As a corporate CEO (chief executive officer), you are responsible for many things, from the image of the company to the bottom line financials. I’ve been a corporate CEO and I’m more than happy to now be retired and out of that high pressure world. I’ve run a large greeting card company and then later in my career was the CEO of an insurance brokerage specializing in small business coverage of all types. Here are five tips from this CEO on how to be successful in business:
Get Started by Working in Your Chosen Field
After serving in the US Navy, I needed to make a living. There wasn’t much of a job market for chiefs of anti-aircraft gun mounts, but I did have skills that could translate into civilian careers. I had designed a series of Navy aircraft safety poster cartoons that gave me some national recognition. I got a job writing for a daily newspaper, while at night I began designing greeting cards. I submitted them to Hallmark and other companies, and was soon making some encouraging freelance income.
Know When to Set Out on Your Own
Eventually, the obvious idea hit me. Why not start my own greeting card company? This was in the years just before desktop computers and the internet, and sending paper greetings by snail mail was a big business. However, my beginnings were anything but big business. My first factory was my apartment bedroom. I inked in the first cards on a drawing board. I did transparent overlays for the various colors. Then, with a basic silk screen process, I ground out greeting cards manually at the rate of about 100 an hour. The designs and humor were very hip and contemporary for the time, nothing like the sweet sentiments of big greeting card companies. The orders came in slowly at first, but after attending trade shows and getting national publicity, I was soon too swamped with business to continue as the CEO of a one-man factory.
Know When To Grow
I rented warehouse space and hired five employees. Instead of primitive silk screen production, my greeting cards were produced by a printing company. I also worked a deal with a wholesale stationery sales organization to sell my cards on commission to retail and department sales. I was on the way to becoming a genuine CEO! The first year, as a one-person company, I did $20,000 worth of sales. By year three, with a growing staff, the total was over $500,000. By year four, it had exceeded $1 million, and I had 15 employees.
Get The Right People and Reward Them
One reason for the success of my greeting card company and every other company I have run, was my efforts to hire the right people and treat them fairly. Each employee, from shipping room packer to sales manager, was offered profit-sharing along with salary and benefits. That way, each individual knew his or her efforts determined the success of the company. Those who performed beyond expectations received well-earned bonuses.
Know When To Leave
Timing is everything. If you receive a lucrative offer for your business, you may want to consider taking it and trying something new. Conversely, if things are failing, you need to know when to end it and walk away. Are you wasting valuable years of your earning life propping up a failing business when you could be making a good living working for someone else? When I had an offer from a major greeting card company to buy me out for a good price, I was about to turn it down. Why not? My fifth year was ending, sales were solid, and this CEO had ambitious plans to expand. We had just put in desktop computers equipped with internet access. When I saw that many websites offered free greeting cards, it came to me in a flash. It was time to fold ’em. I accepted the major greeting card company offer, shared the money with my employees, invested the rest and then this ex-CEO embarked on the next venture, retirement.