Have you ever wondered what the CEO does at the start of a new business?

What I first started learning about the executive team role and in which I may best fit, I scoured the Internet looking for definitions of the CEO, COO, CMO, CSO, CFO, etc. I found a number of great articles, but none of them focused on how it applies to the early stages of growing a business. That’s what I wanted!

In this column, I’ll introduce the CEO as the role of the Chief Everything Officer. I’ll outline the role’s main responsibilities and explain that the CEO doesn’t truly become the traditional Chief Executive Officer until significant growth and traction has occurred.

What Goes Into Starting a Business?

The Chief Everything Officer tens to be one of the first founders of the business. The first action step that the founding team must make is understanding the business model of their idea and how it is going to make money. This conversation tends to head into four main three main topics that are paramount to the foundation of the business: (1) the customer market (2) the product or minimum viable product (3) the financial viability and management.

In most organizations, the business model or customer pipeline is going to slightly resemble the following. At the beginning of a startup, the Chief Everything Officer oversees all areas of progress and initial growth within these areas. While the Chief Executive Officer tends to become more responsible for external marketing, strategic planning, and relationship management, the Chief Everything Officer must be involved in the day-to-day activities as the business gets its feet off the ground.

1. Marketing

  • Building awareness around the business and product
  • Building the company website
  • Networking locally and internationally to form strategic partnerships
  • Setting a foundation for social media channels and voice
  • Creating the brand for the company

2. Sales

  • Speaking with potential customer markets
  • Pinpointing the best possible target market to address
  • Gaining feedback directly from customers about the product
  • Building a sales model that will religiously add new people to the sales funnel and then convert them into paying customers

Marketing and sales strategies drive potential customers to your product and the idea of why your business exists. Every organization needs both teams to properly build hype around their idea.

In starting eCommetize and FreeeUp over the past year, our marketing and sales efforts have been paramount to getting both companies off the ground. Within proper customer identification and interviews, we could have been building products for a market that did not exist. Once we found our niche within the eCommerce industry for each company, we were able to scale our sales team to reach more potential customers.

3. Executing the Product or Service (Operations)

  • If you are building a product
    • how are you making it?
    • how are you getting it to the customer?
    • who is necessary for it to be made?
  • If you are building a service
    • how do you offer the service?
    • what tasks go into maintaining that service?

The operational efficiency and organization of your business is critical to making customers happy and effectively partnering with other businesses. Without a well thought out product or service based off of what the customer wants, any business cannot succeed. In the founding stages of the company, it is the Chief Everything Officer’s responsibility to make sure that the product/service is being built as it needs to be for long-term growth, scale, and sustainability.

At both eCommetize and FreeeUp, our product/service has been evolving since the day that we started each company. I have been directly involved in the evolution of each and plan to be directly involved until the product/service is ready to add other employees. At the point where you can scale your customers without major issues arising from your product or service, you need to be involved making sure that each customer’s experience is positive.

4. Managing the Financials

  • unit economics of products
  • budgeting
  • forecasting
  • credit card and bank management
  • spending decisions

Properly managing the financials of your startup is a key component to ensuring the long-term viability of your business. This is one of the responsibilities of the Chief Everything Officer that will carry on to the Chief Executive Officer position. As the core leader of the company, it is your responsibility to have a keen understanding of the financials at all times. While you will eventually have a Chief Financial Officer managing the financials for you, you must have complete intelligence over your financials so that you can make the correct growth decisions.

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In all of the companies that I have started, I have always been deeply integrated into the financials. At the end of the day, cash is king for your startup and you must make sure that it is being spent intelligently. As a younger entrepreneur, I made small mistakes in managing the financials that placed us in tight situations. I’ve learned best practices for managing spending and ensuring that the money is being generated before beginning to invest in new employees, projects, etc.

