Transitioning from Entrepreneur to CEO: An Interview with Hatchbuck CEO

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Starting a business is one thing, but leading one is an entirely different story. Here's one entrepreneur's story of how he did it.

Thirty-seven percent of small businesses have totally adopted the cloud, and that number is expected to more than double by 2020.

Ad-hoc, manual business processes of the past have been replaced by sophisticated tools. For small businesses, the cloud is the norm. In competitive SaaS markets, product quality is at all-time highs, and prices can be very affordable.

Headquartered in St. Louis, Hatchbuck is helping small businesses worldwide nurture leads and convert prospects into customers. The company’s integrated CRM and marketing automation platform takes a lot of the integration and guesswork out of helping deliver timely, meaningful content to customers.

Don Breckenridge launched the company in 2012 to solve a need he witnessed among the small business community. As a lifelong entrepreneur and small business owner, Breckenridge searched for an easier way to drive sales and revenue with limited time, budget and resources.

Seeing a pronounced gap in affordable, intuitive and easy to use marketing automation solutions available to small business, his company was born.

Hatchbuck isn’t Breckenridge’s first business venture, however. A seasoned entrepreneur, he’s built other companies in the technology arena. This is where his unique insight becomes valuable in understanding the mindset and skill set of the entrepreneur versus that of a CEO.

I spoke with Breckenridge to better understand how he’s grown his small business expertise, launched companies in the past, and transitioned from entrepreneur to CEO.

Give me a rundown of your entrepreneurial experience.

As a tech startup founder, I’m passionate about building innovative products- -always chasing the next idea and looking for ways to make my business better. I’ve launched and grown several successful software companies, including Sendouts, a SaaS applicant tracking system for recruiters and HR professionals.

I know first-hand that when you’re launching a new business as an entrepreneur, you have to be motivated to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. You’re developing product and putting out fires 24/7.

Related Article: Only the Strong Survive: The 3 Signs of a Powerful Entrepreneur

Your key observation?

Well, what I’ve learned, is that the qualities that make me a great entrepreneur are often the same qualities that make it difficult for most founders to transition into the role of CEO and catalyze growth for their business.

How do the qualities of an entrepreneur differ from those of a CEO?

You can only go so far on your own before your business plateaus. In order to grow, you have to shift from working in the business to working on the business to truly transition your mindset to that of a CEO. While entrepreneurs often get stuck in the weeds, a CEO is able to step back, make strategic business decisions, and delegate responsibility.

For me, the best way to make this transition is to start by out by building my team and investing in strategic hires who will take our business from point A to point B and achieve that all-important hockey-stick growth.

What’s the mindset difference between an entrepreneur and a CEO?

An entrepreneurial mindset might be able to outsource a logo to Fiverr, or hire a college intern to build a website. The CEO mindset, by contrast, is to invest in high-level positions and trust your team members to make strategic, not just tactical, moves. In my case, I brought a partner on board that has a very hands-on leadership style and is passionate about building a purpose- driven company.

This lets me play to my strengths on the product side. We’ve made other strategic hires as well, for instance bringing a director of customer success on board to ensure that we aren’t just building a great product, but also creating an unforgettable customer experience.

Related Article: Inspiration Revealed: 36 Top CEOs Share Their Secrets to Success

What’s the toughest, but most valuable exercise for a startup CEO?

Delegating responsibilities and trusting in the people you’ve hired to execute; that’s one of the best things you can do to grow your business. When you give employees the autonomy to take ownership of a task or project, they are motivated to excel.

At Hatchbuck, every team member is personally invested in delivering a great product and delighting the customer - every time. When we trust our employees to do their job to the best of their ability, we get better results. We know that reaching our full potential as a company can only happen if we have faith in the people that we hired and stand alongside in the trenches with every day.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for small business owners?

For smaller businesses and startups, where each employee has the potential to make a major impact, it’s important to invest in the right hires who will help build the company rather than be just another cog in the machine. I know from my own personal experience, the only way to be successful in business is to surround yourself with great teammates and put your faith in them to execute on our shared goals.

So, if you’re feeling stuck as an entrepreneur and looking to take the next steps to grow your business, focus on surrounding yourself with great leaders and hiring key team members to drive your business to the next level.

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