What does it mean to be CEO of your business anyway?
When you start your business, you’re the marketing team, the sales team, the customer service team, the tech support, all of it. But over time, as your business grows and gets more established, you want to take some of this workload off your plate.
Traditional CEOs have the people and teams in place to help them so they can focus on higher-value tasks and take their business to the next level. But how do you, as the CEO of a smaller business, build an environment that’ll sustainably do the same for you? How do you transition from the role of entrepreneur to the role of CEO?
It all starts with getting clear on five elements that’ll help you figure out your role as CEO. In this episode of the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast, you’ll learn about those elements that make up the job description of a traditional CEO and how to translate that for your small business. I’ll teach you the process to help you define your specific CEO role and reveal questions to help you determine your biggest value to your company.
On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:
4:44 – Transitioning from solopreneur to CEO can be a challenge (and one I’ve faced multiple times). I explain why.
6:12 – What was Sara Blakely’s journey from solopreneur to CEO like? Here’s her story.
11:02 – What is the job description of a CEO? I share a process to help you define your role as CEO of your business.
18:58 – I talk about how we live one of my company’s key values (“life comes before business”).
22:42 – Creating a strategic plan is part of your traditional CEO role. What does that look like for entrepreneurs running smaller companies?
26:07 – How do you lead your team as CEO of a small business? I use The CEO Collective as an example.
30:47 – The final piece that defines traditional CEOs is one of the hardest things about running your own company. (And you can’t crowdsource it, either).
35:44 – I quickly recap the five key elements of a traditional CEO role and how it impacts you as an entrepreneurial business owner.
37:43 – Ask yourself these questions to clarify what you need to be responsible for as a small business owner in your company.
45:57 – What do my essential CEO tasks of content, clients, and connections mean in my business? I share how I apply these to give you some clarity and insight.
Mentioned in 5 Elements That’ll Help You Define Your Role As CEO
- Sara Blakely’s Instagram Post 1 and Post 2
- 90-Day CEO Operating System
- Fired Up and Focused Challenge
- The CEO Collective
- The CEO Retreat
- Double Double by Cameron Herold
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- Racheal on Instagram and TikTok
- Rate and review on Apple Podcasts
Do you think of yourself as a CEO? For years, I didn't. I happily thought of myself as just an entrepreneur. That's it. Just a small business owner doing work that I loved from home while I was raising my babies. After all, who was I to give myself the title of CEO when my business didn't have dozens of employees, my business wasn't generating millions of dollars, my business wasn't a household name, like SPANX®?
Sara Blakely, she could call herself a CEO. She had all of those things. Because she was the CEO of SPANX®, she had the confidence to pitch her products to Oprah or to Neiman Marcus, she had an entire team to support her in growing her business. She had the funds to grow, grow, grow. But here's the thing, she had none of those things when she started off as the CEO of SPANX®.
If you haven't heard her story, it is incredible. She started off with just $5,000 and an idea. She didn't wait until she had the confidence, the team, the connections, or the funding. She didn't even know how to make the product she wanted to create. But she showed up. She went to every hosiery manufacturer and got turned down again and again and again.
Finally, one of the manufacturers called her back because he had shown the idea to his daughters who said, “Dad, this is a great idea,” and he agreed to produce it. Then she landed the big Neiman Marcus deal by taking the buyer into the ladies' room and literally showed herself as a before and after. First, Sarah wearing her white pants without SPANX® on underneath, then she went into the bathroom stall, put on her SPANX®, and then the white pants, and showed the buyer the results.
That is the opposite of a fancy pitch. That is connecting on a human to human, woman to woman level. What I've learned from watching amazing women CEOs and leaders like Sara Blakely is that you can't wait to have more time, more money, more followers, more team to take yourself and your business seriously. You have to start showing up like the CEO of the business you want to build. You have to create your own opportunities. Today, I want to talk to you about defining your role as CEO of your business.
Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.
Welcome back, CEO. We are in this series all month about stepping into your role as a CEO of your business. We kicked off this series talking about really looking at your business with a fresh perspective and asking yourself honestly, are you showing up as an employee, as a manager, or as the CEO?
As we start asking ourselves these questions, we have to ask ourselves what does it actually mean to be the CEO of your business anyway? Because as entrepreneurs, as small business owners, when we started, we are literally all the things. We're the CEO, the marketing team, the sales department, customer service, operations, tech support. We are doing everything just to get our businesses off the ground.
But over time as our businesses get more established, as they grow out of the startup stage, as they grow into the success stage, and then into the stage where we're really wanting to scale beyond just us, where we're able to create more systems that allow us to streamline our workflow, that allow us to automate some tasks, or even allow us to outsource or hire support, we start to think very quickly about how we can get some of this workload off of our plate so that we can get back into CEO mode, so that we can focus on the higher value revenue-generating tasks that we need to be focused on if we're going to take our business to that next level, whatever that means for you.
