Chief Executive Officer

Chief Executive Officer

Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Poland

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the top administrator of an organization, responsible for its overall performance. The CEO typically reports to the owners of the organization, often through a governing body such as a Board of Directors. In large firms, the average tenure of a CEO is less than 24 years, which suggests that CEOs often struggle to maintain an organization for more than one generation. Here are the common CEO profiles.

Multi-hit Wonder

A CEO who is able to achieve sustained organic growth with multiple business models. Allows for extremely high long term rates of return.

Organic Grower

Grows a very large business with organic growth and a single business model.

Organic Sustainer

Cultivates a resilient business that endures and generates attractive long term returns but doesn’t grow beyond a certain size.

One Trick Pony

A CEO, often a founder, who is able to launch a successful business model but is unable to do a good job operating the firm or growing it beyond the startup phase.

Moat Defender

Able to defend an economic moat enjoyed by a dominant firm such as a monopoly but can’t achieve organic growth. Buys smaller competitors but does nothing productive with them.

Cost Cutter

Operations specialist who cuts costs and is tough on an organization. Can’t achieve meaningful organic growth but at least pushes teams for results. Common in industries with high capital and competition such as airlines. Generally hostile to customers, partners and employees but optimizes.

Turnaround Specialist

A CEO who has established a career around making tough decisions. Able to cut entire divisions to save an organization. Unable to do anything about organic growth.

Relationship Builder

Develops valuable relational capital for the firm but isn’t good at growing or running the firm. Common at small firms, where a CEO’s relationship with major customers and partners may be critical to its success.

Visionary

A hands-off CEO who likes to talk to the media. Tends to acquire trendy small companies that they are unable to integrate. A visionary CEO is aloof such that another executive such as a CFO is actually running the firm.

Myopic Optimizer

A data obsessed CEO who will be successful in optimizing revenue or operational metrics. Has little interest in the big picture and is unable to seize opportunities that aren’t immediately measurable. Prone to failures. For example, may seek unit cost reductions until quality completely falls apart and brand value is lost.

Lost Emulator

Chases trends in the industry and tries to copy competitors. Incapable of original thinking or analysis that would indicate which trends are actually leading to revenue.

Charismatic Risk Taker

The charismatic risk taker is able to raise money and has a following of devoted fans. They have some industry insight and are able to achieve organic growth. Uninterested in profits or risk management and likely to shipwreck a firm in the long term.

Costly Revenue Grower

Able to grow revenue by spending a lot of money but unable to grow profitable revenue. This is essentially a parlor trick as anyone can grow revenue by spending a lot of money. Common amongst startups whereby a firm with high revenue growth is launched to market based on promises of future profitability that will never materialize because the firm and its business model are fundamentally flawed.

Kingdom Builder

Attempts to validate their compensation with mergers and acquisitions that make the firm bigger without improving its long term profits. Unable to achieve organic growth and may damage or destroy a firm to hide this fact.

Passive Rent Seeker

Interested only in their own compensation but unwilling to damage the firm to achieve this goal. Capable of running a stable business in a mediocre way but will not outperform.

Destructive Rent Seeker

Interested only in their own compensation and willing to damage the firm to achieve this goal. For example, willing to take on high debt for stock buybacks that allow them to meet revenue targets without actually succeeding in the market.

Destructive Seller

Quickly destroys value and share price and then sells the organization to another firm. Presents this as a success on their resume and goes on to their next gig where they do the same thing. People may incorrectly assume that an acquisition by a larger firm indicates the CEO was successful in growing the firm.

Crony Capitalist

Makes friends in high places to allow the firm to rent seek. For example, the CEO of an advertising agency in a corrupt nation with close ties to government that obtains a large number of government contracts under shady circumstances.

Incompetent Struggler

Has good intentions but nothing ever seems to work out for them. Often a CEO who reached the position without much competition. For example, a small firm that hires a mid-level executive from a large firm as a CEO.

Falsifying Struggler

Unable to grow or run a business such that they are quickly in trouble. Results to falsehoods to delay the inevitable collapse of their firm. This may start small but quickly spirals out of control.

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