Becoming a CEO

Lloyd Smith
On Thursday morning I attended an excellent AmCham event, with Lloyd Smith of Gerard Daniels speaking on the topic of ‘Becoming a CEO’.

I first met Lloyd across the parent interview table at a school I taught at 15 years ago, as a sponsor of our MBA alumni association and also at various UWA events. He has been in recruitment since 1980, and there is no one more expert in the hiring of CEO’s. These are my notes from the talk:

  • Understand what you are getting into as a CEO
  • You need a track record of stability and success
  • have to “good at people”
  • I interview the partner; CEOs have to have good family support
  • CEOs are good at coping with failure
  • Board interaction ~ if you have no Board experience, get onto some not for profit Boards
  • CEOs are good deal makers, have an element of extraversion
  • everyone looks to the CEO ~ what example do you set?
  • get great executives who smarter than you! and encourage them
  • CEOs make tough decisions; no white lies, tell people the truth
  • CEOs are strong in finance; go on short term courses, up your skills, do AICD course
  • CEOs have a firm vision of the future; can paint a clear picture to clients and the organisation
  • CEOs exude the values of the organisation; anyone can then make a decision within the values
  • CEOs take risks, use intuition and judgement, and trust it
  • CEOs mix with other CEOs; attend, speak, join
  • CEOs back themselves, stay focussed

Some other tips:

  • never be interviewed first, you will not get the job (the 1st interviewee becomes a benchmark for later interviewees)
  • following a founder as CEO is not easy – they will be interrupting you every 5 minutes; lay the ground rules upfront (or don’t take the job!)
  • we do 15+ reference checks on CEOs, it’s important to really dig deep
  • psychometric tests are fine as tests, but should not be used to make the actual hiring decision
  • don’t rush the hiring process, keep calm
  • internal candidates are usually treated unfairly – the external candidate is “bright shiny and new”; if you’re internal you have to go in as new and tell them how you’d run it
  • the most impressive CEOs take a smaller organisation and grow it (riskier, and more impressive)
  • 66% of recruitments happen without recruitment companies, so make sure you get out there and engage
  • if you are made redundant, you should be having 10+ meetings a week with contacts
  • music often translates into good business, so don’t be afraid to put your musical attributes on the CV – we always interview these!

4 thoughts on “Becoming a CEO

  1. Charlie, thanks for sharing – great stuff. I would also recommend startup founder CEOs read Ben Horowitz’s new book “The Hard Thing about The Hard Things.” It’s almost a manual for startup founder CEOs based on the wealth of experience Ben has. That said, his “startups” were probably a lot better funded and larger than most local ones.

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