Now, this transition from a solo owner-operated business to CEO can be incredibly challenging. Not only are you facing a big mindset shift in the way that you look at yourself and your role in your own business, but there are a lot of tactical practical things you have to figure out as you're navigating the shift from doing everything yourself to now bringing on team members and delegating things out, passing the workload off, making sure that all those team members are staying on track, they're all moving in the same direction, they're hitting their targets, they are helping achieve the goals, and doing it all while you're not becoming the bottlenecks in your business.
Every single time, I have found myself slowing down the business, it's because I have become the bottleneck again. I say again because I have run into this multiple times and I am not alone. It's so easy. It's so easy to find yourself pulled backwards instead of moving forwards because backwards is what we know. We know how to do the things we just delegated.
It's really easy to become the bottleneck instead of staying in your lane as the CEO. We all go through this overwhelming stage of growth where there's just a lot that is changing and change makes us want to crawl back into our comfort zone.
I started off this episode talking about Sara Blakely and I was inspired by a post she had on her Instagram feed. I just think her story is so incredible. I'm going to share the post in the show notes so you can see the post but it showed the very beginning startup stages of SPANX® versus where they got to. When she first started SPANX®, as I shared at the beginning, she got rejected from every hosiery manufacturer to just make the product.
She taught herself how to write a patent because she didn't have the money to pay an attorney. Finally, she found somebody to manufacture it but she didn't have the resources or the funds to do marketing, PR, or anything. She was shipping things out of her apartment.
She had this post on her Instagram feed where the UPS guy showed up and they stacked boxes and boxes and boxes of SPANX® all in front of the front door of her apartment. She was living in a small two-bedroom apartment at the time. She would get home from her day job where she was selling fax machines while she was building SPANX® on the side.
She shared in this post that she would have to move all the boxes away from the front door just so that she could get into the apartment. The second bedroom of this apartment, well, that was her shipping and distribution center. She would literally take all the SPANX® that had been shipped to her from the manufacturer, and then she would repackage them, and start to ship them out.
Can you imagine that? Having boxes literally to the ceiling and having to package them, ship them all out the very beginning stages. She was doing this all herself, going after this dream by herself. But as she could, she started to focus on where she could provide the most value to her business.
She was not the most valuable shipper and distributor of SPANX®. She couldn't continue that role. She figured out how to get someone else to step in and take over shipping and distribution. She didn't continue with the operations of running the business and manufacturing everything. She let someone else come in, step into that role, and take it off her plate.
She realized her most important role as the CEO of her business, her highest and best value she could bring to the table of her business was landing the deals, was pitching herself to Oprah, getting on Oprah's Favorite Things, pitching herself to Neiman Marcus, and taking that buyer rep into the ladies room to literally show her before and after. She has story after story of her going out there to be the face and the story behind this brand.
Now the after picture that Sara Blakely showed on her Instagram feed was so inspiring because you're seeing the difference, the before and the after, going from literally boxes piled up to the roofline of her apartment to suddenly seeing this massive warehouse where she has an entire team in place to distribute SPANX®.
Even more exciting, last year 2021, she announced after the company got a huge deal with a private equity firm that she was gifting every single one of her employees two first-class plane tickets anywhere in the world and $10,000 to spend on a trip. It was so inspirational to see that. You can find that post on her Instagram feed as well.
I will embed it into the show notes because that is what happens when you step into your role as CEO. You not only get to do amazing things for yourself, but you get to inspire and lead people and share all the wealth, you get to share all the wins, you get to share with other people and make the world a better place beyond just you. That gets me so excited.
I talk about Sara Blakely and SPANX® because one, she's one of my heroes. I just think she's incredible, but I think anyone who has gone through the process of creating something larger than themselves has gone through this journey of “How do I get this stuff off my plate? I am drowning, how do I streamline? How do I outsource? How do I delegate? How do I really step into the thing that only I as the CEO can do? What exactly is that?” Because it can be confusing.
We need to know what our role actually is supposed to be and for every business, it might be a little bit different. Today I want to share with you a process to help you define your role as a CEO of your business. This is so crucially important. The first thing that we all do when we decide it's time to get some help in our business, to hire someone in our business is we sit down and we write a job description.
The first job description I ever wrote was for a virtual assistant because I knew I needed some customer service support. I needed someone who could help me manage the logistics of all my coaching clients. I needed someone who could answer the emails, who could return the phone calls, who could run my calendar, and be my behind-the-scenes right-hand gal and make sure everyone who had hired me or who had signed up for a program was all well taken care of.
Now I will be the first to say that logistics and those types of details are not my zones of genius. It often left me feeling overwhelmed and left me feeling stressed out like I was always forgetting something. I needed someone who that was their zone of genius. They like taking care of the details. They like making sure everything's buttoned up. They like making sure everyone is well taken care of.
Having that in the job description made it so much easier for me to find that exact person and for them to know exactly what I was looking for, exactly what they were responsible for. But what was funny is I never really redefined my role once I hired this person. I would find myself getting my little fingers all over their work.
I would wonder what was happening in the inbox and I would open the inbox. Suddenly, I get a note from my assistant saying, “Rach, you shouldn't be in the inbox. Get out of here. This is my job. I've got it.” All of this came from me not redefining my role, from me not having a clear picture of what my new role was now that those responsibilities were taken off my plate.
