Some people know exactly which job title they want, while others aren't exactly sure because they're interested in so many different roles. Whether you've just started your own business or you're simply debating if you should, be warned: As the founder, you won't have just one specific job description, but many, and this can make the role quite challenging and disorienting.
The truth is, founders must wear multiple hats and it's often hard to discern which roles should be filled, what each role entails, and when each role is relevant. But if you understand these various roles thoroughly, you can prioritize your next steps and understand the type of questions you will tackle as your venture matures.
Founding a company generally means taking on the following four roles at once:
This role is what typically gives birth to a new business. As product manager, your role is to make sure you've identified an idea that customers actually want or need. Then you must transform that idea into an actionable plan by setting a vision and executing it.
Product managers end up asking: What will the product do? For whom are we building this? What are the product's key features? How will you know you've developed a product that people want? To help you answer these questions, read The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. It's fresh off the presses and offers invaluable guidance on developing a product customers want.
Technical Team Member
The definition of a technical team member changes depending on the type of business you're starting. The technical team's role is to develop and work closely with the product manager to bring the plan to reality. This role requires a deep understanding of the product itself. It also calls for the ability to execute quickly by developing processes that allow experimentation without having to start from scratch each time the product is tweaked.
Someone on the company's technical team would ask: Is the product vision possible? How should we build it? How do we create a repeatable process that lets us quickly experiment?
Check out Eric Ries' The Lean Startup as a reference. The approaches he outlines might change your mind set on execution, regardless of the type of business you pursue.
Marketing and Sales Team Member
It doesn't matter how good your product is if you don't have customers. Your company must identify the right channels and develop a narrative that communicates your product's value. Reach out to customers often to provide great information on what the product should look like, whom the right set of customers are, and how to best sell to them. Once you refine your sales strategy, you'll start building a pipeline and gaining traction.
Marketing and sales teams look to answer: What do we want to communicate to our customers? How do we reach the right set of customers in a cost-efficient manner? How can new information inform our product decisions? I've found that Sean Ellis' Startup Marketing Blog offers great marketing advice. While it's largely tech-focused, the blog's lessons can easily be applied to other business concepts.
Chief Executive Officer
This role requires you be the face and voice of your company. As the chief executive officer, or CEO, your main concern is that the company remains at its highest well-being so the team can accomplish goals. The CEO establishes a long-term strategy, secures the necessary resources (human and financial), sets the company culture and values, and maintains team morale. Not all founders remain CEOs, but odds are, you'll be your company's first. It is a crucial role as the company grows and evolves from a scrappy startup to a complex organization.
A CEO answers the following questions: How much money do we need to achieve our goals? Do we have the right set of skills and talent to achieve success? What is our plan next week and one year from now? Felix Dennis' The Narrow Road: A Brief Guide to the Getting of Money is a condensed manual of great management lessons that I would recommend every aspiring entrepreneur-turned-CEO read.
If you think you're only suited for one of these job descriptions, then continue to scour the job boards. But if the challenge of juggling these four roles appeals to you, you now know: Though entrepreneurship can be overwhelming, the job description can be broken down into manageable and actionable steps. So, get your hats ready; you'll be wearing several throughout your journey!
Tony Navarro is the Founder and CEO of Streamcal, a venture that redefines the way schedules and calendars are published, shared, and consumed across the web. He is originally from Colombia and strongly believes in the power of entrepreneurship to generate economic growth. Before Streamcal, Tony worked on several concepts including a card-linked loyalty program for SMEs, and a gesture-based hardware technology company. Tony has had a broad range of professional experiences that include positions in finance, consulting and design. He holds an MBA degree from Wharton and an MPA degree from Harvard, and currently lives in Boston with his wife. The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.
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