For one thing, if a board of directors doesn’t name you chief executive officer of a real corporation, you’re sort of like a silly little kid playing grownup. More importantly, you’re probably misrepresenting your abilities, as well.
If you don’t have these seven concepts down, you may want to think about changing your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. And I definitely wouldn’t quit my day job just yet, either.
Your product is your brand. You’re not. The secret to great marketing is to come up with a killer product customers need at the right price. You can promote your business and yourself all day long, but if you can’t come up with an awesome product that people want to buy, nothing else matters. Seriously.
If you can’t sell your vision. Nobody will buy it. We all talk about the importance of vision, but you have to be able to sell it to potential customers, employees and investors and I mean all day long. If your stakeholders don’t buy it, nobody else will either. If you find yourself pitching your concept in your dreams, you’re on the right track.
You always have to have enough money in the bank. The number one failure mode for small businesses is they run out of cash. There was a time when you could bootstrap a company, but markets are so hypercompetitive these days it’s much harder than it used to be. I’m not a believer in Kickstarter, either. If you can’t sell at least one or two investors on your idea, you’re probably not ready for prime time.
You must focus on doing one thing better than anyone. Everybody knows they need to differentiate but few understand what that really means. It means coming up with a customer value proposition that your company and your company alone does better than anyone else. Once you figure out what that is, focus on doing that and just that.
Business is about understanding people. Business is not about building your personal brand, your network or your Twitter following. It’s not about your blog or what you post on LinkedIn or Facebook. Business is about people. It’s about relationships. If you want to do business in the real world, you’ve got to connect and build relationships with real people in the real world. Period.
You have to know what you’re doing. Passion alone won’t cut it these days. Whatever it is you’ve decided to do, if you have no idea what you’re doing, you will fail and fail miserably. Sooner or later you’ll have to make smart decisions and that means having enough experience and capability to know smart from not-so-smart. And no, just thinking you’re smart won’t cut it either. Everyone thinks they’re smart.
You’ve got to hire, motivate and retain talented people. This is one of the trickiest aspects of running a company. I’ve known dozens of real corporate CEOs who couldn’t hire the right people or keep them motivated to save their lives. It’s a remarkably common pitfall of small businesses and startups, as well.
If you think running a company is like falling off a log, be my guest, go for it. But I guarantee you’ll see things differently after falling on your face a few times. Save yourself the trouble and get a handle on things first. Don’t be in such a hurry to call yourself a CEO. Better off becoming one first.