Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #179

Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of the Startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Ruin, joined as always by my friend, the founder and CEO of startups dot com. Will Schroeder. Will. Speaking of CEO, you've been one of those for like, what, like 35 years now, I'm

Wil Schroter: not that old, good God, man.

Ryan Rutan: It's getting close. I mean, it, it's somewhere around there. Are you qualified yet?

Wil Schroter: No kind of not. I mean, damn, dude, if you've been doing it for 30 years and you're still not qualified, then what does that really mean? I think we have this idea and this is rampant in the startup community because everyone gets to be a CEO just by showing up being the, being the first person there. You're now the CEO. We have this idea that because we got stamped the CEO that it's on our business card or our email signature that we must actually be qualified to be a CEO. And the truth is we're so far from it. There are so few people that are actually qualified to do this job yet have the title and it's so unique to startups. You don't see this happening at fortune 500 companies where they grab some random 25 year old and like, hey, you're the CEO of G E now, right? But in startups it's rampant and we, we have tons of people with CEO in their tagline or the email signature. And I just, I thought it'd be interesting today for all of us to get a little bit of introspection as to what it actually means to be a CEO versus the person who just happened to be employee number one at your company. And we can kind of unpack that a little bit.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Yeah, we, we've talked about something similar in the past, which is that we have to fake things until we make them, right? And we have to talk to what we want to become. We have to talk about what the startup will be. We have to talk about how the product will work. In this case. It's, it's kind of similar, right? We adopt the title and yet uh the qualifications don't immediately follow. It turns out they don't uh they're, they're not bestowed upon you the day you type that into your linkedin. Nothing about you changes really.

Wil Schroter: Well, that's really it. That's why I wanna make sure we kind of decouple the ego part. Like when people say, hey, I was the CEO of a startup company, like it doesn't mean anything, right? Yeah, CEO, it's only a challenge when we start to actually believe our own bullshit around this. So as we're again unpacking this, I want to talk about the different things that we tend to do, kind of the misnomers and the myths that we create around being a CEO and, and I'll kind of put it like this. Last week, I had my first class where I was teaching my daughter's class entrepreneurship, my daughter's uh in fifth grade, which is middle school for her school. And there was about 20 kids in my class and I'm talking to them about what it means to be an entrepreneur and all these great things and they all signed up for this class. So they were excited about it. And I said, here's the cool thing. Any one of you right now by the end of the day, today can become the CEO of your own company. You don't have to spend 20 years working at corporate America hoping somebody else promotes you. You can be the CEO today at 10 years old. I said my daughter who runs a company called Handmade Happiness is the CEO of her company and she's 10 to be fair. She's actually probably qual more qualified than some of the startup CEO si know you myself included. But my point is anybody can get gifted the title, you can gift yourself the title today by filing an incorporation anywhere online and get that title. It doesn't have to be earned. And so let's start here just because you have the title doesn't make you qualified. What does qualification mean to you like if you were qualified? Right. If you think about the qualifications of what an actual CEO would, would have or would have done what comes to mind.

Ryan Rutan: I think the first thing I do is draw a distinction between a startup CEO and maybe a more traditional corporate CEO. Right? Because I think that the skill set for one of those is something that develops over a long period of time with a pretty varied uh level of experience, uh involves quite a bit of time in the saddle. Lots of leadership meetings, lots of management theory and studying and, and dealing with people. Whereas a startup CEO, in the case of the, I just anointed myself ceo not a whole lot of qualifications are actually even required at that point, right? Because just even the title, like just bestowing the title itself can sometimes be a little uh a little funny to me because you're the chief of what chief implies that there might be somebody else in the room and often there's not right. They give you're the chief and it's just you are you really a chief hard at that point. But the, you know, the qualifications at that point are gonna be at the, at the early early stages, right? They're super hyper specific specific to what little thing needs to happen next, right. Your first qualification is gonna be something like I can form a cogent idea that I want to chase down. Right. I understand a problem that exists in the world doesn't take much more than that as the first step. Right. And so I think it grows over time and I think the the big milestones tend to be, we start to talk to strangers about it. Right? You, you have to have some level of qualification around being able to pitch the idea at that point, bigger milestone, probably adding employees and or customers. Certainly, by the time you have both, you've added some really interesting and dynamic complication at that point, right? But in terms of the big ones, I think if we really think about what a CEO is and what the intention of what a CEO does, which is leading at the executive level, it's hard for me to think of anybody as a CEO. If there's not a team there, we've had this discussion before where we talk about people wanting the title of a manager when they're a team of one. And we've always, we've taken as a company, we've taken the stance that's like if you're not managing people, we're probably not going to call you a manager. Somebody who manages a process or a product for us, not the same thing, right? Management implies people to me. Chief executive officer also implies people. So I would say, you know, the big milestone is we've now got a team and somebody needs to help them understand what to do, maybe not tell them what to do all the time, you know, micromanage, but at least pick the right people and then provide some level of guidance to them.

