Question of the Day: To CEO Or Not To CEO?

I am one of two founders in a startup. Both of us come from a creative background – but even though *we are artists,* we are both firmly grounded in and have a good grasp of technology and business. Still, one of the core qualities of our lives is a relaxed approach to work – which means that we take the time, to make the time, to get things done right – and *we will not compromise this quality in our lives.*

We believe this is all well and good – but we feel that our business entity requires an additional energy. A driving day-to-day energy that will fuel the infrastructure processes that support business. Out of respect for our personal choices and to our startup *we have decided to seek a third partner – codenamed “The CEO”.* A person who’s motivation and energy are suitable for the day-to-day bustle of running the company.

We have a consultant assisting us with business strategy and fund-raising. He resisted the suggestion of an “outside” CEO. *He thinks that one of the assurances investors look for is that the founders are actively involved* and committed to the company – that they are not merely seeking to make a quick-buck and then leave the company to fend for itself. *Our counter argument was that this 3rd partner demonstrates a clarity and maturity in the founders;* that we realize the critical role of good, professional management and that we are taking measures early in the process to ensure the company infrastructure includes this critical facility.

Though this is an interesting conversation that deserves attention – I would like to point out a more subtle aspect. The subtext of the conversation was that *when it comes to investors – there is talk of appearances -* to make them feel that things are OK.

This carries another, even more subtle, subtext – that *things as they are at our startup now are not OK – that they need to be disguised to appease investors.* This was our wake up call.

We resolved this for now by contining our search for “the CEO” – that third partner that will support our personal needs (e.g.,to nurture our creativity) but also the operational needs of the business. We will give more thought to the form and shape of our partnership going forward, to make sure that it is not just supportive of us, but of the needs of our stakeholders, too. So we have decided to sided with a policy of straightforward truthfulness and honesty at our company.

*When is it OK for a founder to make strategic or management decisions merely for the sake “keeping up appearances” in order to alleviate potential concerns of other stakeholders — such as investors, customers, or the public?*

*And, what if this requires that a founder minimize his/her own priorities? Are so-called “appearances” ever that important?*

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