5. Strategic Planning

  • setting weekly and quarterly goals
  • communication with the team
  • creating a company culture
  • building strategic partnerships with individuals and businesses

This final piece of starting and growing a business overlaps between the Chief Everything Officer and the Chief Executive Officer. As the leader of the company, you are responsible for setting expectations, building a culture, and driving your team forward. This holds true at any point in the business. If it’s not your co-founder that you are pushing, it’s the managers that you’ve hired to lead the different teams within your organization.

Don’t Be Overwhelmed

These 5 core aspects of building a business from the group fall into the hands of the founders. When looking at it all on initial glance, it can be overwhelming. You may be thinking,

How can 1-2 people work on all of these areas when they are limited to the time constraints of each work day?

It’s a great question and one that you will ask yourself every day if you decide to become an entrepreneur. The answer is that there is never enough time in the day for the endless to do list that you have ahead of you. However, you can achieve the fulfillment of all the tasks through prioritization, delegation, and the addition of intelligent assistants.

The Chief Everything Officer

It is not the job of the Chief Everything Officer to perform all of the tasks within the five core areas of the business. Rather, it is their responsibility to prioritize, delegate, and find the best people to fill in the founding team. If the Chief Everything Officer has a co-founder, they should first look  to give responsibilities to that individuals in core areas of the business where they excel and will be able to drive growth.

Next, they should look to take more responsibility over the areas of the business where they excel. In order to be the best possible leader for the company, they must place themselves in a situation where they are adding the most possible value at all times. When leaders are pulled away from delivering in the areas that they know best, the whole team suffers.

Finally, and once it is the right time, it is their responsibility to define additional roles that are needed and recruit the right people to the team. This will allow them and their co-founder can stay focused on growth of the company within their core areas of expertise.

For the purposes of simplifying the Chief Everything Officer, I’ve outlined their responsibilities as they start to transform their idea into a profitable business venture.

The Chief Everything Officer is responsible for:

  • properly registering the business as a legal entity
  • recruiting and signing a co-founder with complementary skill sets
  • building the structure of the eventual team needed to run and scale operations
  • delegation of all of the tasks need to start and operate the business
  • full responsibility of areas of the business where they are most skilled and experienced
  • management and organization of the company’s financials
    • implementing proper and sound spending strategies
  • creating systems and processes for all 5 key components of running the business
  • creating training guides for the 5 core areas of running the business
  • recruiting, training, and integrating key team members into the structure of the business operations
  • setting the short-term strategic plan for the company

The Chief Everything Officer drives growth in the initial building and growth stages of a new business. They are the catalyst for turning the idea into a profitable venture serving a particular customer group. The Chief Everything Officer is different from the Chief Executive Officer in that it must lend its time to operations until the core founding team has been assembled and hired.

What Makes the Chief Everything Officer So Difficult

I’ve been serving the position of the Chief Everything Officer in all of the companies that I have started and that I continue to run today. It is definitely a grueling position as it requires a high level of concentration, the ability to quickly switch between tasks, and the lack of a team of people working with you towards a common purpose. But that’s not what makes it most difficult.

This is most likely to vary between different personality types, but I find it most difficult to be the Chief Everything Officer when it is time to hand off the systems, processes, and tasks to other people who you begin to hire to the company. As the individual who created the tasks, you are bound to be able to perform them best and only with hours of training will another individual get to the level of output you are producing. Giving yourself that push to trust another individual to run that piece of your company is difficult.

What I’ve found and learned is that passing off the tasks that you create is an absolute must if you want to see your company continue to grow. If you do not pass off the tasks to other intelligent people, your plate will eventually become too full and you won’t be able to grow your business. You will become stuck in the cogs of operating the business. When you reach that point, it makes it a lot harder to get back to a place where you are growing the business instead of working within it.

When I worry about passing off a task, I remind myself of what would happen if I held onto all of the work. As the Chief Everything Officer, you have to be focused on growing your team, growing your product, managing your financials, and communicating with your customers. If you end up focused on simple tasks like fulfilling orders or updating inventory levels, you aren’t succeeding in your position as the Chief Everything Officer.

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