The idea of defining your role as CEO of really creating your job description is to help you create more boundaries for yourself and to stay laser-focused on the areas of your business of the tasks that drive results. It will make it so much easier to see what makes sense for you to outsource, where you need to hire some support, or where you just need to get out of the way and let your team handle it already because that's why you hired them.
When we're talking about being the CEO, literally if you go into Google and you type up, “What is a CEO, CEO job description?” you're going to get a lot of corporate, more traditional CEO job descriptions. That's helpful but not 100%. It doesn't apply because we're entrepreneurs and CEOs.
Let's start the conversation by talking about a more traditional CEO role. A CEO of a more traditional company, more corporate is someone who's at the very, very top of the organizational chart. They're the ones who are in charge. Being in charge means, first of all, they're defining the vision. They're defining the mission. They're defining where the business is headed.
Everyone looks to them to be the person who's saying, “This is the direction we're going. These are the goals that we're setting.” Without that mission and vision, they can't get people all in alignment on what they should be focused on. Without that clarity, it's really easy for the team to fall apart because no one understands what the priorities are. Vision, values, crucial. This is one of the most important things a CEO can do.
The first thing that the CEO needs to do is define what does this company stand for? What is the primary focus of this company? Where are we going? What are our goals? What are we trying to accomplish? You need to think about where are the values in this company? What is the culture of this company? Because those become, I call it the rules of the road. Your vision is where you're going, your values are really the criteria for how you're going to do that, and the strategy becomes exactly what actions are being taken.
You can Google this information. Again, I have a whole training about this. This is what we do inside of The CEO Collective, but I recommend starting with The 90 Day CEO Operating System training that is on the website, because we talk about how important this key element is.
But this is your responsibility as a CEO, to say what the vision and values are for you to be able to summarize it into “Where am I going in the next year, three years, or five years? What does my company look like? What does my team look like? Who are my customers? How am I serving them? What product, program, or services are we offering? What do we want to be known for?” All of those things are there to help you craft the vision.
One of my favorite resources for learning how to craft a vision for your company comes from the book Double Double by Cameron Herold. Fantastic book, highly recommend. He, in the book Double Double, called it The Painted Picture Exercise. I've talked about this quite a lot. It's in a lot of my content. I reference it a lot. Now he calls it a Vivid Vision.
But it's an exercise where you are really dreaming big picture of what your business is going to look like in the future. I find it to be so incredibly, incredibly helpful because once you have clarity on the vision of what you're building, what it's going to look like, who the players are going to be, who you're supporting, how you want this to impact you personally as the owner of the business but also how you want it to impact the other stakeholders, your clients, your team, your community, it gets really exciting.
Your vision should motivate you, it should motivate your team because you're excited about it. The vision, the mission, and the values really became like the endpoint that you plug into your GPS. It's where we're going. It's the rules of the road so that we can chart our course and we can lead our team there, we can lead our business there.
The next thing that the CEO is responsible for is the culture. This is something, as a company of one, can almost feel like culture. I don't have a culture like no, that's too corporate. But what happens is as you start to bring people on, as you start to hire people into your business, it's just so important that people know what the values are as an organization, that everyone's on the same page, that everyone has this commonality and culture where we're all aligned with our values, we’re aligned with where we see this all going. We're aligned in how we treat each other, how we treat our clients.
When you don't have that alignment, this is what happens when companies aren't proactively defining culture, they end up with toxic cultures. They end up with cultures where people hate going to work, the Sunday scaries are real because those cultures are terrible. But if you have clearly created and crafted your culture, then your team is excited about the work that they're doing. They're excited about the business.
Culture is something that you need to start proactively creating. It becomes a big part of your overall brand and your brand experience. This is something that takes intentionality. You have to design it, it will not happen by accident.
One of the things that impacts our culture, that helps us define our culture, is one of my key values that I've had at the moment I started my business, life comes before business, life before business. If you've taken any of my programs or courses and you've gone through our onboarding, we talk through our values and life before business as a guiding principle here.
It's not just about me, it's not just saying, “Racheal's life comes before business, but the rest of y'all, good luck.” It's saying, “This is everyone on the team. This is all of our clients. This is our community. We want everyone to have this freedom and flexibility.”
I've been in situations where it didn't matter what was going on in my life, my work had to come first. I've seen this play out for so many people in so many organizations where literally, I had a friend go into labor with her cell phone in hand typing out emails because she was worried that this had to get done, they were on the hook for this thing getting done even though they were actively in labor in the hospital.
I've been through the experience of working for companies who thought it was okay to be on call 24/7. In fact, I remember, I mean this tells you how long I've been doing this, I was in corporate consulting and I had a Blackberry, this predates the iPhone, everyone, I had a Blackberry and I hated it. I hated it. I wanted to run over it with my car, because the minute that thing came out, I felt like I never could get away from my email. I always was tied to that. I was expected to respond right away.
For me, life before business is a clear guiding value and it informs our culture. It means that our business in The CEO Collective, we have clear office hours, I'm clear with the community when I do and I don't work, my clients know when I do and I don't work. We don't send emails on weekends, you won't see me responding to comments or questions on the weekends. You won't see me getting work done on weekends because I don't work on weekends.
