19th Nov 2021

What Makes a Successful Tech Start-up CEO?

Dave Gibson picture

Dave Gibson

Co-Founder and Chairman

Chief executive officer can be a challenging and sometimes lonely role, but it doesn’t have to be!

Having worked with hundreds of tech businesses and CEO’s over the years, our co-founder, Dave has learnt a lot.

Within this blog, as well as what he’s learnt, Dave’s sharing the actions that make tech start-up CEO’s successful.

Over to you Dave!

Firstly, you might be asking yourself why an accountant is writing this blog?

This particular ‘accountant’ is a CEO and co-founder of a business, which was a start-up and is now progressing into scale-up territory with a growing national client base. I’ve worked with hundreds of start-up businesses, a high proportion of them in the tech and digital sector.

I’m going to describe a superhero, but don’t be put off if you’re not doing all of these things today, we all need improvement areas!

It’s also important to remember to be realistic and ensure other members of the senior team can backfill for you if and when needed. You’re not doing it alone!

Be a Visionary

In the early stages you are selling a dream to potential investors and employees.  Your enthusiasm for the end goal, together with a clear vision of where you want to take the business, is vital in generating early interest.  It’s your job to ‘look around corners’, to pre-empt and plan what’s coming next, prior to anyone else.

So, take the time to understand your:

  • Tech
  • Product
  • Market
  • Potential customers
  • Potential investors

But it’s not just about understanding, it’s also your job to tell everyone you meet what you think is around those corners. You need to get used to being centre stage.

Communication of your ideas, be it on a one-to-one basis or to a substantial audience, is a skill you must practice, and about the one thing you should not delegate.  A shy CEO does not put a business in a good light.

Be a Team Builder

You want to grow a great business, and for that you need a great (high performing) team.  There’s another good quote – a truism in my opinion – that first class managers recruit first class people and second class managers recruit third class people.  So, be that first-class manager. Understand what you need out of individual people and roles, be clear about their objectives, then help them succeed.

Good people will bring something extra to the table – use those experiences and opinions.  As with many things in life, buy the best you can afford!

Drive Accountability

This is where leadership kicks in.  Once your team is in place  and once they know exactly what is expected of them, make them accountable for achieving their own and your business goals. Challenge individuals to do better.  When they do, celebrate, and if they don’t, either help them get there, or take swift and appropriate action.  Ensure the corporate culture is outcome focussed.

Within Blu Sky we use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to clearly define and manage accountabilities and outcomes.

Show Resilience

You know what, life gives you a kicking sometimes.  That raise you shook hands on has dropped through. Your Chief Technology Officer has just disappeared for a mega-offer from Google.  Twitter has just replicated your idea.

It’s not just the negative side though, positive events in your home or work life can add to your stress levels, from getting that raise to becoming a parent. You’re the person in the team that needs to be the same person every day.  There’s room in your work life for emotion, but not for flipping your character from one day to the next.

The journey to resilience can be a combination of experience, adaptability and open-mindedness.  Treat every twist and turn as an opportunity – there is always a silver lining, even if it’s just an educational one.

Demonstrate Empathy

You’ll find most people have no time for the Wolf of Wall Street.  You can be successful and personable at the same time.  Demonstrating empathy, particularly with your team, but also with the wider community in which you move, will generate motivation and trust.  Take time to ask if others have been smelling the roses.

If you can work on this, you’ll put yourself and your business in the best place to succeed.

Need help with your goals and looking ahead?

Feel free to get in touch! We work closely with start-ups, businesses and CEO’s from varying sectors (particularly the tech and digital sectors!). We can help you take a step back and look at your business goals overall as well as planning ahead. We also run a start-up club, designed to help you through those early years.