March 26, 2023

Run Your Company Like a Legendary CEO

What can some legendary CEO’s teach us about taking our own companies to the next level?

Do you have what it takes to run your business like one of the greats?  

Whether you’re launching a new start-up or scaling an already successful business, there are so many moving parts that it can be daunting to know where to begin.   And your company’s success (or failure), will ultimately come down to you.

The way that you choose to run your business is paramount.

If your company isn’t quite where you want it to be yet, you needn’t fret.  Steve Jobs failed several times before becoming Steve Jobs. 

What can some legendary CEO’s teach us about taking our own companies to the next level?

Russel Simmons

“Stick to Your Vision.”

Simons is CEO of Rush Communications, a major U.S. media firm with a focus on hip hop music.  Simmons provides some cogent insight into tackling big projects:

“In my experience, there’s only one thing that will always steer you toward success: That’s to have a vision and to stick with it…Once I have a vision for a new venture, I’m going to ride that vision until the wheels come off.”

Simmons teaches us that vision is important but consistency and the courage to stick with it, is key. Establish a clear vision of what you want to achieve and then don’t stop until you achieve it.

Every start-up struggles with consistency.   Clear Vision + Consistency = Results

Andrew Sispoidis

“Be Authentic.”

We can take advice from entrepreneur, TED talk speaker and business consultant Andrew Sispoidis.  Mr. Sispoidis has launched several successful startups in the tech sector. 

“More information has been generated in the past year than has in the last five years prior.  The informational field is becoming so crowded that, in this new age of media and technology convergence, you have to have something truly unique to order to stand out.  Ask yourself, what can we do today to truly make a difference?  You have to be authentic in asking this question and in answering it.  Then posit this question to your team.  Authenticity drives consumers and leads teams.   As humans we are all drawn to authenticity.  The informational landscape is crowded, but authenticity remains a scarce resource.

– Andrew Sispoidis

Sispoidis reminds us to be original.  Originality is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s world of information overcrowding.   Content is still king, as they say, but making your content stand out in the daily avalanche of information is becoming increasingly challenging with each passing year.

Andrew Sispoidis’s words are inspiring as they suggest that by focusing first, not on what you have to say, but who you truly are and what your company stands for, the content will be authentic and therefore, original.  

Shantanu Narayen

“Be Specific. Be Bold”

You can take advice from another legendary CEO, Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe Inc.

“Being transparent about our plans enables us to get better feedback.” – Shantanu Narayen

Whether you’re starting a business or currently have one, it’s important that you develop a clear-defined goal that can be broken up into smaller goals that are both realistic and attainable.

Criticism is vital for growth. Be straightforward about your goals and be open to feedback. Share your goals with anyone you can, whether that’s people within your company, outside clients, advisors, or even your family and friends.

Combining Simmons and Narayen’s philosophies, it’s important that you have a clear, transparent, vision and that you stick with it. No one is going to follow someone who isn’t clear about their end goal and how they’ll get there.  But ‘sticking with it’ doesn’t mean you don’t seek feedback along the way and be willing to make changes as you go.  Simmons’s Consistency doesn’t mean dogmatic adherence to your first thought.

“If you can connect all the dots between what you see today and where you want to go, then it’s probably not ambitious enough or aspirational enough.” – Shantanu Narayen

Don’t do the obvious thing.  Other companies are already doing that. Being logical alone isn’t enough to set you apart from other businesses.  Those who can read the stars are one step ahead.  But being able to extrapolate from what the stars tell you into a greater vision all together, well that’s what greatness is made of.

When setting corporate goals, don’t just rely on data, facts, and evidence. While those are important in coming up with a strategy to achieve your company’s goals, it is also crucial that you are able to take risks and get creative.

Analyze the facts before you decide what to do, but then go with your gut and make it happen.

“We’ll have 130 million phone devices that have Flash by the end of the year.” – Shantanu Narayen

Set specific goals. Make sure you have a deadline.

Narayen might modify this to say something like, ‘a goal should be big and ambitious and clearly articulated in a quantifiable way, with an absolute drop-dead date in the near future.’

Notice how specific he was in his goal. He didn’t just give an estimate of what he maybe wanted to achieve.

He was clear from the beginning. He chose a precise number of phone devices. He was ambitious yet specific on what exactly he wanted to achieve by the end of the year.

You need to be able to do the same.

