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What is it like to be the CEO of a billion dollar business?

This was a response to a question on Quora .

Answer by A Quora admin: Vivek Viswanathan,

It’s very stressful.

Of course, it’s very rewarding too. You can make a great difference in the world — By remembering Clayton Christensen’s dictum that management is the most noble profession if it is practiced well, by building a company with a strong and healthy culture, by delivering products that make people happy and improve their lives, and by using the fortune that you accumulate on behalf of others.

But getting there, with all of the pressure and expectations and worry that your moment will pass or that the money will run out, is very hard. The fact that the business is worth a billion dollars not only does not make the worry go away but, in fact, can aggravate it as you think about the choices in front of you and about all that you will have lost if you make the wrong choice.

One of the best posts that I’ve read about the psychology of being a CEO of a large, growing business is from Ben Horowitz. Here’s what he says:

Generally, someone doesn’t become CEOs unless she has a high sense of purpose and cares deeply about the work she does. In addition, a CEO must be accomplished enough or smart enough that people will want to work for her. Nobody sets out to be a bad CEO, run a dysfunctional organization, or create a massive bureaucracy that grinds her company to a screeching halt. Yet no CEO ever has a smooth path to a great company. Along the way, many things go wrong and all of them could have and should have been avoided.

Things go wrong, because building a multi-faceted human organization to compete and win in a dynamic, highly competitive market turns out to be really hard. If CEOs were graded on a curve, the mean on the test would be 22 out of a 100. This kind of mean can be psychologically challenging for a straight A student. It is particularly challenging, because nobody tells you that the mean is 22…

Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweat, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary founder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say: “I didn’t quit.”

Source: What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology. | TechCrunch

What is it like to be the CEO of a billion dollar business?

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