Building an effective C-suite is one of the biggest challenges a middle market company faces. Together, executives at the C-level guide a company’s present and future. Each member plays a key role in helping an organization navigate through awkward growing pains and excel.
The first step in building a capable C-suite is knowing what to look for in candidates for different roles.
The highest-ranking executive in a company, the CEO manages all of the high-level functions of an organization, including developing and executing long-term strategies, creating a company culture, and, sometimes, putting together the rest of the C-suite. The CEO makes key team-building decisions, provides resources for other employees, and oversees and plans a company’s growth and development. The CEO spot is the most important — and most difficult — position to fill in a C-suite.
A great CEO needs:
- Integrity. As the head of a company, CEOs need to build honest and open channels of communication with other executives and employees. Employees will not respect a CEO they perceive as dishonest or unscrupulous.
- Positivity. A CEO shapes the culture and outlook of a company. If the CEO of a company excludes positive energy, it will inspire confidence in junior employees.
- Good listening skills. As a company grows, the CEO becomes more and more distanced from daily operations. To maintain knowledge of the broader functions of the company, great CEOs listen to their employees and make clear that they’re approachable despite a busy schedule.
- Market knowledge. CEOs need to understand fundraising, sales, M&A — everything encompassed in a broad base of financial knowledge — as well as all the relevant information for the space in which their company functions in order to succeed.
The COO manages the short-term operations of a business. Where the CEO is concerned with long-term forecasting, the COO functions as a second-in-command, focusing on daily plans. As the executive in charge of managing the daily execution of business, a COO needs to be intimately aware of all that is going on in a company. A high-performing COO should be:
- Proactive. The COO of a company turns plans into action. The role needs to be filled by a doer.
- A skilled communicator. The COO is often the last position filled in a C-suite. As a result, the role is often chiseled out from the responsibilities of other C-level executives: COOs create their jobs by taking on some of the daily tasks of other executives. A good COO needs the personality and experience to navigate any resulting tension.
- Flexible. At its core, the COO is a role that requires high adaptability. Some COOs will serve as a proxy for the CEO, others as a partner for the CEO, and others as a mentor for a younger founder. Great COOs recognize what is required of them and when, and adapt as necessary.
The CFO manages all of a company’s financial affairs, ranging from the general maintenance of the company’s financial health to strategizing for its future. It’s key that a CFO be:
- Analytical. The first course of action of any CFO should be to critically examine a company’s present state, and apply that same thoroughness to forecasting for its future.
- Quantitative. Successful CFOs should have extensive financial knowledge that includes a broad base understanding of M&A, risk management, and operations.
- Decisive. A CFO needs to know how and when to make potentially difficult decisions about the fate of a company’s financials.
- Articulate. Soft skills may not be a CFOs biggest strength, but a high-performing CFO realizes that strong communication skills are integral to manage relationships with outside financial entities.
As the executive in charge of a company’s sales and marketing initiatives, CMOs play an integral role in crafting the narrative a company puts out to customers and leads. A top CMO needs to be:
- An excellent communicator. A top CMO needs to communicate effectively with other C-level executives and members of the team, as well as leads and other professionals outside the organization.
- Knowledgeable of communication channels. Awareness of relevant online and offline communication tools is base-level knowledge for a CMO, but the ability to discern when to use a particular tool to reach a specific audience differentiates a great CMO from a good one.
- Focused on growth and revenue. A CMO’s job includes increasing user engagement and brand awareness, but ultimately, the role exists to bump up a company’s bottom line.
- Meticulous and detail-driven. The days of CMO being strictly a qualitative position are long gone. A skilled CMO is extremely precise in tracking the progress of marketing initiatives, user engagement, and other metrics of success.
As managers of a company’s technological profile, a CIO needs to be:
- Both tech- and business-savvy. It’s important for a CIO to know what is financially viable and practical for the larger organization.
- Innovative. Knowledge of what competitors are doing is valuable, but a great CIO will be inventive enough to identify and suggest potential improvements in those technologies and processes.
- Strategic. IT planning and development should align with the larger goals of the company. Good CIOs recognize this and merge their plans for the technology of a company with other initiatives within the organization.
- A strong leader. Top CIOs are not only skilled themselves, but knowledgeable in how to hire, train, and retain adept IT professionals.