The Character Traits and Skills of the Successful CEO — Organization

Big Red Car here.  Another great day in the ATX and why not?  So we’ve been chatting about what makes a successful CEO, those critical character traits and skills that seem to be possessed by those rare beasties.  Things that others can emulate and copy on their way to success.  [Hey, “monkey see” “monkey do” is a legitimate personal growth strategy, haha, Big Red Car.]

One of those elements of success at the CEO level is the ability to organize things in an orderly manner and to harness the clarity of that organization to provide insights as to how to proceed — how to take the next step.  In many ways, organization is the prelude to preparation.  Preparation is prelude to action.

Organize, prepare, act — hmmm, sounds similar to crawl, walk, run.  They are related, Old Sport.  Oh, yes, they are.

Organize, prepare, act

The Boss has been working with a brilliant young CEO who is in one of those enviable positions everyone wants to be in — the well deserved and hard earned opportunity to monetize half a decade of work by selling  a company to a strategic acquirer and being in the position to continue to run a larger enterprise.  Not Instagram but big life changing bucks nonetheless.

More importantly, what is really going on is the CEO and his team (the partners and critical top management) are organizing their efforts to prepare to conduct a meaningful and complex negotiation with a highly experienced acquirer.  This could be a daunting task but it does not have to be and the antidote is to organize and prepare in order to remove a bit of the transaction anxiety.

What is quite captivating and wonderful to watch is the manner in which the CEO and his compadres are learning how to engage with the process one iterative step at a time.  The Boss is very big on iterative learning.  We all learn things one step at a time.  That is the way life works.  Selling a company is a 7-10 step process and you have to touch each base on the way home.  There are no shortcuts on the path to the pay window.

In this situation, the brilliant young CEO — whether he sells the company or not — is developing extraordinary skills in assessing a complex process with which he has almost no familiarity and which may create some attendant butterflies.  That sound in the background is the stretching of a comfort zone.

This learning experience has been supported by more than a bit of dialogue with The Boss who does have more than a passing familiarity with such matters and the provision of certain exemplars by The Boss such as a proforma Term Sheet and other documents which provide insights into how the process can and should work.

The quality of the organization of thought and the preparation for each next step has been exquisite and a joy to behold.  Whether this deal makes or not, this team is going to have developed some great skills for whatever other such opportunities may lie ahead.

Organization is almost always a prelude to further action

In another situation, The Boss is working with another young brilliant startup CEO who is grappling with the typical product, sales, fundraising competition for his time and it is gratifying to see how clearly the CEO sees and understands the complexity of marshaling one’s efforts at the right instant in time to “do the right thing” as it relates to the future of the business.

In many ways the dialogue between this particular CEO and The Boss has been a validation of what the CEO has already known but has not really embraced and committed to fully.  One of the best results of an effective CEO advisory relation is the CEO’s validation of his own instincts and the ability to economize on the time spent negotiating with oneself which is an inevitable CEO time trap and sink.

This particular brilliant young CEO is working through the model business canvas exercise to be able to use that information to be able to articulate the merits of the company as a basis for seeking funding.  He has already been through the boot strapping and F & F stages and is ready to seek some seed funding.

Fundraising is always about telling a story.  Telling a story requires a bit of organization of the themes which make for a good story.  It may feel trite but if one does not have a clear Vision then it is very difficult to tell a coherent story.  [That’s capital V Vision, ya’ll, says the Big Red Car — pay attention here, ya’ll.  Hey, Big Red Car, behave yourself.  Haha, OK says the Big Red Car.]

In many instances, the first type of organization is organizing one’s thoughts.  That is why the exercise of making a business model canvas is so powerful as it requires one to answer basic organizational questions.

Remember this document?  Wisdom of the Campfire The Business Model Canvas REV 25 June 2013

In just a few hours, this brilliant young CEO has organized his thoughts as a prelude to completing a business model canvas as a prelude to telling his story based upon his Vision for the company.  Iterative organization, preparation supporting definitive action.

This is how organization — simple organization — prepares us to take action.  Organize, prepare, act.

You do not have to be brilliant to succeed

The Boss has been blessed to be able to work with many brilliant CEOs but the simple truth of the matter is that one does not have to be brilliant to develop these basic skills which support and drive success.  One simply has to do them.

In the two anecdotes discussed above — and The Boss could add another ten with no difficulty — the organize, prepare, act themes are obvious, simple and easy to replicate.  There is no requirement to be brilliant but there is a requirement to focus on organization as a basis for preparation to act.

Do the simple stuff and the complex stuff will not be so complex.

But, really what the do I know?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Be careful out there and take a minute to organize your efforts.