Business Card Conflict: Choosing a CEO

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At the beginning, Wild Friends was just peanut butter. That’s it. There was no marketing, no advertising, no business plan, and certainly no official titles or roles.

Then we made business cards.

For such tiny pieces of paper, business cards introduced an disproportionate amount of stress into our early business lives.

In fact, one of the first conflicts I can imagine at Squirrel Headquarters began while ordering business cards online.

We’d put our names, our phone numbers and emails on the cards — but when it came down to titles, everybody suddenly had an opinion. Egos appeared out of nowhere.

After all, after months of hard work under the heading of complete equality, how do you decide? Who gets to be CEO? Which of us has to be “lesser” than the other? Who’s the leader… and who’s the follower?

These kind of questions, it turns out, can really raise tensions in a small company. Everyone is working hard. Everyone wears many hats. No one sits in the corner office issuing ultimatums — it’s 100% a team effort.

And yet, as we began to enter the greater business arena, everyone seemed to expect a CEO to declare themselves.

In hindsight, the way we approached the issue was completely naive. To us, “founder” was synonymous with “CEO”. We felt that as founders we had the greatest knowledge of the company brand, philosophy, product, well, everything! There was no question in our mind that one of us HAD to be CEO… the only question was WHICH one of us.

But, the more we really thought about it… when we finally quit bickering and stepped back from the equation… we realized we had to make a list of what we actually needed from a CEO. If it was truly such an essential position, it couldn’t just be a title we slapped onto one of our business cards and forgot about.

Here is what we came up with:

  • Strong financial knowledge  (able to make financial models for the our growth)
  • A practical (not just philosophical) vision for our future as a viable company
  • Understanding of the grocery world and distribution
  • Years of experience in the industry to help investors have confidence in our team (two best friends/college dropouts doesn’t necessarily scream “stable team”to seasoned investors)

After making this list, it was obvious: neither Erika nor I had any of these skills. We had to look outside ourselves for this crucial role.

My dad, Bruce (who previously worked for Honest Tea, a major brand in the natural foods industry) was the perfect choice for our new CEO.

Once we took our egos (and our business cards) out of the equation, it was an easy decision.

And guess what? Nothing about what Erika or I do day to day has changed since we relinquished the CEO title. The need to consult us in key decisions has not been questioned.

Our company is stronger and better for us making the smart, confident choice of giving power away to someone who knows more.

Besides… without an official title to declare, we get to have more a little more fun with our business cards.

BusinessCards

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