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September 01. 2014 8:23PM

The mind-set and tools you need to survive as a startup CEO


 

Anyone in any job relies on a set of skills to complete their work. As a startup CEO, you must have a keen understanding of the assortment of skills you have — and don’t have. Keeping that knowledge at the ready, and reevaluating your skillset frequently, is a key to success.

I like to think of CEO skill sets in two ways, the Swiss Army Knife and the Dedicated Tool.

Swiss-Army Knife (the knife/your knife): You’ve got to be competent in a lot of areas, but you don’t need to be an expert in every one. Sometimes you can use one of your competencies to jury-rig a fix that should really be addressed with a different skill entirely. You need to have a clear idea of what your knife includes. Some days you will be content pulling this out of your pocket, while other days you won’t be able to live without this. The key is to know that from the get-go you’ve got a quality knife to work with. A freebie you got at some fair won’t cut it, literally.

Dedicated Tool (the tool): Some responsibilities and tasks require the knowledge and skill of a more experienced person. For example, you may be great at project management, but you’re not a top-notch programmer who lives to code. If you don’t seek the dedicated tool in these instances, you may find yourself back-pedaling, redoing work or stalling your business. You can learn from the expert who uses the tool, whether it’s tech skills, legal acumen or marketing savvy. Make sure to truly listen, observe and ask questions of these experts, and you’ll start acquiring new skills of your own.

At the start of your first CEO role, you will think you need to call upon dedicated tools for everything. Before doing so, remember that two of your knife tools are always at the ready — research and networking. With a modest amount of research you can usually knock down some steep learning curves. Networking is invaluable. Keep these standbys sharp and oiled.

The key is knowing which option to choose and when. Should you fold up the knife or keep it at the ready, working just a little bit slower as you advance your way through the latest challenge. Should you have someone demonstrate how to tweak your use of your own knife, or call upon an expert to finish the job with their tool?

Always remember that you may have the tool yourself. Step away from the quick adjustments your knife provides and make the time to find your tool that you carelessly left collecting dust on the closet floor. It may be difficult to justify the time it will take to repair and use your tool, but your business will benefit from the focus and attention you give to your cobwebbed expertise.

When building your team, it’s important to not only bring on people who have dedicated tools that complement yours, but to also evaluate their knife. You want people to have a solid set of non-expert skills as well as dedicated skill sets. The startup environment is demanding, and your team will be a big part of decision-making in the organization. The most valuable trait of my colleagues is resourcefulness. They know when to pull out their knives and when to ask for help.

When you’re having a bad day, you may want to throw your knife across the room. Don’t. You’ll just waste time walking over and picking it up. When you find yourself frustrated or at a loss, step back and re-evaluate your knife and your tools.

You probably have more skills than you give yourself credit for. Keep it real. Put your own character into your knife and your tools, while appreciating the character and composition of other people’s well-worn toolboxes.

I look forward to hearing from you at abihub.org/ask-the-expert/ or please contact me directly at allisong@nearbyregistry.com.


Allison grew up and resides in New Hampshire, where she founded NEARBY in 2011. NEARBY connects independent business and nonprofits across the country to the $19 billion gift registry market and $40 billion online gift-giving market. Now all types of everyday shoppers and gift registrants can conveniently shop for or register for products, services and nonprofit donations from their favorite local places.

Learn more about Nearby Registry at: allisong@nearbyregistry.com; nearbyregistry.com; facebook.com/NearbyRegistry; twitter.com/NearbyRegistry; pinterest.com/nearbyregistry/.


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