If something were actually to come up in my life, I've designed this business that allows me to put life first. I encourage my team to do this as well. If they have a scenario, they can just communicate with me, “Hey, something's going on right now,” and we can all step in and support them to make sure that things continue moving forward but they can prioritize their life.
I think this is so important for my team to know that we've got their back. Whether they're traveling, celebrating, or something scary is happening, we've got their back and can cover them so they can take care of life first. We have to lead by example with this because honestly, when it comes to intentionally designing a culture for your business, you lead the way.
You can't say this is the culture and then act differently. You have to be 100% in alignment because the way you show up as the leader of the business, as the CEO of the business dictates what people will assume is normal or okay. It has to be a fully integrated part of the fabric of the business.
I want to make sure that every single person who works for me or signs up for my programs understands this is how we're building out this company. This is what we stand for. This is how we operationalize that from our work hours, to our response times, to how we cover each other if somebody has something going on.
The third part of our traditional CEO role is going to be around creating the strategic plan. This is where you create a strategic plan to actually get where you want to go.
Now all businesses are different. In a huge massive like Fortune 100, Fortune 500 company, the CEO is not actually sitting down and creating the plan themselves. They're probably charting just the high-level, super high-level big picture. Then they have a whole executive team, a whole C-suite who comes together to figure out what that strategic plan is going to be.
The CEO isn't mapping out the marketing plan, the CMO is, the chief marketing officer is. The CEO is just bringing everybody together and they are the final decider, the one responsible for putting their stamp of approval on everybody's strategic plans, committing to it, and then communicating that to everyone else in the company.
They set the vision, they tell us the latitude, the longitude, values, vision, mission, and that's where we're going. That's how we're going to get there, that's what we're doing to get there, and clarity on what the priorities are. Now for us, again, this is built into our 90 Day CEO Operating System, this is your 90-day plan. This is your annual plan that we break down into your 90-day plans.
That strategic plan is so crucially important. Because if you have clarity, your strategic plan should be building upon itself. It's about getting momentum. Depending on the size and scale of your business, the bigger your business, the more employees, the more directors, the more executives, they're all going to handle the nitty-gritty details.
But if you're a smaller company like mine and you have less managers involved, it's like you are the CEO and then maybe you have an integrator or an operations manager, you probably aren't going to have a whole team creating that strategic plan but it's up to you to make sure it happens. You have to have the finger on the pulse of what are we doing, what milestones are going to get us there, what short-term goals are going to get us to the long-term goals?
That's one of the most important parts of a CEO's role in a small business is actually creating that plan. That's how we work with all of our clients inside of The CEO Collective. We start with the year and then we break it down into quarters. We break it down even further into weekly action steps so that they can then leave our CEO Retreat, go to their team, and say, “Here's what we're going, here are the priorities, and here's how we're going to make this happen.”
This is why I'm so passionate about our CEO retreats. It's why it's one of the cornerstones of The CEO Collective and The 90 Day CEO Operating System. It's why we drill down even more to have a weekly CEO Date, because we have to do both the long-term strategic planning, so a year to three years out, we have to do the medium term, the next 90 days, then we need to bring it into week by week. We have our CEO Date, the short term, we're constantly adapting and adjusting to stay on track.
So far in the traditional role of CEO, we've talked about vision, we've talked about values and culture, and then we've talked about the strategic plan. There are two more things I want to talk about under the traditional role of CEO. Next, they're in charge of leading the team.
Now again, in a bigger organization, they're focused on helping the people who are in that management level who then is working with the individual people who are the employees that are implementing. If you're looking at organizational chart for a bigger company, there are layers and layers and layers of management. That is not the reality for most of us.
Most of our businesses don't have teams of hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people. We don't need tons of layers of management. That would in fact make our businesses really inefficient and it would be really expensive, to be honest. Our teams are lean, our teams are small but mighty. Honestly, you'd be amazed, there are a lot of seven and eight-figure businesses that run on small and mighty teams that don't need layers and layers of management.
That means you have to create your own organizational chart for your company and create it for where you are right now but also where you see your business going. If you're charting a course for where you want to take your business in the next year, three years, five years, who do you need on the team to help you get there?
This is something you have to do proactively. You don't want to wait until you're absolutely squeezed, you have no more capacity, and you're panic hiring. You want to make sure you're being proactive in thinking about who you need to have in those different seats in your team.
In my business, small but mighty team. I have my operations director, Amber Kinney who is just amazing. She's my best friend. Oh my god. We have worked together since 2011. She has known my twins since they were 18 months old, now they are teenagers. Amber has been with me for a very, very, very long time. She's not going anywhere.
When I'm leading the team, for me, Amber serves as the layer of management between me and the rest of the team. I communicate directly to Amber and then she helps the rest of the team, whether they're in the marketing side, the sales side, or the delivery of our products, programs, and services, she's communicating that to everybody else on the team and holding them accountable, managing the day-to-day tasks, hitting our milestones, hitting our benchmarks, but I'm telling the big picture and making sure I'm clearly articulating what the team needs to know and making sure that everybody is crystal clear on what the priorities are.
