What Is The Morning Routine of a Typical American CEO?

Do you know how many CEOs work in the States? (assuming you don’t include the rest of North and South America)

I took a quick look at LinkedIn, searching for CEOs in the US, and here’s what comes up:

LinkedIn

Nearly 3 million CEOs, or close to 1% of the population (or maybe more since not everyone is on LinkedIn).

And not every CEO is labeled as such, there are Presidents, Founders, General Directors, Principles.

Take any other large group of people (say, accountants, real estate agents, IT people) and consider how plausible it is to create a pattern out of their habits. It’s a lot easier than applying this same algorithm to CEOs.

Long story short, CEOs are people like everyone else and their day-to-day may vary entirely, depending on the size of the company, location, industry, international relations, business model, number of other senior partners, you name it.

Founder Or CEO: How To Pick The Right Title

Personally, I had two pairs of business cards during the first couple of years running the business. One of them had “Founder” engraved and the other one said “WordPress Architect” (since this was what I was doing on a day-to-day for the most part).

I was handing the latter to businesses in my field looking for a specific type of expertise. The first one was for everyone else – partners, potential employees, general contacts that were not leads, etc.

CEO

I’ve switched to CEO somewhere around our 10th employee. My responsibilities naturally evolved into a CEO role – spending the majority of the time refining the pillars of our business, the brand direction, and the growth hierarchy. I was still getting my hands dirty but my right hand was dealing with most of the tech-heavy lifting.

There’s another important aspect of postponing the CEO label for me. As a founder, you are involved in various activities around your business – including marketing, sales, finances, legal, pitching – you name it. But since you’re selling a product or a service, you still spend plenty of time doing what you love.

Working on your product or hacking solutions for your clients.

A CEO of a growing organization has tons of responsibilities unrelated to the actual implementation of your product or a service. A CEO of a large team wouldn’t actively package boxes for shipping, write code, design levels for games – or whatever the core business solution is.

The CEO’s Goals

They need to:

  1. Work on the long-term strategy.
  2. Implement the organization’s vision.
  3. Motivate and inspire the staff.
  4. Talk to shareholders.
  5. Build strategic partnerships.
  6. Participate in PR campaigns.
  7. Work closely with the board of directors.
  8. Oversee the high-end operations through the rest of the C-suite and the upper management.
  9. Build and grow the management team being their most trusted advisors in different departments.
  10. Make financial and growth decisions along with the CFO of the organization.

Let’s say you’re a passionate developer who managed to build a small team of developers and designers. You soon realize that you need a couple of project managers. You can handle all leads yourself and appoint one of your best folks with soft-skills as a sales director (or hire a suitable salesman with relevant experience).

Scaling a Company

Soon, your organization employs 30–50 people and you realize that you haven’t done any development yourself in months.

But you love the craft and truly enjoy being hands-on.

Essentially, your options are:

  • sticking to the self-appointed CEO role,
  • promoting some of your best hires who can take over the high-end strategy.
  • or bring an external CEO to your team.

As a founder, you still carry a lot of power to your organization. But someone who truly excels in growing teams, inspiring your team members, and managing capital can build a better working environment that lets you work along with your technical team and do what you love.

I know several successful founders who have promoted some of their best employees as CEOs or appointed an external person. Two of them went public and keep growing steadily. The founders took a leadership role in their corresponding departments and spend less time overseeing operations and dealing with bureaucracy.

Stepping down as a CEO doesn’t mean losing all control of an organization. The question is whether you would rather spend all of your time on strategic vision, managing capital, and defining various processes for your organization – or rather doing what you love and letting someone else handle the heavy lifting.

It’s likely that you may offload the CEO responsibilities to someone else later on and still coordinate the internal activities in-house.

Founder

While I do believe that CEO is appropriate for a growing business, I’d still go for a “Founder” until I build a small team and start working “on” the business more than “in” the business.

I’m also a solo founder of another startup of mine and a co-founder of a team of 3 (with another founder). Until I decide on pushing harder and allocating additional resources on growing these steadily, I’d still stick to “Founder”.

Also, early on, I was avoiding any title when talking to people. I was also referring to myself as a solopreneur, “I run X”, “I provide Y” and so forth. This is a good way to work around the title – except when you need to design your business cards or prepare the slides for a conference event.

Discipline and Laziness

Being disciplined doesn’t solve the laziness problem.

I’ve managed to handle the first part but my colleagues know me for enjoying good food and preferring to drive even within a 5-minute walk distance.

That’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve picked a technical specialty first since it is fairly compliant with my sitting habits. I’d rather work continuously on my notebook for hours instead of washing the dishes for 15 minutes (even though I can’t avoid that every so often).

For what is worth, laziness isn’t a bad thing. Being unproductive, sloppy, procrastinating all the time are usually a problem.

Lazy people tend to struggle with repetitive tasks. And they are smart enough to look for loopholes, shortcuts, and creative ways to work around the system.

  • My first notable “laziness” hack was teaching myself basic programming only to create a large set of applications solving physics and math formulas for my homework assignments. I wanted to get the work done and didn’t feel like writing down basic math calculations over and over and over again.This resulted in a larger series of applications – like my first public free desktop application displaying an extensive overview of all elements from Mendeleev’s periodic table.
  • When I was 14, I freelanced for IDG – translating security news on certain topics. The English sources provided by the editor were poorly written and not that accurate. I can read Russian and I found several outstanding security sources that saved me a good chunk of my time.
  • At 15, I was also administering a large local classifieds website. Through a number of automated processes and a couple small scripts, I managed to fetch the required data I needed and pre-populate it by saving 2 steps from every 3-step process.

This kept recurring by creating and expanding on automated and well-defined models. Following a chart worked better for me. And it provided a visual representation of areas that could be automated or simplified.

By saving time I managed to study and work a couple jobs at the same time. They were still time-consuming, which taught me discipline and following deadlines closely.

When I started freelancing, I made some strategic mistakes due to my inability to negotiate and handle scope creep. After losing a lot of sleep and money, I sat down and wrote a checklist of questions I should sort out with prospects and points that had to be written clearly in my proposals.

While transitioning to a company and hiring some team members, everything got much more complicated. I was responsible for paying salaries and taking care – indirectly – of my team member’s families dependent on my paycheck.

I even had to start a part-time job in order to ensure that I could afford paying my salaries. It took some time until we generated enough recurring revenue that filled the buffer bucket and covered the salaries for a few months ahead.

As a conclusion, I’d say that laziness is not a bad thing in a controlled environment. Achieving results is what matters.

And discipline is taught through responsibility and handling a large volume of activities within a limited time frame. Most regular folks I know of learned discipline once they moved out, got tasked to pay rent and communal fees, and later on take care of kids and other family members.