CEO Roles in a Company (2019)

CEO Roles in a Company

What are the CEO Roles in a Company?

The CEO is the top management conductor who has to ensure team leader coordination, facilitating collaboration roles and making sure that management doing their duties and work fine. This blog explores 20+ CEO Roles in a Company.


CEO make sure you have someone in the position who understands what IT does and how tech fits into their mission, give them their quarterly goals, support and challenge them, and ensure that the organizational culture lives up to the brand promise.





Like it or not, a company’s reputation can sink or swim based on its CEO’s reputation. According to the work of PR agency Burson-Marsteller, more than 50% of corporate reputation is “based on the esteem of the CEO.”


There have always been companies that are hard to separate from their CEOs. Often, the famous CEOs are also founders, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg.


Even when CEOs are not founders and are less famous, their decisions and behavior can dramatically shape the brand reputation and, with it, company valuation.


Dealing with Press Release:


Marketing also owns all company outreach, from generating media coverage to getting the CEO interviewed in Inc., to dealing with complaints posted on Twitter or Facebook.


It’s your CMO’s job to coordinate with you on what your brand stands for, then to support that brand through every communication channel—website, social, speeches, press coverage, and more.


That’s where you come in. As CEO, you can protect your CMO and marketing team against the pressure for only delivering short-term gains and give them the resources and runway to turn LTV into a competitive edge. Here are my suggestions for getting out of the starting gate:


1. Get Buy-In: Convince your CMO, CFO, and CIO to commit to measuring and driving LTV for the long-term. This cross-functional senior alignment will help with resource allocation and organizational focus.


2. Build your Data Infrastructure: Review and organize your current customer data. Assess data hygiene and usefulness. Collect as much new data on your customers as possible. Build your CRM database and ensure that it is easily accessible for your marketers.


3. Understand the Value of Different Segments: Segment your current customers in different ways. Use data to understand the value of different segments. Test ways to acquire each segment with a lower cost of acquisition vs. predicted future profits.


4. Uncap your Marketing Budget: 

Marketing Budget

When you find something that works—for example, a way of acquiring new customers in a particular segment for significantly less than their predicted lifetime value—spend more to scale up quickly.


This may give you short-term cash flow and profit hit (using standard accounting rules), but can be justified based on the predicted future profits from those investments.


5. Ensure Continuous Improvement: Acquire more data about your customers using incentives, offers, email capture, third-party data exchanges and more. Ask your ad platforms/networks for additional insights into your customers’ behavior.


Create quarterly goals for all the right people—in marketing and elsewhere—to drive continuous improvements. Measure what’s worked, what hasn’t and why. Iterate by fine-tuning your work streams, improving your database, and trying


Value Creation


The campaign is creative, but it’s also a step in the direction of applying LTV principles. First, it takes “create your own drink” to the next level—create it on your device, save it, share it, find it in real life, and then try it out. It is an investment, focused on value creation. Apply the same mathematical rigor that you do to acquiring companies.


This helps create an engaging user experience across devices. Next, the app helps create individualized user-level portraits that yield several great results:


1. Offers an attractive user experience—Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machines and app—which helps win favorable placements in high-volume leisure locations, like cinemas


2. Increases consumption of frequent soda drinkers, as they can pre-plan their drinks and have fun doing it

3. Turns Freestyle users into brand advocates, discussing and sharing their cool/weird flavors with friends


4. Captures data on brand advocates, such as email addresses, which can be used for profiling and retargeting with tailored messages at a later date, increasing the loyalty and LTV of their most loyal customers


5. Provides insights (e.g., which flavors are most popular) to develop and prioritize new products.


The end result is much more than a Coke with a splash of vanilla or orange. It’s a customer who will be engaged for much longer. Is getting that kind of data—and making that kind of connection with your most valuable customers—worth some extra time, expense and pushback from your marketing department?



CMO Survey

Many CMOs don’t grasp customer data. According to the most recent CMO Survey from Duke University, CMOs expect spending on marketing analytics to double in the next three years.


