Jack of All Trades to Team Builder: CEO Growing Pains

If you started up your own business, you know the advantages of small and new. You can be nimble. You don’t need to consult a committee to make a decision. You can act in ways that you know will grow the business, and that action can be instant and also instantly effective. But once you grow past startup size and look to become more established, bigger and more complex, you can’t do it all anymore.  How do you get to the next level?

A recent article in Inc. magazine offers this insight: as founding CEO you need to change your own role in the company from jack-of-all-trades who grabs “the business by the neck and [does] everything he or she can to grow the business into a sustainable company.” Just want do you change that role to if you want to go from Startup to Growth company to Established company?

First, here's the difference between a Growth company and an Established company. In established companies, business units and organizations are empowered to operate independently according to established processes. CEOs in these organizations set priorities, approve decisions and oversee management, according to the article’s authors, Karl Stark and Bill Stewart, managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies.

Growth companies are those in between the startups and the established companies, according to Stark and Stewart. The authors describe these growing companies as organizations large enough so that the CEO is no longer aware of every action and decision that takes place, but in a stage of transition where the CEO has not yet established organizational processes or clear accountabilities.  “The CEO no longer has the ability to put the business on his or her shoulders. Growth requires a team of people to contribute in a well-coordinated fashion.”

That’s why the key skill for the CEO at this stage is not being a jack-of-all-trades anymore. Rather, CEOs must shift their efforts to team building. But that simple statement makes it sound easier than it really is. “When businesses are growing 30 percent to 40 percent or more, they are a different business at the end of the year than they were at the beginning. The CEO needs to stay on top of this evolution and build a structure that achieves the growth,” note the authors. “In many cases their own role will change day-to-day as they build a team around them.”

What’s been your experience with moving from one role to another as your business has grown?

TAGS: Leadership
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