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Life as an owner is demanding. You’re an integral part of your business’ operations. You might even be the “face of the business.” While your hard work and dedication may be fruitful, you need to begin considering the transition from owner-operator to CEO in 2023.


Because if you want to sell in the future, grow your business to new levels, or stop working the job of two, three, or more people, you must begin taking steps to become the CEO. You may currently have the title of CEO, but are you truly operating as a CEO? Many times, owners find themselves stuck in the position of operating their business instead of owning it. They spend all their time working in the business, rather than on it.

There are 33.2 million small businesses in the United States. Many of these organizations started with just one person who also had to make this drastic change, starting with a concrete vision. Speaking of vision, this brings us to our first point when it comes to making the transition.

What is the Vision for Your Business?

Do you have a vision for yourself or your business? You need to write down your vision and understand what it is you desire from your business. If you don’t know the direction that you want for your company or yourself, it will be difficult to make the transition to CEO.

There’s a lot of power in a vision. You can begin creating this future view of your company by:

  • Knowing what you want the organization to look like at the end. When your ultimate vision comes to life, what does it look like?
  • What characteristics and traits will this type of business need to have in its final state?
  • What steps can you begin taking now to be more like this business?

Use the stories of others who have found success in this difficult path in business and use them as inspiration. Imagine how Bill Gates and Paul Allen went from being integral parts of Microsoft to allowing the next generation of business leaders to take the reins.

If you know what your vision for your business with you as CEO looks like, you can then execute your plan to reach this goal.

Plan to Go From Owner-operator to CEO

1. When Do You Want Your Company to Achieve Your Vision?

Visions and goals take time. You have a lot of work to do if you truly want to operate as a CEO one day, and you need to have a general idea of when this transition should be finalized. The shorter the deadline, the more work you’ll need to do now.

Many business owners want to grow their operations and meet their vision over several years.

Setting a deadline to reach your main goal will help provide a sense of urgency and direction for your roadmap. If you extend the vision to be met several years in the future, you will allow yourself time to make the change and tackle any roadblocks that pop up along the way. Just make sure that you set a deadline for your long-term vision to avoid procrastination.

2. Start Changing Your Mindset

As CEO, your goal is to attract the right talent and lead. You need to begin changing your mindset from doing it all to sharing your vision and plan with your workforce. If you can make this switch in how you operate, you’ll be ready to move to the next step.

3. Begin Delegating Tasks That Do Not Help You Become CEO

Owner-operators take on lots of tasks. Your plate is full. There’s a good chance that you’ve dabbled in everything from customer service to advertising and marketing while growing your business. Sit down and jot down the tasks that aren’t in your zone of genius.

Over time, you will need to delegate these tasks to your workforce. This often means hiring new talent as part of the process, which we discuss more below.

However, there are a few things to remember as you begin delegating:

  1. Tasks are unlikely to be finished in the exact same manner that you’re accustomed to the first time they’re completed.
  2. Training the employee and providing instructions can help make the transition as smooth and hiccup-free as possible.

Delegate more and more tasks until you can manage the business but not be solely responsible for its success.

4. Expand Your Team

An owner-operator stifles business growth because there will come a time when the individual simply cannot do more. You cannot run a 20-person company the same way you run a 2-person business, just as you can’t run a 100-person company the same as a 20-person business. You need to begin hiring and expanding your team the right way – by finding people who are:

  • Ambitious
  • Ready to share in your business’ end vision
  • Team players

Expanding your team with a vision for the future may mean finding employees who you can see moving up in the ranks to fill executive and management roles. However, it’s also important to spend time training your team.

Nearly 60% of workers have stated that their skills were self-taught because their employer-provided no training. It’s crucial to train your team from the start. Effective training sets your workers and business up for success, reduces errors, and boosts productivity.

Signs That It’s Time to Transition into the Role of CEO

Transitioning from owner-operator to CEO is difficult when you’ve put every last bit of energy into your company. However, it’s the ultimate payoff for your hard work and dedication. A few signs that it may be time to make the change include:

  • You want the business to be able to operate without you.
  • You’re considering selling the business at some point.
  • The hours you’re working account for two, three, or more positions combined.
  • Growth is limited because of your owner-operator role.
  • You want to “own” the business instead of letting it take up every second of your day.
  • You can no longer “do it all.”

If you ever plan on selling your business, its value will drop if revenue and operations depend on you. Instead, a business that sells for top dollar is one that can switch owners without major operational impacts taking place.

What if you don’t want to go from owner-operator to CEO? That’s fine. Some owners never want to go into the role of a CEO, and if you fall into this category, there’s no reason to change doing what you love until you’re ready to retire or move on.

However, if you do need a change and want to sell the business in the future or have a vision where you’re not an owner-operator, you can follow the steps above to reach your goal.

To learn more about transitioning from owner-operator to CEO or to schedule an appointment, click here.

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