But only 13% of them say they know how to use that analytics data, despite the fact that 61% of CMOs said they are under pressure from their CEOs to turn the data into measurable results.


Of course, all this talk about customer lifetime value is pointless without great customer data. You can have cracking video scripts, terrific ad design, and flawless placement, but if you don’t know enough about your customers to target them based on their interests and behavior, what’s the point? That’s what customer relationship management, or CRM, is all about.


As a CEO, you’ve heard the CRM acronym being flung through your office’s hallways like a paper airplane, but are you clear on what it is?


Just in case, a quick refresher:

CRM is the umbrella term for technologies and methods that capture data about every point of contact a customer has with your company— online sales, phone support, point of purchase, Facebook, you name it.


And analyzes it in order to develop strategies for optimizing your company’s relationship with that customer, in order to acquire them, upsell them, retain them and increase their lifetime value.


Handling and dealing with collaboration


Your organization may break down a little differently; you could have other stakeholders in play. For example, you might have a chief product officer who’s always at odds with Marketing over the question of who owns consumer insights (in some companies, the head of marketing reports to the head of Product, which has its pros and cons).


There’s definitely a crossover, but there aren’t any hard and fast rules. Consumer insights data are about improving products, but it’s also used to acquire and retain customers. The solution is collaboration. CMO and CPO have to work together.


Bottom line, many functions play a role in marketing, and the Marketing department plays a role in how Finance, Product, Sales, and Customer Service operate, and how every other department does its job.


So this isn’t a question of territory so much as one of philosophy. Great organizations with great marketing efforts are holistic; departments support each other and everybody keeps their eyes on the goal. As CEO, it’s your job to make all that happen.



Gartner predicts that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than do ClO. That might not be a bad thing. According to CEB’s “Marketing Investments Benchmarks” report, CMOs spend only 10% of their functional budget on IT but devote more of that spending to IT innovation than the IT department does.


So more CMO IT spending might actually lead to greater innovation in IT. Hopefully, you have a handle on what Marketing needs to handle and how everyone else ought to be contributing.


But in many organizations, there’s trouble brewing. As you know, data is the key to everything, and since the Marketing and IT both have a plausible claim to the database, your Marketing and IT departments might be at odds.


If you’re not careful, your CMO and CIO could wind up fighting over who gets to be “the man” with regard to your CRM database, and the last thing you need is two senior executives chest-beating like a pair of silverback gorillas.




First principle: nothing matters more than your customer data and how you use it. You get that, and your marketing and IT people get that. So let’s settle this eternal CIO/CMO potential feud over control of the CRM database.


Put the CMO and CIO on the spot and ask each of them—separately—about their vision and passion for your CRM database. “How would you build it, how long would it take, and how much would it cost?”


There is a good chance that your CIO will have a dull vision of the database. To IT, it’s a software and hardware development problem. Your CIO might say something like, “It’ll take three years and cost ten million dollars.” That answer belongs in the 1990s trash can. Many old school engineers hate shortcuts, which might lead to failure.


On the other hand, your CMO may either have a brilliant, unorthodox vision or be flummoxed because of a lack of understanding about databases or IT in general. That’s a huge red flag. How can you be a CMO today without a solid understanding of databases and information technology?


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Bzzzzzz! Trick question. You can’t.


“CMOs realize that technology is a key enabler for any effective marketing program, but easy access to technologies that do not require IT support perpetuates poor communication and the stereotype of the dysfunctional IT/Marketing relationship. 


ClO recognizes that the definition of their customer is changing from employees on the payroll to anyone that uses technology to interact with the company.”

— Simon Yates, Forrester Research


Pro tip: If Marketing says, “Here’s what I would do, and here’s how I’d build it, and I’ve spoken to a vendor who can do it in six months for $500,000” give the database to Marketing.


If IT says three years and ten million bucks, give the database to Marketing. You can’t wait three years; that’s insanity. Your CIO should serve Marketing as an internal customer, and shouldn’t grumble.


But suppose Marketing comes back with fluff, no numbers, and no rationale for how it would optimize the data and metrics. The same day, IT offers a nimble plan that includes automation, analytics and more while controlling costs and rolling out the finished product fast. You give the database leadership to IT and fire your CMO.


