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Behind The Silk Veil, The Real Role Of A “CEO”

"With great power comes great responsibility" ~Voltaire

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It’s natural to wonder what it’s like to fly a plane if you have never sat in the cockpit.

It’s also quite natural as an employee to wonder what it is like to run the company. Different types of people think different kinds of thoughts when it comes to entrepreneurship. Some respect the hard work and realize that the man in charge probably lives a very stressful life, and some think how great it would be to be “the boss.” Not everyone can handle being the boss, and being the boss is often not all it’s cracked up to be.

We all have had various bosses in our lives, and typically the bad bosses break out like this:

1) aloof

2) annoying

3) arrogant

4) bad listener

5) dumb

6) emotional

7) incompetent

8) liar

9) mean

10) unfair

Over ”1/3rd of employees do not like their bosses” and 60% say their boss has damaged their self esteem.

If you look at the bosses your respected, it usually is because they are:

1) brilliant

2) calm

3) courteous

4) fair

5) honest

6) respectful

Do you know anyone who likes to be micro managed? I don’t. The number one reason BY FAR people leave jobs is because they ”don’t feel appreciated and don’t like their boss”. In a nutshell, poor management causes employee loss. With ”the cost of losing an employee”being estimated at 1.5 to 2 times base salary, it’s important to understand the price of being bad at management.

It took 18 years for me to take the leap into business ownership. I was an “employee” from the time I was 13 years old until I was 31. When I joined partners in the world of banking I was not the CEO, I ran sales/business development. The year was 2005 when I bought into a small existing “state chartered” mortgage bank with money I had earned and entered the realm of business ownership. We grew to 68 locations and 998 full time employees. I quickly realized I had 998 bosses with 68 direct reports (which is way too many). The CEO of that company was and is a friend. Behind the scenes there were many situations where he sacrificed his own wealth, health and well-being so he would not have to fire people. His personal life was non-existent. By the time the 2008 crash came we were fighting for our corporate lives. No salaries were taken so we could pay our underwriters and crucial employees. Expensive cars and houses were replaced with much lesser versions.

The only employee who was aware of these sacrifices was the company accountant who ran payroll. A few others may have had an inkling, but the appearance of being stable was way more important than letting employees peak behind the curtain. The last thing we needed was a mass exodus because of a lack of job security.

I learned quite a few lessons over the next 3 years of navigating the bank out of a financial crisis and into profitability. One of the first and most important lessons was that to be “the boss” meant to be anything but that.

For those of you who are interested in the title, let me be real and pull back that veil so there is an accurate view of what that means. Do you want the power? Do you want the expensive cars and the ability to yell at people? If this is you, the CEO job is not for you. Being a CEO doesn’t mean people work for you, it means you work for everyone around you. With the title comes great responsibility. That responsibility is for every employee you hire and every decision you make. Each decision can and will impact lives. The CEO title carries a burden with it. One of those burdens is that very few people in your life will actually be rooting for you to succeed.

When I started Texting Base the reality of what it meant to be the “CEO” was very clear. I no longer matter at all, everyone else, starting with the company, comes before me. Every customer comes before me. Every vendor comes before me. Every contractor comes before me. If it comes down to paying our hosting fee or getting some food, I’m not eating. The CEO of a small company is the last to get a paycheck and the first to give up a paycheck.

Building a ”business texting platform” requires highly skilled people who are experts at what they do. Anything less, and the entire project is a bust. There is a reason 2 out of 3 software projects fail and it’s not too dissimilar to why most bands break up. The money is not rolling in and the team of individual talents and personalities don’t work together toward a common goal. If you want to look into what it takes to ”start a software business” there it is.

Your job as the CEO is to keep the morale up and keep the boat above water and moving. That is a pride swallowing, egoless and thankless venture. Your thanks will come only when and if you build a profitable company, and even then you need to plan for the rainy day that is all but guaranteed.

So what does a CEO do? Does a CEO sit in an office all day? Does a CEO just have meetings all day? The truth for almost every startup is that the CEO wears as many hats as possible because affording help is not in the cards.

So the roles you assume depend on what you can and more importantly, “can’t” do. The first thing you have to do is identify your weaknesses. Your weaknesses can be areas you are not skilled in but will be required to finish your project. Your weaknesses can also be personality traits. If your personality weakness is “communication” then you will need someone to complement your handicap.

My skill weaknesses were programming and User Interface (UI) development.

I don’t have a glaring personality weakness, just a lot of areas I need to continue to improve on. In order to account for my areas of weakness, at least one UI person, a front-end programmer and a back-end programmer needed to be identified. Once those three resources were secured, here is what was left:

• Accounting

• Affiliate Program Management

• Blog Writing

• Business Development

• Client Relations

• Conflict Resolution

• Controller

• Creating Company Culture

• Customer Support

• Email Administration

• Event Planner

• Human Resources (HR)

• Legal

• Marketing

• Mentor

• Networking

• Payroll

• Product Management

• Project Management

• Public Relations

• Raising Money

• Recruiting

• Reports

• Risk Management

• Sales

• Selecting the Board of Directors

”SEO Specialist”

• Social Media

• Technical Writing

• Therapist

”Training”

• Vendor Management

• Video Production

”Writing Explainer Videos”

• Writing Web Content

That’s 35 unique roles, responsibilities, tasks or talents. Here is an impartial list of ”CEO responsibilities”.

In fairness, many of these tasks do not occur daily. We have a few attorneys we work with for contract and patent work. We have an accountant to manage the books. Selecting these vendors, getting them set up and engaging them definitely takes time, but I don’t work with our team to write legal contracts every day.

Many of the words listed above have sub-categories. For example HR includes hiring, firing and employment law.

I do not manage the day-to-day development of the product. Our CTO, Alex Shaffer, does that. I am blessed to have talented partners who execute their roles flawlessly.

What the CEO does is set the vision of the company and work to get there. The work to get there can be anything and everything.

The roles above are not exhaustive. In a small company, a CEO may even cook and deliver food to keep morale up. Long hours of staring at code on multi-year projects can start to wear on everyone mentally after some time. If getting a few warm meals delivered to your staff keeps them happy, then either do it or don’t be surprised when they aren’t as productive. Motivating staff is definitely in the job description, and that does not mean treating people poorly.

Look through the list of job duties and think about your team. Your list will likely be different than my list, but if you are starting a company and you are in charge, the list will be undoubtedly long. If your list is not long, you must have a lot of money!

So no…the role of the CEO is not to boss people around. Being in charge is NOTHING like most people think it is. If controlling your own destiny is what you want to do and you take the step into starting a company, the reality is you have to be willing to give 100% and expect nothing in return. You can be selfish with your life goals, but not when it comes to taking care of your customers and those who trust you to take care of their livelihoods.

Entrepreneurship is a journey like no other. You will grow along the way and learn some good lessons. When you peel back the silk veil and show what a CEO really is at its core, it’s a responsibility that is not for everyone. For those who take the plunge and do so for the right reasons, the sky is the limit and the fruits of those risks are hard earned and well deserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Beans

Eric Beans is CEO of Texting Base, Inc., out of Orlando, Florida. Texting Base is a cloud-based software that adds efficiency and power to business texting communications. Combining the efficiency of a “mass text” and the effectiveness of a personal text message, Texting Base uses patent pending software to allow businesses to build relationships with their customers like never before. Prior to Texting Base, Mr. Beans was a partner in Premier Mortgage Capital, Inc., a nationwide state charted mortgage company and helped to start TechSpan, a global IT consulting company. Mr. Beans has two patents registered under his name as well as music publishing, radio and TV experience.

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