“What are you doing?” Tina, our controller, asked me.
I was in the front lobby of our office, and I had a scissors in my hands. “I’m cutting the ends of the plants, so they look nice. I want everything to look perfect when the investors get here tomorrow.”
Cutting the plants so there were no dead leaves was the first part of my mini cleanup effort. I made sure all the fluorescent lights were working, and then I went into the bathroom to make sure it was in good shape.
Yes, you are responsible for cleaning the toilets as a startup CEO.
My view was really simple: Whatever it takes.
And in that moment, I was needed to make our facility look spotless. The investors were coming in for a final diligence meeting before making a decision to invest in our company.
First impressions matter (read: What the Dead Plant Outside Your Office Is Really Saying About Your Company ), and I didn’t want the reason someone didn’t invest to be that our facility was a dump. That’s where I was needed at that moment.
You are the spokesperson for your company. Period.
The investors arrived right on schedule at 10AM the next morning. We were ready.
The office was spotless, and the team was ready to present. As usual, I would be the orchestra conductor, directing traffic and leading from the front.
After everyone exchanged pleasantries, I began my presentation. Even though there was a ton at stake, I was very relaxed, or at least I appeared very relaxed.
Everyone inside and outside the company takes their lead from you.
One of the investors remarked, “Nothing seems to phase you.”
Hah! If they only knew the truth. I was a bundle of nerves inside because we were running out of rope.
But you can’t ever let them see you panic, can you? Because if you appear panicked or desperate, then you will scare off your investors.
Not only that, your employees and fellow cofounders will get rattled too. The key is showing that no matter what happens, you roll with it like it was meant to happen.
For example, what if you hear, “Hey Brett, our largest customer just dumped us!”
“Not to worry,” I would respond, “We expected that to happen. We have a plan.”
You get the idea. If you’re panicking, then everyone else going to panic too.
You are the leader of your company in every sense of the word.
The team was prepped and ready to go during the investor meeting. We spent the day before the investors came rehearsing what everyone would say.
“No surprises,” was my mantra.
It is better to hear the problems before a major meeting like this than in the meeting. Then we could talk through how to respond to any questions we might have.
That’s part of your job as CEO because you’re responsible for everything that goes on in your company. You own every problem. You own every failure. You own every employee that doesn’t work out (after all, you approved the hire).
It’s all on you.
You lead by taking responsibility, not only for the good that happens (that’s the easy part), but for the bad that happens. And, trust me, even the best run companies have a lot of bad.
If you’re doing your job as CEO correctly, then you’ll get plenty of practice saying, “It’s my fault.”
For more, read: What is it Really Like to be a Startup CEO?