January 23, 2018

CEO School: Fundamentals

First time CEOs, and many seasoned CEOs, will benefit from a review of these Fundamentals. Knowing is not Doing; it takes consistent practice to create bulletproof Habits. Corporate culture starts with the CEO.


Sales Solves All Problems. The number one job of the CEO is to communicate. The CEO must communicate The Vision, the Dream, the Goals, the Plan, the rewards for achieving the Goal. This is Selling 101. The CEO needs to be the top salesman in the company. Fundraising and Recruiting are key aspects of selling the dream.

Know Your North Star and Follow it absolutely. There are only a few basic principles of success in business and they have been known for a long time, but most CEOs either don't know them, or have forgotten them, or they violate them in pursuit of opportunistic gains. There are thousands of new books every year that purport to reveal some all-powerful new technique that will make you an instant billionaire. Beware the shiny object of the solution du jour. It's all the same stuff: repackaged common sense.  For the last 35 years, DoubleM business principles have been written down as the Ten Commandments for Managing a Young, Growing Business. This poster is suitable for framing and free for the asking.

Talk less, learn more. You can't learn anything with your mouth open. Avoid these topics: politics, religion, sex, gambling, etc. The more you listen, the more people will think you're a genius. “Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt

Breathe before speaking. Take your time before spewing forth. Know what you are going to say before you say it. If you take a slight pause before you speak, you will have your audience's attention.

Ask questions, and pay attention to the answers.  When you do speak, ask, don't tell. Ask a lot of questions to learn and draw others out.

Smile, a lot. People like people who smile. People follow, and buy from, people they like. You would be amazed at how long it took me to learn this. Most of us are so inside our heads that we forget this most important and powerful gesture. My smile story.


Delegate, but don't abdicate. Or, to be more clear: Do it; Document it; Delegate it. You can't and shouldn't do everything yourself. Build faster by delegating. Clearly written processes/checklists make delegating effective, especially if the person's job description is to continuously improve the documentation. Delegation is not Abdication. Know the difference. Delegate everything possible; only do the things that only you can do: Communicate the Dream. If you don't have someone you can delegate something to, then Always Be Recruiting.

Always Be Recruiting. You will never have enough great people. This concept of "Always Be Recruiting" is one of the more overlooked basics, until all of a sudden you lose a key team member, then it becomes a fire drill to fill that seat, and because it's a rush job, it's usually done sub-optimally. Read this.

Kaizen: Continuous Improvement.  (Link) The law of entropy is universal and omnipotent. Everything always changes, and almost never for the better. Build a culture whereby everyone's job is Continuous Improvement. This list is under continuous improvement! Are you?

Write it down

Take copious notes. It demonstrates that you are paying attention and value what you learn.

Follow up in writing. Almost nobody gets this right, and yet it is the hallmark of a true professional. See Commandment #4.

Keep a Journal. There's a lot of scientific evidence to support the fact that keeping a journal is a good thing for people to do. The benefits include reduced stress, faster recovery, feeling of peace, greater focus... do you need more?  Keep a journal. You'll be amazed at how good it is...

Know the Score. Business is a game. You must know the score. Focus on selected daily/weekly KPIs. Have professionally prepared monthly financial reports including Balance Sheet and Profit/Loss statements, at a minimum. Delegate bookkeeping as soon as possible in the life of your business.  Life is a game. Money is how we keep score. Ted Turner

Have an agenda. Send it in advance, and follow it. Be organized and respectful of your team members' time.

Good Habits

Sleep and Let Sleep. Consistent sleep is the best thing you can do for your health, energy, focus, concentration, and the quantity and quality of your work. The madness of Silicon Valley startup culture whereby CEOs demand workaholism is counterproductive. Read this for the sane point of view.  And, now here's the ugly argument, from a top VC.  VC greed can drive the CEO to demand insane behavior from his team. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Ben Franklin.

Be On Time. Never be early, never be late.  Get there ahead of time and wait until the appointment time before you walk through the door. Being early is an inconvenience to the person you are visiting. Being late is an insult, and demonstrates your lack of preparation. Make it a game to appear at exactly the right time. You know they will look at their watch and be impressed with your punctuality and dependability. Make it a habit, a point of personal pride, and an shining example to your team.

Exercise consistently. Even a little exercise, done consistently, is far better than sporadic strong workouts. Get away from your computer frequently throughout the day. Walk around, drink water, do a few pushups, do something, but do it consistently!

Eat right.  Make nutrition an intellectual decision, not an emotional reaction. My food story.

Dress appropriately. Quietly communicate the highest level of professionalism.

Optimism breeds success. Become this person. People will follow you to the ends of the earth.

Practice Gratitude. Read this.


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Be wiser than other people if you can: but do not tell them so.
Dale Carnegie