Are you killing your startup?  Part 2

BlogAre you killing your startup?  Part 2

Are you killing your startup?  Part 2

Curing the Chief Everything Officer Syndrome

Too many startup founders kill their own startup.

An early startup founder’s ability to juggle many things is a great skill. Investors like founders with scrappiness and flexibility to focus and solve a big problem. Yet those same Chief Everything Officer skills become liabilities as the company starts to grow and scale.  I’ve seen the Chief Everything Officer fail to raise money, fail to get sales, struggle to be profitable, be replaced by the investor’s pick or even shut down.

In this second article in the series, I’ll outline some steps you can take to Cure the Chief Everything Officer Syndrome. For a complete introduction to the Chief Everything Officer Syndrome see prior article.

Chief Everything Officer Syndrome

Every founder is unique and has their “own” way of doing things. But despite that uniqueness, after having coached over 200 founders, I have found there are some common symptoms.

deepai generated image of a male startup founder looking stressed and stuck behind a desk with lots of paperwork and mysterious inventions piled around
male startup founder looking stressed and stuck behind a desk with lots of paperwork and mysterious inventions piled around” –

Symptoms of the Chief Everything Officer

  • In every meeting.
  • Checking in with everyone all the time (Texting 7days 24 hours/day)
  • Performing mundane work (opening the office mail)
  • Doing work someone else can do just as well if not better.
  • Harried and rushing from place to place.
  • Rarely on time. Makes others wait.
  • Consuming as much information as possible.
  • Doing first, and short changing thinking.
  • Telling people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it
deepai generated image of a male startup founder that has a broken arm in a cast and a bloody shirt
”male startup founder that has a broken arm in a cast and a bloody shirt” –

The Chief Everything Officer Denial

What’s interesting to me is that most founders can’t see the problem themselves, rather it’s their co-founders, partners, advisors, employees, or investors that notice something is wrong.  They start complaining about working too much; too many meetings; or not getting sales. 

Founders struggle to see the problem, because there are so many “Silicon Valley-like” stories about working hard. In short, the founders have been told:

  • Expect to work 80+ hours a week.
  • You need to be determined and scrappy.
  • You need to be resilient.
  • Things will break.
  • You need to get things done .
  • No excuses!

Given this common narrative, what’s a founder to do? They just suck it up and work harder!

The Problem with Working Harder!

There is an obvious problem with working harder; and that is no matter how hard you work, if you’re working on the wrong things you just burn yourself out. 

The proverbial words of wisdom “Work Smarter, Not Harder” is so true, yet time and time again I see founders working harder, not smarter.

No matter what you do if your personal foundation isn’t rock solid then building a company on shaky ground is even more risky.  

So stop working harder and work smarter; build yourself a solid personal foundation.

Curing the Chief Everything Officer Syndrome

Three Simple Steps

  1. Listen and Lean In
  2. Do “Something” Right
  3. Follow Best Practices

Listen and Lean In

The most important thing is to listen then lean in. 

Leaning in means, 

  • Being aware that something isn’t right.
  • Realizing your business is stuck because your stuck.

Finally, leaning in means, 

  • Choosing to do something different. 

Here are some common symptoms that something isn’t right:

  1. Vocal team members and/or investors:  
    • Listen to your team members or investors.  Are they constantly complaining? Angry? Stressed?  Offering suggestions?
  2. High turnover rate among team members:
    • What is your turnover rate? Is your management style causing frustration and dissatisfaction among team members?
  3. Lack of progress or growth: 
    • How fast are you growing? Are you growing slower than expected? Are you effectively leading and empowering the team to solve problems?
  4. Difficulty in raising funds:
    • Are you having difficulty raising funds, even though your investor strategy is sound? Do investors have concerns with the founder’s leadership?
  5. Consistently working long hours: 
    • Are you and the team consistently working long hours? Or unable to take time off? Are you effectively delegating tasks and responsibilities to the team?
  6. Personal burnout: 
    • Are you experiencing personal burnout? Are you effectively managing your time and responsibilities? Is your work-life in balance?
  7. Difficulty in making decisions: 
    • Are you having difficulty making tough decisions?

Do “The Right” Something

When you lean in and realize you need to do something different, it’s important to do “The Right” something. 

You can try to do something alone by reading books and watching videos. 

But if you’re like me, and every human, we are stuck looking out at the world; we can’t see ourselves.

Let me explain with an example.  I’ve never been able to see my own golf swing. It wasn’t until I went to a golf coach who filmed me; then showed me what I was doing wrong that I could  actually see what I was doing wrong. 

In other words, I could have read all the golf books I wanted, but until someone showed me, it didn’t make sense. I needed the golf coach’s eyes to show me what I was doing. 

Hey, it’s no surprise that every professional sports team has coaches.

So if you want to improve your business game faster, you need an outside perspective (and please don’t use your spouse, partner or investor.)

deepai generated image of a wealthy male startup founder that is happy with his money
“wealthy male startup founder that is happy with his money” –

Follow Best Practices

Now you have decided to do “The Right” something and have someone help you, what does that look like?

Every founder will have different struggles.  This could be time management, decision-making, delegation, communication, leadership or a host of other business skills. 

But no matter the skills you need, there’s a common approach to making a change. A coach will help you follow best practices. 

  1. Develop a plan: 
    • Identify specific areas you need to work on, and create a plan with clear goals and a timeline to achieve them. 
  2. Provide feedback:
    • Getting input from trusted advisors, team members, or mentors can provide valuable insight into areas for improvement.
  3. Take action:
    • Follow through with the steps outlined in your plan, and be willing to make changes to your behavior and management style if necessary.
  4. Reflect and evaluate:
    • Continuously assess your progress and make necessary adjustments to your plan to ensure success.
  5. Be accountable:
    • Take responsibility for your actions and be willing to learn from mistakes.
  6. Continuously improve:
    • Changing your behavior is an ongoing process, so be committed to continuously improving and making adjustments as needed.

The Cure is Simple, Change Isn’t

Curing the Chief Everything Officer Syndrome is actually pretty simple – it’s simply recognizing that you need to develop new skills and habits.  But as we all know changing a habit and developing new skills takes time. Some changes you can make yourself, for others you need help.  

But it all begins with deciding to make a change.

Good luck. You can do it!

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