Lessons from an Entrepreneur Turned CEO

Gini Dietrich

This is a guest post from Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc.

Nearly three years ago I had to make the transition from working in the business to working on the business. It was a difficult transition (sometimes still is) because no one tells you how to do it. When I asked my peers, friends, and family what a CEO should be doing, no one could give me a straight answer.

I read a ton of books. I read every article I could find.  I brought it as an issue to my Vistage group. I asked other entrepreneurs turned CEOs. I kept a list of things I thought I should be doing as a CEO.

It turns out being the CEO of a company you founded means different things to different people. What is important to me may not be important to other business leaders, which is probably why I couldn’t find the magic answer in all of my searching.

Following are some of the lessons I’m learning in my journey to the top:

  • Cash truly is king.
  • Debt isn’t bad, unless there is a recession and you can’t get access to capital because you already have debt.
  • Big is not always better; profit is always best.
  • Leadership is not about being the first one in and the last one to leave the office, nor about working the most hours.
  • Employee communication should happen only in person; internal email sucks.
  • Just because you have three letters after your name does not mean you have to be all business all of the time, if it doesn’t fit your personality.
  • If our clients aren’t happy and want me working on their accounts, it’s because I haven’t done my staff coaching and mentoring job well enough.
  • My time is best spent on innovation, coaching and mentoring staff, landing the whales, and being the face of the company.
  • It’s okay to say no, if it’s for something not in the four areas listed above.
  • It’s good to shake things up every once in a while, in an effort to stay ahead of the trends.
  • It’s great to have friends who run competitive companies; if the relationship is set up correctly, we work very well together.
  • People like working for a company that stands for something and lives its values.
  • My gut is ALWAYS right.
  • Engagement, connection, and transparency are the most important communication tools – with employees, with clients, with prospects, with talent candidates, with vendors, with partners, and any other stakeholder.
  • Bad news does not go away and it does not get better with age; no matter how much I hate conflict, sometimes it’s worse in my head than it is in reality.
  • Having fun with my colleagues, and connecting with them as people, is what I truly love about getting up and going to work every day.

What have you learned? What do you do that is not on this list?

Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and the author of Spin Sucks, the 2010 Readers Choice Blog of the Year, a Top 42 Content Marketing Blog from Junta42, a top 10 social media blog from Social Media Examiner, and an AdAge Power 150 blog. You can subscribe to Spin Sucks or connect with Gini on Twitter or on Facebook to learn more.

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