"What is it, exactly, that you do?"

That is the question I got tonight from a CEO I had just met.

And it’s a damn good question!

I am a Generalist (a person with a wide array of knowledge, as opposed to a specialist -Wikipedia), so it is hard to explain what I do – fortunately, companies that need my help can usually sense that I can help them.

But putting how into words has eluded me. I stumbled around a bit trying to explain it when this guy says, “OK, I think I understand – you are the guy that gets things done”

I like that description – a lot.   And it’s pretty accurate – I know enough about Development to make sure it’s on course, enough about Marketing to know how to measure it, enough about Quality to know if we’ve achieved it, enough about people to know if the team is competant, or complete, and enough about Sales to explain how to sell what we build.

I like being a Generalist, for a lot of reasons – the wide variety of things I get involved in maintains my interest level.  The different peronalities/skill sets I meet in this role keeps me interested in the human aspect of whatever project I am involved in.  And every engagement is an opportunity to learn more.

I’m easily able to switch from one issue that demands attention to another – delegating and monitoring where needed, driving things to completion where required.  It’s the ultimate multi-tasking role – and it is perfectly suited for both my interests, and my experience.

So by the time I got finished with my meeting, this CEO had made me understand my own role better – and I thanked him for that.  I think I always knew what I did that added value – he just helped me understand it enough to explain it.

So from now on when people ask me what I do, I am simply going to reply, “I’m the guy that gets things done”.


  1. The ideal CEO is the number one salesman for the company. So he often spearheads efforts to bring in new customers. Even if he isn’t carrying out the campaign himself, he had the initial vision to share with his staff so they could go forth and bring in new customers. Another key thing that an ideal CEO has is VISION – where will the company/product/marketplace be in six months? A year? Two years? His vision aligns the company to keep up with what his customers need/will need and hopefully provide even more than they hoped for (new products/offerings/heightened services, etc).

    Then of course there are all the back office things that keep a company running: legal matters and such that only officers of a company have to deal with, including boards of directors, etc. All these things besides keeping up with the state of the business right now, in this moment, can keep a really good CEO swamped.

    Of course, I am sure Rob can think of some other key items I have overlooked… 🙂

  2. Yep, I do agree many are hardworking. But, what exactly do they do? I mean, they don’t go to their office every morning and, uhm, lift bricks or something, right? I(and maybe many others) have no friggin idea what those people *actually* do when they’re in their office?

  3. Yuvi – most CEOs I have met have been extremely hard working. I’ve only worked for one CEO that I didn’t respect, and I didn’t work for him for long.

    I do agree that CEOs are drastically over-paid in some instances. I like Warren Buffet’s salary structure – he’s one of the richest men in the world, and he gets a salary of $100,000 / year. His real pay is tied into his company doing well, and the value of the company rising. I think every CEO should be paid that way!

  4. Didn’t you return the question back to him?

    I (and many I guess) sure have no Idea “What is it, exactly, that CEOs do?”

    Maybe, having worked with many CEOs, you can blog about it? I mean, CEOs get the most perks, so what the heck do they do that they *cough*deserve*cough* those perks?

    P.S. I’m the dumbest guy in the room here, so am asking…

  5. @Deannie – I agree. I’ve worked with CEO’s that were masters of finance, or good at getting things built.

    I’m no CEO (and have no desire to ever be one) – but I do recognize the value of game-changing plays. People that find ways to make things happen alter the course of a game, and often the course of history. Inaction is the most common enemy of business.

    I enjoyed the company I shared this evening – I love being the dumbest guy in the room – that gives me the best chance of anyone in the room to learn something new!


  6. I wish more CEO’s had more rounded out experience.