How to Be a Better Startup CEO
Q: Where can I get practical advice or training for being a better CEO for my growing startup?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization composed of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. Founded by Scott Gerber, the YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.
A: Go Clubbing
The best advice you can get will likely come from discussions with other people who are dealing with or have dealt with similar issues themselves. Find clubs, organizations and groups you can join, such as the Young Presidents' Organization, where you can speak to other entrepreneurs who are doing great things themselves. Just come prepared to offer your own nuggets of wisdom as well.
Kent Healy (twitter.com/Kent_Healy), The Uncommon Life (theuncommonlife.com/blog)
A: Ask Experts About the Unknown
We tend to migrate toward areas we know, and leaders and mentors in those areas. Instead, focus on topics (like human resources or legal) where you have limited or no knowledge, and don't be embarrassed about it. Seek out leaders and experts in those specific areas and start with the basics. They don't have to be entrepreneurs or startup alumni to know their stuff.
Susan Strayer (twitter.com/SusanStrayer), Exaqueo (exaqueo.com)
A: Collect a Blogroll
In this age of social media, people are telling all, and entrepreneurs are being more transparent than ever. If you really want to know how to become a better CEO, read some of the incredible stuff other startup junkies are writing, since they're sharing every intimate detail about their experiences as well as analyses on how they can improve.
Danny Wong (twitter.com/blanklabel), Blank Label Group Inc. (blanklabelgroup.com/)
A: Get Into CEO Space
CEO Space is the largest and oldest cooperative CEO network in the world. It offers lifetime membership to hundreds of CEOs, who meet five times a year to help each other grow their businesses in terms of clients, capital and contacts. It also has the best trainers in the industry teaching at its conferences. I can tell you that whatever you are looking for, you will find it through CEO Space.
Louis Lautman (twitter.com/louislautman), Young Entrepreneur Society (youngentrepreneursociety.com/)
A: Find a CEO Mentor
Just because you're the CEO doesn't mean you can't have a mentor to look up to. Seek out more-experienced leaders in your industry. One-on-one mentorship is one of the best ways to get practical advice at any stage in your career. You'll gain contacts and confidence from a mentor who will help you personally and professionally.
Doreen Bloch (twitter.com/DoreenBloch), Poshly Inc. (Poshly.com)
A: Can You SCORE?
SCORE is a great resource for free business counseling. With chapters and locations all across the country, you can feel assured that you will meet a volunteer who can offer sound advice that will help you reach your goals as a CEO.
Logan Lenz (twitter.com/loganlenz), Endagon (endagon.com/)
A: Everybody Needs Coaching
You can start with a mentor, but always be looking for a coach. A coach is someone who has done what you are looking to do. Typically, when you find the right one, you can make an offer to help him or her — through payment, donating to a charity, or doing work — in exchange for time each month to talk about your business. Be willing to give coaches something in return for their time.
Roger Bryan (twitter.com/rogercbryan), RCBryan & Associates (rcbryan.com)
A: Indulge in Mixergy
Andrew Warner of Mixergy regularly interviews entrepreneurs and CEOs. He does a great job of getting specific examples of successes and mistakes from his guests, and any CEO can learn from the illustrations he provides.
Bhavin Parikh (twitter.com/bkparikh), Magoosh Inc. (magoosh.com)
A: Learn From the Best
Some of the best advice you can get is from those who are six to 12 months ahead of you in the startup life cycle. Since they just lived through it, they'll have a lot more sympathy for what you're going through right now than the rock-star CEO who's been kicking ass for years. They'll also be able to provide tactical advice that you can follow immediately, and you’ll have the reassurance that those same tactics recently worked for them.
Chris Lee (twitter.com/lee_chris), Meeteor (meeteor.com)
A: Be a Student Again
If you are a tech CEO, there is nothing like taking a programming class so you can learn the basics of what your development team is doing. This doesn't mean you have to become a programmer, but it wouldn't hurt to understand what they do. Check out Hacker School, Codecademy or Udemy to learn more about this critical part of your startup. It's also not a bad place to look for talent.
Matt Wilson (twitter.com/MattWilsontv), Under30CEO (under30ceo.com/)
A: Get a Board of Advisors
This doesn't have to be as complicated as it sounds. Think about the types of people you would want on your board of advisors: lawyers, accountants, business leaders, you name it. Then seek out people in those fields who you may already know, and fill the rest of the spots with virtual mentors by reading books on those topics.
Nathalie Lussier (twitter.com/nathlussier), Nathalie Lussier Media (nathalielussier.com)
A: Who Do You Know?
It's OK to be honest and humble with your own existing network. If you are focused on success, you're likely to know people who are successful. Reach out to peers, mentors and friends — people who can share their experiences of being a CEO or working in a related leadership position.
Ash Kumra (twitter.com/#!/AshKumra), DesiYou (desiyou.com)
A: Read Inc. Magazine
I’ve been a regular Inc. reader for quite some time. Inc. offers all kinds of advice on running your business, both on its website and in the magazine — from strategies on growth and pricing to team management. It’s also a great community to get active in and connect with other entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
Heather Huhman (twitter.com/heatherhuhman), Come Recommended (comerecommended.com/)
A: Utilize Questions on Quora
There are unbelievable discussions on Quora about building a team, improving as a manager, growing as a leader and more. Successful CEOs answer questions all the time, and the number of discussion threads about growing a startup is nearly limitless. Most helpful is the diversity of viewpoints. There is no one "right" way to be a CEO, and Quora allows you to learn from everyone.
Aaron Schwartz (twitter.com/#!/ModifyWatches), Modify Watches (modifywatches.com)