Whether you’re a one-woman show or you’re managing a massive team, being the CEO of your business can be overwhelming. One of the benefits of quitting corporate and starting your own company is the freedom to manage your own schedule and the unlimited earning potential, but the downside is you may have catapulted yourself into a position that you’ve never actually held before (being the boss).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by filling these big shoes, or are just looking for a few pointers to be a better leader for your business in 2019, focusing on these tips will go a long way. But no matter what – remember to stay true to yourself. Don’t shape yourself into the leader you think you need to be if it doesn’t fit with your goals, mission or culture. Ultimately, being authentic is one of the best things you can do as CEO to move your business forward in the right direction.
Build a Strong Strategy
The role of the CEO is to make high-level decisions that move the company forward towards meeting its goals. As such, it’s your job to build and stick to a really strong strategy. If you’re new in your business you may feel like you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants up to this point, but as we enter a new year, now’s the time to get serious about strategy.
So how exactly do you do that? Ask yourself these questions:
- What is your company’s mission?
- Who are you trying to serve and why?
- What goals, if accomplished, will enable your company to achieve its mission and move it forward?
- What value do you add to your business and how can you maximize this in the next year? What about for each member of your team?
- What impact do you want to have and what has worked this year to achieve this impact?
Once you’ve got some of the bigger questions figured out, map out what the year looks like. I’m not talking about when you will work on a project or launch a program (although those are important things to do separately); I’m talking about figuring out what things you are going to focus on in 2019 and what adjustments you need to make to better align with your strategy.
While I highly recommend you include your team (if you have one) in these conversations, ultimately the decision on which strategy is best is yours. However, make sure to share the strategy with your team – they can’t do their jobs effectively if they don’t understand the WHY behind what they’re doing.
Stay Focused on the Bigger Goals
Now that you’ve outlined your strategy and started to hone in on your goals for the year, focus on those instead of the lower priority tasks and achievements that need to get done. Every action you take should tie back to one of your big goals and should align with the strategy you outlined.
Too often I see small business owners focus on the wrong things – instead of being laser-focused on the action plan to boost sales to achieve a revenue goal, they decide to redesign their Instagram grid or conduct an exhausting search for a new accounting software. While these might be things that would be good to do in your business, if they’re not part of your action plan to achieve your bigger goals, they shouldn’t be your first priority and they should not get the majority of your focus.
Don’t Drown in the Day-to-Day
Speaking of focus – another measure of a great CEO is that they stay focused on the bigger, strategic goals and don’t drown in the day-to-day. While I know that not everyone can afford to hire support to handle the administrative aspects of their business, as much as you can you should outsource, delegate and automate so that you are not working IN your business but are instead working ON your business.
Go back to the question you asked yourself above – what unique value do you offer to your business and how can you maximize that in your business? If this means bringing on a virtual assistant to stay on top of emails or automating your social media posts, DO IT.
Stick to Your Why
If you do nothing else as CEO, you need to understand your WHY. What do I mean by your why? Your why is why you’re doing what you’re doing. If your response is “to earn money” or “to allow me to quit my corporate job” – dig deeper. If that is the only reason you’re doing what you do, chances are pretty good you won’t be as successful as you could be at it. Do what you do because you’re passionate about it, because you see a need that you can solve, that you care about the people you are serving.
And then when it comes to big decisions and small – make sure you act in accordance with your why. In my e-commerce company, One For Women, our WHY is to connect women and support women in business, so every decision we make is measured against that why. Knowing your why and using it as a beacon by which you measure your actions will ensure that you are making the right decisions for your business.
Always Be Improving
Have you ever had a bad boss? I have (mine is one of the reasons why I quit corporate for good). It’s been my experience that while bad bosses may be bad for many reasons, one of the most common is that they fail to consider that they might not be so great at being a boss and refuse to acknowledge the need to improve. As the CEO for your business, don’t be this kind of boss. Recognize that no matter how much experience you have or how good you think you are at being a leader, there is always room for improvement.
In addition to making time for your own reflections, make sure your team knows you are open to feedback. It can be intimidating for people who work for you to be honest with their feedback, but the more you ask them for it and show them you are open to what they have to say (and this includes acting on their feedback!), the more they will feel comfortable giving it.
As a business owner, I hugely value data because I know how powerful it can be in helping me make strategic decisions for my business. Personal feedback is just another form of data – and having it is incredibly valuable to help move my business in the right direction.
Take Care of Your People
This last one is (I think) the most important piece of being a great CEO (or any leader). Whether you have one person on your team or 100, treating your employees and contractors with respect goes a long way.
And it’s not just about being nice; it’s also important to support their goals and aspirations and give them the tools they need to succeed. This includes everything from sharing your business’ strategy to giving them a forum to provide you with feedback and ideas to having ongoing conversations about the types of projects they want to work on to grow their skillsets.
When you invest in the people around you, it’ll pay dividends for you over and over again. All of the bad bosses I’ve ever had have another thing in common – they didn’t care about what I wanted out of my work and my career and they did nothing to support my growth.
Whether you’re new to this CEO thing or you’ve been at it for a few years, the takeaway should be this – the best CEOs are the ones who are open-minded, always learning and focus on the bigger picture.