The reason this is so important for me, and I mentioned this in the last episode, is there comes a point where once you have more than five to eight people, you really need a layer of management to support you, you need someone else who's going to manage it, or else you are just full time going to be managing your company and not doing anything else.
This is where once you get to five to eight people, you might need someone like Amber who is going to be your operations director, keep all the trains running on time, and keep everybody moving in the same direction. As the team continues to grow, I anticipate that I will at some point need to fire myself from the role of marketing director because that is a role I pretty much have played for my business as marketing director.
I have people doing a lot of the implementation for me, but I'm still creating the strategy and planning. At some point, I will need somebody to be a director of customer experience. Because again, I have a whole team of mentors, I have a client concierge, but now we have a lot of people there and as we bring on more people, we're going to need somebody who's proactively managing them, training them, guiding them so that we can get even better results for our clients.
You always have to have in mind what does the team need to start looking like as you grow. As you hit those benchmarks, who else is going to need to step in and help you out so that you're not swamped just trying to manage people?
As a CEO, your job isn't to spend all your time managing the team, it's about leading the team. There's a difference here. Leading the team is making sure they have clarity on the vision, the values, strategic plan, they know where we're going. They understand the big picture, they understand the current priorities, and they're all excited about the work that you are collectively doing.
The final piece about the more traditional definition of CEO is about making the big decisions. Now this is one of the hardest things about being CEO, believe it or not, sometimes making decisions is hard. Decision fatigue is real. When you're the decision maker, you're the one who has to make the call on “Do I invest all this money into a new marketing strategy? Do I invest all this money into hiring a new team member? Do I invest all this money into attending a conference, signing up for a mastermind, or getting some additional training, coaching, or support?” All of those decisions are big decisions.
There are no guarantees with a lot of these. You have to be able to weigh the risk and the potential return, ROI of making those big investment decisions for your business, and make a call. I get it, it can be scary. Sometimes it can feel like, “Well, what if I invest into hiring this advertising team and I don't get their ROI? Can I afford it or not? What if I invest and I feel like I don't get anything out of it? What if I invest and I chose wrong?” These are really hard decisions. I totally understand.
I'm going to tell you, you will not make 100% perfect decisions. Just accept that that is part of it. You're going to make some bad calls. You're going to make some mistakes because you're human and because this is just part of it. But the good news is when you get used to making these hard decisions, you start getting better at them over time.
As you strengthen this decision-making muscle, as you have more clarity on where your business is going and what you need to get there, you start to get clearer on what you actually need instead of spending money on things that are shiny objects or “Ooh, I'm worried I need to have this because FOMO,” you get clearer on prioritizing where those resources need to be deployed to get the return on your investment.
You also have to make decisions about your business that maybe aren't about how you're spending money or deploying resources in your business but making key decisions like are you going to market your business this way or that way? Are you going to offer this type of program or that type of program? Do you need to kill off a product, program, or service that you're no longer excited about or that no longer fits in with where your business is going? Is it time to do a full rebrand of your business or not quite yet?
These are often big decisions that are time intensive, they're expensive, and it can feel really, really overwhelming. At the end of the day, you can't crowdsource these decisions. If you go out into the world and just ask other people's opinions of “Should I do this type of marketing or that type of marketing?” unless they really know you, your business, your vision, and what you're trying to accomplish, their answer is not going to be helpful for you, because it's all based on their experience. It's based on their belief system, their values, their vision.
You can't crowdsource these decisions. But I want you to think of this instead, instead of crowdsourcing to people who do not know you and don't know what you value, don't know your vision, etc., remember that most CEOs, especially if we're talking about traditional CEOs, they have a board of directors or a board of advisors.
This is the group that they go to when they need to make bigger decisions and they need a sounding board. They need people who understand the business. They need people who understand them. They understand the strengths, the weaknesses, the opportunities, and the threats. They understand what is going on in the business and the industry.
They can be the sounding board where you can go, “Hey, this is what I'm thinking. This is where I'm stuck. Here's what I'm trying to figure out right now. I can use some support, advice, feedback, or just somebody to ask more questions until I can really get to the answer.” Then they can make decisions from an informed place, from informed advisors versus crowdsourcing from people who are not informed about you or your business.
This is the one big thing that we all need in order to level up our business. I'm asking you now who is on your board of advisors. Who do you go to when you need to make big decisions? Where are the people who not just understand you as a person, but understand your business, understand what the potential is in your business, understand where you're trying to go? Those are the people you want to surround yourself with.
This episode is getting pretty intense here because we covered the five key elements of a traditional role for a CEO. I tweaked it a little bit to give you insight into how this impacts you as the entrepreneurial CEO. First, vision, where we're headed. Second, values and culture, how are we getting there? What are the rules of the road? How are we going to show up as a business?
Third, create the strategic plan. This is our 90-day planning process. This is planning your best year ever. How are we going to get there? What are the milestones. Fourth, who do you need on the team to help you get there? That's another huge part of our 90 Day CEO Operating System. Fifth, making all the big decisions, leveling up your CEO leadership, leveling up your support system. All of this is a full-time job just on its own.
