Innovation drove your business from concept to profitable company. Now, as CEO, you need to be innovative about mastering the strategic skills necessary to achieve sustainable corporate and personal success--and to learn to redefine that success in the context of the company you created. 

“There are only two things you have to look at in any business: process and people,” says David Belden, a self-described “professional outsider” and master chair at Vistage, an invitation-only organization that runs private peer groups for CEOs, executives, and business owners. In that role, he helps executives to “refine their ability to explain what needs to be done and to create some line of sight for each person so they understand the importance of their job and how that connects to the larger goal of the entire company.” 

Belden works with Jill Erber, who saw her role change dramatically from owner of “a little cheese shop” to CEO of an enterprise that operates two stores and a restaurant and is poised for further expansion. While she ran just one retail operation, she was able to train each new staff member personally, but as the business grew, that became impossible. 

All successful entrepreneurs reach that point: it becomes necessary to formalize and document the business processes that at the start-up stage may have lived only in their own heads and were their responsibility. “As you become CEO after being founder, you’re stepping out of the actual execution of your concepts and ideas and stepping into real strategy and connection with both internal people and external people,” says transition coach Nancy Karas, master career coach and senior vice president of business development at The Five O’Clock Club, a national outplacement and career counseling network. “You need to be able to pass on what it is you are doing well so that the company may continue to do that.”  

“You can’t know how to do everything as a leader,” Karas says. “What you have to be really expert at is leading people who are experts. Ask yourself, ‘Am I making the highest and best use of my time? If I’m not, who can take that piece over so that I can focus on strategy, connecting with clients, or whatever is the real critical piece?’”