successful startup founder can perform efficiently in any of these tasks, however, they must develop the ability to build rapport with any stakeholder or party regardless of the role they are filling. Sales ability is a powerful tool that can push a startup towards success.
Startup CEOs juggle many different roles and responsibilities. All of these roles, however, can be summarized as the role of a moneymaker. Resourcefulness inspires confidence within a startup team, allowing the CEO to set the direction and tone for all major decisions and events in the future of a startup. In practical terms, the CEO of a startup must perform the following tasks as the key moneymaker for a business: ● Define the company strategy and communicate it in an efficient manner ● Identify, hire, and retain the best talent possible, read some hiring guidance here● Ensure the company finances are running smoothly Other tasks can be delegated to startup team members, but if a CEO fails at the tasks outlined above it’s unlikely that they are operating as a resourceful leader.
No startup owner launches a business expecting overnight success. Patience is one of the most important strengths a startup CEO can possess. Shifting towards a long-term goal-oriented perspective rather than a short-term venture prevents startup CEOs from viewing their business as a success or failure and instead focuses on goal achievement and results. An impatient startup CEO that constantly focuses on short-term results will quickly lose context and perspective. Maintaining a patient mindset allows a CEO to view challenges and obstacles as milestones and skill upgrade opportunities rather than disasters.
In order to function as a strong leader in today’s startup environment, you’ll need to take control of your startup by applying a diverse range of strengths and key competencies. Leading from the front with an effective communication strategy backed up by listening skills and perspective will allow a startup CEO to function as an efficient salesperson and resource manager for their business, catalyzing growth.
If you’re currently in the process of launching your startup, reach out to Fullstack today for comprehensive guidance on the best way to structure your business, remain tax-effective, and achieve success.
Stuart Reynolds is the founder of Fullstack Advisory, an award-winning accounting firm for businesses leading the future. He is a 3rd generation accountant who specialises in tech companies, crypto and entrepreneurs.
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