By Muhammad Chbib
SPONSORED CONTENT: As a founder and CEO of several online businesses in the region, one questions that I have been asked frequently is what it takes to be a successful online CEO, and what makes an online CEO different from a CEO of a 'conventional business' or large corporate entity.
As an online CEO you have to master a couple of other competencies and characteristics:
As an online CEO you usually start your business from scratch, i.e., there is nothing more than a vision and the will to make it successful. You have to be obsessed with this vision. Initially, you need to turn the idea into a business plan. Usually, this initial phase feels like the time of a 'lonely warrior'. You will find yourself spending 14-16 hours a day elaborating on assumptions, validating them with various people and putting them into an Excel-based financial model and a PowerPoint presentation that will become your compass for the next few months and years. A lot of people surrounding you will most likely question your abilities to get the project started, a lot of them will focus on road blocks and will advise you to return to a 'real job'. But being obsessed about your vision will keep you running without distraction.
More than a team builder
As a CEO of an existing institution, you have the advantage of a ready-made team environment. There are people you can leverage, you can delegate work, and manage the process to get things done. In the early stage of starting-up, you will have to find the right people to help build the business. The biggest challenges you will face is being able to afford the best talent, and being able to excite your team without any proof the business will succeed. Most people are risk averse, and if they are in a well-paid job, it takes a lot to convince them to quit and join an uncertain path. The first ten hires are essential for the success of the business but they are the hardest. They require the online CEO to be a master of inspirational leadership.
Finding a suitable and affordable office space, buying furniture and equipment, defining and developing the right product, and much more. There are so many tasks on your list that you will have to take on yourself. You are the one that needs to drive everything, from administration to thought leadership. Your hands-on mind-set is required as a role model for the initial team you have hired, and it's the only way to turn your vision into reality.
If you are not the fastest at turning ideas into reality, someone else will get an edge over your business. Unlike an existing company, you do not benefit from a solid base of revenues that can carry you through a phase of weakness. Agility and speed of implementation means that you get things done. You launch quickly, you fail quickly and you learn from failures quickly. Nowadays, this need for agile implementation has extended from the IT field to any business. There is no time for weeks of validation. The best validation is the reality check and quick identification and rectification of mistakes.
Muhammad Chbib is a McKinsey alumnus and has been an Online CEO in the MENA region since 2011, currently heading Tajawal which has emerged as the leading Online Travel Platform from the MENA region for the MENA region. For more information: http://www.tajawal.com
I think that beating procrastination is your first and main step towards becoming successful. Talking about procrastination, I've been struggling with mine for the last 10 years and read countless books and self help methods. Here is what I'm having best results with. First of all, procrastination bulldozer method has worked wonders for me. I highly recommend you apply it. Secondly, whenever you have a task that takes less than 5 minutes to do, do it right away. No delays. I'm really starting to take control of my life now.
Third, have confidence in your idea and stop reading 'What it takes to be a successful online CEO' articles, fourth, stop writing about why I never find the time to get round to my ... what's that rumbling noise outside? It's another procrastination bulldozer, that's the third this week! I'm avoiding work btw, thanks for asking.