I’ve been working with Ann Gatty who holds a PhD and is an in-demand consultant on a project we are calling “The Journey to CEO.”
Along the way we have looked at many books, studies and articles while also examining our work and experience on how people get from starting a business to being a CEO of a thriving operation.
We have learned a lot about how to conceptualize what happens when someone goes from being an entrepreneur all the way to CEO.
In fact, as you might suspect, many people don’t make it. In fact, many people should even be aspiring to make it to CEO.
We think one of our most interesting findings in writing the Entrepreneur to CEO book is that there are indeed distinct stages that those that attempt to go from Entrepreneur to CEO pass through.
We thought that business owners and business leaders would benefit from knowing the stages and what they mean. Of course we’ll have more for you in the future that will help you on your journey.
But for now let’s look at what typically happens as a business owner or leader moves from the beginning to potentially growing to a CEO.
Understanding the 5 modalities should help you identify where you are, where you’ve been and what skills you’ll need for the next step on the journey.
Modality 1: The Creator
At the start the business owner or leader sees a market need that is not being met. The need may be big (think a computer operating system) or it might be small (think a new Chinese restaurant in a part of town that doesn’t have one).
It is the business owner’s job, at this stage, to see what no one else can see. They have to see where the company can go and what it can be.
The owner is also, typically, engulfed in the day-to-day operations. This can be as simple as getting the next meal out to the customer sitting at the table to as complex as writing code to get the next version of the software out by a contractual deadline.
The work process is generally very flexible and varies. Systems and processes are typically just starting or non-existent.
But a lot of work is happening. Time the vision for future growth and purpose is clarified and verified and market validation is happening too.
In this time period the owner is usually very energetic and surrounded by a growing, but small, team that does a bit of everything.
Modality 2: The Bridge Builder
After the initial concept of the business is created (hence the creator stage) there is usually a new and intense focus on the customers of the business. Customer interaction should be increasing allowing the business owner to see what is working and what is not working.
Cash flow, which is often inconsistent in the Creator stage may start to become more regular.
It is also typical in this stage that there is an assigned employee put in place to manage the operations and more and more of the employees have assigned tasks.
It is also typical to see the first signs of fully developed systems which are cataloged to transfer from employee to employee and be revised from time to time.
The brand of the business typically becomes stronger in this stage and the business gets clearer on how to penetrate and build its market.
Modality 3: The Culture Weaver
At this point the business becomes more solid and settled. We start seeing business owners start to take some of the roles we would typically expect of a CEO: leadership, strategic direction and planning. Meanwhile the business owner is also less involved in the day-to-day operations.
Except on rare occasions the business owner is not serving individual customer orders. The owner is, usually, working to become a more established at skilled leader and may be dedicating time to their development of this role.
It is also typically noticed that the organization chart of the business is taking shape and employees are being hired strategically for specific roles.
On the customer front, a business owner leading a company in this stage typically clearly knows what they are buying and why they chose this business as a supplier. The value proposition is clear and well known.
Systems are starting to get strong and the leadership is thinking a lot about the tone of the organization, how it is viewed and it’s impact.
In other words building culture has become a key activity.
Modality 4: The Expansion Architect
In order to grow the business past the survival mode to the thriving mode, business expansion becomes a necessity.
The business owner now can monitor the financial patterns of the business to easily identify the products and services that provide profitable growth.
The business has usually rolled out significant automation in every function of the business model, from marketing, through productivity, to distribution – and such automation is a key to scaling.
In this stage the majority of the owner’s focus is on expanding the organization and is removed from the day to day operations.
The brand should be very well known and influential at this stage.
The owner is also spending significant time planning how to grow whether it be organic, by merger, launching new product lines or other strategies.
Modality 5: The Change Catalyst
The business owners role has moved beyond mere growth into ensuring that the organization enjoys continuous and sustained growth.
The owner looks for ways to create a long-lasting legacy where the purpose for the business is understood by all who are associated with the business, either as employees, or stockholders.
Set-backs may happen as market conditions change and the leadership team (now usually involving a number of people) are constantly monitoring market conditions.
Changes to systems and processes may be more regular in timing but more challenging due to institutionalization of past systems and processes.
At this point the business should run for extended periods of time with no contact from the CEO. At this point the CEO’s job is strategic in nature.
What To Do Next
The first step is to figure out where you are in this process.
We’ve put together a free survey for you that will do just that: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Dc8ZBE4iZytMooBkIZETQJN8OuZyveqisH_whEik490
Moving beyond that understanding where you are gives you a clearer roadmap to where you need to go next. Study carefully the stage after the one you are currently in.
You can focus your time and attention on building the skills to get to the next step – and beyond.
Stay tuned – we’ll be going deeper into the 5 Modalities and how to use them in upcoming work!
NOTE: This article is a piece develop a small portion of the content of the book tentatively called The Journey: Finding Your Place From Entrepreneur to CEO being co-authored by The Our Shawn McBride and Ann Gatty. If you want updates on the book including the possibility of joining our release team or getting one of the first copies please join our mailing list here.
By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd and long-time business attorney that focuses on changes of ownership in businesses. He works with business owners that know their business is about more than themselves to get ready for their future through keynotes, training and personalized solutions. In furtherance of this he hosts The Future Done Right(TM) Show where he collects, digests and gives lessons and insights on The Future of Business. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
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The Our Shawn is based in DeLand, Florida (between Orlando, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida) and Dallas, Texas where he keeps offices. You can also find Shawn on webinars or traveling nationally or internationally for speaking engagements.
Check me out at: www.planningdoneright.com
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