CEO Defined

18 Entrepreneurs Explain What Being A CEO Means To Them

Here at CBNation, we love to hear what being a CEO means to different entrepreneurs and CEOs. We understand it entails a great responsibility and expectations from both the clients and the team you’re leading but its meaning varies with each CEO.

We asked entrepreneurs and business owners their definition of the word CEO and here’s what they had to say.

#1- Effective leader

Photo Credit: Tim Hebel

My definition of being a CEO is being an effective leader. It’s someone who can properly balance many aspects of work and life. An effective CEO isn’t too emotional when times are tough, yet embodies compassion and understanding when needed. They balance a laid-back environment with strict standards and expectations. A CEO inspires through efficient management, fairness, and setting the right example.

Thanks to Tim Hebel, Beanstalk Web Solutions LLC!


#2- Two definitions

Photo Credit: Ryan Coon

The CEO within an organization has two primary responsibilities – building and empowering a team. To build a team, the CEO must constantly think about the roles that need filled and seek out individuals who have the skills, experience, and cultural fit for the organization. CEOs must take this responsibility very seriously, because hiring someone to your team is a big commitment. The costs of making a mistake are really high – both financially, and the impact to the morale of letting someone go. After building a team, it’s time to empower them and get out of the way. Make sure the team has the necessary training, resources, and guidance, but then trust them to execute on the vision. No one likes the overbearing micromanager. As CEO, it’s also important to make sure that the individuals on the team have opportunities to learn and grow. This ensures people remain interested in the work they’re doing.

Thanks to Ryan Coon, Avail!


#3- Winning battles at hostile territory

Photo Credit: Andrei Vasilescu

Being a CEO or a business owner provides me the opportunity to act like a troop commander in unknown territory. When you are the sole responsible person of your entrepreneurship, your decisions make the fate of your business. It’s like commanding a group of soldiers while fighting a battle in a foreign field. As a CEO of your business you have to take the right decisions that settle whether your can win or lose the challenge. It feels awesome and increases the self-confidence to a great level when your idea or decisions as a CEO of your business work out in the field to achieve specific goals.

Thanks to Andrei Vasilescu, DontPayFull!


#4- Three things

Photo Credit: Jordan Wan

It has been an incredible four years and I’ve learned a lot running this business. For me, being a CEO means:1) You get to constantly experiment with new ideas and initiatives in a rapid fashion. Without bureaucratic processes and inherent risk-averse corporate environments, you can make mistakes, learn quickly and change directions on a whim.2) You understand how extremely rewarding it is to mentor and train new hires and then witness their development and growth to become leaders in the company.3) You have to swim upstream at first against market norms and peers who doubt your vision. When your business finally clicks and your vision starts to
become reality, your achievements feel magnified and your career has purpose.

Thanks to Jordan Wan, CloserIQ!


#5- Holding three pillars

Photo Credit: Karthik Sridharan

Being a CEO is one of, if not the, most difficult thing I’ve had to do. It’s been a journey not only in professional development, but in personal
evolution. For me, there are three pillars of being a CEO that are non-obvious and critical to understanding the role – letting go of one’s ego, being adaptable to change, and being the steward for your company’s vision and culture. For such a seemingly powerful role, the CEO position is not at all about throwing your weight around. As one of our board members once told me, as CEO you must always be ready to fire yourself from every job you handle at the company. This flows into being adaptable to change. As the company grows, you must determine which jobs you are the absolute best person for, and which need to be handed over to a new person. Throughout all the changes and growing pains, you are responsible for being the steward for your company’s vision and culture. Thinking about what differentiates your company and ensuring that each and every person on your team understands this at a high-level, is a key responsibility of the CEO. It flows into how successful your hiring efforts will be, how harmoniously your teams can work together, how effective your managers are, and how well your company can weather the inevitable growing pains.

Thanks to Karthik Sridharan, Kinnek!


#6- Moving barriers and creating opportunities

Photo Credit: Jason Brewer

Being a CEO means moving barriers out of the way so talented people on your team can perform at the highest level. It means setting the tone for the company, leading by example and pointing directly at a single North Star (and constantly reminding everyone of it). Finally, a CEO is responsible for creating opportunities… not just in a new business deal flow sense, but, opportunities for the team to grow,  learn and invest in something bigger than any one individual.

Thanks to Jason Brewer, Brolik!


#7- Master of your own destiny

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

As a CEO, I feel like I am the master of my own destiny. I have the ability to pursue the field I am passionate about and find innovative ways to differentiate myself and our company’s offerings in this industry. It’s a job that comes with a lot of responsibilities, but it’s full of rewards and I work with the most fantastic team members ever!

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!


#8- Taking responsibility

Photo Credit: Alisa Nemova

I am running my own small digital marketing consultancy and coming from technical background there are a few exciting and challenging things that I am facing. For me being a CEO means taking responsibility and being pro-active. No one else would make decisions on my behalf and if it won’t be for me, the business won’t progress or grow, regrettably, as no one else would be concerned. Continuous stepping out of the comfort zone and learning how to enjoy selling to people even when you were not born with this skill is the key on early stages. Learning to trust other people and not being a perfectionist when it comes to your business baby is another important thing. Being a CEO means prioritizing profits and opportunities over the vanity, which may seem obvious however is a common mistake that I personally saw business owners do many times.

Thanks to Alisa Nemova, SEO with Love!