In my experience, it probably plays out this way: back against the wall, Marketing comes up with a plan that reflects the organization’s goals while IT comes up with a plan focused on building the thing.


That’s not a bad outcome as long as both sides can collaborate effectively. As long as roles and responsibilities are clear and communication is seamless, you could end up with Marketing as the key customer of IT, controlling the use of the CRM database while IT controls the build, feature improvement, bug fixes, platform stability, and data security.



 Digital marketing technology

None of this diminishes the importance of IT. Digital marketing technology is evolving so quickly that even if you have a CMO who “gets” database technology, no one can possibly stay current on it all. So the IT department has to be in command of the software, hardware and network side of marketing.


Assuming you have people in IT who understand the media landscape and key concepts like CRM, SEO and lifetime value, you should hand that department responsibility for everything from predictive analytics and your website’s CMS to app development and innovation. These are some of the domains where IT is master...and can really help marketing crush it:


Data Collection: Marketing might take the lead on determining what data to capture, but IT brings valuable knowledge to that discussion regarding things like how to de-dupe overlapping data sources.


Data streaming and application data from sources like your website or Facebook campaigns not only allow marketing to learn more about the customer than ever but to study factors like brand awareness in hours over an audience of millions.


Your engineers and coders are also your go-to resources for database security and hygiene, as well as insights on data capture tech like QR codes, barcodes, and RFID.


In VW’s case, the brand promise was always pretty simple: “Reliable family cars that you can trust, with awesome German engineering, at affordable prices.” Consumers don’t know what to think about VW anymore and will ask some difficult questions before getting behind the wheel of a Volkswagen again:


  1. If I buy a VW, will it poison my family and destroy the planet?
  2. If I buy a VW, will it be recalled, creating a major nuisance?
  3. Will my VW have any residual value when I try to sell it? After all, who wants to buy a used VW any more?
  4. If VW lied about emissions, what else did it lie about? The fuel efficiency? The airbags? The warranty?


The CMO of VW was almost certainly unaware of those decisions that the engineers made at VW. However, it’s hard to believe that the CEO didn’t know that his engineers were cheating emissions tests.


Even if Winterkorn wasn’t aware, as the CEO, he was still accountable. He either created or failed to prevent, a culture in which such appalling decisions were made.


The business news has been full such examples, of decisions made outside of marketing that have the potential to dramatically damage the brand. For example:


U.S.-based companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Starbucks avoiding paying taxes in countries outside the USA, creating a consumer backlash.


  1. Microsoft bundling Internet Explorer with Windows and being found guilty in the European Union of anti-competitive behavior.
  2. GM ignoring data that showed ignition switches caused fatal accidents.
  3. Arthur Andersen cooking the blogs for Enron and going bankrupt.



CEOs enhancing

In contrast to the scare stories above, there are also many examples of CEOs enhancing and defining their companies’ brands and valuations. This includes people such as:


Warren Buffett living a simple life in Omaha, Nebraska, and eschewing the typical lifestyle and behavior of New York investors— showing the world that Berkshire Hathaway is a no-nonsense, sensible company.


Richard Branson’s glamorous lifestyle and flamboyant personality, giving the various Virgin companies a touch of glamour. Bill Gates donating most of his fortune to charities and working tirelessly with his wife to do things like fight malaria. This also made the anticompetitive scandal diminish and become history.


Sam Walton, CEO of Walmart, famously living a frugal life, to show that at Walmart, they were obsessed with reducing costs for their customers.



Your reality is probably not as extreme as any of the examples laid out above. However, just because you are not a billionaire and didn’t start your company doesn’t mean your behavior won’t affect your brand. It will.


Bottom line, as the Burson-Marsteller data shows, as the CEO you personify the company. How you conduct yourself can and does affect everything from corporate morale to share price.


Think about it as though you were the president of the United States; when the president speaks or acts, in the eyes of the world his words and behavior indicate the position and beliefs of the U.S. as a whole.


