As a startup, do I need a CSO on the management team?
I am looking to build out a management team for my startup. Do I need to include a chief strategy officer? Or are there other more important positions to bring on first?
You are the CSO. Bring on as few as possible, as you should be wearing those hats.
Raymond, I have several questions first -
- how long have you been in business?
- who else is already on your team?
- what have been your current operational or business development challenges or gaps? And, what does goals does your 2015 have you pursuing?
- what function or role are you playing currently, and plan for long term?
- when you say management team, you are not talking board of advisors or directors, but the daily management team of CEO, CFO, CSO (sales) and/or CMO(marketing, etc...- do you already have your core functions being supported - Finance, Operations, etc...- what type of business do you have? Does it require constant innovation, invention, trend following, branding, etc...(many of the things a true strategy officer (along with marketing functions) focuses on?
Depending on the maturity of your business, the gaps or challenges you have had and the goals you will be pursuing...you need to use that to determine the prioritization of 'investing' in any role, CSO or anything else.
Don't be the majority of business owners with rosey glasses, who goes out and burns through cash hiring roles they are not prepared to support and fully leverage.
It has to be well thought out.
And to others points below - having a board of directors or advisors also is due to specific needs you and/or your business needs. Certainly surround yourself and seek out experts and advisors...how formal they need to be, again, depends on your goals, i.e. raising money, needing governance, etc.
Any business should start with a business plan that includes your marketing; operational; and financial plans. Initially this is your " chief strategy officer". You should review it often to remind you why you started the business and how to be successful. My general advice is to put together an experienced board of directors that will provide you with encouragement, constructive criticism and pragmatic guidance. In my opinion, this is the best and most economical first approach to strategy. Focusing too much on executives will make you top heavy and inefficient.
In a word - No.
The key roles in a start up will depend on the key barriers to success; almost always these will be:
(a) Funding - CEO
(b) Technology (CTO)
(c) Product - Market fit (CMO , VP Sales / VP Products)
The above triangle is all you need to represent all aspects - and resolve all trade-offs - of running business: Quality(feasibility, desirability) vs Time(milestones, delivery) vs. Money (burn rate, iterations).
Most likely no, you won't need this role and typically you are your own strategist, but is hard to tell without knowing your idea of company structure, size, model, etc...To answer your question properly ask yourself this two questions and from the answers you will see clear your decisión:
- What for? What would be the purpose of this CSO and the job description?
- Is this the best way to invest the money of hiring a CSO, or do you have better and more urgent/important needs to cover?
Raymond: As the CEO of your start-up you should be the Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Talent Officer, and Chief Operations Officer all rolled into one. As you start to grow your business, you can start to delegate these responsibilities to others but unless you have begun to achieve a significant portion of the key performance indicators that you established for your business, I would suggest that you start slow and leverage your board of directors and other trusted advisors for strategic insights and to ensure you are going down the right path.
For any business, you need to follow the simple but critical rule, that you must start with strategy.
If you can find someone who is capable of crafting and managing strategy to be a part of your start-up team, off course.
Another option, if you have limitation of budget or do not see an immediate need to fill that role on your core team, is to engage a Consultant to help you with your strategy.
You need someone though, to help oversee and follow through on that strategy.
Hard to say. What business you are in matters a lot. What your role is on the team Matters as well. It does depend on what you are doing and where you plan to go. You don't need to worry so much about Titles, just who will do what. You have to figure out who is doing what, what your Processes are in each area, such as Sales, Marketing, Finance, Delivery, Development, etc. I would not worry about Titles - Just Functions.
I agree with David Chavez but if you can't find an effective board of directors then at least surround yourself with driven people and supportive affiliates. Once your business is cost effective however, make sure you DO bring in a CSO but only if they can be the COO too, (able to implement, not just talk about what needs doing). I have seen too many businesses go bust because the owner remained too much in control for too long. What happens is the industry morphs into something new as the years progress and the owner only knows how to keep doing what they have always done. Alternatively engage an external consultant to periodically 'check in' on whether what you are doing is relevant to the current market. Having to interact with an outside expert, who keeps abreast of the trends, will make sure your own views are sound and unbiased.
The CEO is the CSO in any startup normally, however, you likely need a consultant to help structure and review the Strategic Planning process with your team. This givees outside perspective, extra experience and creativity. Also a someone without a bias or skin in the outcome. To answer the queston apprroiately I would need to understad who eles is on your team - including their experince. I do Strategic Planning and facilitations, as well as created a SP kit for smaller companies. Many variables and SP is the most complex process a company has so having a coach or facilitator is best.
See my video in Strategic pLanning here:
And the product with all the processes, tools and training to do the process well (if on a tight budget) here:
Strategic planning is not a ful time job unless the company is complex with multple products, channels and/or geographies.
