Startup CEO Role

A. Defining the business model & operational model

B. Defining the activities and how it’s going to be distributed

C. Defining the battle commander and the quarter master

D. Creating intense excellence and spreading it around


The CEO need to create a clear idea on the business model (what you need to make or do to make money) and the operational model (the processes you need to achieve your deliverables).

Its tempting to say that this is a one time exercise. While reviewing your business model should not be done on an quarterly or even annual basis, at minimum the CEO has to keep his on threats (substitute service or products, supplier going upstream, or clients going downstream) and opportunities (do the opposite).

B. Defining the activities

The CEO has to define the activities the company need to engage in to be successful in its operational model.

Identifying these activities, instead of organization structure, allow the CEO to know what things the organization should spend time and money on and what not to spend on.

A startup can go a gazillion ways, no tradition, no incumbency, no sacred cows, so there’s this illusion of endless possibilities, of a world with no boundaries, illusion which, is dangerous.

You do have boundaries, time is the biggest boundary.

So when you have limited time, understand what activities allow you to be successful in your operational model. The rest? the things that doesn’t improve your operational model? dump it. stop.

After the CEO define the activities, the CEO need to distribute who is going to do those activities

C. Defining the battle commander and the quarter master

All company activities can be grouped in 2 major category: doing or enabling the hunt (sales, distribution, manufacturing, product dev, R&D, Business Process Design) and tending the hunter and the cave (recruitment, HR operations, logistics, facility management)

The CEO is there to grow the business, lead the hunt.

So the CEO need to define, whose gonna be the quartermaster.

In doing his role as the chief hunter, the CEO can be assisted by co-hunters in various areas (head of marketing, head of product dev, etc). But the first thing the CEO need to define is, who’s the quartermaster.

By doing that first, the CEO do 3 things: 1. create clear responsibility on the quartermaster that he/she is the quartermaster, 2. The CEO has to hunt, the CEO cannot dwell in doing quartermaster job, there’s already a quartermaster, 3. Other co-hunters knows who’s the quartermaster

D.Creating intense excellence

Of all companies, startups needs excellence the most. Capital is limited, talent is limited, network is limited, most likely the disruption the startup is making is actually going to hurt the typical industry network. So the startup better have excellence.

And nobody in the company should or would care more about the business than the CEO. The CEO should own the business, like it’s his self, it’s his being.

So when you have these 2, the CEO should be the source of intense excellence in the company.

If the CEO is not, and nobody is, the company is in trouble. If the CEO is not, but somebody is, then that somebody should be the CEO.

What is intense excellence? Intense excellence is about thinking on the business activity or aspect, thinking through how to make it better, how to make it great, so great, that even after diluted through the CEO’s own lack of time to explain, communication restrictions, talent issues, the excellence stays excellence.

After creating intense excellence, the CEO should spread it, excellently.

He/she should show what excellence is (cannot be done if he cannot achieve excellence), show that he/she only cares about excellence, positively believe & know that his team can develop excellent things, and ask the team to proceed on excellence.


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