If he makes an offhand comment in a news conference about not liking sushi, the Japanese people might be offended. You’re dealing with the same dynamic. When you write articles, make speeches or meet customers, everyone assumes that whatever you do or say is an indication of what the company believes.


Everything from how you dress to where you take your vacation will reflect upon your company’s values, for better or worse. You’ve got to live up to the brand promise every day.


“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

  1. watch your words, they become actions;
  2. watch your actions, they become habits;
  3. watch your habits, they become character;
  4. watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”


A few thoughts—hopefully, all obvious to you—to ensure that you lead by example:


  1. Ensure that you make decisions that are aligned with your company’s values and brand promise.
  2. Regularly talk about the company’s values to help others understand why you made certain decisions or behaved a certain way.
  3. Ensure that your external communication—speeches, interviews, articles—are fully aligned with other marketing messages and your brand values.
  4. Likewise, ensure that your internal communication is also aligned.
  5. Keep your social media activity, on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, aligned with the brand. Anything off-key will be noticed.


Spend your days living the company values. For example:

  1. If you promote openness and modernity, don’t spend all day hidden away in a corner office, wearing a tie.
  2. If you promise awesome customer service, regularly spend time with customers to listen to their needs.
  3. If you promise low prices, don’t be seen to be wasteful.
  4. If you say you have a “work hard, play hard” culture (my favorite), don’t forget to play.



Beyond your own behavior, how do you keep your finger on the pulse of your organization, so that you can ensure that everyone is representing the brand? How do you prevent people from getting complacent and comfortable to the point that they make mistakes that could cost you customers and revenue?


Hiring and Training: Since most decisions and actions your customers see do not involve you, you need to ensure that all of your employees share the company’s values. Hiring and training are key here.


For example, if you promise great customer service, hire employees who genuinely like others and want to help them, then train them well. If your company espouses environmental greenness, hire green employees.


Customer Feedback: Your customers have to see that your company meets or exceeds your brand promise, and does so better than your competitors. So what better way to find out than to ask them? This can be in the form of surveys, but also by meeting them and asking them in person.


Employee Survey: When designed well, this is a great way to take the pulse of the front line, as seen through the eyes of your employees. How do they observe themselves, their bosses and their peers behaving? How aligned is it with your company values? Be sure to reveal to employees what the biggest issues were, and what you’re going to do to address them.


Front-Line Visits: There’s a reason that CEOs pick up a lot of air miles. You are the face of the company and all of your teams want to meet you. When you’re out and about, don’t just make presentations.


Do deep dives and listen to people’s opinions. Meet customers and partners. Do interviews with journalists. It all helps to both take the pulse of the organization and to promote your company values.



By this stage in the blog, you are well aware that the CMO role is now critically important, massively complex, more data-driven than ever and constantly changing. Is your CMO up to the task?


Let’s break it down into the key things to look for in your most senior marketing leader. In this new and complex world, is your CMO: Defining and communicating a clear brand vision that is compelling, differentiated, motivating and shaping your company culture?

  1. Building an awesome marketing team of A-players?
  2. Integrating and continuously evolving an ecosystem of technology partners to win?
  3. Smart (and creative) enough to understand the opportunities and risks, and look from fresh angles?
  4. Writing and executing strategies to drive digital transformation and outperform the market?
  5. Firing underperformers and bad agencies?
  6. Measuring and optimizing everything using data, and linking it closely as possible to the LTV approach?
  7. Setting high standards and never satisfied?
  8. Collaborating with your finance, IT, product and sales teams?
  9. Out of the corner office, with sleeves rolled up (or better still, in a T-shirt) leading from the front?


I’ve created a simple 10 question survey for CEOs to assess whether it’s time to hand your CMO a cardboard box and have security ready for an escort to the front doors.


Brand Leadership

Defines and communicates a brand vision that is compelling, differentiated, motivating and shaping your company culture and activities. External brand communication is aligned with the customer experience and internal culture. Ensures that customers actually experience the brand promise.


