CEO Defined

27 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 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- Succes, the right mindset and hard work

Photo Credit: Ryan Inman

To me, being a business owner, founder, and entrepreneur means being successful in doing something you’re passionate about. Success is waking up every morning to do what you love for a community and audience you care deeply about. It’s about changing your clients’ lives for the better by working hard and loving what you do. Being an entrepreneur is also about having the right mindset. Understand that your business doesn’t need to be a 10 million dollar business in order to be successful. If you’re happy with what you do, you make enough to sustain your lifestyle comfortably, and have a good work/life balance, then your business is successful. Happiness and success come with this mindset. Being a business owner means being willing to work hard for your vision of success and achieving it by being passionate and dedicated to your work and your clients.

Thanks to Ryan Inman, Financial Residency!


#2- Working for the business

Photo Credit: Julia Reich

Being an entrepreneur and business owner means working for the business, not necessarily in the business. It took me a long time to realize that as a creative professional, I would grow more quickly and earn more revenue if I wasn’t doing all the design and illustration work myself. Instead, I’ve learned to focus on more strategic responsibilities such as business development, project management and client engagement.

Thanks to Julia Reich, Stone Soup Creative!


#3- A problem solver

Photo Credit: Jeanny Chai

A CEO is someone who cares about solving a problem with absolute and infinite autonomy, creativity, efficiency, without the bureaucracy and constant need to prove oneself that often dampens the careers of female professionals.

Thanks to Jeanny Chai, BambooMyth.com!


#4- Four things

Photo Credit: Ron Robinson

Being a CEO means the following to me: being able to steer the strategic direction for the business, ability to grow the business while maintaining cash flow, ability to motivate the team as well as hire exceptional talent and ability to connect with consumers.

Thanks to Ron Robinson, BeautyStat.com!


#5- Sharing passion

Photo Credit: Chris Sinclair

When it comes down to it, filling the position of a CEO is all about leadership, and being able to provide for people both professionally and personally. It is through this role that I am able to share my passion with a team and together, work on projects that fuel each other’s creativity. As long as the hours can be, as high as the stress often is, and as heavy as the responsibilities are, I find that it is the challenge that both excites and motivates me. My passion lies in my ability to create. In this context, based on the virtue of the type of company we are, business is my art form, in that, not only do I get to create new and vibrant ideas that either help our clients and bring enjoyment to people, but I embrace being able to create the actual business infrastructure as well.

Thanks to Chris Sinclair, Anthem!


#6- Being in charge of my own future

Photo Credit:Trevor Blessinger

I am not reliant on climbing the corporate ladder at this point. Getting out of the standard corporate work life has been a dream of mine from the start. Some people are meant to be entrepreneurs, the kind of people that prefer to build something of their own, which the fruit it bears are in direct response to the time and care they took nurturing it. Being a CEO means I am in charge of my own future. The work I put in every day goes to the success of my own company. The decisions I make as an entrepreneur and co-owner of Art of The Gentleman have a direct response to its performance. I love the thrill of seeing all the pieces come into place, the most important part of running a business is laying the foundation for success.

Thanks to Trevor Blessinger, Art of The Gentleman!


#7- The trust you have in employees

Photo Credit: Julian Fisher

The best thing about being a Founder and a CEO is watching your creation grow, becoming recognized and respected amongst your peers. If there is one thing entrepreneurs crave, it’s validation that their idea(s) have sustainability and ultimately scalability. As my business has developed my role has changed from managing everything, as any start-up requires, to allow the staff to manage the business whilst I focus on the company and its growth. I am the primary individual for raising investment funds, communicating with the board and updating our shareholders. So being a CEO doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself, it’s about the trust you have in your employees to manage respective departments.

Thanks to Julian Fisher, jisp!


