If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”o-GORDON-RAMSAY-facebook

Master Chef Gordon Ramsey lives by the adage, and so do many successful entrepreneurs (although Ramsey’s likely to throw in a few more expletives).

Why heat? Because everyone has good ideas, but it’s only the people who have the passion for pushing those ideas forward, sacrificing time, energy, money, and probably a good portion of their social lives, who are going to make it work.

If you’re one of those people sitting on a good idea, that last paragraph probably made you squirm–and it should.

You may be CEO, but simply delegating work isn’t an option. The roles and responsibilities of a CEO run the gamut from HR to tech lead, and you’re going to need to do a little bit of everything to make your idea succeed.

Get uncomfortable and be afraid, because you’re in for ups, downs, twist, turns and plenty of unsuspecting thrills that will amount to be the ride of your life.

Staffing the kitchen (let’s roll with the extended kitchen metaphor)

Lesson: Don’t forget your stake in the game. The head chef sees where his or her kitchen needs help and pitches in, ensuring a cohesive process that results in a final product worth raving about.

Let’s clear the air on one thing:  Your team probably won’t be the best of the best.

Even top CEOs know that it’s a costly and futile search to go after the best talent in any given field, and most of us couldn’t afford it anyway.  But that doesn’t mean settling on the first warm body that walks up to you asking for a job.

Alex Turnbull, CEO and Founder of Groove, gets it. In this article, Turnbull hits on ten different roles every startup founder with a genius idea needs to weave in and out of. The first: a recruiter.

Every blog you’ve read (including this one) will tell you that it’s crucial to hire the scrappiest bunch of misfits whose potential is ready to be unlocked.

But really, there’s a better way to look at it.

Your employees should be able to make something out of nothing.

In the laws of thermodynamics an idea is, technically, nothing. But when you add mass to your idea, you make it an actual something. Ask yourself how each particular employee can contribute and develop your idea. As they add, they’ll become part of the team.

You likely have a solid foundational knowledge in whatever market you’re trying to enter, but chances are you don’t know everything. That’s why you need to delegate the right work to your team while observing what they do, how they do it, and identifying where you can pitch in. This way, you ensure that you’re not only an engaged member of the team but someone who can keep morale high. 

Keep people coming back for more

Lesson: As if the deliverable were a great meal, it’s not just the food that needs to be great–-success depends on the elegance of the process. Chefs have an assembly line that nurtures the order from start to finish. If one thing goes wrong, it’s your job as the head chef, to focus the team and fix it. 

After you’ve rallied a team, it’s time to get your product out there for everyone to see. But you may find yourself in a rut, perhaps you’re short-staffed in the tech department and that’s when you need to be  ready to swoop in and help. Put your product hat on and help ensure its delivery. Nervous to step into uncharted territory? You’re in good company.

There are plenty of startup CEOs who have served as their own product managers. Ever heard of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Marissa Mayer? They were all CEOs and all product managers (or at least to start).

Let’s take a closer look at Mayer. Mayer left Google, where she was a product manager, to become CEO of Yahoo. A profile of in Inc. emphasizes Mayer’s style, she works as a peer, she pays attention to self-organization, sh synchronizes her team. Mayer is less an ominous overlord with a corner office and more of a collaborator and contributor to the product.

That said, nobody would ever accuse Meyer of being soft, and your job as CEO-cum-product manager is to do whatever you need to do to ensure the product’s success. To do this, it’s imperative to repeatedly iterate the way your product is developed so it is made better with each delivery. When it comes to product development, nothing will ever be perfect the first time or even the 20th, but you will get closer.

close up image of electric bulb explosion

Give yourself a name

Lesson: Invite the critics for dinner. Be prepared for their arrival, manage their expectations, and blow them away with an amazing experience from the moment they enter your restaurant. They’ll (hopefully) love it and tell all of their friends and you’ll get a solid review in Zagat’s.

Your customers can be your best friend or your worst enemy; it’s as simple as that. As CEO of a startup, you’re responsible for making the company’s first impression and for developing potentially long-standing relationships. When a CEO responds on any channel of communication to a customer complaint, concern or even compliment, it speaks volumes to a company’s integrity. A little empathy goes a long way–hang the “executive” hat for a while and put yourself in the Chief Empathy Officer’s hat for a bit. It’ll pay.

Branding and marketing get the reputation for being superficial. While it’s true that you’re projecting an image, the character of your employees, and your company’s mission and culture will shine through.

As CEO, you have every chance to make or break your brand reputation. If you don’t get your visual and written messaging consistent and relatable to your target, people won’t know what you do or what you stand for.

The conversations around your product will dictate the way your audiences will see it–for better or for worse–and it’s your job to figure out how to manage those conversations. This goes back to iterating–test and learn, then make it better. The same goes for your performance strategy. Find a fluid, preferably automated way to track and manage where your product is doing best. Use this data to get better acquainted with your customer and where they want to see your product.

Lastly, your employees are the best promoters of your brand. Be Jim Jones with the Kool-Aide Mick Jagger with the groupies and they’ll be your greatest promoters. It worked for Mick, didn’t it?

What’s it all mean?

The bottom line: The kitchen is a hot, uncomfortable pandemonium–but it all pays off when you hear someone enjoyed his or her meal.

The most important thing to take away: be nimble. Be ready to put out fires. Be ready to get your hands (very) dirty.


Oz is a SaaS startup, which helps marketers come up with fantastic high-performing ideas for their content. If that’s a role you need to fill, try us out by clicking here.