Founder and CEO : Defining the C-Suite and building the Management Structure


When you hear corporate terminology like CEO, C-Suite, and Founders, you might be tempted to think only of big business. Every big business started somewhere, usually with a founder, or just a small number of people wearing so many hats that name badges, positions and hierarchy played no part in the day-to-day operations.  Many start-ups are fast paced businesses, doing what is needed to be done to stay afloat, get customers and grow.  In the early stages, names and positions matter less.  As the company grows, so does the need for a managerial hierarchy, accountability, and structure.

Some companies like to grow from the ground up, with everyone in the company able to do every job for the benefit of the team. As the business grows, it hires more staff to do specific roles. Those new hires often start at the bottom and grow with the company. This natural recruitment churn means that those with the longest tenure get moved up into leadership, or management roles. The people that were there right at the start often become the C-Level Executives.

When new hires start, they are comforted by a hierarchy. They often want to know who the boss is, who to go to in case of any human resource matters and most importantly, who signs their pay cheques. 

The C-Suite is generally made up of the following roles:

  • CEO.  This is the Chief Executive Officer and often the highest position in the Company.
  • CTO. Chief Technological Officer in charge of website, and all things IT related. Very important if your business is online, or needs technology to operate
  • COO. Chief Operating Officer. The top person for operations. They are highly organized and know what is going on in every department of the company.
  • CMO. Chief Marketing Officer in control of marketing and sales
  • CFO. Chief Financial Officer is the one to stay on the good side of, they sign your pay cheque.

There is other less common C-Suite job titles like CIO, CHRO, CDO and CRO and then the President, the Vice President, and the Founders and Co-Founders. As the company grows the direction of the company becomes clearer which in turn creates specific job titles and roles.

Understanding this structure is important in business and knowing your place within it is important for company progression and personal development.

Knowing the kind of structure that you want to work in, or that you want to manage can define your company and send a message to all staff. It is common to hear of “Open Door” policies, where the C-Level employees and open to meetings with anyone through out the company. It is also common to have a strict communication chain to maintain structure and organization, and to give accountability to middle management and team leaders. 

Knowing the corporate structure you want and building a team around it will be the foundation for your company’s growth.

It begins with the Founder.

The start of a company is a very exciting time and often comes from a dream, a goal or a problem that needs a solution. “Your mess becomes your message”, is a common phrase used by Entrepreneurs in a Start-up. Many businesses have their roots in a problem that the founder experienced, developed a solution for and grew a business from.

Skype for example was developed to speed up international business transactions, replacing people on the road for long trips to go to meetings.

Jeff Bezos wanted to sell more books, then sell more produce, he is the Founder of Amazon. It was his idea, he got the funding, investment and built the infrastructure that is one of the biggest companies in the world today.

The Founder meaning in Business.

The Founder is the ideas person, the driving force behind the start of the company and the one with the vision and determination to get it going. The founder might build the company from the start, but could leave, or take a back-seat as the company grows and simply get paid dividends on shares and profits as their idea grows into a good business.

The Founder is an entrepreneur. Unless there are constant new products and new directions, a founder’s job is to get things started, put the right team in place and then leave it to the operations team and the CEO to run that company. A Founder is often a passionate person, driven by desire to have their product or service well known and well used. This is very useful in the early stages of a company, but as the company becomes more established and the product well known, their role is less involved, and they are not needed for the day-to-day running of the company.

Founder vs CEO

The Chief Executive Officer is the highest paid person in the Company and the top of the hierarchy. They work with the Founder to guide the company forwards. There are some examples of the Founder being both the CEO and the Founder, and there are benefits and draw backs to that structure.

The CEO talks with investors, delegates tasks to managers, is in control of the day-to-day operations and they know what is going on in the company. They guide the vision, implement the strategy and are the contact person from the Board of Directors to the operational management team ensuring that what needs to be done, gets done.

Co-Founder and CEO

As the name suggests the Co-Founder is the partner to the Founder. They should be on equal terms, however, share agreements can mean that one founder has more shares than the other possibly due to investing more in the initial stages. The Co-Founder and the CEO work together just as the Founder and CEO do. It is a relationship that requires clear communication and detailed understanding of each other as well as the overall vision for the Company.

Now that we are clear on the founder and CEO meaning we should look at how they impact the company, stay in touch with operations and continue to guide their vision forwards.

How does the CEO and Founder stay focused on the vision?

These jobs are possibly the busiest jobs in a company, especially in the early stages. How can these busy people do their jobs, and communicate the vision to their team at the same time as driving the company forwards?

The founder and the ceo must develop strict, controlled and crystal clear internal communication so they are constantly aware of what each other is doing and where the company is going. They are constantly in meetings, internally or externally, with staff or investors, they are managing the bigger picture through an intensive workload.