#8- A number of things

Photo Credit: Charlie Harding

Being a CEO isn’t all about decreasing risk and increasing the company’s bottom line (although that’s an important part of the job); it’s a balancing act between the short and long term. Making employees happier in the short term increases productivity and retention in the long term. To be a CEO you have to think in both the present and the future to understand the easiest and most likely path to success. To push past the limits of what’s possible, you have to debate not only with your team, but with yourself. This is the only way to guarantee the best answer. It’s not just about being open to feedback and criticism, but encouraging it. I don’t always have the right answers, but as a CEO I need to learn from our mistakes and understand why they happened in the first place. This constant search for the “why” opens doors and takes businesses to the next level. At its core, being a CEO means keeping your mind open and dedicating yourself to a lifetime of learning.

Thanks to Charlie Harding, Let’s Roam!


#9- Inspiring and encouraging people

Photo Credit: Bonnie Crater

To me, being a CEO means inspiring the right people to want to work for you and then further encouraging them to do great things in the service of your company. While many people believe CEOs hold a lot of power, and in many cases, they do, it’s in the Silicon Valley world where the CEO must rely on their team members in order to achieve success. Being the CEO of a startup company is a journey and every day is different than the last. I’ve had my current CEO position longer than any other position I’ve ever held and I think that’s due to the fact it’s really hard to get bored.

Thanks to Bonnie Crater, Full Circle Insights!


#10- Investment in your business and the individuals

Photo Credit: James Lloyd-Townshend

Being a CEO means having a genuine desire to see those around you outperforming you. I want to be confident that they’re making the right decisions based on their diverse range of experiences and skillsets, while I steer the ship based on that expertise. When you can do that, then it means you’re at an organization filled with incredibly talented people—and being a CEO is having that level of investment in your business and the individuals who make it what it is. Yet, despite this desire for those people to succeed, being a leader is about holding your hands up and being the face of those decisions that they do occasionally get wrong. You can’t hang people out to dry and avoid responsibility—even if they aren’t your decisions, you’re the one who hired those that made them. You’re the person who takes the plaudits when everything is flying, and you have to be culpable if it takes a turn for the worse.

Thanks to James Lloyd-Townshend, Tenth Revolution Group!


#11- Decision-making

Photo Credit: Markus Holzer

Being a CEO effectively means being the top decision-maker in significant matters that affect the company’s culture, trajectory and, yes, bottom line. As the human is capable of making a limited number of decisions every day, this requires CEOs to be excellent delegators. We must be open to letting others make decisions and mistakes not because we are nice but because the business really demands it. Personally, I’ve found the process of watching colleagues take initiative and grow as professionals incredibly exciting!

Thanks to Markus Holzer, contextflow!


#12- Being an efficient and effective leader

Photo Credit: Caitlin Pyle

I accomplish this by staying connected with my team to ensure that weekly tasks and projects are completed in a timely manner, and that everyone on the team knows what’s happening in the company. Since we all work remotely, I like my team members to have trust and autonomy to live their lives in a way that suits them and their family.

Thanks to Caitlin Pyle, Proofread Anywhere!


#13- Hustling with heart

Photo Credit: Laurel Mintz

I fell into entrepreneurship when I had to run our family business right out of school. My father had become ill and I had to make sure that our family could survive. I was 26 and had a team of 60 and ran two 20,000-square-foot custom retail shops. It was definitely a trial by fire, but I learned about buying, merchandising, marketing, sales, advertising…you name it. When my dad recovered and I was able to step away, I was asked to consult for other retailers I had developed relationships within the time I ran the showrooms. In 2007, I partnered up with a friend in San Francisco who ran a venture fund and we worked to put together projects for our clients and get them off the ground. It was really exciting. A few years later, I was asked to be a founding member of the Los Angeles Consulting Group (LACG). That was a great partnership, but the firm was focused on financial services, so I exited and started Elevate My Brand. At that point, I realized what I was good at and, more importantly, what I wanted to do and for what kind of clientele. And I never looked back.

Thanks to Laurel Mintz, Elevate My Brand!


