The Startup CEO’s Job

As a Phase 1 CEO, you are the lead rower on the boat. But in a Phase 2 startup, your job is no longer to row. Instead, it’s to define the purpose of the voyage, set the direction of the boat, and measure the pace and performance of a much larger number of rowers. In business speak, the CEO’s job is to define the Mission (purpose), Strategy (direction), and Metrics (pace and performance). These three elements provide the essential context that a growing company needs to be able to perform.
One of the best examples of “Mission-to-Metrics” alignment comes from a friend who visited the manufacturing floor at SpaceX. Seeing a SpaceX employee assembling a large part, he stopped to ask him, “What is your job at SpaceX?” He answered, “The mission of SpaceX is to colonize Mars. In order to colonize Mars, we need to build reusable rockets because it will otherwise be unaffordable for humans to travel to Mars and back. My job is to help design the steering system that enables our rockets to land back on earth. You’ll know if I’ve succeeded if our rockets land on our platform in the Atlantic after launch.” The employee could have simply said he was building a steering system for landing rockets. Instead, he recited the company’s entire “Mission-to-Metrics” framework. That is alignment.

-What’s the Second Job of a Startup CEO?

The excerpt above is from a must-read post for all startup CEOs. Ali’s post resonated on multiple fronts, but I was particularly drawn to his Mission-to-Metrics framework because it concisely articulates the startup CEO’s responsibility and introduces a simple litmus test to hold us accountable as we pursue this incredibly journey.

I think it’s valuable for every startup CEO to utilize this framework to distill their Mission (purpose), Strategy (direction), and Metrics (pace and performance). Below is mine:

Mission: The mission of Panacea is to introduce intention into your morning routine.

Strategy: To introduce intention into your morning routine, we need to create a simple yet effective skincare routine for women and men because otherwise it will not be adopted into your daily routine.

[extended version]: To introduce intention into your morning routine, we need to create a simple yet effective skincare routine that curates premium products at the forefront of innovation; a brand that resonates with women and men; and a multi-sensory experience that creates movement to propel you into the rest of your day.

Role: My job is to articulate a clear vision; build a world-class team and cultivate a great place to work; and manage and allocate capital.

Metrics: Externally, you’ll know if I’ve succeeded if Panacea endures.

[extended version]: Externally, you’ll know if I’ve succeeded if our customers adopt Panacea skincare as part of their daily morning routine to build the momentum to accomplish greater things.

Internally, you’ll know if I’ve succeeded if Panacea is a company that we’re proud of.

[extended version]: Internally, you’ll know if I’ve succeeded if Panacea stands for something beyond selling skincare; executes against our company vision; codifies and adheres to a set of core values that are aspirational yet authentic; and creates a culture where employees have clear expectations and an opportunity to make an impact and grow.