If you you think you want to be a CEO, what should you do?
I was talking to a former CEO who had a very successful exit almost
two years ago. This a good friend who I have known for over 20 years
now. I first met him when I interviewed him to take my job when I was
being promoted in 1990 at Oracle.
He worked for me for seven years before he left to take his first
role outside of Oracle as a president of a startup. I enjoyed working
with him, mentoring him and learning as much from him as he learned from
me. We have stayed close professionally and personally, as we both
enjoy the outdoors.
During our discussion the other day, he gave me his perspective on
what a business person needs to do if they want to be a CEO later in
their career. I though I would share his thoughts with you…
1) Get to work…once you get in the door of a company no one will care if you have a Harvard MBA or not.
2) Pick the right software company in the right market segment… you are looking for
a) High organic growth
b) Culture that rewards technical and emotional competence …not age or tenure or title or who is the most political.
c) A company that can give you the credentials to be a CEO
3) Don’t job hop, be patient but have a realistic plan and objectives….if it becomes obvious you cannot reach your goals, then it’s time to leave.
4) Once you feel that you have the qualifications to be a CEO….leave. Odds are high that if you stay you will never be the CEO.
a) Leaving can mean a big company or a small company or a new company…
b) If you leave before you are qualified you can become a CEO….but not for very long.
I think my friend’s advice is to the point, simple and pragmatic. I
have met a lot of people who have wanted to be CEOs and the advice above
is a great framework to follow.
By the way, the most common mistakes I have watched people make in aspiring to become a CEO have been:
- Not being patient enough with their current company and role they are currently in
- Leaving before they were qualified to become a CEO.
All the best!
George Roberts is a Venture Partner with OpenView Venture Partners. You may find this post, as well as additional content on OpenView's blog located here. You can also follow George (@GeorgeJRoberts) on Twitter by clicking here.