Tips on being a successful CEO from ... successful CEOs

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Inc. Magazine nailed it recently when it posted a web feature on how to be a more successful CEO. Quotes from a number of fantastic leaders were included in the piece and are offered here as a springboard for inspiring your own growth. And while some of them seem to contradict others, there’s more than a gem of truth in each.

Hire people you trust, and let them do their jobs. “People often say to me, ‘You must be a really busy guy!’” says Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy, the domain-name registration company based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Actually, I’m not. I can make time anytime I want, and there’s a reason for that: I accomplish everything through other people. That gives me a tremendous bandwidth. And then, when I want to get away — which I do often — everybody who works with and for me knows how to handle things, so it doesn’t matter if I’m here or not. It shows trust.”

Read everything with your business in mind. Sam Caglione, founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Del., is an avid reader, and he is constantly on the lookout for new ideas. “I obsessively notch the pages, even when I’m reading fiction,” he says. “If it’s notched up and folded back, it means it’s an actual idea that applies to Dogfish. If it’s notched down, it’s more about the feeling — part of what’s written reflects our off-centered philosophy. Every word that I read, I filter through this Dogfish prism. It’s kind of sick in a way — that Dogfish is that prevalent in my thought patterns.”

Understand how your people cope with stress. “Stress is a huge issue, so the question I always ask people at interviews is, do you know how you handle stress?” says Kim Kleeman, founder of Shakespeare Squared, a Glenview, Ill., company that publishes educational materials. “Do you lock yourself in the bathroom and cry? Do you take a day off? I don’t care how you cope. But I want to know that you’ve thought about it because I don’t want to find the answer when we’re on a tight deadline and you freeze up and I’m screwed.”

Go on an e-mail diet. WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg has figured out what saps his productivity. “One of my favorite programs that we didn’t make is Rescue Time,” says the San Francisco developer. “It runs in the corner of my computer and tracks how much time I spend on different things. I realized that even though I was doing e-mail only a couple of minutes at a time, it was adding up to a couple of hours a day. So I’m trying to reduce that.”

Immerse yourself in data. Every entrepreneur tracks a few critical numbers; Paul English takes it to the next level. The co-founder of Kayak.com, a travel-booking site based in Concord, Mass., makes sure everyone on staff is familiar with metrics concerning site traffic and customer service. “We have four monitors in the office where you can see real-time streaming information about the site — how many visitors, how many click throughs. It also displays the last customer e-mail that came in and the photo of the employee who answered it ... It keeps us on our toes.”

Maintain the personal touch. Essie Weingarten, founder of Essie Cosmetics, a nail polish company based in New York City, refuses to have a secretary even though her business does $150 million in retail sales a year. Her reason? “People think it’s funny that I answer my own phone — I often pick up on the first ring. But that personal touch is important to me; I like to know what people are saying. When your company grows, it can become impersonal,” she says.

Manage by walking around. “We’ll probably hire 40 people this year to keep up with our growth,” says Marc Lore, founder of Diapers.com, an e-commerce company based in Montclair, N.J., that sold $90 million in diapers last year. “As we get bigger, I can’t assume new hires know why decisions are getting made. During the day, I make five or six trips to the kitchen at the other end of our office. On my way, I try to talk to people one-on-one, solicit their questions, and reiterate our strategy as it pertains to them.”

Don’t overschedule yourself. “We rarely have meetings. I hate them. They’re a huge waste of time, and they’re costly,” says Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals, a collaboration-software company in Chicago. “They chop your day into small bits, so you have only 20 minutes of free time here or 45 minutes there. Creative people need unstructured time to get in the zone. You can’t do that in 20 minutes.”



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