So here begins a possible series of posts for startup CEOs and founders, based on my experience with Standout Jobs (and before that). I have a few ideas to work on, we’ll see what comes of them. Here’s the first…
The role of startup CEO is to delegate responsibility, not outsource it.
I’ve mentioned before that startup CEOs need to do sales. At the same time I’ve also recommended that startups get a ton of help for non-core activities such as bookkeeping, accounting, etc. Those might sound a bit at odds, but they’re not.
Startup CEOs absolutely need to do sales. At some point once you’ve figured out what’s working and what’s not, to the best of your abilities, you should delegate the process (and refinement of that process) to someone else. But the minute you think about outsourcing sales, you’re giving up your own responsibility for it, and that can be extremely dangerous.
Startup CEOs absolutely should hand over non-core work to others. Bookkeeping and accounting are great examples. And in effect, you are outsourcing this. But the ultimate responsibility for the financials lies with you. Investors and employees aren’t going to turn to the bookkeeper or accountant for answers on why there’s no money left in the bank. They’re coming straight for you. And that means you have to delegate this responsibility vs. outsource it. You have to understand the numbers, how everything works, and have your finger on the pulse of your startup’s financials at every moment, so you’re not abdicating responsibility just delegating some of it.
The role of Startup CEO is to be involved in all key processes and activities within and around the company. That might not scale over time, but initially, it’s essential. Customer service — don’t just outsource, delegate. Figure it out yourself, as startup CEO, do the work, talk to complaining customers, field angry emails, before handing over a portion of that responsibility to someone else. There are plenty of other examples…
Outsourcing responsibility can very quickly turn into, “I’ll give this work to someone else so I don’t have to think about it anymore.” That’s a very, very dangerous place to be.