CEO 101 – Get Back To Basics

CEO 101 - Get Back To Basics


You’ve heard of CEO 101, right?

CEO 101: There are more books about being a CEO or a leader than I can count. New buzz words and “management by” techniques seem to be cropping up daily. I have even stopped accepting the free books given to me each time there is a keynote speaker at a conference.

A tremendous leader and friend once pointed out what being a CEO comes down to:

You lead the effort to create a product or service that you must sell for a profit.


I will never forget this. As much as many of us would like to be more altruistic and simply exist to sell products or services that people need or to build an incredible culture employees love to work in; none of it matters if you aren’t making a profit.

That is what you do.  Your success in the executive suite, your reputation, your personal finances and the fate of all who you lead are summed up in how well you accomplish that 17 word sentence.

It is estimated that the average company leader has over 70 crucial markers he or she is expected to watch in his or her business every day. It is no wonder many of us have a tough time turning our brain off at the end of the day or sleeping at night. It’s time to get back to basics and narrow it down to the top 4 priorities you can focus on in order to ‘lead the effort to create a product or service that you sell for a profit’.

CEO 101 – The Product

Your reputation, corporate recognition, success quotient and value comes solely from the product or service you provide.  If it is a quality product or service, gets high word of mouth praise from customers, is considered the best in its market and is discussed with awe by competitors, then you are a success.

Ask your customers one question, “Would you recommend this product/service?” In the digital age of social media, this has become one of the most basic principles.  Most ecommerce sites have some type of a review/recommendation tool.  Along the same lines, ask any number of companies selling a variety of products and services through other channels and what will their number one source of clients come from? Referrals.

You must ensure that the product or service you offer is the best in its industry.  It must have a future – be updated when or if necessary – it must be sold properly, its quality must never waiver and you personally must make sure that the people you lead give the product and service you provide their full attention.  

CEO 101 – The Finances

A key responsibility for senior management is watching the numbers.  You may have folks on your team who are better or worse at this than others.  Do something about it!!  Make sure that any weak financial managers are trained; make sure the strong ones are keeping their eyes on the ball.

Ask yourself one question – Do you have everything you need in order to make timely business decisions?

You should always know where you are at financially.  Beyond the basic accounting functions and the numbers telling you where your company currently is, you need the counter information telling you where the company is headed. You should know where you will be by the numbers one month from now and not have to ‘wait and see.’

CEO 101 – The Plan

Strategic planning has become a bad word in some companies.  It is most referred to as the book on the shelf that no one has looked at since last year’s strategic planning meeting.  Most participants feel their time could have been better spent.  On the other hand, no plan at all is one of the biggest waste of resources for a company.  The plan is the roadmap for your product, your employees and your finances. It helps make sure everyone and everything are heading in the same direction and have the support needed to get there. When we talk to CEOs and walk through our Company Snapshot with them, this is the lowest scoring area. It is often the most difficult to pinpoint but can have the biggest impact on the other three priorities we have outlined.

Keep it as simple as you need to in order to ensure it can be communicated, understood and followed through on with every employee in your organization. Just remember, if it isn’t written down and isn’t understood by everyone, it might as well not exist.

CEO 101 – The People

Look at your team as a whole rather than individual employees.  Do you have the right team to accomplish the plan you’ve laid out and produce the best product or service in your industry?  

Key phrase in the 17 word sentence defining what you do is that YOU LEAD.  You don’t lead numbers.  You don’t lead machines.  You don’t lead equipment.  You don’t lead processes.  You lead people.

As the leader, it is your responsibility to ensure you have the right people in the right positions with the resources and training they need in order to executive on the plan and be successful.

Think about how four areas, Product, Plan, Finances and People, leverage each other.  Even if you just focus in one area, as it improves, the other three areas will naturally improve as well.  For example, with the right plan in place your financial team knows what will be needed, your employees know what they need to do and your product has a roadmap to get ahead of or stay ahead of the competition. The areas continually interact and intersect on a daily basis.

Keep it to the basics and possibly you’ll get some sleep at night…

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