But a big but here, we're entrepreneurs, and that means that all of those things we just talked about, that's not it. That's not all that we have to do. We have other things we're responsible for as we're growing our businesses. For a lot of people, I know that you are still responsible for different areas of your business.
I shared already, currently, I am still serving as the director of marketing for my business. I have people who are helping me implement the marketing but I'm very much creating the marketing strategy and the plan and helping with some of the implementation because I'm sitting here recording this podcast now. I don't edit it or produce it, but I have to sit here and record it so I'm still involved in that part of my business.
Same with the director of customer experience. I don't have a director of customer experience, but I've got a team of people there that at some point as we serve more and more clients, I'm going to need somebody to lead that team, train that team, keep that team all on the same page.
For a lot of people who have been following me for a while, we need to start asking ourselves, “How do we define our role as the CEO and how do we make sure that we're not getting our own way because we have additional responsibilities? How do we make sure that we're not becoming bottlenecks in the business growth?”
This is why we have to sit down and write our own job description because the five things we talked about have to cover those. But as small business owners, we have to get clear about the things that we need to be responsible for in our business, the things that are honestly going to take a lot more of our time and energy, because, and honestly, these are the things that are going to be most of our time. Most of our time is going to be spent on the entrepreneur side versus just the CEO side. It's bringing it all together.
Here are a few questions I started asking myself. I encourage you to write these down and really take some time with them, journal on them, talk through them. It's okay to take your time with this. It's a process.
The first question I asked myself is where do you provide the most value to your business? Where do you provide the most value? This is where you're doing your highest and your best level work where you are in your zone of genius. This can almost feel like a trick question because as entrepreneurs, we have to get good at lots of stuff.
We tend to think, “Well, because I can do it, I shouldn't outsource it or I shouldn't pay for this because I can do this. I don't need to get someone else on the team managing that.” But I can tell you my highest and best use of my time and my energy isn’t scheduling social media. My highest and best use of my time and energy, all my resources, my brainpower is not managing my calendar, answering all the emails that hit our inbox, or double-checking on billing problems that might be happening, that's not the highest and best use of my time and energy.
Where am I offering my highest and best value? My intellectual property, my content. This is where I'm running an expert-based business. I'm coming up with intellectual property, with frameworks, systems, and strategies. That's where I need to spend most of my time is creating content and sharing my expertise.
This could mean I'm creating content for the people inside The CEO Collective. This could mean I'm training other people on how to deliver that content. This could mean I'm going out there and speaking, doing interviews, or creating this podcast. Anything where I'm sharing my intellectual property, where I'm sharing my expertise, that is the highest and best use of my time. Do a brain dump. What activities provide the highest value to your business?
The next question is, what of those activities drive results for your business? Now, this is a little bit of a trickier question. Now we're getting a little more granular. We can come up with a list of things we know adds value or we hope adds value to your business. But then we really have to ask ourselves, “Okay, is this actually getting me clients? Is this actually getting me paid? What is actually making a difference on the business itself?”
This is so important because you might have so many things you're incredible at but they don't drive results as much as other things. You have to be willing to narrow your focus even more, to really, really, really tap into the things that, again, only you can do, that is your zone of genius, your highest and best use of time, and now make sure it drives results for your business.
It's really easy to believe that because you're super active on social media, you're getting clients, but is that true? I see this a lot with my clients who have never actually audited the effectiveness of their marketing strategy. They've created all these things they feel like they must do, that they should be doing but when we actually get down and analyze their results, and one of my favorite exercises is to look at your last 10 clients and then figure out where did they come from, you might get so much clarity about what is and isn't driving results in your business.
You might discover, like I often discover with my clients, that many of their clients are coming from referrals, from word of mouth, or from some other source that isn't as time-consuming as cranking out all the social media content, forcing yourself to go live every day, or all of these things.
I often hear from people who because of all the, again, generic advice out in the world, all the noise online, they'll do this exercise of going through their last 10 clients and they'll come to me, “I can't believe it, Racheal. I spent hours every week posting on social media and trying to create all this content but in my business, referrals is where my clients are coming from. How do I amplify that? Do I still have to do social media? Do I still have to create blog content?”
This is where we need to have a deeper, more nuanced conversation. Because we don't want you to waste your time on something you feel like you should do if it's not actually getting the results. That's a result of the type of conversation I have with my clients every single day. We're looking at what is your highest, most valuable thing you contribute to your business and what of those tasks are generating the results? Go through the 10 client exercise and that'll give you a lot of insight into what is working in your business.
The final question here is what is your zone of genius? Your zone of genius is something that you can't really outsource because you are the best person to do that work.
If you are, let's say running a business as a yoga therapist, and you've been doing incredible work with yoga therapy for years and years and years, in fact, you've got so much experience, over a decade of experience and now you're teaching other new yoga therapists how to do what you do, it doesn’t make sense for you to try to outsource that role as the actual hands-on yoga therapist or the teacher trainer for new yoga therapists if it's your zone of genius, because there's no one who can truly step into that role and be as qualified or have as much experience as you do. That's the thing that you contribute to the business.