#9- Authenticity and transparency

Photo Credit: Stuart Hearn

The role of a CEO is extremely multi-faceted. It is a role that demands you to look not only at the big picture but also at the inner workings of all workplace processes. For me, being a CEO means being creative. After all, I had to build my company from the ground up. I had to make decisions regarding company culture, our values, what we stood for, what we wanted to achieve and how we should go about achieving it. At the heart of what I was trying to achieve with Clear Review was flexibility. I wanted to offer people greater flexibility with regards to their performance management systems, so I felt I had to build flexibility into my own company — if you want to sell something, you have to believe in it and you have to live it. In that sense, I think being a CEO is also all about authenticity and transparency.

Thanks to Stuart Hearn, Clear Review


#10- Persistence and sacrifice

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Bradshaw

Being the CEO of my company means being able to ride out the tough times, like when your supplier stops being responsive, or when your sales team is not meeting the expected quota. It also means putting in long hours that could be spent with friends and family. Ultimately, being a business owner means being prepared to sacrifice time, money, and energy to hopefully build something that’s greater than the sum of its’ parts, and leaving behind a legacy.

Thanks to Elizabeth Bradshaw, Canvas Art Boutique!


#11- Decision maker

Photo Credit: Jens Jakob Andersen

To me, being a CEO means that I am the one who makes the unpopular decisions. Decisions for the better. As a CEO, you know things others don’t and shouldn’t. You base decisions on information unknown to others, which often makes you look bad. It’s a tough job, a lonely job, but also a very meaningful job, where you lead others towards a shared goal. In the end, my ultimate goal as a CEO is to satisfy shareholder interest. As I own 100% of the business, I need to satisfy my own interest, and my interest is to have a good life. That can be obtained in many ways. My way is to work in a flat-structured company with maximum flexibility that makes a profit and that is growing. Other CEO’s have other interests, but these are mine.

Thanks to Jens Jakob Andersen, RunRepeat!


#12- Chief Experimentation Officer

Photo Credit: Ketan Kapoor

Being the CEO of Mettl, I think being a CEO has a wider dimension to it. I see any CEO as the “Chief Experimentation Officer”, that also holds true in my case. Steering the ship of small business, the CEO can’t blindly follow pre-defined rules and practices and expect every proven strategy to work for their business. All too often, successful CEOs have to gather the courage to expand their horizons, take calculated risks to explore unchartered territories and see how the results are shaping up. A CEO is bound to witness times when proven strategies won’t be working and they have to figure out alternatives, every now and then. Sometimes, the business sails smooth; however, there are times when CEOs have to make course corrections to ensure their business can weather any storm. This mindset stems from having continuous experiences and without experimentation, there can be no experiences.

Thanks to Ketan Kapoor, Mettl!


#13-Making a Difference

Photo Credit: Tom Malesic

Being a business owner means having the opportunity to make a difference in the world. It is an honor to provide a great place to work for our team. I love seeing the excitement when one of our team learns something new or accomplishes something that they have been working on. In my heart, I know that by taking the risk to start a business has allowed other people to accomplish their dreams.

Thanks to Tom Malesic, EZMarketing!


#14- Observer and Implementor

Photo Credit: Chris Willatt

Being a CEO is recognizing that you cannot dictate the market. You cannot control what your clients or consumers want for themselves. All you can do is observe needs. Your reaction to those needs is the measure of your success. If your people want more flexible jobs and your clients want less commitment, it is your job to adapt and meet in the middle. At the end of the day you are working for your clients and your employees. Your job is to make sure that you are meeting both of their needs in the most accessible and creative ways possible.

Thanks to Chris Willatt, Alpine Maids!


#15- Main responsibility holder

Photo Credit: Alex Membrillo

The CEO is the “Chief” over other company officers and/or the Board of Directors. The CEO is responsible for the corporate direction, major corporate decisions, and managing the overall operations and resources of the company. As CEO, I know that I’m responsible for making major decisions, while evaluating risk. I’m also responsible for building relationships with large clients and overseeing the strategic direction of the company.  Additionally, I work to ensure the integrity of the business as well as our corporate culture. For me, every day is unique. I’m consistently faced with new decisions and challenges.

Thanks to Alex Membrillo, Cardinal Digital Marketing!


#16- Several things

Photo Credit: Devon Vocke

Being a business owner/entrepreneur means having a perspective and an idea, and being willing to push toward it despite roadblocks and headwinds. It means inspiring yourself and others to see the same vision and work toward it together. And, it means giving – be it your knowledge, time, or financially – to bring others along on the journey. Better yet, you need to learn to enjoy the journey.

Thanks to Devon Vocke, Evoke Strategy LLC!


#17- Wearing many hats

Photo Credit: Danica Kombol

Being a CEO means wearing many hats and feeling comfortable in all of them. You are chief cook and bottle washer one day and captain of the enterprise the next. CEO’s carry both the vision and are constantly on the lookout for risks to future sustainability. A great CEO knows the buck stops here, yet empowers people around her to make decisions.

Thanks to Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency!


#18- Orchestrator of the business

Photo Credit: Brian Essig

Being a CEO, means being the orchestrator of the business.  The CEO is the face of clients, and also the puller of strings to ensure projects and individuals are and stay on track.  It means working with clients to ensure satisfaction.  It also means being the last line of defense for issues that come up and knowing when to have difficult conversations as early as possible.  It means setting the expectations, processes, and procedures to be followed.  Most of all, when something goes wrong it means looking internally first to see where went wrong.

Thanks to Brian Essig, Creating Digital LLC!


What does being a CEO mean to you? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

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