Being the new CEO of a company can be a whirlwind. Taking over a position at the top of an organization is difficult, mainly if you’ve never been a CEO before. So, how do you know your top priorities as a first-time CEO? Let’s dive deep into it.
As a new CEO, you’ll have your hands full. As you’re aware, being a leader at the helm of a company can be difficult. You have to make a plethora of decisions every day. To do so, you have to oversee (or delegate) all kinds of activities that will impact your growth. But where should you begin? How much time should you spend on each of these top ten items mentioned below? How can you improve communication with your employees? How can you make sure everyone is working together toward reaching a singular goal?
The following are the top 10 priorities a new CEO should address immediately to ensure success when taking over the helm of a company.
1. First things first: Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
As a new CEO, you’ll be inundated with your time and resources demands. It’s essential to stay focused on the top priorities — otherwise known as the “big rocks.” If you don’t understand what’s most important for your company, it won’t be easy to make intelligent decisions about where to spend time and money.
There are many priorities for a new CEO, and one of them is to make sure that all employees know what they are supposed to be doing and how they can help contribute to the company’s overall success. It’s also crucial that employees understand the company’s goals and how their roles fit into those goals. This will help employees feel more connected to their work and more motivated in their jobs.
Another key priority for new CEOs is prioritizing customers and other stakeholders. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet as CEO of your company, it’s time to focus on building relationships with key stakeholders like customers, vendors, investors, partners, and others who may have an interest in what you’re doing with your company.
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2. Get a clear picture of the company’s current state
In addition to assessing your company’s overall financial health, you need to accurately understand its strengths and weaknesses to address them more effectively. To do this, you should work closely with leaders across all departments and levels of your organization to create an honest assessment of where things stand today — both from a business perspective and a cultural standpoint. Your team will also want to hear from you directly about what they can expect going forward: What are their responsibilities? What are their goals? How will we measure success?
3. Put your executive team in place
Once you understand where your company stands, it’s time to put together an executive team to help you achieve those strategic goals. This includes hiring a COO or CFO who can take over some of your responsibilities, as well as bringing on board other key leaders, such as vice presidents, who can help fill any gaps in knowledge or skillset gaps that exist within your organization today (and likely will exist for years to come).
4. Take a deep dive into your company’s financials
As a first-time CEO, there will be many things you don’t know about running a company. One of those things is how much money you have coming in and going out — and how much cash is really available at any given moment. As soon as you take over as CEO, take time to go through all of your financial documents to understand where your money comes from and where it goes. Make sure to ask questions along the way if anything seems unclear or confusing — this is not a time to be shy or hesitant when it comes to asking questions!
5. Set company’s vision and communicate it to your employees
As a new CEO, one of the most important things you can do is set a clear vision for the company. And then communicate it clearly and often to your employees.
While it may seem obvious, communicating well is an art form that’s not always easy for new CEOs to master. It takes time, practice, and thoughtfulness. But with practice, you’ll get better at it and find yourself improving in no time.
For example, if you’re planning to grow your company by 10% next year, make sure that’s communicated both internally and externally. That way, everyone knows what they should be working toward — even if they aren’t directly involved in growing the business by 10%.
6. Communicate often (and don’t underestimate what you say)
Communicating well is not only about saying the right things at the right time; it’s also about listening carefully and acting on feedback from others who might have different perspectives than yours — especially if they’re customers or partners outside your organization’s walls!
7. Pause, then embrace innovation
The most successful CEOs in the world are all innovators. But what does this mean, exactly?
It means embracing change and trying something new. As a first-time CEO, you may be tempted to do things the way they were done in your predecessor’s time. But that’s not how it works. You’ll need to be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, and thinking about the business.
8. Pay attention to your stakeholders (both internal and external)
A key part of being a successful CEO is knowing what’s important to your stakeholders — both inside your company and outside it — and making sure you’re addressing those concerns. That means listening closely and taking notes during meetings with employees, investors, customers, partners, etc. It also means staying on top of industry trends to anticipate changes before they happen.
Besides, stakeholders want to feel heard and valued by the new CEO. They want to know that you understand their needs and concerns. They want to know that they matter — not just in abstract concepts but also in real-life terms.
9. Use data to inform decisions and focus on the metrics that matter
First-time CEOs often rely too heavily on gut instinct or personal experience rather than complex data when making decisions about people management, marketing, sales, and finance — all critical areas for success in any business today. If you’re unsure what metrics matter most for your business, ask someone who knows more about your industry than you do: an experienced CFO or COO would be a good place to start. The best way to learn is by doing, so get out of the office and meet with customers, suppliers, and employees; don’t just talk about them at meetings or through email blasts!
10. Get out of the office and meet people one on one
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of running a company and forget that it’s essential to meet with employees outside of scheduled meetings or formal office hours. It’s also good practice to occasionally note what’s being discussed in meetings, especially if you’re working on an important project or initiative.
We’ve provided a broad overview of the CEO’s job and outlined some of their most important responsibilities. As you take on this new position, address these critical issues as soon as possible. Maintaining clear communication will go a long way toward ensuring your success in this role. Successfully delegating may be the single most crucial skill you can master when managing up.23
Surojit has over 15 years of experience in quality and implementations. He is a promoter of an extremely light and efficient Agile process to fit business needs. In his prior role as product owner, he built a robust product in a very short span of time.
Published May 11, 2022, Updated January 17, 2023