The CEO Dilemma

Leaders of high technology firms often face a dilemma: while they feel compelled to spend all of their time in their business, they realize they should spend more time working on their business. A high tech CEO has a finite amount of time that must be allocated across multiple activities such as overseeing operations, managing costs, marketing, sales, vision, and partnerships.

The reality of keeping a high tech business moving forward while maintaining positive cash flow often leads the CEO to focus almost all his/her time on operations and cost. With so much time spent on these two activities, they can become his/her comfort zone. Days can become consumed with adjusting business processes and managing costs.

While these activities are necessary, investors and boards want more. They want to see a clear path to a dramatic increase in the future valuation of the business, and they want to see the CEO spending time to accomplish this. How the CEO changes his/her own behavior usually takes one of two directions, depending on whether the company is growing.

If the company has a proven business model in an expanding market, the CEO needs to focus more effort and attention on marketing and sales to accelerate growth. The business model has been proven, and increasing the effectiveness of "turn the crank" activities must be the objective. On the other hand, if company growth has not materialized or has stagnated, the CEO must modify and expand the vision that drives the company in order to break it out of its slow growth mode. New vision and strategy often dictates more alliance-building and strategic partnerships to support the new vision.

The trick is to create a pragmatic framework for managing implementation of the new vision while continuing to keep operations humming and costs down. The 20/20 Outlook process was developed to address the dilemmas and challenges faced by CEOs desiring to grow the business and communicate more effectively with investors and board members. Augmenting the management team with an experienced outside adviser enables the CEO to create breakout initiatives while continuing to manage daily operations.

Source: Conversation with Kirchoff & Camp