But there are plenty of other things you could outsource. Anything that's not that, you can find some way to get help with it. You have to be careful that you're not confusing your zone of genius with your zone of excellence. I find myself in this conundrum all the time. It is a dangerous place if you are somebody who's had to get good at lots of things where you get confused between your zone of genius and your zone of excellence.
When I ask myself these questions, it boils down to my top three essential tasks as the CEO, as the founder of The CEO Collective. These are the tasks I spend my time on throughout the week, the majority of my time is spent on these tasks. In fact, again, this is my job description.
For me, it's content, clients, and connection. I want to share with you a little bit about what that means in my business for me. I want you to ask yourself those questions for yourself. I do not expect your job description to match mine. We are different. We have different strengths. We have different skills. We have different areas of expertise. Everybody's is going to be a little bit different because your business needs to fit you. I'm not trying to make anyone else a mini-me.
But I think by sharing mine, it gives you insight and clarity that hopefully will encourage you to go do this exercise for yourself. For me in my business, content is a huge driver of results. It's the biggest way that I get the word out about my business. It's how most people find me online.
I hear again and again that people find me because of my podcast. They find me because of the interviews that I do. Last year I did something like 50 something interviews. I do speaking. I do guest teaching. Anything where I am creating content for free, I'm using it to attract, engage, and nurture my audience.
For me, sitting down in this chair, pressing record, and talking into this microphone is one of the most valuable tasks I can do for my business. No one else on my team can sit down, press record, talk into the microphone, and get this result. It's only me.
Now, this content is recorded by me but that doesn't mean that I am editing it, that I am writing the show notes. I don't even write the newsletter anymore. My team can take that. Once I've recorded it, they can take it after that. I just upload the file and they've got it from there.
You have to differentiate between what part of the whole situation, what part of this whole podcasting process is your zone of genius versus your zone of excellence, and where you need to be focused versus where you can get support, outsource, delegate that out.
Other types of content, it can be free content or paid content. Again, my specific business model is all about my frameworks. It's about my intellectual property. It's about my expertise as a consultant, as a coach, as a strategist.
Anytime I'm going out there and doing an interview, I'm public speaking, I'm recording a podcast, and creating a free masterclass, like The 90 Day CEO Operating System masterclass on our website or creating a challenge like the Fired Up & Focused Challenge, all of those free pieces of content all pay off because that is how I attract, engage, and nurture people into my community.
But I also spend a lot of time creating paid content. Inside of The CEO Collective, they are paying for the content that we are creating for them. Anytime I see a pattern and my clients are needing something, I go, “Okay, can I create a system? Can I create a template? Can I create a framework? How can I help them get through this sticking point, break through this bottleneck, and get to where they need to go?”
For me, content is about taking my intellectual property, packaging it up either for free as a marketing tool or paid so people are buying it, essentially are buying access to it when they join our program.
Now the next thing that drives huge results for me is connections. This might surprise you because many of you know that I'm a super introvert. I like being by myself. I need lots of downtime. But connection is so incredibly powerful. I truly believe that business grows at the speed of relationships.
I've mentioned before, I'll mention it a million times, so many of my biggest opportunities have come from my network. I think of connection all the time. I'm always looking at how can I connect with people? How can I provide value to other people? How can I make sure that I'm prioritizing those relationships, that I'm building those relationships?
I don't just want to gather a bunch of business cards and then not have an actual relationship with people. I'm supporting them. I'm connecting them. I'm cheering them on. I'm connecting them with other people. How am I spending time here in connection? This is attending events, I attend a lot of events. I go to a couple of conferences a year. I attend events locally to me. I attend events as a speaker, I attend events as just an attendee. I meet so many people in real life.
What I find is those relationships are solidified and accelerated when you meet in person. When you get in person, you meet somebody, and then you have lunch with them, huge. I spend a lot of time prioritizing that, not a lot. It's not like every night I'm going out to a different event. But I do prioritize events.
I probably attend one or two events a month locally here in Richmond, Virginia, and I probably attend anywhere from two to four conferences a year. The more I do it, the more fun it gets. Actually, even though I'm an introvert, the easier it gets. Because now I know when I attend the ConvertKit conference, I know people who are going to be there and I'm excited to see my friends.
I'm excited to see them. That's a big difference from going and feeling nervous and anxious that I don't know anybody there. The more I connect, the more people I have in my corner.
Another huge part of my connection strategy is still social media. I think social media is meant to be social. I don't spend a ton of time just churning out content on social media. I have a strategy for that. I'm not going to get into that today. But I do spend a lot of time using social media as a way to connect with people.
I'll connect with my peers, my colleagues, and people who are referral partners. It's a great way to keep up with people and see what's going on in their life or in their business. It's a great way to support your colleagues who you're doing business with, maybe referral partners, etc. It's also a great way to support your clients.
I've tracked all of my clients online, and they always tell me they can't believe I follow them on TikTok or Instagram and I leave comments, or I downloaded their free thing and then I'm on their newsletter list. I hit reply and tell them they did a great job. Making the time to connect with those people human to human is invaluable.
