Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, once tweeted: ‘I’ve often said that starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down.’
To prevent a spectacular crash landing, he did not add. Because what if that plane is not quite ready before the ground rushes up at the start-up?
Many founders can relate to his words. Think of the fast pace of the start-up industry. The making-it-up-as-you-go system. The need to get better, grow bigger, impact wider, etc. All of these define the moments on the way down.
But no founder or team desires the seemingly unspoken side of it. The part where a crash landing might be a possible, unsettling prospect; a messy and dramatic affair that takes lives and property down with it.
To prevent a splatter, big or minuscule, there are a few key roles in every start-up pivotal to its success.
Are These Key Roles in Every Start-up More Important than Others?
Important is not the word to use here. Necessary or vital would be more appropriate, as these roles are key drivers of various aspects of the start-up.
Decision-makers, change agents, experts and experienced people occupy these positions which are at the forefront of quickly structuring the airplane to avoid a catastrophe upon landing.
In this article, we have focused on six of them. We will call them the starting six. However, this number could be as many as 11 depending on the nature of the start-up or the industry in which it operates.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
First on the list is the CEO. Also known as the founder, the face, the big-picture person, and the highest-ranking officer within the C-suite.
This person makes vital and significant organizational decisions, sets the company’s strategy and culture, and runs with the vision. The buck stops with her/him.
To succeed in this position, most CEOs should, at least, be great communicators and motivators to their teams.
The Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Next on the list is the COO.
If there is a co-founder in the mix of the start-up, chances are this will be her/his spot, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization, ensuring that all units are running as expected and smoothly.
Traits needed to perform well in this position include good organizational skills and a thorough knowledge of all facets of the business.
Product Manager (PM)
It would seem like the key roles in every start-up tends towards a starting six of c-suite positions but alas, the third place belongs to an ugly duckling, the PM.
The product manager is responsible for everything related to the company’s product/service, and conceives its vision, strategy, and development.
Skills that would serve the product manager in this role are a strong understanding of the market, the big-picture view of the CEO, and the competitive landscape.
Read also: Start-up Teams: Are They a Special Breed?
The Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
This following fourth role brings the c-suite level back into play, the CFO.
To manage the financial health of the start-up and ensure that the books remain in the black. . . most of the time.
The CFO plans financial initiatives, creates approaches to constantly improve the company’s financial standing as well as develops solutions for any economic anxieties that may occur.
This person requires, among other skills, impressive knowledge and understanding of accounting and finance.
The Chief Technical Officer (CTO)
There is no denying the place of technology in most businesses nowadays. Hence, this fifth member of the team is crucial to any start-up’s success.
It is true that this position can be outsourced but it is beneficial to have this person internally oversee the processes, workflow, tools, to define tech strategy, and the management and integration of various systems. S/he can initiate and maintain the company’s online presence as well.
Expert skills in technology are one of several requirements to tackle this role.
The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
Last, but certainly not least on this list of key roles in every start-up, is the CMO.
Marketing campaigns and activities, advertising projects and branding, customer satisfaction and market research, all these functions fall under the purview of the chief marketing officer.
The role belongs to one who understands data analytics, has formidable communication skills, and can use both technology and effective marketing strategies to reach goals while birthing a strong brand and customer base for the organization.
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