Founders like to think that because they do so much in their business so they can call themselves a CEO.
Truth is they can call themselves a CEO even if they did nothing.
Anyone can themselves a CEO for that matter.
But a CEO becomes one when she acts as one.
So what exactly does a CEO do?
Fred Wilson, a well known VC, asked this question to a very experienced venture capitalist early in my post-MBA career.
He answered without thinking:
“A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”
And, that sums it up pretty well.
If you call yourself a CEO, then weigh what you do against this and see how well you are doing your job.
You can also add setting the strategy and building the machine as Ray Dalio calls it, a system for companies to run and grow. This is specially powerful in the early days of building a company. After which you can bring a smart operator to do this.
If you are doing more than this, time to get out – of those roles, of day to day operations, and of those discussion threads that you think won’t run well without you.