We’ve invested in 23 companies since our founding and we’ve seen some CEO’s use their time much better than others. In our view, below are the tasks a CEO should prioritize.
Partnering. One of your priorities should be to build partnerships with bigger companies. The reasons: i) larger partners ultimately become strategic acquirers that pay the biggest premiums for the business; and ii) great partnerships drive lots of revenue through integrations and the leveraging of the partner’s sales team to sell your product with theirs.
Selling. Helping close and keep major customers is a CEO role that never goes away. Large, marquee customers need to feel the CEO cares about them and they need to know they have access to you. You should be helping your sales reps close major accounts and accompanying them on major sales calls. If you’re not doing this already, guess what: the CEO’s at your competitors are. Once the major client is closed, they should have your email address and feel free to reach out to you any time. Additionally, good CEO’s check in with their major customers to make sure they’re happy and also explore upsells, additional uses of the product, and even leads.
Recruiting. As a CEO of a rising company in your industry, you should be in touch with the best talent in your industry and constantly trying to lure them to your firm. This includes C-suite executives but also the best sales reps, tech talent, and great customer success reps. Nothing is more effective in getting talent to a company as when the CEO reaches out directly and makes people feel wanted.
Value proposition. Spending time with your team to figuring out how you can further improve the customer value proposition of course is a must. This means understanding what your customers want, delivering that, but also figuring out what your customers don’t realize they want, but will love once they have it. For instance, none of us realized we needed an iphone until it came out. Apple gave us something we didn’t realize we wanted, but once we got it, we loved it.
Do the three meat & potatoes tasks above, and your company will scale ad nauseum. Here are some of the things you shouldn’t be doing.
Visioning. Nothing scares us more than an aloof CEO constantly preaching about his vision. You can see these CEOs a mile away: they spend way too much time looking for speaking engagements on the conference circuit and are constantly pontificating about where the product is headed. They use the words ‘vision’ and ‘mission’ way too often, and don’t really get much done. Since they’re not actually executing with the sales team, CS team, and product team, all they’re doing is ‘thinking’ and probably don’t understand what it will actually take to execute. As one CEO put it to me, “young company CEOs think the key to culture is a higher purpose, but the truth is nothing builds culture like WINNING.”
Review legal docs. You are not a lawyer. You are not good at playing lawyer. So why are you reviewing edits to customer contracts? While you should certainly be aware of edits, this is something that should be left to a lawyer if it’s complex. If it isn’t complex, then just accept minor changes and move on. We’ve never seen an edit to a customer contract ultimately come back to hurt us.
Speaking with VC. You do not need to spend much time speaking with VC unless you’re actually about to fundraise or are in a fundraise. Believe me, if your business is attractive, VC will be all over you when the raise is on – they don’t need a relationship. High level, superfluous calls you’re doing with VC aren’t really providing information on what the VC will be like to work with. If anything, the VC was comparing what you said to his notes from calls with your competitor because he isn’t building a relationship only with you. When you’re really going to learn about a VC is during the fundraising process itself and from the reference calls you’re going to do on them as part of fundraising, so avoid the calls to get to know VC today.
Being CEO is hard. There is no playbook and every CEO role is different, but the observations above tend to apply no matter what your company does.
Visit us at blossomstreetventures.com and email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. All founders and funds welcome! We invest in companies with run rate revenue of $3mm to $30mm, with year over year growth of 20% to 50%+ depending on revenue. We lead or follow in growth rounds and special situations like inside rounds, small rounds, rushed rounds, corralling investors with our term sheet, bridges, inbetweeners, cap table clean up, and extensions. We can commit in 3 weeks and our check is $1mm to $4mm. Also visit https://blossomstreetventures.com/metrics/ for always up-to-date SaaS metrics.