Starting a business and building it up into a multimillion-dollar company is anything but easy. There’s no shortage of chances for things to go wrong, ranging all the way from pivotal strategic miscalculations to plain old bad luck. In many cases, startup founders fail to pivot when those obstacles emerge to trip them up, which is why so many companies don’t make it beyond their first few years of existence. Even if a scrappy startup makes it through those early growing pains, it faces new challenges along the way. Many first time CEOs are unprepared for the way their job changes as their company develops over time. They find themselves going from being heavily involved in every key decision, whether that’s figuring out what new features should be included in their game-changing software application or picking which pizza place to order from during a late night rush to meet a launch date, to spending most of their time in meetings and delegating key responsibilities at every turn.
As their teams grow, CEOs transition from being in the “innovative ideas” business to the “managing personalities” business. It can be a major shift for many executives, especially if they’re used to using their task-oriented technical skills more than their people-oriented soft skills. Without some guidance, they may have difficulty letting go of the control they had in the company’s early days and reorienting their thinking to focus more on finding and developing talented people who will help their business grow.
It’s a lot for anyone to handle, even if they have plenty of experience. Now imagine doing it at 20 years old.
That’s what happened to Suhail Doshi, the founder and former CEO of Mixpanel, which he founded at age 20. Over the course of the next ten years, he went from writing code and overseeing every aspect of the business to managing a multimillion dollar organization with 300 employees. Like many first time CEOs, he learned a lot along the way, and he’s shared many of those insights in an autobiographical article with Business Insider.
One of those lessons was that life at the top of the organizational chart can often be quite lonely. Doshi found that seeking out experienced mentors who understood what he was going through and could offer advice and guidance was extremely helpful as he encountered new challenges. Stories like his are why CEO peer groups continue to be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs and executives alike.
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A lifelong serial entrepreneur and community leader, Mark Stagen, Founder of XLN, started his first company at age 15 and hasn't looked back. Since then, he’s founded, and later sold, several successful companies, including Telecore and Emerald Health Services, which have generated over $1 billion in combined revenues. Mark also founded the Youth Business Alliance, a non-profit organization that works with High Schools in economically challenged areas to educate, motivate and inspire the students on business, entrepreneurship and career development.
Mark has received numerous business and community awards including: EY Entrepreneur of the Year and Inc. 500. He is actively involved in YPO and has served in many leadership roles including Chapter Chair and Regional Chair. Mark received his BA in three years from Yale University, was a member of the Yale Football Team and is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the USC Marshall School of Business.