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The CEO 11


The CEO sets all the standards for the company, including coaching, decision making, delegation, effort, egalitarian behavior, energy, ethics, hiring, honesty, leadership, management style, quality, thoroughness, and working style-i.e., the complete A-to-Z range of attributes that form "the corporate culture." The CEO, in short, is the firm's heart or "clock," which drives every event.

Academics, biographers, and autobiographers have written a great deal about the personal characteristics required to start a company and become its first CEO. Silver (1985) believes that the typical entrepreneur is a happy, creative, insightful, guilt-laden twenty-seven- to thirty-three-year-old who is a good communicator, comes from a middle-class home with an absent father, had a deprived childhood, is married or divorced, and can focus intensively for long periods of time.

It should be noted that wealth was not among the characteristics just specified. Not only does Silver not require it, but both White (1977) and I believe that "being wealthy is a significant handicap" to an entrepreneur because success isn't absolutely essential for wealthy people, and they are therefore not driven by an urgent need to acquire and preserve cash. In the words of Jim Hammock, president of Silicon Compilers (acquired by Mentor Graphics), "When we started up, the company was all any of us had. We simply had to make it work. Often, fear of failure was our strongest driving force." It is possible to create the appropriate fear of failure in a wealthy person, however, and thus overcome the "handicap of wealth," by having that person invest a significant portion of his or her net worth in the new venture.

The CEO must have a very high energy level and be completely dedicated to the company. Dedication means that the CEO should not be involved in more than one or two outside organizations, since excessive outside involvement is irresponsible and places his or her firm at significant risk. On the other hand, neither should the CEO be overzealous-trying to do everything personally. Rather, the CEO must be able to hire creatively, understand the responsibilities of every team member, and delegate tasks appropriately. If the CEO is the founding entrepreneur, and is an inventor or marketing visionary but not a manager, he or she may wish to delegate a majority of the tasks through an intermediary manager-a chief operating officer (COO). Under these circumstances, Silver (1985) advises hiring a manager who is older and more formal, who has a great deal of energy and heart, and who is both practical and thorough. Typically, a good manager for this position is a former corporate achiever with a nonegocentric mind-set who became dissatisfied with his or her environment.

Having both a COO and a CEO in a start-up involves a number of potential dangers, however. This is essentially a "two-in-a-box" style of management, and the

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