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CEO is easy job. Just talk cock, play golf and earn big salary

June 23, 2008

So that’s what my friend said when he pointed to a vacancy for ceo for a software distribution company. And he is seriously thinking of applying. He is a technical manager in a software company, a bit of a maverick and a hilarious joker.

Great, I said. Who doesn’t want $30k a month + car + 1st class travel + bonus + profit share just for attending fancy lunches and playing golf while the rest of us slave away for a pittance.

Its a scene I’ve seen many times before. Everytime people tell me what they think their village chief does, I’m reminded of the story of the seven blind men and the elephant.

One holds a leg and says the elephant is like a pillar. Another feels the tail and says the elephant is like a rope. Another feels the belly and says the elephant is like a wall, and so on. All of them gets something right but none of them gets the whole picture.

If you’re non-management, the ceo’s the guy who ensures the pantry is well stocked, your work tools are in good shape and your grouses are empathically looked into. If the toilet paper ran out, you’ll grumble the ceo is sleeping. You’re management? Then he’s the guy who gets funding, partnerships, cuts big deals and plays referree to the warring managers. You’re a board member? Then he’s the guy who gives you numbers and governance. You’re a customer? Then he’s the guy who’s going to solve all your problems no matter how small.

So what does a ceo really do? Between the cynical answer and the direct answer, I’d say the truth is somewhere in the middle. Usually you can tell what a ceo should be doing from his key performance indicators – if it wasn’t such a pain for him to reveal (yeah, see if your boss lets you see his KPIs). The truth is, an elephant is not an elephant without all its parts. You may be a fantastic people person and a great salesman but without the ability to wear all these other hats, then that’s all you’re ever going to be – a great salesman. No mystery why one-track minded people make excellent drones for the hive but make awful ceos.

My version of ceo delivers only 3 things: bottom line, growth and governance. He won’t get bottom line if sales suck and overheads skyrocket because staff morale is low and wastage goes thru the roof, so he’s got to spend a chunk of time there. He won’t get positive growth if customers and distributors are unhappy, which is hopefully why he’s out there lunching and golfing. And he’ll get caught by the auditors if there are serious governance issues which he must catch before they do. And to make it more fun, throw in the occasional toilet paper problem, press misquotes, rumors about the board plotting your ouster over bad earnings and what have you.

So, for $30k a month with all the trimmings, is that a good deal or what?

Pic source: http://www.nature.com

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. LC Teh permalink
    June 23, 2008 10:45 am

    There was a little book written by a CEO I read once that said a company has only two kinds of problems: Growth or liquidation. If you don’t grow be prepared for the other.

    For $30K++ a month you better be sure your wife and/or kids also have the aptitude to deal with your times and lifestyle. Otherwise think of the French President’s ex-wife’s dilemma. To me, being CEO sounds like you’ve been converted to corporate property, not unlike a superstar becoming public property.

  2. tinytapir permalink
    June 23, 2008 1:13 pm

    “There was a little book written by a CEO I read once that said a company has only two kinds of problems: Growth or liquidation. If you don’t grow be prepared for the other.”

    That’s bullshit. I can, off the top of my head, tell you at least 5 Malaysian companies that are right this minute sinking in sh*t because their CEOs inherently believed that piece of crap philosophy.

  3. LC Teh permalink
    June 23, 2008 4:49 pm

    Well, I quite sure that CEO knew his stuff. Otherwise, call that a matter of opinion. That said, if the 5 Malaysian companies are sinking in sh*t, that’s more or less ‘liquidating’. It’s a matter of time they hit bottom. Perhaps they know the other philosophy: “When in deep sh*t, keep mouth shut.”

  4. June 23, 2008 11:58 pm

    I used to think like that too…when I looked at my manager whom I thought only know how to delegate and know nothing.

    Now, when I have to managed a team of people, delegating is more than just distributing a task. I have to guide and lead too. Not forget the part of shouldering responsibilty in ensuring things can be delivered.

  5. Damien permalink*
    June 24, 2008 7:42 am

    @LC and tinytapir, actually I would love my company to be sold off – for $4 to the dollar. Then I can retire happy. 🙂

    @mun, yeah and imagine what your staff might be saying now. Aiyah his job so easy what … just talk cock and tell ppl what to do, haha.

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