How to Be a Better CEO

So, you’re the CEO of your own company. That’s a huge accomplishment and a fantastic position to be in, but just being in the position doesn’t mean that you’re automatically good at it.

It’s easy to just sit back and revel in the fact that you’re the boss, without putting too much effort into the continual improvement of yourself, your company, and the way you do business because after all, you don’t answer to anyone, right? Technically, you still answer to your customers (or shareholders), but that’s not the point here.

The point is that to be a highly successful CEO, you have to do a lot more than just take a seat and watch the cash roll in, and in fact, if you do that, the cash is bound to stop rolling in at some point. You need to be actively involved in all aspects of your company while focusing at the same time on becoming a better manager, salesperson, problem solver, strategizer, and many other skilled roles. Take these pieces of advice, and consider how they can help you improve yourself as a CEO.

Being a Good CEO Requires Skill

Everyone who starts a company wants that prestigious “CEO” title, or at least the majority of them do. There’s no doubt that it feels good to be the big boss, and it feels even better to tell everybody that you’re the boss.

While you naturally aren’t going to be worried so much about your title when running a business, due to the myriad responsibilities that constantly demand your attention, a lot of owners still love the fact that they can tell other people that they’re a CEO. Opening a company is an incredible accomplishment, considering all that you have to go through and endure to get to that point when you finally open up and convince people to buy what you’re selling.

The fact is, though, that you suddenly have a whole new set of responsibilities when you become the CEO. It takes a lot of ambition, influence, hard work, and resources to start a business, and you work so hard to finally open your doors that you sometimes don’t anticipate the fact that you’ll immediately be faced with the heavy role of the position.

You end up having even more to do once you’re open, such as maintaining a revenue stream, managing the entire staff of employees, streamlining every aspect of the company, establishing your vision and mission for the future, and communicating that to your whole team, to name a few. You’ll be concerned with productivity, wages, scheduling, marketing, a sales strategy for moving your product, organizing and assigning duties for the role of all your employees, and a lot more.

Go Beyond Just Being an Owner

In the spirit of being an active owner, recognize that you are in control of the direction of the company. Instead of just sitting on the throne presiding over what you’ve created, you should try to participate as much as you can and move the company towards where it needs to go.

You’re in a unique position to affect every element of your company, and you also probably have the ability to understand the direction it should take, better than anyone else, which is why it’s important that you participate. A business will inevitably suffer when its CEO doesn’t get involved. The main reason for that is due to the lack of leadership.

If you have a staff behind you, then your team leaders will struggle on and do whatever they can to keep it afloat, but they will always end up needing direction from their CEO. You’re much more than just the owner. Like a landowner who doesn’t maintain and actively tend to their land, a company’s CEO needs to get his or her hands dirty; they have to work the land.

Regularly Check in with Every Department

Planning what your business will look like before you open and what it looks like once you hit the ground are two different things. You can strategize and do your best to think of everything when you’re in the planning stages for your business, but it’s a whole new ball game when you’re up and running, as you’re most likely already acutely aware.

To the best of your ability (with likely pretty limited available time), get to know how everything is running by constantly checking in with every aspect of your business. Speak to your team leaders regularly, and expect them to have thorough operational reports.

If you’re a sole proprietor with no employees as of yet, then you have to keep tabs on all your departments, just the same. This allows you to make sure everything is functioning as it should. All this can be extremely stressful, so bringing in at least a partner can be abundantly useful to keep yourself from burning out. Even if it seems like everything is going perfectly smoothly, you have to keep tabs on everything to make sure nothing goes off the rails.

Know Your Company’s Trajectory

A really valuable approach to take as an owner is to have a clear plan for where your business will be in the next 1, 2, or 5 years. A lot of business owners had a great idea for their business, and it started doing well, so they basically cross their fingers in hopes that it will continue to succeed. That’s a recipe for failure, unless you just get really lucky.

Given, there is a lot of luck involved in growing a business because markets can be unpredictable, but you absolutely cannot bank on that. One guiding principle that you should have as a CEO is to be deliberate about everything you do, about every move you make for the business.

Know what products and strategies are bringing in significant revenue and research every option available to you before you make any move. There will also be a period of time pretty soon after you open, when you will have to innovate to keep the business relevant and to retain the attention of your customers.

What are you planning to do in the next few years? Would you like to open additional locations, pivot your business model, or scale up in some way, maybe through utilizing ecommerce channels? The business plan can change at any time, but you have to know what your plan is for success in the future–at least the near future.

Keep a Sharp Eye on Your Market

One thing that any entrepreneur soon finds out is that the market is a living organism and is populated by people who can turn on a dime and switch their interest or needs from one thing to another without warning. Know as much as you possibly can about the market for your product or service.

Whatever you’re selling has its own market of people who are buying it, and if they fluctuate, you need to know when that is happening so that you can move with them. It also helps to continually be learning about the trends and new developments with your product or service, so you can stay up to date on any new innovations.

There are a variety of ways to keep tabs on this, such as watching publications, periodicals, and media, going to trade shows, and staying in contact with colleagues and partner companies. If you haven’t already, educate yourself about your product and understand every facet of it, as best as you can.

This is important because knowing where the trends are moving gives you a good read on where the market is going. Last, but not least, watch your competitors carefully, too. There is no reason that you need to be afraid of your competitors. The fact that they exist is a great sign because it confirms that there is a demand for what you’re selling.

So, instead of worrying that they’ll surpass you and take business away from you, look at how they operate to see if they may have a different approach you haven’t thought of that has been successful for them. You can learn a great deal from your competitors.

The idea of this article is not to tell you how to run your business. If you’ve gotten to this point, then you clearly know what you’re doing. The point here is simply that, after a business owner has toiled for months or years to get their business going, it can be really tempting to take a break, which is the last thing you want to do at that point.

Always be improving, always be watching your market, and stay involved with all aspects of your company as much as you can. It’s fair to say that the amount of energy that you put into your company as a CEO is commensurate with the success that it will have.


Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

StephanieHow to Be a Better CEO