The Duct Tape CEO

Duct tape has always been a handy asset in my home. Whether it’s used on a leaking faucet or a busted bumper, duct tape fixes almost everything. It may not be the prettiest, but it is a quick fix. It’s an instant and affordable solution to a problem that will be fixed with more money and effort in the future.

In many ways, we hold our careers together with the same utility. We pull together our experiences and package them up using duct tape to cover up the seams. We construct a narrative where everything ties together. And hope that nobody will examine too closely.

As business owners or marketing specialists, you’ve probably noticed how useful duct tape can be. That’s because you are the CEO of your own career, and with a little duct tape and elbow grease, anything is possible…

Until you start to burst at the seams.

What is a Duct Tape CEO?

When starting a business, the CEO needs to be able to fix everything. With a lack of funds and a small team, the CEO becomes an expert in the strategic application of duct tape. The fix might not be the most sustainable or ideal, but it gets the job done.

Being a Duct Tape CEO should be worn like a badge of honor. You’re finding ways to save your company money with ‘duct tape fixes’. Instead of spending money outsourcing tasks, you are finding fixes that you can do yourself.

Duct tape can’t hold forever

As a company grows, being the person that holds everything together is limiting. Like duct tape, there is a limit to how much you can hold together before things start to burst at the seams. Before you know it, the wear and tear will start showing.

As CEO, there is a transition that you go through as your business starts growing. Once you find success, there needs to be a shift in your mindset. You'll need to understand that not everything can be fixed with duct tape. You’ll then need to start hiring specialists.

Changing your mindset to succeed

If you want to succeed in the long term, your mindset has to change. Many CEOs make the mistake of getting stuck in the duct tape phase. Eventually, their duct tape solutions become a hindrance on growth. That is why once you hit your success targets, it becomes time to transition.

Growing companies often utilize specialists to take over tasks that founders used to hold. This prevents founders from getting stuck in the duct tape stage, and the hindering of company growth.

Growing and scaling your business

A business goes through several phases of growth. It starts with a dream and escalates quickly from there. Dreamers become doers once they take the plunge into entrepreneurship. With success, doers build a team around them and take on the role of delegator.

Once you level up from phase to phase, duct tape becomes less useful. Eventually it creates a bottleneck. The good news is that a successful company can afford to hire specialists to get the work done.

Instead of doing it all yourself, you find specialists to do the work for you. They often perform tasks better than a Duct Tape CEO could ever hope to perform them. Delegation is paramount to building a scalable business.

During the levelling up process, you can’t be the duct tape that holds everything together. You have a business to grow.

Tasks that take you a few hours to accomplish like fixing a website or bookkeeping, all add up. This leaves you with no time to focus on what is important.

The key is to develop processes and procedures to break these tasks down into smaller jobs. You can then hire specialists to do these jobs and free up your time.

Knowing when to hire

The hardest part of being a Duct Tape CEO is knowing when to bring in a specialist. You’ve become accustomed to doing everything, and it may be hard to let go of tasks that feed your passion. You will probably question whether you need to bring in a specialist.

“Do I really want to hire a full-time specialist when the task will take you two hours?”

Sometimes, yes! Or you can at least utilize an independent contractor.

But it is important to keep in my mind your phase of business and your current cash flow. Knowing how much money you need to start hiring specialists is crucial. By using revenue and cash-flow projections for your business, you can determine when this makes sense.

When is the duct tape phase over?

Now that we understand the detrimental impact being a Duct Tape CEO has on business growth, you are probably wondering when this phase can safely end. I recommend making targets to help you decide if you’re ready to exit duct tape mode. Here are a few sample targets:

Financially – you may choose to stop holding things together with duct tape once you reach $1 million in revenue.  

Or you may choose to exit the duct tape phase once you are making $200,000 per employee headcount. Or it could come once you reach a profit goal, say $500k in profit.

As CEO, it is critical that you set a goal for when you can safely get out of duct tape mode. Once you hit your target, make sure to follow through and transition from being a Duct Tape CEO to a real CEO. If you remain in duct tape mode, you will be limiting your success potential. If you’re too hands-on, you will cripple the growth of your business.

Without a target, you may do things too quickly. Or too slowly.

There was a time when I transitioned too quickly out of Duct Tape CEO mode, which lead to negative results for my business.

But there are also times where I held on for too long, which resulted in an equally negative business impact. The only way to know if your duct tape phase is over is to be very clear with your targets. And relentlessly strive to hit them.

How you spend your time is a choice

As CEO, your time is best spent growing your business. By holding your business together with duct tape, your growth will reach a standstill. Your workload will never lighten, and revenue growth becomes a chore.

At the end of the day, revenue cures all problems within a business. Being able to hit your growth targets means there will be plenty of profit to split up come year-end. The CEO needs to know when that transition will better serve the needs of the company.

You are the CEO of your career

Don’t get in the way of your own success. Set reasonable targets, and be relentless in achieving them. Whether you are a business owner or working a stable job, it doesn’t matter. The impact is the same.

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