What It’s Like Being A CEO

The title "Being A CEO" written above a man carrying a black on a teeter totter that is a metaphor for a work/life balance.
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Today we’re going to talk about being a CEO. It can be both fun, and exciting, it’s an ego boost.

Sometimes however it can suck. And it can be a drain, depending on how your business is going. If you’re the CEO, this is your baby. It’s your deal. It’s your responsibility. People’s lives depend on you. People’s families and children depend on you.

In my businesses, I’ve had several instances over the years, where I have had the opportunity to stand back looking at all these people who work for me. They’re all relatively well-paid folks. I remember thinking that every one of them relies on me as the CEO, to keep this company going. They pay their bills, they buy cars, and they pay mortgages. They raise families and pay for their children’s school activities and buy clothes. Their entire lives depend on money. That money comes from their job. And that job comes from me. And in this instance, if you’re the CEO, those people are relying on you. It’s quite a responsibility.

Another question to think about is what are you building? Are you building a lifestyle business? Or are you building a legacy? Are you here for fame or money? Can you take vacations? I love this question. Can you put your phone down? Are you taking calls at dinner? One of the things I’ve always done is build companies that didn’t require me to be there daily. In my case, I would call it both a lifestyle and a legacy. I like to joke that I can run my company from my cell phone in bed. In fact, I’m going skiing in two days. I’ll be out in Park City for a couple of weeks. I can run my business from my cell phone, in the ski lift line, when I have nothing else to do. I can look at an email, I can send a voicemail, and I can answer a question. And then I get on the lift and I’m gone.

What are you building? I have another business in Atlanta. It’s a small chain of restaurants. I could sell those restaurants today…And very few people would even know I’m gone. Most of my 150 employees don’t even know me. So that’s what I call both a lifestyle and a legacy.

But what are you building? What’s important to you? Are you building something that you can sell? Are you building something that pays you a lot of money? Are you the person doing all the work? There’s this interesting game I have on my cell phone, it’s called “Would You Rather” and I think this game is hilarious. It’s an app, you should get it. In the game, it gives you two choices. And more than likely, it’s two bad choices. And they’re always fun to read. I’m looking at it right now.

The first question is, would you rather save the world and nobody knows, or save the world and everybody knows you’re a worldwide hero, but you die in the process? This is your choice. Save the world, nobody knows, save the world, be a hero, but die. The app also tracks the answers. In this particular case, 60% of the people answered, save the world and nobody knows. Here’s the funny part. 40% said save the world, take the glory and die. 40% of the people would rather die just so everybody knows who they are!!

So my question to you is along those same lines. When we’re talking about you as a businessperson or a CEO…what you’re building…is it a legacy or a lifestyle. Would you rather make $300,000 a year and work all the time? Or would you rather make $200,000 a year but not have to show up to work every day? You can go to the mountains, you can go to the beach, you can go to Europe for a month. You can sit on the lake all summer long like I tend to do.

Now, if you’re young in business, you need to get out there and bust it and do everything you need to do and spend some time building your business. But if you are a little more established, and you’re making some money, it’s time you started answering those types of questions. In my case, I gotta be honest with you, I spent all my time building a business. I never saw my family, I missed my kids growing up, I ended up divorced, and I probably should have spent more time doing what I’m about to tell you!

Even Sam Walton, when he was getting near his deathbed, people asked him this question, was it worth it? And here’s what Sam Walton said. “This will sound strange to people who know me. But lately, I’ve wondered if I should feel bad about having been so wholly committed to Walmart. Was it really worth all the time I spent away from my family? Am I really leaving behind something on earth that I can be proud of having accomplished? Or does it somehow lack meaning to me? Now that I’m facing the ultimate challenge? I could have kicked back in my later years, hung out with the grandchildren, and devoted my life to good works.”

That’s coming from a billionaire. Now, we’re not billionaires. But the same question applies here. What are you giving up to get what you’ve got and is it worth it?

I use all this to say that one of the principles I’ve said in businesses is that sometimes as a CEO, you need to make less money to make more money. Or do you need to make less money in order to have a better life? You need to leverage time.

To do this you need to replace yourself in every role that you hold throughout the growth of that organization until you get to a point one day where you’re not really needed. You can still sit on top of the organization, make strategic decisions, you can still guide the company, but ultimately, you have the ability to walk away. You can put your phone down. You can go on vacation. You can sell it. If you’re making $300,000 a year and working all the time, maybe you need to pay somebody $100 grand to run that thing for you. this way if something happens to you, if you get sick if you get hurt, or you just get tired of doing it, you can walk away because you’ve got an established organization that will survive without you. That’s time leverage. That’s being a smart CEO… Would you rather.

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