A chain is only as strong as its weakest link which, in the case of start-ups, is most likely to be a poorly chosen management team. This is not to devalue or dismiss the importance of other non-managerial members of the organisation; however, ineffective management can set off a domino effect, causing a company to implode.
Your management team must have the desired leadership competencies—the area-specific skills to manage a different aspects of the business. They set and chart the course that the company takes—and if they steer you wrong, your employees and your customers will suffer the consequences.
The moment the founder realises that she needs help managing the company on a day-to-day basis, is when she should consider bringing other people on board to help her. There are certain key managerial positions that every growing and ambitious start-up should seek to create and fill. It is often difficult for the founder to take this initial step, because she’s ceding control of her ‘baby’, but as they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Or to paraphrase, it takes a team to grow a company.
Team players Just what kinds of managerial know-how does your company need? We’ll start with the key roles and the type of person who should perform them.
CEO This person is the public face of the company, and must establish and nurture ties with other private and public sector organisations. It is her responsibility to see the ‘big picture’, such as the company’s place in the wider economy, and the nuances, such as the company’s strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis the competition.
The CEO has to be a hawk: capable of a comprehensive bird’s-eye view of the playing field, but with kind of laser sharp focus that will help her zero in on problems at the micro level. Key strength: hiring the right people, and a willingness to hire people smarter than she is. What she should look for is domain expertise.
CFO The Chief Financial Officer is entrusted with a company’s financial wellbeing. This is the individual who holds the purse strings. They set up an effective monitoring and evaluation system to ensure that you have good cashflow, even as you expand your profit margin.
She decides which financial instruments are best for managing your resources. Key strength: Balancing opposing financial priorities, for example, ‘should we buy new assets, or pay off those loans?’
CMO The Chief Marketing Officer also plays a key role. They devise and implement a company’s overall marketing strategy: they figure out how to sell your products by identifying and cultivating a customer base.
They have a clear grip on the distribution network, and the retail landscape (virtual and real). Key strength: An understanding of the synergistic relationship between a brand/product and the market. Sometimes the market shapes product development and delivery, and sometimes products disrupt markets. It’s the CMOs job to make this knowledge actionable.
COO Last but definitely not least, is the Chief Operating Officer. This individual oversees all the internal and external processes that allow a company to function and meet its objectives. They implement efficient and flexible systems that optimise production and delivery.
Key strength: The ability to orchestrate workflow and interaction within and between departments, ensuring that the parts all function together for each other’s benefit and for the benefit of the whole. If you focus on assembling an ‘A Team’, you will be putting your company in good hands. The stronger the management team, the more successful the organisation.