What does your mission statement look like? Write it down. Make sure it is clear, concise, ambitious, and transparent all in one short declarative sentence. When you’re done, share it with everyone and be open to feedback.

You have to be open to the fact that things are inevitably going to change. The only way to keep your business running on the path to success is by keeping up with that changing and adjusting along the way.

Bill Gates

“Learn from failure.”

According to Bill Gates, running your company like a legendary CEO often comes down to your ability to receive feedback and use that to your own advantage. Take advice from Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

A company’s success comes directly from being receptive to criticism. Be open to the idea of new possibilities rather than choosing to limit yourself to mediocracy.

To go from an average business owner to a legendary CEO, Gates suggest that you have to be willing to learn from the very people who are buying into your idea and your product. Listen to your customers. They’ll teach you a lot about what is working for your company and what isn’t.

Improving your company through constructive criticism will not only allow your business to grow but will also show your customers that their opinions are valued. Building this trust with consumers will encourage them to keep coming back.

What Gates advises here is to not be so stubborn in the business approach that you fail to invite criticism where it’s needed. A close-minded point of view can only get you so far.

Jack Welch

“Speed Is Everything.”

Jack Welch, who was the CEO of a multinational conglomerate company General Electric, also knew the value of using what you learn and applying it to the actions you take.

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch

Welch makes us aware of something we’re all guilty of. We soak up information, but oftentimes, that material goes in one ear and out the other. We’re obsessed with finding new methods of doing things, but we fail to implement what we actually learn.

According to Welch, we can gain knowledge on practically any subject, yet if we don’t execute quickly on what we’ve learned then the knowledge isn’t much use.  Combine this with the teachings of Andrews Sispoidis and consider just how much information is out there and it’s evolving rapidly.  Welch and Sispoidis teach us that when you learn something new, the shelf-life of that information is already deteriorating.   Execute swiftly on a new idea before it grows stale.

Indra Nooyi

“Lead By Example.”

Indra Nooyi, the founder of PepsiCo, Inc., also shows us what leadership looks like for her and her company.

“As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future.” – Indra Nooyi

Nooyi’s advice as a leader shows us what having a good balance in leadership is. Being a good leader is about setting goals and taking the action to achieve them. This means setting high standards that fit your company’s goals.

According to Nooyi, being a good leader is about being a role model for others. It’s also about showing that you care about the people you work with. This builds a community that people want to be a part of.

A company with a sense of community can open doors to resources as well as growth within the company, which will allow the business to thrive.

Peter Drucker

“Results, Not Charisma, Win the Day.”

Peter Drucker the Godfather of modern management, gives us an idea of how we can define leadership.

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” – Peter Drucker

To be a successful leader for your company, you have to be results-driven. This means that you do everything in your power to achieve the end goal you want for your business.

Stop trying to be likable and start getting things done.

A leader is an authority figure your employees should look up to, not because they necessarily like you, but because you are passionate about what you do and because you are committed to growing your business to its full potential.

Jeff Bezos

“Invent Your Way Out.”

We can learn a very powerful lesson by just taking a look at what Jeff Bezos, CEO of the worlds largest and fastest-growing e-commerce company, said in this single, short, elegant quote:

“One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.” – Jeff Bezos

Don’t take the traditional approach when running your business.

Be creative. Don’t simply embrace change, create it.  That’s disruptive. 

Jensen Huang

“Relish Adversity.”

Jensen Huang, the founder of the multinational technology company NVIDIA, is another CEO legend who knows about the importance of revamping a company when necessary.

“I don’t think you can create culture and develop core values during great times. I think it’s when the company faces adversity of extraordinary proportions, when there’s no reason for the company to survive, when you’re looking at incredible odds – that’s when culture is developed, character is developed.” –  Jensen Huang

When the chips are down Huang wants us to rub our hands together in glee at the new opportunity that life has thrown our way in the form of tough times.  Now that’s optimism.  Huang didn’t say this, but Be Optimistic at All Times, is the example he’s setting here.  When times are tough they are tough for your competitors too.  If succeeding in your business were easy, then everybody would be crushing it.   You want it to be hard.  That’s your chance to rise above the competition. 

Running your business like a legendary CEO doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. But a little bit of them can rub off on us.  They were average joes until they weren’t.  Why can’t you do what they did. Maybe running your company like a legendary CEO is more achievable than you think.

Be inventive. Set goals. Take initiative. Run your company like a legendary CEO.

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