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Eliot Sun

The 6 C’s of CEO

xBM4F1UHaving held that three-letter title for a couple of startups now, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t even begin to describe what my role actually is.

Here are 6 “Chief” roles that CEOs actually fill for their teams.

Chief Student

Attributes: learns fast, learns well

A founding CEO must be able to pick up a variety of topics. And fast.

You’re likely working on a team of 1-2 other co-founders with little, if any, capital to hire others. This means that you need to fill in the team’s gaps in knowledge. Study up.

Whether it’s marketing, accounting, business development, or even human resources, you better figure out what’s going on, because no one else is. Your job is to study like that procrastinating student the night before the exam. Cram like there’s no tomorrow!

Chief Editor

Attributes: make hats look good on others

Cramming doesn’t work in the long run if you want your business to be successful. That’s why you hire people who are way smarter than you, and who can do their respective jobs far better than you can.

For example, in the beginning, I had to do all of the design work at Kloudless. Those were unsightly times. When we hired a real designer, she took over all the design work. I give her input and feedback, but she drives. I’m the editor, she’s the writer.

As the cliché goes, a CEO wears a lot of hats. But once you’ve hired a few folks, you have to give them up and help your employees look good wearing them.

Chief Garbage Man

Attributes: removes obstacles, occasionally takes out trash

Now that you’ve brought in the experts, it’s now your responsibility to get rid of anything that may prevent your employees from doing their best work.

This means anything ranging from picking up sandwiches to taking out the office trash.

You’re paying your team the big bucks. Do you really want them to spend their valuable time doing menial labor?

Chief Psychologist

Attributes: good listening skills, can empathize

Sometimes obstacles aren’t so simple to remove. Or even identify, for that matter.

Even the smallest annoyance can turn into a distracting frustration. Nip these issues in the bud.

I have biweekly one-on-one meetings with each employee to discuss a wide range of topics. Sometimes I give performance-related feedback. Other times, they’re telling me their level of satisfaction with the latest office snack options. Anything and everything goes. Two-way traffic on this street.

Happy team = productive team

You have to foster the feeling of openness and trust. Best way to get your employees to open up is to really listen and connect on a level deeper than just giving performance reviews. Happiness at work matters just as much as happiness outside of work.

Pro-tip: bribing them with food or coffee often works well here.

Chief Gandalf

Attributes: rallies the team, tells the future

Everyone on the team has a specific responsibility. To pull all the pieces together, it’s important that they know they’re contributing to a grander goal.

At Kloudless, I host an all-hands meeting every week to discuss what’s been accomplished in all parts of the company, such as product, design, business development, and how they all relate to the overall direction of the company. Everyone spends the entire week hard at work, so it’s easy to lose sight of how the pieces fall into the big picture.

I’m constantly editing (See Chief Editor) what the vision of the company is and how that’s communicated internally. The vision is what the entire company rallies to. It’s what guides the organization in its growth.

Ultimately, people aren’t joining your startup for the salary. They’re joining because of your fortune telling powers.

Chief Breadwinner

Attributes: puts money in the bank

This one is simple.

Whether you’re raising money or making money, you, as CEO, have to make sure there’s money in the bank.

No money =  no employees. And you’re back to being Chief Student.

These are the Chief positions I take on at my company. Which ones do you fill?

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About Eliot Sun

Eliot is the CEO and Co-founder of Kloudless. He's a UC Berkeley grad and 3x entrepeneur. Find more of his thoughts on Twitter.
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