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You Probably Shouldn't be CEO of your Startup. Ask Yourself These 3 Questions to Find Out.

Debbie Madden
May 01, 2018

Too often, I speak with founder-CEOs who have fallen out of love with their business, or whose business has fallen out of love with them. Yet, they continue to be CEO.

Why? Because it’s hard to look inward.

As CEO, it’s your responsibility to measure the performance of everyone on your team, including yourself. Just because you got the company off the ground doesn’t mean you are the best person to take it to the next level. You might be, or you may not.

Sometimes, you’re no longer the best person for the job. Sometimes, CEOs have to fire themselves.

To learn if you’re still the best CEO for your business, ask yourself these three questions every year:

1. Are you excited for your job to change?

As CEO, it’s your job to look ahead. Jeff Bezos sleeps well every night because he has mastered this. He trains his team to think 5–7 years out. Most good executives think at least 2–3 years out. Whatever your time horizon, it’s your responsibility to think ahead.

Part of thinking ahead is examining what you personally bring to the table. In order to hit your goals, which new hires do you need to make? Which systems and processes need to change?

Based on this, how does your job as CEO need to change? Are you excited for this change?

If you’re excited for the change ahead, embrace it.

If you aren’t, it might be time to think about transitioning yourself to another role inside the company, or removing yourself from the day-to-day, or from the company altogether.

2. What’s the next thing you should hand off and to whom?

Now that you know what needs to change and how excited you are for the change, what’s the next thing you should hand off? As CEO, the more you can delegate and outsource, the better.

As a general rule of thumb: If your business earns less than $1 million in revenue, you should hand off roles you are not good at. Once you hit $1 million, you need to start thinking about handing off roles you are good at. For example, if you are great at sales and are above $1 million, you might hire a sales coordinator or outbound sales rep who you can mentor and train to take on a subset of the sales activity.

Handing off work takes planning and time. Think about the next three years. What roles do you need to be recruiting for now so you have people in place? Who in your current organization can rise to the challenge and take on some of your responsibility? What systems and processes do you need to revamp or create to enable someone other than you to do the work?

3. Are you still the most qualified person on the team to be CEO?

This is the hardest question of the three, but it is important to ask every year. I ask myself this question annually.

If the answer is yes, you are still the most qualified person to be CEO, challenge yourself by asking probing questions:

  • At what size or stage might I no longer be the best person to be CEO?
  • How will I know when that time arrives?
  • Who on my team can I ask to hold me accountable to asking this question next year?

If the answer is no, create a transition and succession plan.

Companies are ever-evolving. As the founder CEO, your team and investors look to you to look out for them. You have to look ahead, like Jeff Bezos. You have to look inward. You have to be humble.

If you love your job and feel you are qualified to grow with the changing needs of the business, embrace the ride and focus on growth and delegating roles. If you feel it’s time to move on, embrace this too. Today is day one of the rest of your life and the sooner you can act with intent, the sooner you can get busy with moving forward.

Originally posted on Inc.

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