Corporate employees making the transition to being self-employed due to layoffs, following their passions or dreams, starting a new business in their spare time to supplement their income, or for any other reason will often take great pride in referring to themselves as the “CEO” of a business. With visions of grandeur dancing in their heads, the new business owner will see themselves as taking their rightful place alongside luminaries like, Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Donald Trump, and others.
What is the role?
While the thought of having minions doing their bidding for them and being able to direct staffs to immediately react to any new opportunities is tantalizing, the reality of the role is very different. The chief executive officer role is less monarch and more of a cheerleader having to often perform flips and gymnastics to solve problems, keep people focused and motivated, and creating a vision for both customers and employees.
A recent article that appeared on the blog “On Startups” covered the topic well. The chief executive officer should consider him or herself to be the Chief Experience Officer. The role is to transfer the passion and vision that they have for the company, products, and services to those that are customers, suppliers, and employees. The goal is to strive tocreate an experience that is superlative in all of the following facets of the company:
- Product – What is it the customer experiences when they use the product? How does it add value to the tasks it is designed to address? What pleases the user about how the product functions or completes the role it is designed to meet? Are there things about the product that are frustrating or are seen as “just the way it is” when compared to other products available in the market?
- Purchase – How easy is the company to business with? How intuitive is it to identify the right product needed for a customer’s “job” or reason for choosing the product? Was it apparent what was needed to get the product to work (supplemental purchases, other ingredients, parallel needs, etc.)? Did the pricing reflect an intuitive understanding of value and benefits derived from the product?
- Brand – Does the brand align with the buyer’s lifestyle, image, interests, etc.? Is there a connection with the brand that is differentiated from other products within the market? Or, is it seen as a commodity that is easily interchangeable with other products available?
- Post-sale support – After the sale, what is the feeling a customer has with the product, brand, company? Is it difficult to contact the company? Hard to figure out what department or person to speak with to resolve an issue? Are customers treated as complainers and problems or are they seen as valued and cherished? How quickly and correctly are problems addressed and resolved?
- Exit – What is the customer’s experience when they cease to do business with the company? When they choose to leave and use a competitor, cancel a subscription or maintenance agreement, etc., are they communicated with to understand why or are they merely removed from the database? What efforts are undertaken to continue the dialogue with former customers?
- Employee – How are employees treated? Is it consistent across all levels (or regions, or functions) of the organization, or are some treated better/differently than others? When prospective employees are being recruited or solicited, what is their impression of the company? Does it change over time? How are people separated from the company (are they treated fairly or harshly)? Expecting an employee who feels as if she is treated poorly to provide a positive customer experience is not a realistic goal.
While being the CEO of a company may initially be thought of as the land of private jets, limos, fine dining, and hobnobbing with celebrities and the rich and famous; the truth is that there is an awful lot of work that has to happen in the trenches. Being able to constantly improve upon the experience received by customers and employees is a necessity if a company is to thrive. In this tough economy, it may be essential to even survive.
As a CEO, your role needs to be about the aspects of your company that others experience and not about building your own experiences of being a bigshot and dictating to others. The job is just too important to be that hands-off.