From a very young age, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. As the firstborn child of an entrepreneur, it was clear that my family wanted me to be heavily involved with the business my father started 30 years ago.
I attended a prestigious business school here in Toronto while learning all about the industry and making key connections. Upon graduation I rolled up my sleeves and started working in our company’s marketing department. The years passed as I continued to hone my skills and acumen until I was finally nominated to become our company’s CEO. I was elated! Except, there was one problem. What does a CEO do?
I knew I wanted to be a great CEO, I just didn’t know how to do it. It isn’t as if there’s a class in university called, How To Be A CEO, 101. As a marketer, I knew to rely on my strength: research! I jumped onto Google and typed in, “What does a CEO do?” I was greeted with thousands of hits that led to mostly uninspiring, convoluted, overly academic articles. I read through the best ones but was left feeling uninspired. I had to alter my search.
In my opinion, the term CEO is synonymous with leaders and leadership. I began to focus on what the most powerful leaders in the world were doing. Who were they and what did they stand for? Some such as Steve Jobs or Howard Schultz were business leaders while others such as Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. used their leadership abilities to spur incredible movements that changed the world.
After years of absorbing all the material I could on the above-mentioned and leadership techniques in general, I’ve developed in my opinion, the three main areas that a CEO must focus on (in no particular order).
People: People are the lifeblood of your organization. People bring your products and services to life. I believe, it’s all about the people and a CEO needs to be a great talent scout. They also need to have an outstanding intuition when bringing people into your company. Intuition is developed over time as experience compliments education but in it’s simplest form, it comes down to a gut feeling. People can lie and cheat, especially on resumes and during interviews but your intuition will help weed them out before they make it on your team.
Using your intuition, ask yourself, “Do we have the right people, heading in the right direction, in the right seats for the right reasons on our bus?”
Brand: You’ve consulted with marketing and public relation experts and have heeded their guidance but did you know that your brand doesn’t even belong to you? Nope, your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room and it’s only as valuable as what people think about you. All the greatest campaigns in the world can’t help you if people don’t trust you. More and more, people are buying from people and not “companies”. In addition to buying from brands that they believe in, I predict that in the next 10 to 15 years, that the only brands that will thrive are those that are purpose driven.
Culture: Last but certainly not least on my list is culture. Culture is, in my opinion, the soul of an organization. It’s your only true differentiator and the only thing that cannot be copied. They can try to copy your products or website but they can never copy the culture that permeates your organization. Your culture is the most unique thing about your business. All companies have them. Some don’t know that they have one; some wish they didn’t have one, while others glorify their culture and use it as a competitive advantage.
Simply put culture is your company’s personality and the way that your team decides to show up. Culture defines where you’re going and why you do what you do. Defining your culture can be tricky but the CEO must be the driving force behind it in order for it to take root and succeed – the CEO must epitomize the culture!
In the three plus years I’ve been Roma Moulding’s CEO, I learned a lot, made some mistakes and feel better prepared to take on future challenges. I’ve gained clarity surrounding what a CEO is supposed to do and in my case it’s taking care of our people, brand and culture!
To all leaders and aspiring leaders, what is your purpose in your company? How do you impact your team, your brand and your culture?