What does the CEO do, anyway?!

Sometimes we elevate our posts above the necessity for work.  CEOs in small companies need not try and emulate their peers, but focus on rolling up the sleeves as opposed to piling up the reports.

Sometimes we elevate our posts above the necessity for work. CEOs in small companies need not try and emulate their peers, but focus on rolling up the sleeves as opposed to piling up the reports.

What do CEOs do?  Honestly.  What do they do?  I see so many companies that are not big enough for a whole host of chief executives, VPs, Directors, etc., yet they have a “Chief” of all those executives, and I wonder as I watch them throughout the week, “What the heck is that CEO spending his/her time on?”  Ready to grow,  they often go hire a VP, Sales and a VP, Marketing and a VP, IT / CIO, VP / CFO and a COO and all those guys end up being 1/5th – /10th of the business, and if all the members of this team are taking care of the work, then what in the world is the CEO doing?  What they ought to be doing is working, but what they end up doing is sticking their nose in everyone’s business, making decisions that aren’t theirs to make and messing up the work.

Look CEOs, when you have layers of management stacked on top of a workforce, then the CEO has a full time job doing things like meeting with his reports, giving them the air-cover they need for their stewardships, checking alignment with vision and strategy and continuing to build the Sr. team.  But when you are in the 80 – 95% of the other companies out there, your job is to get business in the door, and too many of you are simply not doing it. Yes, I know you need to massage the board, manage key stakeholder relationships, etc., but what is happening is you have guys like CMOs that you keep kicking out every 18 months because frankly, you don’t know what the heck you are doing and you have abdicated your job over to them.

I know a CEO of a tech company that has vision, passion and knows how to close deals and build relationships in a multitude of channels.  So, what does he do?  He hires a VP of sales.  Now, when they have weekly sales meetings, the CEO is in there, asking all the questions, driving the meeting and essentially, being the VP of Sales.  What does the VP of Sales do?  Tells him to, “Let me do what you hired me to do and stay out of it”.  Good move VP, Sales, I’d tell him that to.  So the CEO now spends half his energy biting his tongue and the other half… elsewhere, out of the office – I don’t know what he’s doing.

Finally, after sales declined and management overhead went up, it came time to say, “Listen, you are the CEO, that means that you are in charge of sales, and quite frankly, you are the guy who should be leading sales.  This company isn’t big enough to have all this extra weight.  You should be selling and leading this organization with vision and passion.  Let a sales director do your training, etc.  But you go and close deals.  If you don’t want to lead sales, then get a territory and work under him for cryin’ out loud.”  And of course, nothing happened.  Layoffs came and went.  And came and went.  And came and went.

And just recently, they let go of their VP, Sales and now the CEO is leading it and selling it. Now I know what the CEO does every day; He doesn’t just worry about revenue, he helps bring it in the door.

Same with Marketing. I know another CEO that just let go of his VP, Marketing, and while I could go into all the reasons why, the truth is that the CEO ought to be the VP, Marketing and he did himself and the old VP a disservice by layering someone where they didn’t belong.  Now they are probably going to go after a new VP, Marketing, but what this CEO doesn’t know yet is that what he really wants are a couple of marketing directors reporting to him and giving him all the information that he wants.  But of course, this CEO came from a $500 million company, and now he’s running a $27 million company with only a couple of million in profits.  This isn’t the big corporation anymore – this is time to get off your rear end, out of meetings and start rolling up your sleeves and doing the work.

Look, this is just my opinion, but I think it comes down to this:  If you find your company needs more revenues, really needs them, and you are sitting around analyzing reports and talking to the board and trying to figure out how you are going to do it – then you may be the wrong person for the job.  Now is the time to pitch-in and bring revenue in, not manage the people who do.  When you have enough revenues that you don’t need to be in an urgent and panic state of operations, then you back up and pull out your Mont Blanc and figure out which documents need to be signed and where you’ll put your washroom with the golden key.  Until then, win business or drive revenue.

A great business man that once took me to the bank and the wood shed at the same time, taught me a valuable lesson:  Your first priority every day is creating revenue today.  Your second priority is creating revenue for tomorrow.  Your third priority is positioning the business for revenue creation beyond today and tomorrow.  The last priority is to make sure the necessary but non-value added things you need to keep your doors open get done.  Anything after that is a hobby.

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“We just can’t seem to keep our CMO around”

CMOs, the new term of the last decade for marketing careers, seem to keep getting displaced. I think the main reason why is simply that the CEO doesn’t know what to do with a CMO, when many of the things that the CEO is looking to the CMO for are things the CEO should be accountable for themselves.

Regardless, here are a couple of links to some articles that I think cover the topic well, and you ought to be familiar with them.  If you know of more, let me know and I will get them up here so we all can benefit.

The Rise and Fall of the CMO

The Shrinking Tenure of CMOs

The Changing Influence of the CMO