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What career background makes a better Medical Device CEO: Marketing/Sales background? Engineering background? Clinical/Regulatory background? Other?
< 1 min reading time
As originally asked by Giovanni Lauricella.
Mark S. McNulty
I think the answer is that it doesn’t really matter. As CEO you are a generalist, and depending upon the stage of the company any one of those areas could be more important than the others.
Many managers make the mistake of delegating their weaknesses. I recommend delegating your strengths. This way you can quickly fix any problems that arise in the areas you have delegated. If sales and marketing is important now, and you have a background in engineering, you will want to spend a lot more time communicating with your sales and marketing team and strengthening this weakness until your new product launch is running smoothly.
This philosophy works at the department level too for various tasks.
Our opinion is that the CEO profile change depending on the stage of the company.
Early Stage companies need a CEO that is a risk taker. They have a vision and are driven to create new solutions to problems. Usually they are not the best bosses and can be abrasive. They need to be able to cycle quickly through ideas and implement a vision while others are telling them that it not possible.
When a company reaches $15 to $60 million in sales and exceeds100 employees, the start up CEO usually needs to step aside or be replaced. A “builder and coach” is then required. They usually have excellent people skills but are still focused on problem solving rather than consensus building. They need to create a sustainable culture, formulate a compelling strategy, articulate that strategy and work effectively with their board of directors. They best CEOs we have seen at this stage usually rely on a strong COO for execution. The best teams in our experience are a strong customer and sales focused CEO and a Technical COO focused on execution and keeping the CEO grounded.
At $60-$400 million there is another transition point. The CEO needs to be more externally focused. They transition from problem solvers to consensus builders. The best CEO’s at this level are masters of managing external expectations, managing their boards and leading the investment community. Most of their time is spent on culture and consensus building and putting in place a strong management team of specialists.
After a company develops critical mass the job of the CEO is to safeguard the company assets, set the culture and plan for orderly growth. The best CEOs at this level are exceptional communicators, they build a team that is technically smarter than they are, they listen to their team and arbitrate decisions. CEO’s at this level require multicultural experience and global perspectives.
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