Building an awesome marketing team

awesome marketing team

Is building an awesome marketing team of A-players, including critical roles like CRM, media planning, analytics, creative, technology. The marketing org structure is well thought through. S/he has made the case to increase internal headcount to fill these roles paid for by reducing agency fees (by bringing more in the house) and reducing media spend (through improving efficiency).



Is integrating an ecosystem of technology platforms and partners to win, while staying abreast of industry developments and ensuring continuous evolution. Uses bake-offs to select vendors.


Intellect & Creativity

Is smart enough to understand the opportunities and risks, and raise the bar on own team before the CEO starts asking questions. Can out-think competitor CMOs. Takes time to reflect, learn from other companies and challenge own team.



Writes and executes strategies to drive the digital transformation and outperform the market. The strategy feeds into rigorous quarterly goals cascaded throughout the team, right through to campaign planning. Iterates plans regularly, based on learnings and market changes.



Regularly review team and agencies, firing underperformers. Holds third parties accountable for stretching KPIs that are measured in the house.



Measures everything using data, linking KPIs as closely as possible to the LTV approach. Has weekly and monthly dashboards for all KPIs that matter, plus data-driven reviews of every single campaign. Uses it to maximize the ROI from creativity (rather than kill it).


High Standards

Is never satisfied. Every campaign review should identify room for improvement. Every team member should have development plans. Every vendor should have stretch goals. Hates waste and is obsessed with minimizing it (without killing experimentation).




Collaborates well with your finance, IT, product and sales teams on key cross-functional initiatives such as product launches/CRM database/improving customer experience/driving sales productivity.



Is mostly out of the corner office, with sleeves rolled up, leading from the front. Personally uses your website and app as well as those of competitors. Actively engages in social media. Listens to customers. Sets standards and inspires the team.



For an extreme scare story, look at Volkswagen’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn. VW cheated emissions tests under his watch, which will cost the company more than $10 billion in fines and recalls.


It also cost Winterkorn his job and reputation, and he may face criminal charges in some countries.


Far more important, the scandal wiped $55 billion off VW’s valuation, as future consumer trust and sales are uncertain given lost credibility. Brands have values and—implicitly or explicitly—make promises to their customers.


Define Each Group’s Decision-Making Criteria

Ask each group to explain their principle behind their project portfolio of active projects. Back in Articulate Your Mission to Prepare for Collaboration, I said each person needed their mission, the principle for decision making, and their strawman portfolio. It’s the same thing at the enterprise level. What are each group’s mission, principle, and portfolio?


Although I counsel organizations to have a unifying mission, that mission might be too vague when you work across business units. Imagine you have a 20,000-person organization. In that organization, you are part of a business unit with twenty or more various products. Your mission, “Bring robotic vision to the mass market,” might not be sufficient for decision making.


On the other hand, you might have a mission, “We bring a unified approach to robotic vision to the mass market.” Once you say, “unified approach,” you are saying, “We will work together across this business unit.” You might discover that you have not defined your business unit’s mission or strategy enough to use it for decision making. Consider your strategy.


Define Strategy at Your Level

You can think about strategy in any number of ways. I don’t happen to like SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. To me, it’s too inward-looking. If it works for you, great. 


The strategy is how you define and achieve your future organization. You need both great execution (how you manage the project portfolio can help) and understanding of what the future is (understanding your corporate values and how you want to compete in the future).


I prefer an iterative approach to define and live your strategy. I like thinking about strategy in Top Management Strategy: What It Is and How to Make It Work.


  1. Every organization has different operational and strategic strengths. The managers and teams need to understand
  2. Why did the organization select this mix of projects? (The reasons behind the choices in the project portfolio)
  3. What do we need to deliver to the customers? (The implementation of the strategy)
  4. How do we deliver to the customers? (Our operational strengths)


Some organizations are great at the Why, What, and How. Many more have trouble somewhere in the strategy, product planning, and operational delivery. Especially if you want to scale the project portfolio, start with the Why: the reasons behind the choices in your project portfolio.


