Just Say No to Co-CEOs – The Startup Playbook

I’m being reminded daily about the difficulty many teams have in establishing any form of decision-making hierarchy. “We’re equal partners in this enterprise.” “We started it together, we’re going to run it together.” “We both [all] provide equal value so should have equal input.” Yeah, I think I’ve heard it all and, at times, said and believed it all myself. Let me try to put it as succinctly as possible . . . it doesn’t work. Having co-CEOs doesn’t mean multiple people are in charge, it means no one is in charge.

Sure, when things are going well and life is good, almost any organizational structure will be somewhat effective. It’s when the road gets bumpy, which it inevitably does, that the wheels of the multi-headed vehicle come off. Decision-making is tough when things are tight and as much as you would like to believe that two or more people can reasonably make an informed final decision, a hundred thousand years of human nature stands against you. This is why, by the way, when you’re out looking for VC funding, investors will simply laugh you out of the room when you say that the partners are co-CEOs.

Just because one person should be chosen as the final arbiter of decisions doesn’t mean that the entire founding team doesn’t remain active in strategy, tactics and corporate philosophy, it simply means that a single person is responsible for ending the conversation and making the decision on which path to take. In the end, it’s simply about a single person being in charge; a go-to person (as viewed from inside the company and outside of it). In many other ways, the founding team can still remain equal.

Want to learn more about how to build a founding team? Check out The Startup Playbook for more juicy tidbits.

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1 Comment

  • Rick Sullivan Reply

    That’s a great way to look at it. The CEO can maintain as much
    ‘equality’ amongst members of the founding team as she wants, but
    will end deadlocks and make final decisions as required to
    efficiently move forward.

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