What Should You Spend Your Time On As CEO?

"I don't want to change. I want all of you to change."

Why do you have to work on just the product side or the business side? Maybe you have skills in both areas?

I certainly did.

I came up with the initial product vision for the company. It was the blueprint we followed for the first year of the company’s life.

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But I had no ability to implement the product vision on my own. None. Zero. Engineers were required to execute the vision.

More importantly, we needed a kick-ass VP Engineering to run, manage, and build our engineering team. Enter Jeroen, our VP Engineering.


You still need to stay involved in the product side even if you’ve got a great VP Engineering.


Jeroen built an incredibly strong engineering team. But that didn’t mean I stepped away from the product side completely. It just meant that I could rely on Jeroen run and build the engineering organization.

I still attended the weekly engineering team when I could. And I still ran our “crazy idea”meeting (our new product idea meeting).

The crazy idea meeting was my favorite meeting, and I had a blast hearing the great ideas our team was coming up with. I also contributed to the meeting as well.


Most CEOs I know, and most CEOs I work with are involved in both sides of their businesses.


One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is not being hands-on.

The two areas I see this in are sales and engineering.

Too often I see the engineering centric CEO that is unwilling (read: scared) to jump in and drive sales themselves. A startup CEO not driving sales themselves is, more often than not, a fatal error.

For example, you see the engineering centric CEO farm out the selling to someone outside the company with “experience” selling. Here’s what’s real, the person does have ten to twenty years of experience selling.


Ask yourself, “Why would a really good salesperson with all that experience work with an unknown startup?


The answer is that you’re not going to get someone good with experience to sell for you when you’re starting out. I’m sorry, but that’s not happening.

I just started working with someone who made this mistake. The experienced salesperson had developed barely any leads.

It was obvious the salesperson had to go. I asked the CEO, “Why haven't you fired him yet?”

The CEO answered, “I’m thinking about it, but I’m worried about what will I do once I fire him.”

I answered, “You’ve got to do the selling.”


The first immutable law of running a startup: You need to be involved.


There’s a great book on marketing called, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”. It’s a great bible for marketing.

The subtitle of the book is appropriate for the first immutable law of running a startup, being involved. That subtitle reads:

Violate them at your own risk.

It’s the same with running a startup. If you’re not involved in all aspects of running you’re company, you may lose your company.

So the answer isn’t focus on the product side or the business side. You need to do both to win.

For more, read: 7 Survival Tips For Startup CEOs


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