Wil Schroter: I also think there's a level of competence of the folks that you're trying to manage. I'll give you an example last year. Going back to my kids, I was the coach of my son's five year old basketball team. Now, it was amazing. Right? I had the same number of players that an NBA coach has. Right. The only difference is I don't know anything about basketball whatsoever. The reason I was the coach is because the only parent that was willing to step up and show up on Saturdays to wrangle all these kids around this team had no consequences whatsoever. My five year old son will brought an ipad with him one day so he could play minecraft during the game, right? And I'm like, hey, you know, you're, you're actually supposed to play in the game, right? And he didn't even care. That's about how committed our team was. Let me stick with that analogy in the same way. A CEO and I'm just going to say it at the corporate level because because startups, you know, can get big and gnarly too. A CEO at some level, starts playing with true adults, true people who have significant agendas who can operate on their own. And if you don't lead at their level will leave when you're with five people in a room. And the truth is like you wrangled to get these people there and that's kind of all you have. That's cool. But once you get to this next level where you're recruiting people that are hard to recruit, hard to retain and frankly hard to manage and you're managing all of those egos. Let's call it what it is. All those politics, all of those different agendas, all at the same time to try to get to a common goal. That's kind of what a CEO looks like, right? And very few people have that experience, especially at that level, you know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I had the experience at one point, I think that was around the time I started actually calling myself the CEO of my early interactive agency. And I had about 15 people at that point and to your point, it was managing egos, it was managing politics. There were three camps, four if you include me as sort of the island. But we had the developers, we had the designers and we had the sales team. I handled all customer relations and support and it was at that point where I actually started to feel like a CEO in terms of the, the, the pain of having to deal with. Now, I had the experience of having to deal with that, even having gone through that and spent kind of two years, 2.5 years with that level of staff and beyond, even at the end of that, I wouldn't have considered myself qualified. I was then experienced and I sort of had a much better understanding of what I had screwed up and how few qualifications I had. And, you know, I didn't need to have high expectations around those qualifications. I was learning as I went, you know, started at 19 and 20 and 21 had the requisite experience that most 21 year olds have. And it went about as you'd expect. Right. It was a lot of on the job mistaking, which then led to, to some level of learnings. But, uh, you know, stick

Wil Schroter: with that for a second. The difference between somebody who's truly a CEO and somebody who's faking it as they go is that the other person isn't faking it as they go. They've actually been around the block. They know what the decision, the answer is supposed to be. I'll give you an example, like right now, right now in my 30th year of CEO, I actually know what I'm supposed to be doing. Right. Like, I already know what the answer to a problem is. Somebody comes to me. I'm not kind of, huh? Boy, I wonder what would happen in that case. Not that I have like E S P, but I've probably seen it 50 times by now. A lot of this stuff just isn't new economy tanks and I'm like, been through this before now, compare that to a version of me 20 years ago, 25 years ago. We're same as you. I've got a small staff and all of a sudden the things start to get really big in a short period of time where now we've got hundreds of people to deal with. I don't know what to do in that case, dude, I'm 25 years old. What do I know about managing hundreds of people?

