How Do You Manage a Company Outside of Your Expertise? Three Foci

Situation: The CEO came into a company as a engineering consultant. Three years later the Board asked him to take on the CEO role. This created a credibility issue with staff because the CEO is a duck out of water, though a duck with better business sense than most others within the company. How do you manage a company outside of your technical expertise?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The staff credibility issue may just be one of self-confidence. You have already demonstrated competence in revising company processes and improving profitability. In fact, your non-industry perspective may have contributed to your success to date.
  • Near term, in what areas should you focus?
    • Focus on building bridges which will give you more leverage to address key barriers, particularly within the more entrenched groups in the company.
    • Look at how the company communicates and exchanges information with clients. One thing that customers want is more self-service options and access to data. You have the opportunity to develop Web 2.0 capabilities which will to set the company apart in what is historically a very conservative and paper-oriented client culture.
    • These actions will help you to increase your credibility as an effective leader and CEO.
  • Longer term, what should be the plan?
    • Keep the ship running smoothly. This by itself will help to build appreciation for your talents.
    • Use any free time to create business plans of your vision for the future. Share these interactively with key staff members and incorporate their input into the plan. Involve them in disseminating the plan within the company.
    • As you develop your vision and plan, look for opportunities to attribute success to others. This will be a breath of fresh air to staff and will strengthen the bridges that you have worked to build. They will start to see you as a key ally who shares credit instead of hoarding it.

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