7 Common Elements When Transitioning from Founder to CEO

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When entrepreneurs start their first business, not only is it their first time as a business owner, but also their first time as a CEO.

Being the “CEO” means very little in the early days, but as the company grows, the title of CEO takes on more meaning. Defining your role and your style as the CEO of your company takes planning and specific effort on your part. It may even feel a bit awkward at times, but you have to establish what your role will be as the CEO.

Growth Changes Your Job

Many entrepreneurs start their businesses because they like the hands-on part of their business. Engineers like to engineer. Furniture makers like to build stuff. At some point in the growth of the business, the entrepreneur begins to move away from the hands-on part of what their company does. This can be a painful and frustrating period.

As they move away from the hands-on, entrepreneurs must learn the other strengths and weaknesses they bring to the business.

If you have a knack for numbers, keep the financial management of the business part of your core responsibilities.  If you are good with customers, don’t be in a hurry to give up selling and customer relations.

Your “job description” as CEO should be a reflection of your skills, abilities, and knowledge.  However, no matter what your specific role as the CEO is in your business, growth demands you start to build your team.

Delegation Hesitation

There are three common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when delegating.

The first mistake is being hesitant to delegate.

When first beginning to delegate to employees, some entrepreneurs might feel that no one can do what they do as well as they can do it. Employees might not care quite as much as the entrepreneur does. After all, this is your business, and your reputation is tied to its success. To employees it is simply a job.

To overcome this hesitancy to delegate, entrepreneurs should remind themselves that sometimes “good enough is good enough.” While employees may not carry out the tasks delegated to the level of perfection you would, they can learn to perform these tasks well enough for the business to run smoothly and for customers to stay satisfied.

Moving Too Quickly

The second mistake entrepreneurs make is rushed delegation.

Rather than being hesitant to delegate, entrepreneurs who make this mistake seem as if they can’t wait to get tasks off their plates. We see this quite often with serial entrepreneurs who are so eager to get to their next new business idea that they don’t take the time to get their current one running properly before moving on.

These entrepreneurs delegate without providing proper training and without giving clear expectations for performance.

In the rush to delegate, tasks and responsibilities can also end up being assigned to the wrong person or mistakenly to multiple people simultaneously. This can lead to chaos and frustration.

To overcome rushed delegation, develop a clear and detailed plan that includes what needs to be delegated, who should be assigned the task and what needs to be done to prepare employees for their new responsibilities.


The third mistake is undermining the delegation process.

Even after the delegation of tasks and responsibilities, employees will still tend to want to go directly to the entrepreneur to get an answer to a question or to make a decision, instead of going to the person now assigned to that area. If the entrepreneur answers that question or makes that decision, it will completely undermine the authority of the person it has been delegated to.

I developed a “seven-second delay” to avoid this mistake. When I was asked for an answer or a decision I would always pause for a few moments to ask myself, “Is this still my responsibility or have I delegated this to someone else.”

If I had delegated it, I’d answer by sending them to the employee to whom I had given that responsibility.

Delegation is a lot like raising teenagers. At some point you have to begin to let go so they can learn — and grow up. With your business, if you don’t learn to let go and delegate, your business will never successfully “grow up” to the next stage of development.

7  Common Elements of CEO Job Description

As founders build their team and delegate responsibilities to their leadership group, they must pay attention to seven elements that are part of every entrepreneur’s job description as CEO:

  • Growth can be stressful for everyone in the company.  The entrepreneur must remind everyone of the vision as to where the business is headed and provide inspiration for the company’s potential.
  • The entrepreneur must be the keeper of the culture and lead the efforts to create an intentional culture that represents the founders’ values.
  • Growth requires resources.  As the CEO, the entrepreneur is responsible for securing the necessary resources to ensure successful growth.
  • The entrepreneur must work with the leadership team to create systems that will support ongoing growth and ensure customers’ needs are being met.
  • The structure of the business should never “just happen” as people get hired into the business.  The entrepreneur must ensure that structure is tied to the strategy, culture, and business model of the company.
  • As CEO, every entrepreneur must be prepared to be the chief strategist and adjust the direction the business takes based on changing market demands and opportunities.
  • Finally, as CEO, the entrepreneur serves as “emotional shock absorber” to keep a positive climate in the business, even when the business faces the inevitable challenges that are part of growth.

By integrating these elements into your job description, you will be on the path to becoming a more effective CEO of the business you founded.