There’s a Big Difference Between Starting and Running a Business
So bridge it.
You might have founded a successful company, but do you have the skills to lead it?
In the popular management book, Traction, author Gino Wickman argues a successful company must have the right person in the right seat.
The right person has the skills and experience to succeed in their role. The right seat means an employee or leader can operate with their area of greatest competence.
That’s a difficult balance to get right and the reason many founders often exit once their company reaches a particular size.
Glenn Shoosmith, former CEO and co-founder of JRNI(previously known as BookingBug), has faced this problem.
“I’ve seen some amazing CEOs. Very, very few of them founded businesses. The number of people who can carry that all the way through from beginning to end … you can count them on one hand.”
Originally a software developer, Shoosmith describes himself as someone always building things on the side instead of pursuing other hobbies like golf.
JRNI (formerly BookingBug) was born out of the frustration Shoosmith felt while trying to book a squash court in London. He looked at Amazon and wanted to apply their approach to online shopping to his problem.
“I want to go, and [book] up a yoga class, a pilates class, go and play a game of squash. There was just nothing,” said Shoosmith.
“Jeff Bezos would never stop you buying something from him,” said Shoosmith. “If you want to buy something at three in the morning in your underpants, Jeff Bezos will sell it to you, and ship it to you, and you’ll have it next day before you could regret it.”
How Founders Can Cultivate The Skill Set Of A CEO
As his company grew, Shoosmith and his team pivoted the company toward providing booking services for enterprise customers over consumers. Today, its clients include Lego, KBC Bank, and Adidas.
Shoosmith evolved his skills to meet the requirements of his company’s CEO “seat” over time.
After all, the job of a developer coding in his spare-time, a scrappy entrepreneur, and CEO of a company employing 120 people are vastly different.
“I’ve had to really sort of find a new skill set and find a new set of tools,” he said.
Two skills Shoosmith cultivated over the past few years include communication and delegation.
“Communication is something that I have to continually work on, and continually work with. So, so much of my time is now spent talking to my teams [and] talking to my team’s teams,” he said.
Shoosmith also relies on his management team to compensate for his weaknesses and build on his strengths.
“I know how to build technology. I understand technology. I understand what other technologists want of it,” he said.
“I’ve had to … get into the mindset of the customer beyond the technologist. Obviously, having a great sort of chief customer officer, a commercial director, has really helped me sort of learn that view of the world.”
Despite his new skills, Shoosmith is conscious that the requirements of the CEO seat might change tomorrow.
“I’ve always said … this company’s path to real worth and success may well be more of a relay race than a marathon. I’m a major shareholder of this company, as well as the founder, and I need the best person to be CEO to always be CEO.”
Although JRNI has transitioned away from customers and toward enterprises, one thing hasn’t changed.
Shoosmith still believes entrepreneurs and CEOs should solve problems for their customers.
“You solve a problem that has value. You solve a problem that has meaning. You solve a problem other people share,” he said.
(Fun fact: since I wrote this article, Shoosmith transitioned from CEO to chief architect.)
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