What It's Like to Transition From Founder to CEO

We're searching for top company cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Apply Now »

This past week, mostly out of curiosity, I decided to keep a running tally of the number of times someone gave me advice about my business. I eventually gave up for two reasons: I realized I was marking a tally for every single conversation I was having, and I started getting emotional about it. 

It's important to note that a lot of this advice was needed and asked for. I essentially run my entire life by committee, and my business is not excluded from that. I am generally clueless when it comes to running a business (and most other things), and therefore I am typically in desperate need of advice. 

Related: Shocker! Entrepreneurs Often Are Not CEO Material.

Nevertheless, it can get exhausting. Having a business is like having a child: everyone, including people with zero experience, has something to say about it. And while I do my best to think of every person as a little Buddha here to teach me something (even something I didn't necessarily feel like learning or thinking about at that exact moment), sometimes it's just too much. 

Or maybe it's just me. That's what occurred to me as the week went on. Everyone means well, and people have pretty good ideas and feedback. In fact, they're usually right. Even the people I don't ask for advice offer up incredibly thoughtful tips. Not to mention, almost 100 percent of it is positive and supportive. So it's me that's internalizing the advice in a strange way. It's me that's deciding each thing someone tells me I should do is a huge deal. "Virtually impossible, I have too much on my plate right now, please don't even say that." I do have too much on my plate, I am under a lot of pressure, and I feel it every moment of every day. I'm pretty sure that's called being a CEO. 

Related: 25 Insightful Quotes From 25 Legendary CEOs

Here’s what I came up with to help me step up to the plate. (Or cope, depending on how you want to look at it.)

Put your feet on the ground.

As a founder, I spent a lot of time in the clouds. I felt lucky, special and like I was in the middle of an opportunity or moment that would pass. Maybe all of that is still true, but now I'm mostly coming around to the realization that I just own a business (lots of people do), I have work to do (everyone does) and I'd better figure it out (or else).

Change your mindset.

I feel almost as if I have to shed the above “founder” mentality in order to become the CEO of my own company. I have to stop patting myself on the back for starting something, and see if I actually deserve to run it. (Two totally different things.)

Be OK with advice.

If I really have a shot at this, I’m going to need all the help I can get. Getting advice is part of that help -- I’m lucky for receiving it, and I’d better learn how to listen.

Don't make it complicated. 

Any implications I add to the advice I’m getting are my own. There is no reason to allow it to overwhelm me or inform my confidence as the person running my company. To that end, I plan on working to quiet the part of me that hears advice as anything other than what it is.

Related: 10 Myths About Successful CEOs