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Spice it up: The CEO Swap Experiment

| January 21, 2010 | 11 Comments

As an entrepreneur, you’re faced with numerous challenges everyday.  As you begin to develop and grow an organization, you have to incorporate more traditional management techniques into you’re impassioned, crazy visionary mindset.

One of the obstacles we face as entrepreneurs is that as we develop a certain company culture, there can be a tendency for everyone in our organization to become more like-minded, creating a homogeneous way of looking at the business.

Taking our cue from the cheesy “Wife Swap” type of shows on TV these days, my girlfriend and I, who are both entrepreneurs at a similar stage of development, underwent a “CEO Swap” for a week, with outstanding results.

We were fortunate to already have the foundation from growing our companies simultaneously, and with each other’s help, so we walked into our new jobs with a very solid understanding of what was happening in the other’s company.  I own Coastal Cigars, a cigar distribution and event company, and my girlfriend owns Obviouslee Marketing, a marketing strategy and public relations company, so there was going to be natural diversity in our ideas.  Our employees were also familiar with their new CEO’s, so from a people and process standpoint, we didn’t need to spend a lot of time in introductions.

Each CEO had a solid understanding from the other what we wanted to accomplish during this week, and in general it could be described as getting each visiting CEO’s “DNA” injected into the other company.  My strengths lie in strategy and business development, so I focused with the new staff on building a sales pipeline, I went on several sales calls to offer feedback on their presentation methods, and brainstorming new strategies for current clients.  My girlfriend’s strengths lie in system-building and organization, so her time in my company was focused on CRM, work-flow processes, and database streamlining.

Throughout the week, we found that both of our online social networks loved the idea and it created many online discussions.  We also found that our clients took serious enjoyment and interest in meeting with a new person and getting their fresh perspective.

Not only did our companies both benefit from an infusion of new ideas, but both of us gained a tremendous amount personally from the experience.  It is easy for entrepreneurs to tunnel vision in our own company’s strengths and weaknesses.  And, these companies are like our children!  Emotional detachment got left off at the last train stop.

In taking a week to become immersed in someone else’s company, we were able to take a new energy back to our own jobs, and found an excitement in going to work every day because we were fighting someone else’s battles for a change.  To be honest, both of us would not have minded staying a little longer, and we’re planning to do it again in the near future.

If you can find another entrepreneur at a similar stage in their business as yourself, I would highly suggest this exercise. You will have newsworthy updates to offer your network, and if you can both stand to be that vulnerable, your team and your mental state will welcome the newness of it all.

Dave Brown is CEO of Coastal Cigars, a national cigar distribution and event company.  Find out more at www.coastalcigars.com, or email Dave at dave@coastalcigars.com

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  • http://www.theskooloflife.com/ Srinivas Rao

    This is a really cool idea and could spur as whole generation of career swapping individuals. It could be like a foreign exchange program for corporate professionals. Go and work at another company for a few months and expand your skill set :) . I'm curious to see how many more people adopt this practice.

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O'Toole

    I like it..taking the idea to the next level. Hmmm maybe a future business venture right there!

  • nicolecrimaldi

    I agree with Srinivas! This could be your next big venture- CEO Swap! Who knows, these days the craziest reality shows get picked up and become popular.

    I commend you for swaping roles with your girlfriend. I think one of entrepreneurs biggest struggles is letting go of some of the control in order to grow. It's great you flexed this muscle early on.

    My parents have worked together for 30 years…3 ventures later, they are still happily married and sharing an office. There is no doubt in my mind that having totally opposite strengths is what has made them so successful and able to change with the times to grow their business. I say you should switch roles at least once a year to keep things fresh!

    Great post!

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O'Toole

    Agreed Nicole. I think this is a strategy that most CEO's could implement in some way. It helps to be close and know each others business but I bet there is still a huge benefit to swapping with someone random. Any fresh eyes can provide suggestions, analyze operations and create new ideas.

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  • http://twitter.com/coastalcigars Coastal Cigars

    If any of you start business ventures out of this, I want equity! LOL

    Thanks for all of the feedback.

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O'Toole

    Well your the case study so of course we would want you involved haha!

  • http://twitter.com/coastalcigars Coastal Cigars

    If any of you start business ventures out of this, I want equity! LOL

    Thanks for all of the feedback.

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O'Toole

    Well your the case study so of course we would want you involved haha!