In installment 3, the final in the 3-part series of the CEO Insights panel, we will share each CEO’s advice and tips and their closing remarks all of which help you prepare to become a CEO and executive leader. Their discussions are priceless as well as insightful. They provide key takeaways for aspiring CEOs and leaders.

Revisiting part 1, and part 2 of the series, let’s review who the panelists are:

I moderated the CEO Insights panel which included: Adam Cole – Founder and CEO of SIPPIO, Eric Hernaez – CEO of RabbitRun Technologies, Tom Joseph – Founder and CEO of White Label Communications, and Tony Lewis – Founder and CEO of Clearly IP. These four distinguished CEOs have all been a CEO multiple times and have founded and exited a multitude of companies.

The panel provided a behind-the-scenes look into the journeys each took to become a CEO, the challenges they face every day, and over the past 16 pandemic months. Each provided tips and guidance for those who wish to become a CEO or a senior executive leader in their career.

Tips and Advice for Aspiring CEOs and Senior Executives

This question to each CEO was “What are the most important advice and best tips you would give to aspiring and rookie CEOs?”

In parts 1 and 2 of the series, you got to know our features CEOs, in this part you will gain insights from their experiences which includes dozens of years of CEO experience plus several startups and exits. Now let’s explore their answers to the question:

Adam: My advice to each and every one of my leadership team and anyone who wants to lead needs to read “Bessemer’s 10 Laws of Cloud Computing” which is my bible of how to build and run a SaaS business successfully. You will learn about CAC, LTV, and all the numbers that matter. Originally published in 2008, updated multiple times over the years, but the latest was completed in 2019-2020 timeframe. If you don’t know who Bessemer is, they are also known as BVP – Bessemer Venture Partners, a tier 1 venture capital firm that has succeeded in cloud investments.

Adam continued his advice suggesting to stay focused on what needs to be done, and learn how to say no! You have to avoid confusing people. Watch this blog for a future post on ways to say “no” without using the actual word! The ability to combine focus with saying no, not allowing interruptions to derail the tasks at hand, will contribute to success.

Adam’s final piece of advice is one I am 100% in agreement with: “Know your numbers!” Know everything about your business from average seats per deal, margins, number of seats operational – everything about your business. I added that never, ever present at a board meeting without knowing your numbers.

Tom: His advice to everyone was not to confuse working hard with hard work – the higher you are in the organization, it’s about the output of your work, not the number of hours you work on something. Be strategic and don’t fall into working on the business, not in the business. This is sound advice from a long-time CEO in multiple companies at various stages.

Eric: Know your own weaknesses and hire the right people who fill the gaps around you complementing your strengths and weaknesses. Surround yourself with smarter people with expertise and knowledge. Approach every interaction with this mindset.

Tony: Tony’s advice is to be opportunistic, for example, even if you don’t have a job opening for a strong A-player that becomes available, create a position and hire that person, regardless of budget and funds as it works out most of the time and its hard to find great people.

Tony also added that he disagrees with other panelists on laser focus and he prefers to follow the squirrels and follow the market dynamics. He likes to stay abreast of happenings in the market, and if he was laser-focused, he could easily miss important things that are happening.

What kind of leader would you prefer to be? As you can see, most CEOs prefer to be laser-focused and Tony, in the minority, prefers to be the opposite. This is a delicate balance since CEOs own the company vision and need to keep the team laser-focused to deliver but also need to know market trends, new competitors, and anything that can impact the vision!

Closing remarks and suggestions:

We closed then panel with each CEO summarizing their final words and providing suggestions for the audience not previously discussed. these are terrific takeaways for session attendees and readers of this blog post.

Tony: As CEO, do not show fear. Keep that behind closed doors and private. Be decisive and lead by example. This is excellent advice for all leaders. Tony then repeated one of the common threads of the session – do not be the smartest person in the room – bring smarter people than you to the management team.

Eric: This is a great time to be in this business and consider starting your company. There is no better time to do it. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate, get on it!

Tom: You need to control your own destiny. This is the role of the CEO. If you can’t or won’t, then do not become a CEO! Pretty straightforward.

Adam: There are many more considerations as a CEO: cash management, ownership, control, time management, and expense management among other things. “Toss nickels around like manhole covers” meaning be careful overspending in the wrong places and on the wrong projects.

Expect everything to take twice as long and cost more than your spreadsheet said. In fact, the spreadsheet is always wrong! Every number you put to paper will be wrong! I am not sure I agree with this completely, but I agree with it in principle. He suggests adding 2,3 or 6 months to actually see revenue projections to cover delays.

Adam suggests doing everything you can to avoid a down-round of investment because you could lose control of the company and it is the beginning of the end in many cases once you get into that situation.


Thank you for reading the 3 part series.

We have learned from CEOs directly, that their journeys are different. I write about this concept in my book. These CEOs shared their real-life stories on the panel for the audience and I captured them in the blog series. One of the strong assets of solid proven CEOs is being vulnerable.

All 4 CEOs provided insights into their vulnerability by both being on the panel and responding candidly. I am forever grateful for these distinguished CEOs who give their life and passion to their companies, their leadership teams, their employees, and their customers. Once again, a special thanks to the CEO panelists and to ITEXPO for supporting and promoting the panel!

Thank you for stopping by the CEOInsights blog, and thank you again for reading the 3 part series! Plus, much more CEO Insights content is planned for the days and weeks ahead including guest CEO posts, tips to gain back lost time, and more.

If you enjoyed these featured CEOs, there are stories about 9 rookies in my book, The Rookie CEO, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!, with the foreword written by Rich Tehrani, CEO of TMC. The book is available in eBook, Paperback, Hard Cover, and Audiobook.