Can This Founder Lead?

Can this Founder | CEO Build and Successfully Lead a Young Business?

From my 20+ Years as a leader and 10+ years as an early-stage investor, here are the 5 things I look for in CEOs of young companies to determine if they will thrive or tank. Sometimes I'm wrong - but not often.

1. Track Record of Winning | Does the leader have a winning track record - and the passion to keep on winning? This record may not be in leading a company, it could be in leading teams or a division of a company or a awesome non-profit leader - but regardless, the characteristic is the same.

2. Risk Identification | In a quick interview, can he or she identify the risks to the business and give insight on how to manage or mitigate these risks? Things like growth outstripping the team's capabilities, new substitutes entering the market, customer consolidation.

3. Strategic Insight | Is there any evidence that the leader has learned by doing many inexpensive tests to determine which strategies will solve pressing business problems or grow the customer base? I see so many young businesses whether the CEO has zero knowledge of the iterative process required to know how to secure early adopter customers.

4. Industry Knowledge | Does the leader know more about their industry than their competitors know? And don't be mislead - this has nothing to do with "years in the business" - it has to do with the hard work of studying industry trends, knowing the detail of competitors' business models, who's on the competitor's team, their strengths, their weaknesses, what the customers love, etc. 

5. Ability to Attract Talent | Does the leader have both integrity and the "IT factor" - that hard-to-define ability to attract, hire and motivate awesome talent.