A CSO is a highly specific (and prestigious) role. It's also very complicated to define on paper - which makes defining terms of success and failure really difficult; which in turn means that offering a CSO position to someone too early may expose you to unnecessary HR complications.
Typically, your management team should be all working as strategists for your company. My advice is this: you know you need a strategy specialist when your business is demanding more from your executives (the whole team) than they're capable of delivering. How do you know that? if you find strategy issues are taking a long time to resolve, or people are just shooting in the dark, or people are starting to source solutions/strategies from friends/families/outside, etc.
If you have a specific issue that needs a quick resolution/plan of action, this is NOT a reason to hire a CSO. On a one-off basis, that's a sign you need a consultant. A strategic consultant can get you over the hump without burdening your equity commitments or salary expectations (remember: consultants are always a one-time business expense that doesn't factor into forecasting in sales discussions!!!).
Pro tip: when you are ready to hire a CSO, bring in a strategy consultant for the HR process. A lot of recruitment firms will tell you "we can do that too" but I've never seen a recruiter who can aptly screen strategy candidates. It's not something you can just filter by buzz words!
According to me you should be the CEO, CSO , CFO, CIO all rolled into one for the following resaons
Its your baby and you have to set your own directions first all in a free and uncluttered manner.
Secondly, you need to watch your budget because hiring a CSO is likely to cost money.
Your first priority should be to set up a cyoung, dedicated team who can be moulded to carry forward organizational culture and values and grow the business.You should initially be the nerve centre of all operations.
Frankly designations like CSO are of little consequence- ultimately it is the ability to execute your strategies effectively that metter.
There are factors that need to be considered such as expertise existing in the executive team and budget. Also to be considered is can a solution be found using a consultant. Startups generally have the expertise and knowledge of the industry and initial client (s) lined up. The biggest thing generally missing is marketing expertise which needs to be found and engaged, if this person is the chief strategist than the answer is yes
Are you planning to pay them? Then no. You have many uses for your cash, and the somewhat limited strategies that a start-up should be worrying about are decisions that the initial leadership group should be taking; your advisory board is also important in this role. You should focus first about establishing a viable market, then you can worry about taking over the world..
No necessary as the cost will be high for a full time staff just to do planning. Use a consultant in the beginning and get the consultant to train the accountant or other managers to do the job on long term basis. You can contact me if you need help...http://www.mosaichub.com/answers/question/as-a-startup-do-i-need-a-cso-in-management-team?s=aex
Short answer: No.
Don't expect to find someone else with a better vision than you on the startup that you cooked up. The slightest difference in visions between you and an appointed CSO could give rise to frustrations and spell trouble for your startup. A startup should be as low hierarchical as possible.
The more people you put between you and the lowest level employee, the more time you will loose with bureaucracy (meetings, forms, requests...) in order to get things done.
An outside consultant, with an advisory role would be a better idea, if you need help improving your strategy. You take their advice, you tweak your strategy as you.
And again, as most already answered. You should be wearing most of the hats, but do have experts around should you need their advice.
You need to define what you want and where you want to go. You are the strategy maker.. You are the CEO !
You also need to know what is your EXIT strategy...You can hire people that do the devil's advocate role , or help you implement your strategy.. If you don't know what you want to do , yet ,then hold on regarding your startup.. You need to have a clear vision, coz on the go , you will have to do lots of changes depending on new pop-ups, and market changes. Also being clear about where you want to go, will make you more proactive, and when do a massive change on your company's goals , you still know your new destination.
No. Startups are made by good ideas, a plan and hard work...if you don't have those to begin with there's no point in paying to add them in a position.
You should ask yourself the question another way, e.g. do I personally have the skill set not only to define the "best" strategic direction, but also to drive a stringent execution ?
Think about it and it is likely you'll come up with a need for a CFO (finance, including Yes/No capital raising & management), a CCO (commercial, e.g. marketing & sales), and a COO (operations, including Y/N distribution channels). They will run the day-to-day business.
The need for a CSO should then be considered in relation to the profile of those 3, their strategic thinking in particular.
It is then your choice !
Either your want your management team to focus on day-to-day delivery and then you bring a CSO or an advisory board in to help you with stategy development, or you bet on your management team to help you defining/refining the strategy as a Team.
If you're a start-up and developing a small company, the idea is that you (the founder/owner) have a strategy in place. A CSO is more suited for a much larger company that has a dedicated staff focusing on developing the company. Assuming it's just you at this point, you should probably hire a CFO instead of a CSO. The financial piece isn't as interconnected as everything else and is the most logical thing to take off your plate if you're pressed for time with other start-up obligations.