Ryan Rutan: Very little and half of it's wrong,

Wil Schroter: basically. Exactly. Right. And here's the interesting thing. This is so salient to startups because where we start as the CEO and we're anointed that title. If things go well, we are so quickly shoved into the real version of that job and this happens with a lot of people. It happens to our CMO, it happens to our CTO. It happens to our, our CFO, all of these people who could kind of work it out at a small level, have no experience at this level, but are being called on to make those calls and they're killing themselves going. Like, how am I supposed to know this? And the answer is you're not supposed to know this. The truth is you're overt tiled at that point. And then there's nobody more consistently overt tiled at a startup than the CEO because the CEO A truly experienced CEO, it doesn't have to be 30 years of experience, it could be 10 years of experience. A truly experienced CEO has done this before. They've earned their stripes somewhere else. Probably not as the CEO and now they can come back in and understand it.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Hang on that point for a second. I think that's one of the main, main, main differences between the Insta CEO in, in the version of, of the startup and the person who's worked their way up from, you know, the various rungs of whatever corporate ladders they were climbing, jumping ship to ship and doing whatever or startup letters. Yeah, we're startup letters, right? They didn't start as the CEO. It wasn't just like, you know, one day, you know, I just decided to be the CEO and, and, and now I am right, there was a lot that went into that and I think that one of the major deltas there again, even with an experienced startup, CEO, right? Somebody who's been through a couple of other startups, maybe again, not as the CEO startups have a really different environment when it comes to knowledge sharing, training, that kind of thing, right? They're just, there's not as much of it, right? It's, it's mostly done experientially. There's less planning around that. I'm not saying that I, I prefer one or the other, but in the case of somebody who's come up through a more structured corporate environment, the likelihood that they had at least some level of mentorship, guidance, leadership from those higher level executives pretty high. Right. It doesn't, you don't just sort of find your way at the top accidentally. You've been mentored, guided groomed and brought up through that. Whereas in the startup space it's mostly trial by combat. Right. And as long as you keep winning, which is dangerous,

Wil Schroter: it is, it's a dangerous resume item because ideally it works well. But the fact that you've never done it before means you don't actually understand the consequences on the other side of your actions, you see it all the time right now where people, they raise a bunch of money, they go out and spend it very quickly and they haven't been on the other side of having done that where it goes wrong and they don't understand the consequences to hiring, let's say 100 people that you then have to let go way more gun shy as a leader if you've been through it before. And he said, hey, I know this sounds, you know, hard now to hire all these people, but, you know, it's really hard letting them all go. You know, it's even harder operating an organization that just let go of 100 people and trying to bring that back to greatness. Right? So let's be cool when we have all these newly minted to your point, self minted CEO S they often there's, there's no qualification. So everybody gets the job and all of a sudden they're in this point of incredible responsibility without the actual experience to back it up and look, we all wing it, which is dangerous. And that's what I'm saying when I was the CEO of my first company and the company started to grow really quickly. I would say the only thing that I did, right was try to get out of the way. We tried on four separate occasions to hire a CEO to replace me because I was like, I'm not cut out for this. This is a big company now, probably a separate podcast. But in each of those cases, the person failed and they failed because we were trying to hire somebody with CEO experience, but they didn't understand our business. And so again, that and guess what that was, that was lack of experience from the guys that were doing the hiring, which were both in their twenties, which had no experience,

Ryan Rutan: imagine how that could have gone wrong. But it's interesting, isn't it? I mean, and I think that reinforces the point around how truly different a startup, ceo and a more traditional corporate CEO is in that, you know, when you can't simply say like I was the CEO of my four person startup, I'm gonna go be the CEO of a publicly traded company because now I have that credential, right? It's on my linkedin. So obviously, my next role will be a CEO. I'm just gonna pick a company that I'm not running. That's doing billions and billions of dollars in revenue and that'll probably make life easier. Conversely, you also can't just take a really talented corporate CEO and drop them into a startup environment. Expect them to be successful. They're very different games. Right. You know, you drop that corporate C O and they're, and they're gonna be looking around for their executive assistant and the, the third direct report to the CMO that doesn't exist yet. And right, so they're just, there's a bunch of resources they're not gonna have and they're used to operating with, you know, a bunch of momentum, bunch of resource, other really talented decision makers. And that just may not be the case, in fact, very rarely is it the case in a startup company that they're gonna have everything that they had before? So these two positions may be titled the same. I think they're quite different.

