Aspire to be a CEO: Get closer to your customer. Be a salesman.

Is it a coincidence that majority of corporate Presidents started as a salesman or were sales people at some point in their career?
Selling is a super critical function. Selling possibly is the only function that gets up close and personal to your customer. A sales person starts to  understanding customer’s likes, dislikes and idiosyncrasies. They get to know the precise reason why a product or company clicks or why it ticks.
And as the salesperson grows in the organization to increased responsibilities, they start shaping products, teams and organization structures to address their customer’s need. They have first hand experience and the conviction required to fix things that generates revenue for the company. Over time and not surprisingly, the successful salesman becomes an star within the company. He is well recognized, for the sales man knows their customers the best.
When management wants to hire for a position on the management team,

  1. who do you think would be on their A-list – A star salesman.
  2. Secondly, since organization exist because of their customers, management would prefer some one who has been with the customers for senior positions.
  3. Thirdly, in all probability the current CEO and the executive team were salespersons themselves in the career. It is only natural for biases towards star salespersons.

Whatever be the case if you are a salesman you are in good hands. You have the inherent advantage to get to the top. If not, get a role in sales to fill up that gaping hole in your otherwise impeccable record.

Aspire to be a CEO: Don’t build empires and fiefdoms.

Another big myth from practicing managers is that they think that the biggest budget and the most people reporting to them is a guarantee to get them to the top. This probably was true in the days of kings not in today’s flat world.  Today, it is all (only) about doing more with less.
Do more – Grow revenue, profits, marketshare – with less people, money and resources.
A few cardinal rules

  • never complain that you are expected to do more than what your budget enables
  • do not be that manager who is constantly hiring people
  • never use lack of resource as an excuse

Forget the empire. Power and promotions go to people who can do more with less. Efficient producers not resource hungry administrators.

Aspire to be a CEO?: Seek Line Jobs, Avoid Staff Jobs.

Why do we say that?

Well for starters, let us see the difference between Line jobs and Staff jobs.

Line jobs make money for your organization. In some places they are also called profit centers. Line jobs bring in money and have direct relationship with profit and loss. They impact the business and bottom line directly. They are the reason for your organization’s existence.

Staff jobs, also called as cost centers in organizations include lawyers, planners, data processing people, research and development, scientists and administrators of all types. Some justifiable staff jobs indirectly get and keep customers. Jobs that don’t get and keep customers are redundant.

In today’s organization structures the distinction between line jobs and staff jobs is sometimes blurred. It is still easy to identify them – line jobs are where the action is. Period.

Line jobs include sales people, sales managers, product managers, plant managers, marketing directors, foremen and general managers – generally revenue generating functions.

In many companies, majority of the people are either doing administration or field sales. Administrative people are not bad or untalented. But the organizations do not usually view them as cutting edge. The company does not depend on them. They are increasingly being replaced by automated computer systems and application software that can manage the routine. In other cases, these people are replaceable by people from other industries with minimal training and tolerable impact to business.

Take a staff job only if it
1. is purely temporary,
2. a stepping stone and
3. If it pays more money.

Be sure what the line and staff jobs in your company are. Be sure to get the right one.

You do not want to be a cost centre. Do you?