No matter if you are an entry level employee or a company’s brand-new CEO, the first day on the job can be nerve-wracking. Even so, your path to professional success begins the moment you walk through the door. Read on to discover why the first two weeks as the CEO of a company are the most important.
The recruitment process:
When considering an individual for a leadership role, the candidate is typically subjected to numerous interviews by recruiters, the board, and shareholders. Oftentimes, the final recruitment process stage involves the candidate providing example insights and an example strategic plan for the business. The candidate would then present the plan to the board, mapping out key strategic goals and proving why they (the candidate) are the best pick for the role. The audience will assess the plan and presentation through the lens of what the company may look like after three to five years under the candidate’s leadership.
The first week as CEO:
Once the chosen candidate successfully passes all the hurdles and negotiated a satisfactory employment agreement, it is time for them to assume the leadership role.
The first week is an important week, and longtime CEO, Jozef Opdeweegh, recommends spending those first days like this:
- Day 1 – 2: Establish a vision, mission and core values/behaviors
- Day 3 – 4: Map out the key drivers of success
- Day 5: Draft the strategic plan
Opdeweegh says, “it is my experience the senior leadership team gathers in person to attend this 5 day-exercise. Of course, the size of that group depends on the size of the company, but I would caution against groups in excess of 40 -50 people because the ability to interact openly and effectively diminishes with an increased group size.”
The first two days are really all about culture. “In the mission statement, you define the company’s current business, its key goals and the key milestones to achieve those goals,” says Opdeweegh. The vision statement describes how the company’s future state will look. And then finally, the corporate culture is defined by a set of shared core values and behaviors that will best enable the company to achieve its goals. Opdeweegh says, “it is paramount to focus on core behaviors early on: the future success of the company, and therefore your future success, largely depends on it. You cannot have a large group of associates work towards a common set of goals if they do not share a set of collective beliefs.”
The following two days center on the key drivers of success. Opdeweegh suggests asking, “What do we need to focus on to be successful?” Obvious topics include financial success, and to satisfy the board, shareholders and lenders. It may sound somewhat counterintuitive, “but in my experience, many members of the senior leadership team do not necessarily have a good grasp of what the main drivers of financial success are. An extensive tutorial may be in order,” notes Opdeweegh. Topics that require discussion are historical valuation of a relevant peer group and the drivers of those valuations: compounded annual rate of revenue growth, EBITDA-margins, EBITDA-multiples, evolution of earnings per share, level of diversification across customers, geographies, industry verticals and product or service offerings and many more. “You need to ensure the leadership group acquires a sufficiently large level of financial literacy in terms of balance sheet, cash flow and P&L to allow them to monitor the financial performance of the company,” advises Opdeweegh.
Finally, on day five, Opdeweegh says, “you should present a draft-summary strategic plan that consists of a P&L, balance sheet and the key strategic goals for the next five years.” This draft is then open for discussion with the group. At the end of day five, a subcommittee should be appointed with the specific task to develop a more detailed strategic plan within 30 days and to present that plan to the group. The executive team needs to be intimately involved in this exercise.
The 2nd week on the job
In the second week on the job, Opdeweegh recommends, “organizing a roadshow to get in front of the rest of the organization. You need to be out there and allow the associates to get to know you. You should spend time on the shop floor, demonstrating a decent level of understanding of the operational processes, but more importantly, you should interact with your coworkers.”
In your first couple of weeks on the job, and during your entire leadership tenure, it’s important to be relatable and approachable. Work to be humble, kind and authentic. You are human, and there is something very endearing about sharing stories about how you have faced challenges in the past and how you have successfully dealt with them. They need to see somebody who is fair, inclusive and open to new ideas. You are nothing more than member of the team who is there to support his co-workers. A good CEO does not find authority in his job title, but rather in tangible achievements.