10 things I learned after being CEO for a year
I started my CEO journey about a year ago and decided to document everything that I have learned on my path. This is what I’ve discovered so far.
1. Name your price first
They say: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free”. I’ll add to that: “If you’re good at something, never do it for cheap”. Name your price first, if it gets any cheaper get out.
2. Go big
I’m not a firm believer in the idea that you have to split your projects into daily tasks. This has two problems. First of all, I don’t like the idea of working on small tasks, I prefer to own bigger chunks of work. In order to understand the second case, I will need you to do an exercise. Consider the most basic “CRUD UI”. When you estimate it as a single task, it will have a specific time to completion. Take the same task and split it into component parts. I guarantee you that each part will have a smaller estimate but the sum of those estimates will be double the original single task.
3. Pollution is very serious
When we just started, there were only three of us. We were renting small apartment without any cleaning personnel, so we would take out the garbage ourselves. I was surprised to see how much garbage three people can produce in a course of single day. Scaling that number to the number of entire population on planet Earth just leaves me terrified.
4. Sometimes disaster is the best thing that can happen to you.
You get comfortable and lazy. Happens to all of us. Sometimes the best thing that can get you out of that swamp is a disaster. Suddenly the project that generates 75% of your company’s revenue is closed — pretty good trigger for you to at least start looking for new projects.
5. Learn to deal with stress or get out
If you are dreaming of stressless life, the CEO position shouldn’t be your first choice. Like any other position, as CEO you cannot control everything. Unfortunately, it just so happens that, in this position, you are obligated to deal with lot more “life endpoints”, therefore there is a higher probability that something will go wrong… EVERY DAY! You have to find a way of dealing with this stress. I find following exercise very relaxing, I call it “what-if”. What is the worst thing that can happen if we fail this task? Well… We might fail entire sprint. Ok… What is the worst thing that can happen if we fail entire sprint? Well… We might fail the entire project. Ok… What is the worst thing that can happen if we fail entire project? Well… Depending on the circumstances we might lose entire company. This is pretty sad, but I try to think of everything that I will be left with even if I lose the company. I’ll still have my health, family, friends and the knowledge that got me to this point. Ultimately, not too bad, I think.
6. It is all about compromises
There is something that goes wrong, everyday — the electricity goes down, the landlord shows up with some crazy demands, the internet provider decides to do repairs in the middle of the working day, somebody is quitting, etc. Our first reaction is to overreact: “oh we’re moving out from this office”, “this is horrible, we’re changing the provider”. Calm down. None of these is a good idea, at least not in terms of an immediate solution. Learn to compromise. Electricity is down? OK not much we can do about it, let’s find out when it will be back. Maybe we can have some activities that does not require electricity? Maybe this is a good opportunity to go grab something to eat with entire team? Play boardgames? There is always a room for a compromise.
7. I learned to repair doors
To this day we don’t have a person who’s responsible for fixing our doors. I actually enjoy doing that quite a lot.
8. Think business
Lot of us come from a coding background and we do enjoy coding, but if you have decided to start a company you better start enjoying the business side of having a company. The sooner you do, the better. This is where you have to be creative.
The best way to test out new people is to trust them. It’s as simple as that. Let them fail, let them make mistakes, let them express themselves. You don’t want secretaries, you need people who express their own ideas. Trusting them is the only path to evaluating their own ideas.
10. Keep the doors open
Keep the doors of your office open. Everybody who needs a space to sit down and do some work is welcomed, literally. You never know what you end up learning from others.