#14- A visionary and an integrator

Photo Credit: Justie Nicol

The visionary aspect allows for ambitious goals and optimistic planning. Without a visionary, the firm wouldn’t be able to grow — or possibly wouldn’t exist at all! However, the integrator aspect is how those aspirations turn into reality. Integrator creates operational policies, implement solutions, and manage the team.

Thanks to Justie Nicol, Niccol Gersch Law!


#15- A mixed bag

Photo Credit: Clarene Mitchell

All the responsibility for the success or failure of business falls on me. I wear all the hats and if something doesn’t get done it’s because I didn’t do it. Focusing on the positive aspects of the title is what keeps me going forward as an entrepreneur. Being a CEO is the most fulfilling title I have had in my professional life. I’ve always been a self-driven person and results orientated. Now that I am a CEO, the only limits on what I can accomplish are self-imposed. I have total creative and strategic freedom. It is always very gratifying to achieve wins for my business and know they are the result of my hard work. I no longer have to wait for a boss to give me permission to do something or go through the process of convincing them. I no longer have to depend on the efforts of team members to get things done. As the Chief Executive Officer I’m the boss of me!

Thanks to Clarene Mitchell, TCM Communications!


#16- Cheerleader and values setter

Photo Credit: John L (Lin) McCraw

It means that I am the one responsible to setting the values and core beliefs of our organization and putting flesh on the values and core beliefs by designing goals, key performance indicators, systems and training so that our team members thrive and grow as our company thrives and grows. It is being the chief cheerleader and encourager when things go right and when they go wrong. It means accepting 100 percent accountability when the team misses the mark, yet giving 100 percent praise and adoration to others when things go right. Sometimes it means stepping back and allowing others to grow even at the expense of short term efficiency. CEO is really a role of subrogating the self for the good of others; to weld others together where the whole is more effective than the sum of the parts. I have said it is often like designing and building the machine, then becoming grease in the gears of the machine to make it run better and more sustainably.

Thanks to John L (Lin) McCraw, The McCraw Law Group!


#17- Sense of control and self-growth

Photo Credit: Joshua Rodenborn

The journey of control and self growth: It is impossible to be the same person you were before starting a business as you are after. Having to re-evaluate a business plan that isn’t working, trash canning the old model and starting from scratch with superior knowledge and experience feels like a metaphor for discarding the parts of yourself that have become immature or stagnant. An example, like giving up your past self-gratifying behavior(s) when becoming a new father. The process and evolution of a CEO feels neverending; learning what works, fine-tuning that process and implementing an improved strategy. Also you have to know when something isn’t working and divorce yourself from a bad idea, move it aside and move yourself along. Being the owner/CEO of a business is like a high-stakes game of chess: your constantly plotting your strategy, adjusting as the situation changes and learning from your mistakes. It is also a game of skill more so than chance, which is great since it increases your sense of agency in the world and makes me feel like I’m not at the mercy of fate.

Thanks to Joshua Rodenborn, Jax Nurses Buy Houses!


#18- Holding the highest responsibility

Photo Credit: Melanie Marris

Being a CEO means wearing multiple hats at all times and learning how to balance them. As CEO, you’re holding the highest responsibility – the success of the company at all times, all the way down to ensuring the glass on the windows is clean and the floors are swept daily. Being a CEO is a role where you are always on and are obsessed with what you do. You are everyone’s motivation in the workplace, you are constantly creating opportunities for people and you’re setting the bar for everyone else on the team. You are ensuring the wheels are turning and the business is succeeding through an immense amount of focus, determination and execution along with great delegation skills and of course, by always working with integrity.

Thanks to Melanie Marris, Melanie Marris Eyebrow Stylist!


#19- You are alone in the world

People’s income, hopes for the future, quality of life, family life.. mental health and financial present and future depend on you not just doing your job well, but having the vision, the strategy, the skills, the ability, and the personal qualities to take the company in the correct path and to successfully navigate that path.

Thanks to Ali Rizvi, Dream Superhero!


