It’s Never Been Lonelier At the Top

The New Executive Search


By Kristen McAlister

“It’s lonely at the top,” is a common saying among CEOs and business owners.

In many cases, you are the head of the organization and you have no peers inside the company with whom to talk to. The irony is that once you are in that role, you have more things to talk through than ever before – vision, strategy, what you want to do next with the business, personnel issues, key challenges, and the list goes on.

There is no question, this issue has never been more prevalent.

At Cerius, we have recently seen a very big spike in requests for business advisors. Anyone I mention this to asks why I think this is happening.

My answer, “As leaders of a company, we are lonelier than ever, don’t have all of the answers, are feeling like we are in a fog, and simply need someone to talk to and join us at the top for a while.”

The next question I get is, “What type of advisors are CEOs looking for?” My response varies depending on the situation, but below are a few examples to help answer that question.

Scenario 1

Mid-to-large sized company with on-going business growth in an industry or business sector he is not familiar or comfortable with. The CEO is expecting a 50% increase in growth again this year and is not sure what his organizational structure should look like at that point. He doesn’t have any ratios or compensation benchmark for other companies in the industry since it is a fairly new industry for him. He is looking for someone with deep industry background to tell him what he doesn’t know and talk through plans for profitable growth.

Scenario 2

Small family-owned business that wants to focus on business value, not just growth. They have received an offer to buy the company but it “isn’t enough to retire on.” There are some long-term business relationships that are potential minefields. The owners are looking for someone to help them figure out what the roadmap options are to achieve an increased valuation and coach them through the minefields.

Scenario 3

CEO has a long-term employee whose purpose is to help manage the company and reduce his workload. Unfortunately, neither of these things are happening. He knows he needs to replace the employee but there is also a long-term connection there. He is then not sure who he needs going forward and how to best go about replacing the individual. The CEO is looking to reduce his workload and reduce expenses. He is looking for an advisor to help guide him in accomplishing both.

In each of these situations, the head of the company did not have anyone internally and needed someone to join them at the top.

How to make it a little less lonely at the top.

As difficult as it is to get out beyond our four walls (metaphorical company walls or office/home office walls), it is needed now more than ever.

Here are some common options for gaining perspective or finding like-minded people and building a trusted relationship with them.

  1. Industry events, roundtables
  2. CEO Peer groups
  3. Networking
  4. Webinars

If you feel you don’t have time for these or find the above examples a little too familiar, you can bring the expertise to you.

Here are some examples of how to get help and bring someone into your four walls without a long-term hire.

  1. Business coach
  2. Business advisor
  3. Advisory board
  4. Expert roundtable – specific to your company and business issues
  5. Part-time executive
  6. Interim executive

There are a number of options to move the conversation from one person to two or more within a trusted and confidential setting. If you don’t have it internally with your leadership team, it is easy to find someone that fits exactly what you need for the time you need them. Let us know how we can help.


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Meet Our Leadership

Pamela Wasley Kristen McAlister

Pam and Kristen, co-owners of Cerius Executives, both come from running a business, not the staffing industry. They understand the challenges of growing a business and not having the right leadership team or expertise. Our client services team is comprised of current and former business owners. We have the background and expertise to listen, understand and work to successfully put together the right profile for what you need and the right executive. The executive talent world is always undergoing a never-ending evolution. Some of it is trial-and-error, and some is due to a constantly changing marketplace. We will always be working to predict what businesses will need next and how can we best help them find it.