“I just want to do my own thing.”
“Whenever I take a job, I learn a ton but then after a few months I feel like I could do it better.”
“I feel like I make a bad employee.”
Those are all naive statements that I’ve made in the past calendar year. After starting a very, very, small business in college, working for a couple startups, and being a part of the entrepreneurship student organization at Ohio State, I very truly believed that with an idea of my own, I could make a go of it as the founder and CEO of a company straight out of college. The only reason I wasn’t doing so was because I did not have that idea.
So I chose a happy compromise — I forwent any type of corporate job and took a position as the first employee/COO of a startup based in Cincinnati, working with our CEO, Alex, and eventual CTO, Andy.
Without really fully realizing it, this has afforded me an incredible vantage point of all that a CEO does. And let me tell you, it’s not a walk in the park.
I wake up every morning between 7–8a to go to the gym before I start my day. Upon waking up, most days I will already have a message from Alex either via email or IM, showing that he’s already awake and plugged in. This still surprises me, as most nights he is up until at least 10p and usually midnight sending and responding to emails as well.
I have a pretty complex system for keeping my To Dos and upcoming deadlines/events in order. Rarely, but occasionally, something slips my mind. Alex keeps on top of all of these things — and does so off the top of his head. I manage a team of 5+ remotely via Gchat and email, and often feel fairly overwhelmed. Alex manages the same number of people, receives a multiplier of emails, and takes it in stride. Meetings, texts, emails, all at once and in harmony. Networking, pitching, more networking, more pitching.
And these are the easy aspects.
We haven’t even talked about the fact that for the first 3–4 months of the year, as a one-man operation, he handled sales, contracting design and development of our initial website, as well as investor/partner relationships.
Have you ever asked someone for a $10,000 check? How about a $50,000 check? How about multiple $50,000 checks? Have you ever quit a well-paying and stable job to do something full time, without even knowing if you could make it 6 months? Knowing you would NEED investment to keep going?
Now let’s talk about vision. Everyone has an idea, and then some people can build it. But few people have a vision of how that plays out long term. That has to be the CEO.
And now, the scariest part of all: trust. As a CEO (now I sound like I’m reading out of Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things) you cannot do it alone. You may push it for some time, but as success comes, the vision builds, and the company is growing, you will need to hire.
Can you imagine trying to find someone who will commit as much of their time and energy to YOUR baby? The startup is your baby. You’ve brought it to life. And it’s life will now depend on several other key individuals, and you have to trust them to take care of your baby. Micromanaging won’t work — it takes too much time, and doesn’t allow your employees to grow and thrive. To move quickly and succeed, you have to place an incredible amount of trust that the individuals you hire are solid, bought into the vision, and can move the company forward.
Fast-forward to nearing the end of my fifth month with Tixers, a more solid vision, a much more usable and almost completely different product, and I feel like a proud parent. Most days I feel overwhelmed with responsibility and some days are like banging my head against the wall for 12 hours.
But it’s not even my ass or money that’s on the line.
It is almost impossible for me to imagine carrying more responsibility than I do now. Doing all that I do, plus trusting others with my infant business, plus knowing my whole livelihood and reputation is set on this, plus answering to a group of individuals who have entrusted me to make a return on their investment? Missing out on evening and weekend plans, because the business comes first 24/7? Living and breathing the business, even when you are out and having a “break”? That’s heavy.
Oh, and by the way, 8 out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months.
So, do you still think you can CEO?
This may have sounded a bit like a love letter for our CEO, Alex. And in part, it was. Every day for the past 5 months I’ve watched him bust his ass harder than anyone else to push Tixers forward. And I mean every day — last night was his 26th birthday and he was up working with Andy and I until at least midnight.
But it’s hard work like that that has brought us to today’s exciting announcement. Tixers has partnered with Xavier University for the 2014–15 Men’s Basketball season. It’s an exciting opportunity for us to help Xavier pack the Cintas Center and provide additional value to their season ticket holders. If you are buying or selling tickets, check out our constantly improving site and inventory!