A CEO is the cornerstone of a company. The CEO sets the vision and culture for any workplace, maintains the financial stability of a company and manages the company’s resources, including the workers, in an efficient way so as to obtain maximum profit. A start-up CEO has to work with a compact team and lead them towards success such that they stand out from their competition. 

Let’s see some of the best traits that a start-up CEO must have.

  1. Best start-up CEOs are resilient

Even if everything seems to go against them, the best CEOs continue to work solely on their belief and that often pays off. AirBnB took 1,000 days for its business to start working. Imagine if they gave up on day 999?

Again, while talking about resilience, how can we forget “one of the most impressive corporate turnarounds in history?” Alan Mulally guided Ford out of billions in losses and avoided bankruptcy without government bailouts.

  1. Innovative and Imaginative

“If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” – Elon Musk

Relentless innovation is in the core of every great company. Innovation and imagination gives companies the extra edge over its competitors and the best CEOs have proved this to every inch. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, has revolutionized entire industries with his focus on moving beyond the status quo.

Casper CEO Philip Krim, along with his co-founders, has completely re-imagined the process of buying a bed. From the price to the delivery – the mattresses are shipped compressed in reasonably sized boxes – this start-up has thought through the entire process, including a 100-day trial period.

  1. Adaptability is what defines the best CEOs

Businesses that become stagnant ultimately die and we have seen numerous examples around. Remember Kodak and Blackberry? The best CEOs are well acquainted with this fact and hence work minutely on details with the changing world.

Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayen didn’t see a future that included distributing software on physical discs. So he decided to change the widely-used Adobe Creative Suite to a subscription-based model which witnesses substantial rise in the number of subscribers.

  1. Builds a culture, not just a company.

The best CEOs, like Tony Hsieh at Zappos, build a culture that gives everyone a mission. They stand out in a sea of boring companies.


  1. Listens and acts. 

Many CEOs want to tell you what they are doing, but the best ones listen to feedback, and, even, do something with that feedback. They should even give credit back. Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard, tells audiences that I was responsible for a couple of key features.


  1. Clarity of Vision

Not only must the CEO realize the future of the company, he or she must grasp the concept behind every product of the company, and what the company aims to give to the society via that product. The best CEOs should be able to make the general public grasp even some of the wildest dreams which the public cannot imagine.

  1. Being resolute

A CEO must anchor his company to the spot. The start-up life is full of unexpected storms and disasters. The CEO must keep the morale and the belief of the employees high, and must be resolute in the face of adversity.

SpaceX and Tesla Motors both faced bankruptcy in 2008 and Musk was left with the decision of allocating the remaining funds between the two or focusing on one. However, he sighted the opportunities in both of his companies and decided not to give up on any one. Finally his risk paid off! Tesla is now trumping Ford and General Motors with a gross profit margin of over 20 percent and SpaceX has been chosen by NASA as the next generation company which will take astronauts to the International Space Station.

  1. The ability to focus

The ability to shut out the external world, and to solely focus on the company and its work, characterizes every successful CEO. From the legend, Steve Jobs to the current CEO of Marvel Comics, Isaac Perlmutter, their unending focus and dedication has pulled their company up from tight stops to a successful franchise.

Another example of a great CEO who built a $1.3 billion company with the power of focus is Nick Woodman, founder of GoPro. The company was born out of a personal problem: not being able to take great pictures and videos while surfing. After months of intense focus, a prototype was built and just see where the company stands now!

  1. The ability to HIRE and FIRE

The best CEOs hold the ability to inspire and convince experienced professionals to believe in their dream and hence commit to their start-up, even though the job might pay less and have relatively less glamour associated with it.

Also, the best CEOs must understand where they have made mistakes in hiring employees. Being able to act courageously on that understanding is vital, otherwise unproductive employees in a start-up will leech money from precious funds, and will eventually lead to the unmaking of everything that the start-up aims to achieve.

  1. Advocate their customers’ interests

A good CEO understands that the ultimate job of any company is pleasing their customers. Often, investors may ask for higher returns but at the cost of customer satisfaction but the best CEOs stand for the interests of their customers. Promising growth-stage SEO platform BrightEdge has all new salespeople build a website and use its tool for SEO as part of their training. Great CEOs keep finding ways to ensure that employees care and understand the plight of their customers.



Can a start-up have two CEOs?

A company having two CEOs can work. In fact, there is a time in a company's life cycle when it works extremely well; in the growth stage of a start-up, having two leaders is almost necessary. It's a period rife with some undeniable problems that always bubble up at the top level of start-up leadership.


Do Start-ups pay well?

Start-ups are working to get funding, which means money is often tight, and they can't afford to pay employees the same high salaries they might find at other companies. Although there are a number of downsides to pay and benefits with start-ups, you might reap the rewards of success if the company does well.

How much equity do start-up employees get?

At a typical venture-backed start-up, the employee equity pool tends to fall somewhere between 10-20% of the total shares outstanding. That means you and all your current and future colleagues will receive equity out of this pool.

Why do start-ups fail?

An incredibly common problem that causes start-ups to fail is a weak management team. Weak management teams make mistakes in multiple areas: They are often weak on strategy, building a product that no-one wants to buy as they failed to do enough work to validate the ideas before and during development.