CEO Sundays: Advice To Get It Right From Day One

By May 5, 2013

In the startup community, ‘Founder / Co-founder & CEO’ is a title commonly found on business cards and LinkedIn profiles.  I learned fast, if you run with the wolves, you soon learn how to howl, but figuring out how to lead the pack is the hardest.

I, too, have recently added Founder & CEO to my resume after launching DTCW Communications, a digital media agency for high-growth startups. We have all the things that a startup hopes to possess: a great team, some seed funding, a knowledgeable board of advisors, and a successful growth strategy. My own path and conversations with other entrepreneurs along the way has endowed me with some useful wisdom that you can apply to your own business.

You Set The Pace

Being a boss means you don’t have a line manager; you are the line manager. You can come in late, leave early, skip days, travel anywhere – but at the end of the day, it is your company. And soon enough, you will start feeling the effects.. Your staff will become de-motivated, balls will get dropped, and product roadmaps will get delayed.

The best way to motivate your team, and in turn, keep investors and clients happy, is to take full responsibility for setting the pace. And, that pace must be sustainable, with you in front encouraging others to keep up. This could include surprising your team with new initiatives, celebrating big wins, and giving your team the tools to grab that easy to reach low-hanging fruit. The reward will be a team motivated to achieve more and willing to run faster to keep up.

Be Open & Accessible

From my own first-hand experiences, I have witnessed  work-place cultures of need to know style communications, where even in smaller teams, people were boxed into “departments” and information didn’t flow freely and easily. This is the absolute worst way to run a startup. Maintaining an open culture where everyone can raise concerns, where no idea is too stupid, and where people are first amongst equals, is a proven way to empower a team. These actions naturally endow your team members with the confidence needed to work effectively. The minute that you go cloak and dagger, treating information as if it were a black ops mission, is when your team starts to question your leadership.

Know Thy Challenge and Plan Your Time Accordingly

As a Founder and CEO, it is your job to lead, to be strong, to anticipate and deal with challenges, to innovate, and always have enough in the bank to meet payroll. You have a hundred responsibilities and numerous demands on your time. And budget rarely dictates for a secretary to be hired. Therefore, if time management isn’t one of your skills, you will need to get very good at it, quickly. Look at tools to facilitate the process like Google Calendar or ToDoist.

Memo: You Are Only Human

Leaders are tested by the challenges they face, and are shaped by their professional and personal lives. How strong you are is merely a question of how strong you were when things last got tough and what you learned that time. You will soon find out when your mettle is next tested in battle.

However, there is one thing that many founders forget, which can end up having a negative impact on your business: You are only human. That’s right, a mere mortal, no matter the size of your valuation, or Herculean feats you have achieved. This means ensuring you look after yourself, have a life outside the office, eat right, get some sleep (admittedly, I’m still figuring those things out, because go figure, I’m human, too), and have those individuals who you can confide in. You will be a happier, healthier, and more effective leader if you take care of yourself. You, your team, and investors will appreciate it.

These tips are just a few of the factors that a newly minted boss ought to consider when accepting the responsibility of being a Founder and CEO. Always remember that you are there by popular consent. People have chosen to follow where you lead, so ensure you are doing all that you can to lead them the right direction.


About the Author: Dominic Tarn
 Dominic Tarn is Founding Partner & CEO of DTCW Communications: A digital media agency for high-growth startups. DTCW accelerates startups’ communications, globally. You can read more about his tips for start-ups in his upcoming book, The New Goldrush.