#20- The opportunity to really make a difference

Photo Credit: Chris Kaiser

Being CEO of Click A Tree allows me to really make a difference. Not just for me, but for our planet. For millions of animals that find a safe home. For hundreds of people across the globe that find a stable job. Not just my employees, but parents and communities we employ and pay fair salaries to for planting and nursing our trees. We plant trees both for individuals and companies, and mostly so in tropical regions, where jobs are very dearly needed. The difference this full-time income makes to the people on site is what gets me out of bed every morning, and what makes me proud to be CEO.

Thanks to Chris Kaiser, Click A Tree!


#21- Protecting my team

Photo Credit: Kas Andz

It takes a lot to build a powerful team for business. It’s even a bigger task to maintain and protect them as well. As a business owner, I consider protecting my team as my role. Protecting my team is also accompanied by mentoring and inspiring them. The inspiration behind protecting my team is simply because my business can’t thrive without them. It follows that protecting my team is my top priority.

Thanks to Kas Andz


#22- One who finds and utilizes resource to achieve goals

Photo Credit: Chhavi & Amit

I personally believe a CEO is someone who knows (or finds out) how to use the available resources to achieve their goals. It could be in business or at home. CEO’s are not the ones who make excuses of any kind. They don’t say I do not have this tool so I cannot achieve this, they find a way around it. Someone who can do this (and, is determined in this fashion) will always be successful and in my eyes, a damn good CEO.

Thanks to Chhavi & Amit, Mrs Daaku Studio!


#23- Creating a culture of growth, learning and teamwork.

Photo Credit: Norman Lavintman

The most effective and productive teams consist of individuals who are able to work together, enjoy the process, and learn from one another. Profits and revenue are important of course, but in my opinion, it’s the act of working together and the daily engagement in processes that make for excellence. This concept goes beyond only the employee side, but my philosophy is that partnering with clients who are collaborative, engaging, and communicative make for the best, most productive, and long-term relationships. The mutual benefits of that type of clientele is profitable and perhaps more importantly, enhances quality of life.

Thanks to Norman Lavintman, Palms Boulevard!


#24-  Service

Photo Credit: CJ Deguara

Many imagine the CEO on the top of the mountain. To me being a CEO means you have made a commitment to stand at the bottom and lift your team up. Being a CEO means you have promised to serve your team and the organization. As the decision-makers our choices impact everyone. If it all falls into place we build something amazing, if it all falls down it falls on our head. So to me, being a CEO means I have accepted full responsibility for the well being of the team, organization, and clients.

Thanks to CJ Deguara, Redzel Marketing!


#25- Exploring new territories

Photo Credit: Melina Valdejo

Being a CEO at my job is all about exploring new territory. It can include being willing to find solutions to problems while growing my business and supporting my employees. The buck stops with me. Sometimes the solution is to know when to outsource or delegate a problem. Sometimes it’s about knowing how to hire the right people; and sometimes, it’s knowing when to let a project go that is taking more time and money than it’s worth.. In the end, it’s the CEO’s decision.

Thanks to Melina Valdejo, Pathways New Age Books & Gifts!


#26- Taking time to reflect

Photo Credit: Unai Artetxe

Ever since I decided to build my own firm I have realized that entrepreneurship is a journey towards self-discovery. In the last 6 months, since I founded bloq studio I have learned to confront the fear to uncertainty and to let go things that will not significantly contribute to the end goal. Being an enterpreneur means to step back and take some time to reflect in what is important in your life, both professional and personal. I have been able to generate a vision for my life and to use it as an anchor to maintain myself focused only in the things that matter for that future.

Thanks to Unai Artetxe, bloq studio!


#27- Mitigating risks

Photo Credit: Simon Hansen

As CEOs are people that lead others, I believe that a CEO is someone who plans ahead by mitigating risks by doing research and preparing for every worst-case scenario. In this unstable and rollercoaster ride of business, CEOs should still be able to see straight ahead and fulfill his/her responsibilities.

Thanks to Simon Hansen, Best Sports Lounge!


What does being a CEO mean to you (define being a CEO, entrepreneur or business owner)? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community

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