Define Your Driving Force, Your Why

If you want to achieve a visual project portfolio at the corporate level, define the driving force for each business unit. I’ve numbered this list in rank order of what people often select as the real driving force. You might decide that your technology is the driving force, rather than your products, especially if you are in a young market.


Once you’ve determined how you present your technology in the form of products, your products might be the driving force. Your strategy changes over time, as your driving force changes.


Here are some possibilities for driving force:

  1. What you offer for products and services: your products.
  2. The markets you serve: Do you serve a specific market?
  3. Your technology: You might have unique technology.
  4. How you sell: Do you have a dedicated sales force who can target customers and sign them? Do you need a sales force?
  5. How you distribute: Do you have limited or expansive distribution capabilities? In software, can you distribute as SaaS, or do you package your software in some way?
  6. Natural resources: Do you consume or save natural resources in some way?
  7.  Production capability: How good are you at producing your product? For software, you might consider continuous deployment.
  8. Size/growth: Fast-growing companies can be attractive to investors and customers.
  9. Return/profit: This is a consequence of selecting reasonable driving forces. This does not change the nature of the business.
  10. Membership: Are some people attracted to your products and services? Do you limit membership? If so, how is that working for you?


You achieve return or profit by the projects you implement and not doing the projects you ignore. If you select work based on anticipated return alone, you will never select the high-risk/high-return projects. You will never try any Advanced R&D work. You will reduce your risk and lose business.


You want a high return or profit for the work you do. I understand that. Define your driving force and allow a return to be an oblique effect.  You have one driving force for a given business unit. Each business unit has its own driving force.


The overall organization might have a different driving force. If you have a large organization where part of the organization creates products and part is consulting, each part might have its own driving force: technology for the products part, and how you sell for the consulting part.


Have each business unit define its own strategy. Then, decide what the overall organization’s strategy is. You might decide—at some point—that the two business units need to be their own companies. You might not gain any benefit from the affiliation of the two business units because their driving forces are different. The organization cannot meet the needs of each business unit in its current configuration.


If you discover you have many business units, each with its own driving force, define your corporate mission and your corporate strategy. Otherwise, you will have trouble deciding on an overall project portfolio. 


You might think you have multiple forces if you have not managed your project portfolio before. You might have a spectrum of products that create a new way of doing things or projects that exploit your technology. Maybe you are geographically distributed to be near your customers, an example of using markets as a driving force.


You have one driving force. When people across the organization believe they have multiple forces, they have trouble deciding which project to rank first, second, third, and never. Unify the organization, so you can create a project portfolio that works.


Your driving force differentiates you from your competitors. Use that differentiation as the basis for your strategy. Here’s an example. Imagine you are a machine vision company. You have software that allows a regular camera to take panoramic images. Your driving force is your technology.


One day, you realize you have a competitor who does the same thing as you— except it’s not quite as good as your software. You move from technology to your products and services as the driving force. Maybe you decide to create additional support services, or a cloud-based service with automatic panoramas, or something else.


That’s how your driving force will suggest alternative work for you. For organizations where technology is the driving force, I like to assess the strategy every quarter and update the project portfolio every month or two.


Fix the Queue Length for a Team

A related option to fixing the number of in-process tasks for a project is to fix the number of in-process tasks for a team. Each task takes as long as it takes —although this works well when you have relatively smaller tasks and works less well as the task size increases. 


Note that the team doesn’t estimate each item in the queue. The product owner, customer, product manager—whoever is in charge of ranking requirements—is the one who has some idea of how big each item is and, more important, how valuable each item is. The team doesn’t estimate the item until they start it.


Of course, if they realize this item is much bigger than other items, they let the product owner know. The product owner can then work with the team to break down the large task into smaller user stories.


The product owner reranks all the user stories. Then, the entire team works on the first item in the queue until it’s done, as in releasable. Then, the team takes the next item off the queue to work on together.


Not all items need the entire team. In that case, the first item takes all precedence, and as team members are available, they work on the next item. This is a similar team assignment as in Rank with Business Value Points, except that here, the team is assigned to one task in the queue, not a whole project. If your items are not roughly the same size, you will have trouble with cycle time as a prediction tool.