Wil Schroter: It's funny you should say that because we actually hit an inflection point at that first company at Blue Diesel where we had two CEO S coming from two different directions. You had me who had no experience whatsoever. And then we hired a new CEO to take us public who was the quintessential boardroom. CEO. He even talked with tinted fingers. It was amazing. He was mckenzie. He was like president of Pepsi, like he had these amazing jobs in the previous job. He was the CEO of a bank that had 55,000 people reporting to him. Right. So, needless to say, with our tiny 650 person company, he was taking a huge step backward. But it was the idea that we're going to go public and he comes in and he's exactly what you just said. He comes in and he's like, you know, where's my eight weeks of vacation and where's my seven assistants and where's my, you know, whatever. And we're like, bro, you don't have any of that. Like, you gotta go sell like the rest of us and it didn't go well. But what I saw that was so interesting because I really leaned into this guy because I wanted to learn a lot from him. And unfortunately all the things I learned from him, not his fault by the, he's not a bad guy. All the things I learned from him or how different we were right where he came from, which was the perfect pedigree of corporate life was the polar opposite of startup life. And this is my first at bat. I didn't know the difference. I learned it quickly at that level when you're used to marshaling massive forces and be able to move everybody and do interesting things. Like tell people they're going to get fired and have that mean something right where you can make, you know, Jones, if you don't get this done, this could be the end of your career, right? Whereas in our business, if you try to leverage somebody like that. They're like, fuck you find 12 other jobs a

Ryan Rutan: month. Also, we're still gonna be roommates tomorrow after you fire me. So yeah, yeah, to deal

Wil Schroter: with that. So again, very different levers that you can push and also very different levels of experience in all the companies that I've ever worked for, which is really the companies that I've started, the average age at the company was typically about 27 years old or younger. He was used to people being 45 years old or older at like the penultimate version of their career. Very different in how he marshals those forces. But all of that said the big difference, the big difference was that he already knew what the answers were now. They weren't exactly aligned to how we did things and I respect that now, but he actually knew what to do because he had lived it for so long. He had so many, so many reps, so much time on the wheel. And I did. And it made me realize how wildly unqualified I was, even if I helped get it here, how wildly unqualified I was to take it any further. And that's the dangerous part where we don't understand the difference between, I was just happened to be the first person at the wheel and I'm no longer the best person for this job and sometimes we feel it, but there's a point where we have to actually recognize it and do something about it. You know, something that's really funny about everything we talk about here is that none of it is new. Everything you're dealing with right now has been done a 1000 times before you, which means the answer already exists. You may just not know it, but that's ok. That's kind of what we're here to do. We talk about this stuff on the show, but we actually solve these problems all day long at groups dot startups dot com. So if any of this sounds familiar, stop guessing about what to do, let us just give you the answers to the test and be done with it.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, for sure. You know, and, but I think that there's an important point there, which was that you were about to undertake something that was quite different than what the startup had done up until that point. And I think it is worth recognizing that. I think that we can easily fool ourselves into thinking that growth is just growth. And, you know, if we've gotten used to a certain growth rate, we can just keep doing that forever and it won't really matter how big it gets. There are different types of growth or different inflection points. Certainly something like going public requires a very different approach to what that growth looks like what the team that supports, that looks like in a ton of other factors, right? Like not, not including just understanding how to navigate that process from a legal regulatory perspective, all of those things, you've never been through that before. You're trying to learn all of that while also still maintaining the direction of the ship that you're on, which makes that a really, really difficult proposition. You know, and, and if you go back in time and you think about, you know, he brought those skills to the table, these were things that he was used to. These were things that he had experience in. And yet I think if we, if we were, we won't ever know. But if we were be able to put him in this seat at an earlier stage, would things have actually even ever gotten to the point of going public? And maybe not again because of that difference in skill set, that difference in mentality. He may not have been a great startup CEO and he was a great CEO of a large organization, but like at some point with 55,000 employees, growth is measured in partial percentage points. And we're not talking about a fast moving organization, talking about quite the opposite. That point, you're kind of a master maintainer at that point. As opposed to somebody who's trying to drive growth, drive innovation. I know banks are known for all that innovation that they do every year. But

