LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman gives entrepreneurs a well-articulated dose of great advice in his recent blog post about "If, Why, and How Founders should hire a 'professional' CEO." The very self-aware founder says the decision works best when rooted in, well, self-awareness:
To remain successful, you have to be passionate about that kind of work as well. Ask yourself, “What am I focused on? What am I world-class at? What am I really committed to?” The answers will help you determine if you should bring in a CEO.
Hoffman (who brought in Dan Nye and then later Jeff Weiner to LinkedIn's helm), points out that comprehensive knowledge is one of the most critical success factors for a founder CEO. So, too, is passion for the urgent priorities of the business -- including and especially product.
If you've studied Hoffman's suggestions and determine that your founder as CEO is the right option, you're in great company. But you're not done with the self-awareness practice. An early next great question should be, "do I need strategic marketing help?" As I wrote about recently here, tech- and science-minded entrepreneurs tend to be held back by what they don't know they don't know about marketing. They consider it "fluff" or "PR" or "awareness" rather than appreciating it as a set of fundamentals.
Strategic marketing at the early stage addresses and articulates precisely who your customer is. What problems you solve. What ecosystem you are joining and how you are poised to win and thrive within it. How you will segment the marketplace, how you will sell and support each segment, and how you will acquire customers. How your product launch process will prepare your company to sell and support it, and prepare the market to receive it. How that convention you're attending will be successfully transformed into profit-bringing closed deals.
So, having asked yourself Hoffman's smart questions, move on to these next ones:
Do I know what I need to know about the strategic marketing fundamentals on which I'll build my go-to-market activities? Am I world-class at this? Am I focused on it?
If not, find someone who is, and invest in rounding out that comprehensive knowledge that is so critical to your success.