Business Oxymoron–The CEO/Scientist

This post could see me making an early exit from a potential client but on the flip side the story is worth writing about. Obviously, in order to protect the innocent there will be no names of companies or people.

I had my first experience with a scientist/technical person leading a company back in the early 80’s. I won’t say that it was a disaster because the company was generating revenue but not enough to sustain existence. The product was being sold through a distributor network that was not prepared for the product or that specific marketplace. Orders were dribbling in. If memory serves me right the president was the gentleman who built the product for production. The product had already been designed by the person with the patent.

So, here you have an extremely smart person who is joined by other really smart, technical people (in the same company) who are also at the top of the org. chart leading the company. Folks, this is the oxymoron. This is why so many $1M to $3M companies fold like a cheap suit. These companies are being lead by people whose forte is science and not business. Is this always the case? No, of course not. But too often it is.

There is an old adage that runs something like this-do what you’re good at. In my short stint as the VP of sales and marketing for a small company in Mpls. I found that I didn’t know a whole lot about marketing and I was dealing with distributors who cared more about getting a price break than my title. I was not doing what I was good at.

So, back to the 1980’s company. There were venture capital people who were pouring money into this company only to see most of leaking out the bottom. Decision time. The venture people found a smart business guy who took over the company and they also found a VP of sales who did the sensible thing-he hired direct salespeople and got rid of the distributors. The company flourished and grew like wild fire. The simple reason is that the company now had the right people leading the company and the scientist went back to where he was most comfortable-designing stuff.

Being on the back side of 60 I’ve learned a few things along the way. Sometimes the most obvious decision is not the one that people like to make. The decision may cast a poor light on them or their egos are bruised or they’re afraid people will lose respect for them. Here’s the point-so what!

The company’s life and the paychecks of the employees are more important than the whims of an individual who tries to do things they just weren’t born to do.

The Final Thought: Success means having the courage, the determination and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be. George Sheehan


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