Wil Schroter: I think this opens up a great topic when an organization hits a certain size. Let's say it goes from zero to like 80 people is, is, is often in reflection point that I see. This is the thing that no one sees coming and they kind of don't put in the brochure to tell you about or in the manual for that matter at 0 to 80 people. A typical organization is outwardly focused, meaning they're focused on building product, they're focused on marketing, they're focused on things that have to do outside the organization. And that's because everything is being built for the first time when organizations hit north of 80 people. And certainly more than that, this is the part we're not told the organization and its priorities flip inward and now it becomes about different parts of the organization battling often with other parts of the organization. It has way more to do with internal politics in self preservation than it does externalities of the company. And all of a sudden, the CEO again, very different skill set is no longer just working externally or working on product or things that are fun that all goes out the door. The CEO is now working on things that are internal to the organization. Like all of a sudden, we have to change how we do staffing hr policies. We're building a new building, you name it now you're focused so internally on all of this stuff. CEO of 55,000 people, he has some external goals that the company needs to achieve. But all of his focus is internal, is internal toward all the departments that need to get that done very different. Like, right now we have a 200 person organization and I'm fortunate to say this because we have a great team. But, like, I get to focus a lot of time outward. I get to think about product and I get to think about doing stuff like this, like this podcast, et cetera. But if we were to double or triple in size, that would go away. Yeah, it would have to

Ryan Rutan: this sort of flip. Right. Yeah. Yeah. The individual doesn't scale. I think there's this sort of flip between the need to be effective and the need to be efficient right up until that 80% or 80% inflection point or wherever that starts to change where all of a sudden the growth, the externalities, all of that stuff become marginally less important than just being really good at doing what you've already decided you're going to do. You move from needing to be effective at growing building to being efficient at delivering on what you've already built, right? And it's, it becomes all about operational efficiencies per you know, personnel, efficiencies, revenue efficiency, cash flow efficiency. It just becomes a very different type of calculus at that point. And one that kind of to your point, you know, you said you're fortunate that you still get to do a lot of these things for a lot of startup ceo S again, started with zero qualifications and have earned them along the way, have learned to enjoy that level of interaction and those types of activities all of a sudden you flip over and it's like, well, now we just need to really spend some time deep in the spreadsheets, figuring out how to be, you know, x percent more efficient on this particular process. That's not quite as fun, right? And this is where a lot of this is where a lot of startup CEO S go shit. This is what the job

Wil Schroter: became actually, when I said earlier, we tried four times to replace me. That's why I hated my job. I didn't hate the company. It was amazing. We had great people and, and a lot of friends there, but I didn't like that part of the job anymore because I walked in one day and I was no longer the person that builds the company. I was the person that manages the company. And that sucked for me. It's just, it's not who I am. I don't want to sit in meetings about upcoming meetings and that's what the job became in other people. That is what they wanna do. They're all about the politics, they're all in, in politics aren't always bad. Sometimes. It's just glad handing people and reminding people that they're great and that sounds fun, but that's not really the way my mind works. I just want to build stuff. I'm, I'm a creator. That's, that's all I care about. And so when that was taken out of my, my realm and that was given to other people in the company justifiably. So I didn't like it anymore. I, I thought there was another side to this as well, which was for founders, for the people taking on the CEO role. We have this kind of a fantasy and it's usually based on just a lack of experience that as the job grows, it'll continue to be the job that we want because it's the top job. And we started this thing. Not true, not true at all. In my experience, the CEO job as things grow over time, it goes from, huh? This is pretty tough to, this is dreadful why? Because it gets loaded with things that we do because we have to do no longer because we want to do. And more importantly, we are dripping with consequence at this point, consequence in every single thing that we do. If we're at a cocktail party and we say the wrong thing, we talked about this before. There's a massive amount of consequence. We have investors that have poured a ton of money into this. We have a ton of people who their entire future in retirement kids, college savings are all based on our outcome. We weren't dealing with that stuff, you know, four years ago, that wasn't even on the table. So what ends up happening is we end up growing into a job we hate but doing it because we feel compelled to be stuck in that job and that's a dangerous place to be. That

