The Real CEO

The Real CEO

By Sherry Lutz Herrington

Many small business owners consider themselves to be the CEO, affectionately known as the Chief Everything Officer (thank you USP Store for that hilarious tagline).  In reality, we often are the chief bottle washer and cook, as the saying goes.  We have no choice (especially when we first get started) but to handle all the little things as well as be the driving force and great idea person behind our businesses.

That’s all well and good when you are getting started. But if you want to scale your business, you have to learn to let go and trust other people to handle some of those tasks.

Something came up recently in a conversation with another business owner that made me recognize that at some point we shift into being the real CEO – Chief Executive Officer.  The big kahuna, the person at the top, the person driving from the front of the bus making sure all the seats in the back are filled with the right people doing the right things.  No longer are you the person cleaning the toilets and answering the phones.

It’s a shift that you may not even recognize at first.

What happened to my friend and me at about the same time is we reached a level where we had enough support people handling the day-to-day operations.  So our focus changed mostly to the bigger picture.  Where are our businesses going and how are we going to get there?  Not on the day to day busy-ness of keeping things moving.  That has been delegated down to one of our trusted soldiers.  

We have learned to lean on others, and we have grown to the point where we don’t have time to manage all the details.  We have to trust others to handle things that we have done ourselves for years.

The Real CEO
This may seem easy or even obvious, but it’s actually a huge growth step.

Most small business owners are masters of multi-tasking and keeping all the balls in the air at once.  We’re frequently also very controlling and like to be involved in all the details.  We started our businesses because we’re passionate about our product or service and love producing it.  

Letting all that go and learning to stay focused on driving the company to the next level is extremely challenging.  We have to constantly remember not to dive in and try to “help” where we are not needed.  

Yes, we can do every job, handle every task, but we have to let that go.

Remembering to stay in the driver’s seat where we belong can take some adjusting.  It might even mean a few back slides or getting in the way of the competent staff you’ve hired.  You must let others do what you’ve hired them to do.

The Real CEO
Being a real CEO means sitting at the top and leveling the company.  Not getting stuck in the details or dragged down by your need to control everything.

It means learning to focus on the big picture and lead, not manage.  Yes, someone needs to manage the staff, the details, and oversee the day-to-day operations.  But it should be the manager, not the CEO. 

The real CEO is the visionary that sets the course, figures out what it is going to take to get there, and then sets everything in motion to get the company where she wants it to go.  When you reach that level, you know you’ve finally arrived, and you’re no longer the chief everything officer.

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at for more blogs!

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