How else do I connect with people? One of my favorite ways is to send introductions, to make introductions. I think referrals beget referrals and when you get in the process, the habit of referring people to other people or connecting people to other people, it just continues to open doors all the time.
I'll introduce people all the time. If somebody says, “Oh, I'm looking for a brand strategist,” in my head I'm going, “Oh, I know three different brand strategists. Who would be a great fit for you?” If somebody says, “I need a lawyer,” I'm like, “Hey, I know lots of lawyers. What kind of lawyer are you looking for? Let me do an introduction.” Those connections are so valuable.
I'm not doing this because I want something in return but what I find is it always comes back somehow. When I'm making connections for people, when I'm making those introductions, another person is making one for me. It's just creating this culture of sharing connections, sharing resources, and I love that.
I also make sure to nurture my local network. You've probably heard me say I live in Richmond, Virginia. It's one of the top 10 cities for entrepreneurship and small business. Now that I have an office space downtown, I make it a point, I host co-working days here. I invite people to come over to my office to have coffee.
I'm always on a regular basis, probably a couple of times a month having lunch with people or I'll co-work with them. It gets me out of my comfort zone but also, again, it provides a home base that's not my house. No one wants to come over to my house. I've got three kids, four pets, and lots of DIY projects going on.
But having a home base here where I can connect with people, meet with people, attend local events, host events for other people, I just hosted one for NAWBO, the National Association for Women Business Owners, I hosted a marketing mastermind last night and it was fantastic. I met like half a dozen women who I'd not connected with before.
I think making those connections is just invaluable. Do I know if any of those connections are going to turn into anything? I have no idea. But I do know that they're asking questions about how I work, what I do, and how can they learn more. That is just going to pay dividends. It always pays off for me. Connections always pay off for me.
The final thing that's in my job description, we talked about content, we talked about connections, the final thing is clients. You might be surprised to hear this because people don't work one on one with me. I shut down my one on one side of my business primarily because I'm focused on growing The CEO Collective. I'm primarily focused on growing The CEO Collective as a mentorship meets mastermind experience, where it's more of a group program where there is one on one access but that's not primarily how it's run.
But I spend a ton of time with my clients in these programs. When we host the CEO retreat here locally, they are getting a ton of face time with me. They have options to earn or buy extra time with me. In fact, this past quarter, we had a contest where if they sent in their weekly accountability check in every week for the entire quarter, they would get a 30-minute coaching call with me.
I'm constantly looking at how can I support them beyond just the hour call I have on my calendar every single week as a group. I'm always checking in on them. Like I mentioned, I lightly stalk them on their social media. I'm on their newsletter list. I'm paying attention to those things. I read everything that they send me.
When people join The CEO Collective, they fill out a pretty intense intake form and that lets me know more about them and their business, understand who they are, where they're going. Every time we do our 90-day planning, they submit their 90-day plan to us so I know exactly what their priorities are. Then when they show up for our weekly strategy and support call, I know what their priorities are.
I can tell more clearly if they're bringing to me a question that I think is a shiny object, if they're in resistance, or if they are working through a problem related to their 90-day plan.
Spending that level of attention on my clients is a huge, huge priority for me and I know that that's why this level of customer experience that we have, having these high touch points here, everything from how our clients are onboarded to how we check in with them, how we track their progress, how we wrap up with them, how we celebrate their wins, how we celebrate things going on in their lives, these are super important to me, because I believe business grows at the speed of relationships.
I never want someone to sign up to work with me, my company, and my team and feel like they are just a number and not a human. There you go. Content, clients, connections, those are my top three most essential task areas in my job description as a CEO for my business. That's in addition to the other five tasks we talked about: the vision, the values, the strategic plan, the team, and CEO leadership making the big decisions.
This was a huge episode but another one that I'm hoping you will take, listen to, listen to it again, then think about your job description. Write out your job description. Every single time you hire a new person into your business, you need to reflect through this job description and go, “Okay, how does making this hire, bringing this person onto my team, change my job description? Is there now something that is off my plate and I need to tweak this element of my job description of what I'm responsible for so that I'm not becoming the bottleneck, so that I'm not stepping on their toes, and so that I'm truly able to pass off that role and that responsibility and get out of my team's way?
I hope you enjoyed this episode. Let me know. Tag me over on Instagram @racheal.cook and let me know what are your top three core essential tasks that only you can handle or should be responsible for in your business. Let me know. I hope you're excited. We are only halfway through the series this month all about stepping into your role as CEO.
Make sure you're subscribed to the show, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, any place you're getting your podcasts. You can get the full show notes including links to the training I mentioned, The 90 Day CEO Operating System Training, that is very relevant to this conversation all month long and The Fired Up & Focused Challenge.
It's 100% on demand. It’s a five-day challenge to really help you look with clarity at how you are spending and investing your time, energy, and intention as a CEO of your business. You can find that at firedupandfocused.com.com. Again, everything will be over in the show notes. Thank you so much for listening and I'll talk to you next week.