The founder and ceo must maintain excellent communications with each other, but also with their teams. Regular meetings, updates and open discussions will help this, but how to stay in open, consistent communication whilst you are so busy?

Founder & CEO Communications

Communication starts at the top. It gets disseminated through channels to the operational staff, keeping everyone involved aware of the overall direction and goals to be achieved. When people are so busy, they need mobile communication, so that they can communicate from anywhere, with anyone, and they are not restricted to finding a good internet connection or to only talking to people from their desk.

Communication cannot be limited to one-way texts or calls. People in senior management positions should always be available for their people in case they need advice and guidance to resolve important concerns. When they are in meetings, or in situations where they should not be disturbed, they should use call divert or a good messaging service. Some CEOs and Founders have virtual assistants or executive assistants that can handle their calls and manage their diary when they are too busy.  It still all comes down to clear, organized, and consistent communication.

The CEO and the Founder should be accessible to their team, this could be through phone, email, SMS, or through an internal chat facility like Slack or simply WhatsApp. If we are all office based, there is often an “Open Door” policy, but now we are mostly remote, so there needs to be an online dynamic version of communication accessible by everyone.

This remote online open-door policy can only be achieved by investing in the best communications technology and ensuring that it is adaptable for remote use, through the mobile phones of the employees.  No matter how big the team is, or how dispersed everyone is, everyone has mobile phones, and everyone should receive updates on projects, business goals, or successes to maintain focus and motivation. This simple communication can be done through mobile communication platforms specifically built for business.

The ConxHub phone solution covers you for calls, messages, conference calls and keeps everyone updated no matter where in the world they are.

CEO and Founders Phone Use

Have you ever had a meeting with a CEO or a founder and seen how much time they spend on their phone? It can be constant. They might have messages from staff, reports coming in from finance, investors asking for updates, meetings, and conference calls non-stop. A CEO needs a good phone, but more importantly needs a mobile phone solution that allows for continual communication with their team and stakeholders.

The CEO and Founders need to be available on messengers, phone calls and video conferencing to ensure the company is doing what it should be doing, and everyone is aware of their roles.  Communication these days is more remote than before, but through mobile technology face to face communication is still possible from remote locations.

Using an integrated mobile phone solution, the CEO and Founder are always available for their teams and have the communication stored in one place. All communication in one place helps to keep everyone updated and means that it is harder to miss communication, and to forget what has been said.  Options for email, SMS, phone, and conferencing are essential tools for the busy executives.

With good phone technology, the virtual open door can be as accessible as the physical open door in the office. With notifications on your phone saying “John wants you to call him back” it is like John knocking at the office door and waiting to be invited in! The Open-door policy that is such a comfort to staff in the office is now even more of a comfort to those working from home, and feeling isolated, and available virtually, through your mobile phone.  The mobile virtual open door supports staff wherever they are in the world, keeping them informed of business operations.

Founders and CEOs are different.

Whilst both roles are vitally important for the business, they have some similarities, and a lot of differences.  The Founder starts the business and hires a CEO when the time is right to bring one in. This generally means that the CEO is under the founder, or reports to the founder, but that relationship can be contracted and negotiated, allowing the CEO more autonomy.

The founder:

  • Gets the business going, like a captain on a ship, they set the course
  • Manages finances with the CFO and creates a budget for all departments.
  • Is a visionary
  • Assembles the team
  • Keeps the board happy
  • The buck stops here, they make the final decisions.
  • Is an entrepreneur
  • Works very long hours and puts their life on hold to support their business, knowing that they will be better off in a couple of years.
  • Takes calculated risks and is driven by ambition.

The CEO:

  • Actions what the founder wants and buys into the vision
  • Coaches, mentors, and guides the team, especially on a day-to-day basis
  • Scales the business in line with the vision
  • Builds and develops the company culture
  • They are less of a visionary and more of a doer.
  • Learns on the job, and shares that learning with the team
  • Communicates well with everyone in the company at all levels
  • Listens to everyone in the company, at all levels.

Are you a CEO or a Founder?

Everyone has some of these personality traits and some desire to succeed. After reading the article do you think that you could be a CEO, or you want to be a founder and launch your own company?  Both jobs are hard work, but both are highly rewarding.  They both get good salaries, but more importantly they both allow you autonomy to run a company, manage a team, hire who you want to and to bring your own ideas to a concept and see it work out.

If you have an idea, or have seen a gap in the market, or a problem that needs fixing, maybe you could be the Founder of your business. As your business grows, you get to choose your CEO, CFO, CMO and build your own C-Suite of executives.

Your next challenge awaits.

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