Ryan Rutan: is the solution isn't easy either. I mean, to your earlier anecdote, you tried four times to replace yourself. It's not as simple as saying, hey, this is no longer the job I want. Hey, I'm no longer qualified for the type of activities uh that are required being able to replace. That is one of the hardest things that we see startups go through when they're still, even though, you know, even though it's still a positive trajectory and you're growing, things are going well, this can still create a massive amount of headache and strife and not just for the founder, right? For the entire company, right, at that point at which you started to hire people who maybe have more experience in their role, CMO CTO, director of sales, whatever it is, then the CEO does and they're used to being managed in a certain way that can create all kinds of

Wil Schroter: trouble. That's a really good point managed in a certain way. If you're a highly titled person coming through a different organization, you know, let's say you're the CTO of a different organization and you come into this organization and now the person that you're reporting to has little to no experience in what you do and more specifically doesn't know how to manage you. That's a big problem and I think we have this false pretense about again what the CEO title means. It means leader. No, it doesn't. It means that you have the qualifications to manage all aspects of this growth and chances are you don't. And by the way, that's OK. There are some other people that do now, I'll also say I'm not a big fan of replacing the founder as CEO. So I hope that doesn't come across here. Sometimes it makes sense. I tried to do it. I learned it was a mistake. One thing that I did learn is that when you try to replace the founder as the CEO or as some major leadership component, you're risking the DNA of the company because in many ways, it's hard to bring in an outsider that can replicate that DNA that kept this whole thing together. And there's no lack of examples in the startup space. Yahoo

Ryan Rutan: tried it like 19 times, I think.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. Who tried it? A bunch of times didn't work so well for Apple worked out better in the end. But like it, it happens time and time again, you take Elon Musk out of Tesla. It's not Tesla anymore, right? Like there's some very kind of and he's not even the founder, but there's, there's really some, some hard core DNA that's very hard to replace and sometimes a smart organization will do this. You're still the CEO. But here's your coo that's the experienced person that's gonna help you kind of like motor through this, you know, they're gonna be the hand from Game of Thrones, the king's hand that will kind of like help you make the decisions, maybe you're not so ready to make right now and kind of keep you in check a little bit, which I, which I, I'm a fan of that move actually. Yeah, I, I

Ryan Rutan: think that's kind of the more the direction I was leading rather than the full replacement of as we think about, particularly like how the job ends up changing. This is still, it still presents a challenge, right? So we're used to doing everything in the beginning, right? We're CEO Chief cook, bottle washer, everything, right? Just you know, we, we do it all and then over time we start to replace certain of those functions. And I think the further up the food chain, those functions are replaced when we get into things like the marketing aspect, the sales aspect, maybe the hiring aspect, right? The the operations aspect, some of those can be relatively painful changes, even though they're the right move. And ultimately, they will be better than, let's say, just outright replacing the CEO. It can still create a lot of pain for the founder as you let go of those things that you were so used to doing, right? Like delegating your inbox. Great move. Do it right now, right? Like there's no reason that you should be doing that right. Delegating the hiring of the next couple of key roles when you have always been the person who interviewed and then, you know, stamped people's approval to hire, that can be a big thing to let go of right product direction is another one, right? And so there's so many of these things where it just starts to change, you know, eventually chips away at the role until what you end up with is this more pure version of a CEO in the way we think of it. And again, whether you know what's left, once you, you chip away all the rock is actually a, a good looking version of the CEO or not. Depends a lot on the experiences, depends a lot on the individual, the organization, you know, ideally over time, what we end up with is a, it is a well formed, experienced and now qualified CEO, right? But that those qualifications are hard

