ITEXPO/TechSupershow 2023: CEO Insights Panel Ignites South Florida TechHub with Their Journey, Strategies, and Visionary ideas!
In the 3rd edition of the CEO Insights Panel, on February 16, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, we featured CEOs from the South Florida Tech Hub led by their very own leader and CEO, Nikki Cabus, with a unique behind-the-scenes peek inside their minds and their community. Our panel included:
- Nikki Cabus, CEO, of South Florida Tech Hub
- Cathy Miron, CEO, eSilo; Board Member and Small Business Mentor
- Rick Mancinelli, Founder and CEO, c3 Complete
One thing to remember is that up to 70% of first-time CEOs fail within 18 months. Startups generally fail at the alarming rate of 90%, 10% within the first year, and 70% within years 2-5. You can find a variety of sources to validate these numbers.
Each panelist shared their story today and the journey that they have each taken to their CEO role. I always ask if they had a lifelong personal mission to become a CEO or did it just fall into their lap. It’s usually somewhere in between, and this panel was precisely that.
- Nikki never thought she would become a CEO, but her situation at the South Florida TechHub opened up for her and others who worked with her convinced her she was “right for the role,” and it has proven to be correct.
- Cathy is a former multinational executive who never thought she would become a CEO. However, she bought into the CEO role by acquisition, and as a first-time CEO, she has been learning and creating her methods to lead the company. She shared stories about coming into the office at 4:30 am figuring out how to create her vision from the previous CEO’s vision, which is an enormous task! Over time she says she has learned not to break things that work and to fix things that do not work. It is harder to execute than it seems to many.
- Rick was a coder, working his way up the ladder to IT Director in the real estate world, then onto Telecom, and as a former corporate employee, like all panelists, he felt being the CEO was the right thing for him.
Daily Focus and Priorities
As the panel discussed determining what to focus on and prioritize daily, the responses were adaptability, consistency, and learning. These are very important and crucial for CEO success. Cathy shared her insight that strategic programs are the long-term view, and it took time to learn how to do this. Why? Typically, especially for first-time CEOs, they want everything done “Now, if not sooner!” This is not possible, so there is a learning process for each CEO.
There are always discussions these days about work-from-home vs. remote vs. hybrid. Cathy mentioned that her company had gone remote before the pandemic, so it was mostly business as usual; there were no live meetings. Rick mentioned that his company was out and about as they supported customers. Nickki mentioned that virtual events became more popular, and it allowed South Florida TechHub to expand its region easier by increasing membership. As with many tech companies, hybrid is the most common approach, with live team meetings occasionally, but most of the work is remote.
Another fun conversation arises when we discuss multigenerational workforces. GenZ and Z-lennials (Borderline millennials) have started to shape the workforce, and we discussed how each of our panelists addresses these dynamics. It seems each company already has mixed generational teams. Nikki may have the most diverse team, as the South Florida Tech Hub has many high school and college interns and volunteers. They bring a new attitude of “just do it!” or “just say it!” or “get to the point!” which is interesting for many seasoned veterans who play politics and traditionally practice political correctness. I do see these types of changes in my client companies as well. The GenZ’ers want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Cathy felt that if you, as CEO, are authentic and true to yourself, multi-generational workforce leadership will work very well.
Advice to former self
This is always an exciting topic of discussion as many CEOs like to share their advice to their pre-CEO self.
Nikki’s great advice was, “Don’t shut yourself down!” but ask yourself, “What if….” for many things along the way. She shared her past imposter syndrome, which so many people, leaders, and CEOs experience, and tells her pre-CEO self to listen to those you trust who are pushing you!
Cathy shared that her advice to her pre-CEO self was to get help earlier! Get out of your comfort zone. She told her pre-CEO self to wait 6 months when she got to the CEO role before making changes, so you don’t break what you bought (or inherited).
Rick agreed with Cathy about asking for help earlier. He told himself, “You don’t have to do it all yourself!” – a mistake he made for 7-8 years before he realized this nugget! He had found himself micromanaging. Today, he sees younger folks making the same mistake, and he coaches them not to do that! Many of us know this is a common first-time CEO problem that can lead to a toxic work environment. Rick solved it years ago, but it was vital advice to his former self!
Biggest Mistake Made and How to Avoid it
This conversation was excellent as our three CEOs were open, honest, vulnerable, and willing to share. My next book is all about CEO mistakes.
Rick felt his biggest mistake was waiting too long to terminate an employee that couldn’t perform. He waited too long, which made it harder, so his new mantra is to hire slow and fire fast! (My note: As many people look to change jobs, be honest with yourself and your potential new boss. If you oversell, you may be out fast).
Cathy’s mistake was that she “took her foot off the gas pedal,” as she described it. She broke a working system, missed opportunities, and learned that you can’t do it all “NOW!”
Nikki shared that her biggest mistake was not taking action on an employee who left. She had hired this employee for one primary task part-time, but this person could do much more. She was lucky, as she could hire her back and correct the previous mismatch of employee, skills, and role. (My note: I call this people-function-fit, and have found over the years, either as a consultant or if I was hired into a senior leadership role, that there are often several people in the wrong job!)
When asked about podcasts they listen to, there was only one that Cathy likes, “The Mindset Mentor,” and no other podcasts were mentioned. When I asked about books they like, Cathy mentioned “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Find it here. It’s practical and tactical and breaks down barriers for the reader! Nikki mentioned “7 Laws of Leadership,” which you can find here. Rick’s selection was Marc Benioff’s Salesforce story called “Trailblazer,” which you can find here. everyone has their favorite book, even if you don’t read much.
ITEXPO/TechSupershow has been one of my favorites for well over 20 years, and I have been a speaker, an exhibitor, a partner, and an attendee. I genuinely love the CEO Insights Panel, and our 2023 version was excellent. The CEOs who joined me on the panel were open, honest, and vulnerable. They are also fantastic people who I got to know, and the audience got to know.
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