Transforming yourself into the boss

Many CEO qualities are a given for entrepreneurs, like tenacity,self-confidence and continuous improvement of your skills, but your appearancemay still scream "first year in business" rather than "seasoned CEO." So how doyou transform yourself into a powerful CEO? Develop the traits below, says D.A.Benton, author of Secrets of a CEO Coach: Your Personal Training Guide toThinking Like a Leader and Acting Like a CEO (McGraw-Hill, $21.95,800-338-3987), and practice, practice, practice--even if it's just on yourneighbor while handing out your first business card.

Think before you speak. "Because you're the boss, you can pretty much door say what you want," Benton explains, "so it's very important that you slowdown from day one. Think of the ramifications, the effect you want, and thenchoose your words wisely."

Be a bit theatrical. When you enter a room, you want people to notice."As you start getting customers and investors, and the media begins to look atyou, you'd better be able to look and act like a leader," Benton says. Sheadvises you to pause after walking into a room to nonverbally announce,´I'm here.' When you shake hands, hold the grip for two seconds longerthan you normally would.

Strive for modesty in public. You can be theatrical and talk about youraccomplishments with pride, but don't forget to mention the people who helpedyou get where you are. Give credit where credit is due--to your partners,family, friends, employees, customers, investors and mentors.

Become a storyteller. Whether you're relating your latest accomplishmentto a group of colleagues, explaining your business plan to venture capitalists,or publicizing your cutting-edge product to a journalist, you need to tell yourstory with clarity and succinctness. "The best way [to talk about your productor service] is to tell a story, paint a picture, give an analogy," says Benton."[The story] should be the situation you faced, what you did and whatresulted."

Excel at your job and be willing to lead. Most entrepreneurs are good atwhat they do--it's a requirement for success--but they may not know how to beleaders. "You have to learn how to get along with people, affect people, sell,influence, persuade," Benton says. "[A start-up's] employees often aren't paidmuch, but they're there because they love the idea and they're invested in itemotionally. They'd better feel you're supporting them and giving them credit."