Wil Schroter: earned. Let's talk through that. Let's talk about this concept. I think there's some value here that anyone can get the title, but you have to earn the job you

Ryan Rutan: got. Hang on just a second. Hold on a second. I'm just gonna go to my linkedin really quick. I'm now the CEO of a company that's existed for. Hang on a second.

Wil Schroter: Well done, Ryan Becks. All right. I'm not, well done, well done. You know, this is so funny of all the people I had the conversation with Summer, my daughter again, the CEO of handmade happiness, right? And she's super excited about her business and everything else like that. And, and I had this conversation with her one morning, one Saturday morning. I said, you know what's so cool about this is you have this title and you have the rest of your life to earn this job. And she's like, well, what do you mean? I said, here's the deal. We all get this title when we start a company. It's the easiest thing in the world to get. Anybody can print a business card. I said, but you earn the job by executing, you earn the job by all the things that you succeed at somewhat fail, right? But you have to succeed more than you fail. And it comes over a very, very, very long time. I said you could be a CEO for 10 years and still not have earned the job. Let me pause there. A lot of people don't understand what that means. They're like, I've been a CEO for 10 years, right? Clearly. Uh uh not really. You gotta be successful. You can say you're a bad CEO, you have to be good at it. You're

Ryan Rutan: a basketball player since I was about five years old. And uh there is never gonna be a seat for me on the Lakers bench. It's

Wil Schroter: funny you should say that, you know, I mentioned my, my son's basketball team at that time we were like, three and, oh, and I'm like, I'm a legit basketball coach. No, I'm not. I, I don't know, I didn't know what a point guard is. Right. I know nothing about basketball but they call me coach because I'm the only person standing out on the court. What's interesting to me about that is, this requires a bit of introspection, right where you can stop and say, you know, yeah, I've been at this a couple of years, but I really haven't done the things that successful CEO S have done. I haven't earned my stripes again. I was given the title, but I haven't really earned the job. I haven't earned the amount of experience that successful people would have. And, and I'll, I'll give my example. So I've been running startups for 30 years and that's fine as a startup. CEO I believe I've earned that job. But if you were to say, ok, now you're moving to be a fortune 500 CEO Elon calls and he says, hey, you gotta run this Tesla thing. I'd be like my experience doesn't mean anything. I didn't earn that job start by

Ryan Rutan: tweeting about an obscure Cryptocurrency and see where it goes from

Wil Schroter: there. But I mean, think about it, man, how many people, especially in the startup space because everybody gets titled early, really understand what it means to earn the job.

Ryan Rutan: I don't think anybody does because again, it's one of those things that happens over such a long period of time and varying degrees of success to your point, you could have been a startup CEO for 30 years and, and had nothing but abject failure, which doesn't really qualify you for anything, right? Like, yeah, so the time here is an important component, the experiences are an important component, but the outcomes also sort of matter here.

Wil Schroter: The outcomes are an important point to know what to do, right? If you were to say, hey, I made lots of bad decisions and by virtue of that, I know the things not to do. So by virtue of that, I know the things to do, right. That's not entirely true. You know what not to do. But you also didn't do the right things to see what that experience actually looks like. It's not quite the same thing,

Ryan Rutan: right? You can assume that somewhere out there amongst the list of things I didn't do is the correct answer. But yeah, simply, you know, having a lot of mistakes doesn't necessarily, it might get you closer to the right answer. It doesn't mean that you'll actually land

