Finding Answers to the question – What does a startup CEO do?

Entrepreneur race to success has evolved over time, so has the role of a Startup CEO. Coming to terms with many hats juggled by a YOUNG business CEO

With around half of the world’s working population employed with small businesses, the role of startups in maintaining the economic health and market innovation cannot be contested.

With increasing number of ideas finding their way to commercial business, there are stories of both success and failure.

The latter unfortunately rules the roost, with many startups failing within a quick span of 5 years.

After all, not everyone is cut out from the same mold as Zuckerberg, Jobs or Biz Stone. Also, not every business idea is destined to change the world.

The highs and lows of a startup CEO are as real as it gets and sometimes minus the drama that colors the sheer hard work and struggle involved in setting up one’s own venture.

It is interesting to unearth the day-to-day challenges and motivations in the life of a budding business CEO who is expected to be a winning combination of multi skills and novel startup DNA.

What is a Startup? – Quick Recap of the terminology

The literal definition of Startup on web describes it as a new business or entrepreneurial venture in the form of a company, a partnership or a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

The essence of startup lies ultimately in its excitement

However successful CEOs of big and small companies believe that it is more of a “state of mind” and the work culture your believe in.

Irrespective of the number of years or total revenue, if your business follows ambition, risks, innovation and agility in lieu of stability, it still can be categorized as a startup.

The essence of startup lies ultimately in its excitement, personal satisfaction and uncertain success.

What does a Startup CEO do? – Decoding the Role

While the overarching responsibilities of a Startup CEO might not be pole opposite to that of a CEO running a Fortune 500 company, the role does involve darker shades of ambiguity and gambles.

It is easier to go astray from strategic piece to tasks that can be easily labeled as administrative.

However, there is no denying to the fact that with limited employee strength, the startup CEO has to accommodate a greater share of operational tasks on his plate, at least during the initial phase.

Further, managing funds and conflicting advisory network requires a balancing act of humungous proportions.

With no fixed rules to play by and time crunch to meet priorities, a startup CEO has to write his own story with things that matter the most for personal and professional gain.

Startup CEO has to write his own story

While For instance, if participating in the AngelHack, the biggest hackathon competition in the world is going to mean meeting potential investors, identify recruits or gain momentum for startup, the CEO has to be rearing to go and capitalize the opportunity.

Top 7 Roles executed by CEOs of Successful Startups

Very often, entrepreneurs across the globe are bombarded with one common question – “How to become a Startup CEO?”

While there is no set in stone roadmap to follow, various research studies and industry insights have indicated few sure-shot roles, which effectively answers the long haunting question – What does a startup CEO do?

These include:

1) Cash Flow Regulator

This is an absolute no brainer as being a CEO one needs to provide guidance to his finance team on how to streamline revenue, expenses and external investments.

This aspect becomes easier to manage if the company supports metrics driven culture right from the word ‘go’.

Keeping a close tab on performance indicators helps to identify and communicate growth opportunities to potential investors.

2) Recruiter and Team Builder

Half the battle is won if you have the right people along the path of building a successful startup.

While others can share the recruitment responsibility down the line, during the nascent stages a large chunk of CEOs time goes into identifying the best resources for business growth.

Integration of these new members into their role and company culture is where team-building initiatives (like Onboarding outings, dinners/luncheons, team and one-on-one feedback sessions) come into picture.

3) Sales and Brand Manager

From the moment an idea is incubated, the CEO consciously or otherwise starts selling the idea and what the company stands for to all the touch points concerned with his business.

This can be the investors, advisors, partners, customers, recruits or anyone else who can contribute to the growth.

Proactive participation at events, presence on social media, blog sites and personal gestures towards key clientele and team-mates goes a long way in generating a desired identity and credibility of the startup.

4) Strategic Thinker

Small everyday wins are dependent on long-term vision and thinking.

A startup CEO has to deliberately chalk out a schedule to paint a big picture of the business in order to derive priorities, tactical plan and actions to reach the goalpost.

5) Product Visionary

If not huge, a critical amount of a startup CEOs time is directed towards product strategy conversations where customer perception on the product’s features and end use is discussed and valued.

The product’s evolution and cohesiveness with the company vision over a timeline is also something that holds interest for the CEO.

6) Cheerleader and Coach

A startup CEO has a tough haul in front of him, as he needs to be aware and feel the pulse of each and every employee working with him.

He needs to pump in the energy when the staff feels they have hit rock bottom or when they go off in pursuing goals.

While motivation and appreciation works most of the time, coaching for performance on one to one level is extremely rewarding in building a successful team.

7) Learner

It is ok to admit for a startup CEO that they do not know it all.

Proactive learning from various quarters like books, blogs and mentors helps CEOs to achieve better alignment among various aspects of running a startup whether it is fund raising, marketing, product development or market positioning.

The growth of a startup is stalled only when its members including the CEO stop learning.

While startup organizations continue to foster in the developed and emerging economies, the influencing factors in startup’s success especially a CEOs role will continue to reign on the top spot, without a doubt!


Written By

Mitalee Chhatre

Mitalee, a true professional with over 5 years of corporate experience in Human Resources and Health Sector. Contributor on CakeHR where tracks the newest trends and practices of the work-life world.