The Difference Between Owners and CEOs

If there is one key thing I’d like to pass on from my years of working with entrepreneurs it is this, there is a huge difference between owners and CEOs.

A professional CEO is a hired gun.  They have a responsibility to do what is best for the company – no matter how they might personally feel about it.  They are measured by performance, not altruism.  Their primary responsibility is to their stakeholders, and as a result their behavior is largely predictable.

An owner is a parent.  The company is not something they do, it is who they are.  So the owner’s comfort is much more important because their behavior becomes unpredictable with discomfort.  I don’t mean mild discomfort.  I mean pushing them to do something they don’t want to do.  Eventually the discomfort wins, regardless of the results, and it gets undone with ripples that extend beyond the company.

The owner needs to understand this, and two corollaries along with it.  First, the owner should never be talked into doing something the owner doesn’t want to do at their core.  And second, if the owner ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.

The owner’s first and primary responsibility is to be happy.

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