Wil Schroter: on it. Losing 100 hockey games doesn't make me a good hockey player. It just, I've just at some point you also have to win. And so, and by the way, we're in a business of losing. Right again, that's, that's what we do. We have to keep making bad decisions and come back we have to keep guessing and come back. That's part of what we do, but the part where we start to turn it around and we say no, actually, I'm pretty good at this job. Right. I've earned this job, you know, I, I've, I've earned my spot on my spot on the team, so to speak, the starting lineup. Well, then you did that because you did things. Right. Right. Anybody can take a job and be bad at it, right. That requires no skill whatsoever. But at which point you're like, you know what, here's the experience that I had, here's where I keep winning. And by virtue of that, if I go to another team, another startup, another job, I'll take that winning formula and bring it with me. Yeah, that's the person I want to hire, you know, not the person who has had two years on the stick and never did anything. Right. You know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, for sure, the objective outcomes and, and actually achieving what you set out to achieve should be an important uh part of how you decide your qualifications if you're looking at somebody else. Certainly it should be how you're deciding their qualifications. Uh And, and I think that's kind of funny honestly, you know, when we, we think about, you know, going back to the very beginning, you said you talked about the ego, right? And, and how we have to not buy into our own bullshit. Too much as we decide to start to buy into our own bullshit. We should use the same type of measurements that we would use to determine whether somebody else is full of shit or not. Right. So, if we're hiring somebody and you're like, well, what position would you like to apply for? I'm a chief product officer. Oh, amazing. Well, what product experience do you have? I just have lots of great ideas for products all the time. And I'm just like, yeah. Right. And so I just, uh, I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be a product. Like you would immediately go like, well, ok, so you're telling me you haven't built product, you've never gone through, like running through a whole bunch of like mockup design or do you have any technical skills? No, any, any actual design skills? No. So you've got some ideas? Cool. Pretty much everybody has those. So we're just gonna leave that off the table. So, yeah. No, I cannot buy into the notion of you being a chief product officer and yet we don't apply that same scrutiny to ourselves as CEO S of the companies again. At, at some point, it doesn't matter right. At the early stage. It doesn't really matter because you're probably there by yourself or you're

Wil Schroter: there. You're the only person for the job, right? The only

Ryan Rutan: one that's gonna have the job. You're the only person qualified and also not qualified. For the job. So it doesn't really matter. But as time goes on and we start to buy into this notion that yes, I am. In fact, a CEO then I think we need to start to apply some, some bricks to that to say, like I was looking at this from the outside, if I can get out of my own, my own ego for a minute and say like, what have I actually been really successful at which aspects of this job? Am I really good at? What do I still need work on or what may I never improve on that? I just simply need to hire around and I think you get a much better understanding, I think to your point, if we don't end up doing this, it's super dangerous. Do we expect you to be able to understand all of this from day one on the job? No, because we know you don't know shit on day one of the job. That's OK. It's exactly what we're saying. But over time it needs to start to take shit, it needs to take form. And from the very beginning, you should have some level of understanding that that is the objective, right, that we're trying to earn our way into this actual title.

Wil Schroter: If people actually have startups, most startups, their leadership actually got the titles that they were qualified for instead of CEO most of us would be titled Junior project manager, which has a very different set of expectations than CEO when investors are putting money behind it, when people are going to work for that company, when shit hits the fan, do you want the junior project manager at home or do you want the CEO? Because they're so kind of two different people? So here's what I would say. Overall, we all get the title. We're used to it. But I think it's healthy across the board. I think it's healthy across the board for everyone, including us to stop and say, what have I truly earned? What am I truly good at? And if I'm missing, if there's a big delta there, what do I need to do to fill it? Because sometimes the answer is I need somebody else to come in doesn't always have to replace me, but it could be somebody alongside me, et cetera. And I think the more we're just honest and humble about what our qualifications truly are and not letting those three letters dictate what we think we are, the better off we are, we are in the entire organization. So in addition to all the stuff related to founder groups, you've also got full access to everything on startups dot com that includes all of our education tracks, which will be funding customer acquisition, even how to manage your monthly finances. They're so much stuff in there. All of our software including Biz plan for putting together detailed business plans and financials launch rock for attracting early customers and of course fund for attracting investment capital. When you log into the startups dot com site, you'll find all of these resources available.

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