“Solo CEO” — what a great label! Several months ago, I was invited to speak at the SoloCEO Summit, a conference created by my colleague, Terra Winston. The one-day event was designed for “solopreneurs,” people who had established and were operating a business by themselves. The goal was to provide opportunities for small business people to learn from experts, build community, and create an action plan to move forward. 

Terra put together a great team of presenters with a wide range of skills: marketing, coaching, law, operations, and many other aspects of business leadership. The event was striking in its diversity, both among the presenters and the attendees — people leading all sorts of businesses; men and women; old and young; racially diverse. The energy in the room was powerful. 

And that “Solo CEO” title. What a great way to emphasize the level of leadership, the smarts, and the range of skills required to run a one-person business. Instead of feeling apologetic or timid about the size of the business, that label encourages small-business leaders to think of themselves as the powerhouses they really are. 

Introducing the Solo CEO to a new toolkit

In my presentation, I talked about “Big Business Thinking for Small Business Leaders.” I built on my extensive experience consulting to senior executives in Fortune 1,000 companies to share lessons that are equally important for Solo CEOs. 

First, I described how the most successful big business leaders deliberately carve out time from the constant demands so they can focus on strategic thinking. That’s hard to do when you’re a senior leader in a big company, and even harder for a Solo CEO. But without some designated time for thinking strategically, you are likely to be too focused on short-term challenges and lose sight of where you are trying to go. 

Second, we talked about the crucial importance of developing a network of smart people who will help you think about your business, root for your success, and diminish the sense of isolation that can come from working alone. In a big business, those people may work down the hall from you and are easy to access. But a Solo CEO has to build that community and take time to nurture it.

And third, I described how big businesses often invest in the physical well-being of their senior executives, sending them for annual physicals and providing benefits that help them stay in peak condition. Solo CEOs cannot possibly meet the demands of their roles if they aren’t in excellent health. So while they may not have access to world-famous clinics and elite spas, they can certainly monitor their health and make smart lifestyle choices that keep them in fighting trim. 

Strategic thinking, building community, and taking care of your own well-being are three key tactics for success, whether you’re the CEO of a giant global corporation or a Solo CEO. To learn more about these and other keys to leadership in a small business, contact us at ggolden@gailgoldenconsulting.com.  

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    Great post, Gail. I’ve seen more than a few startups fail because there was no strategy for growth. Just a “throw it out there, they will come” mentality. Sharing this in hopes it will help some other solopreneurs.