While on average, CEOs/founders admit they haven’t had a completely work-free weekend in 6 weeks, most (71%) get 6 hours of sleep or more per night, exercise multiple times per week (60%), find time to read frequently for pleasure (48%) and still read to improve their business (56%). And despite long hours at the office and the reality of having to bring work home, only 21% report missing important occasions “all the time.”
It’s in the Bag. They’re aware of how sacrifices have affected their personal life, but CEOs/founders are not daunted by the prospect of working to make things better. In fact, they consider raising capital for their company (59%) more challenging than achieving a work-life balance (41%).
Personal Matters. Despite the stereotype of CEOs/founders bearing the burden of being “lonely at the top,” the reality is that less than one-third (29%) feel strongly that their personal life has suffered. They do concede, however, that they have made sacrifices to their happiness (60%), health (47%) and their relationships (41%).
Coaching the Boss. After doing their due diligence, CEOs/founders have decided it’s time to work on their personal development. Half meet with a personal trainer regularly, 32% utilize an executive coach and 32% see a wellness coach. 22% have a therapist.
Working to Improve. CEOs/founders are well aware, however, that life doesn’t always seamlessly play out like a meticulously planned work project. While 91% frequently miss important occasions outside of work, 86% are making efforts to improve overall life quality by seeking outside help.
Meeting of the Minds. Aside from health, wellness and business coaches, CEOs/founders also spend time learning from their peers. The vast majority (93%) socialize with other CEOs/founders a few times a month or more, and 27% do so multiple times a week.
Helping Hands. While CEOs/founders are finding ways to achieve the work-life balance they’ve worked so hard for, there is an aspect of business they haven’t yet mastered: financial support. Nearly 3 in 4 (74%) CEOs/founders had to turn to friends or family for financial support when launching their company. Additionally, 74% enlist family members to help with the business a few times per month or more.
Fear Factor. When businesses live and die by their ability to secure funding and maintain growth and financial success, relying on a personal network can help—but it certainly isn’t sustainable. This is not lost on CEOs/founders, as 90% admit the fear of failure keeps them up at night more than any other concern.
Risk Management. Indeed, financial concerns are the thorn in CEOs’/founders’ sides that keeps them from fully enjoying the fruits of their labor. In fact, when it comes to their most significant challenges, revenue growth (49%) and raising capital (49%) top the list over concerns of work-life balance (46%).
Skills Challenge. Building a company from scratch is a testament to the CEOs/founders’ business acumen, but they know there are skills that could help them face obstacles to success. CEOs/founders most wish they had more expertise in the hard skills of operations (53%), finance (51%) and sales (37%) prior to starting their business.
Polishing Up. Expertise in hard skills is not the only important factor when starting up a company. CEOs/founders realize they could have used some greater expertise in certain soft skills as well—primarily in public speaking (37%), planning and organizing (37%) and conflict resolution (37%).
Tough Orders to Fill. CEOs/founders find it most difficult to fill leadership positions for sales/customer success (38%), tech/engineering leaders (37%) and operations (25%). Considering that many CEOs/founders recognize a shortfall in their own hard skills, it comes as no surprise that they find it tough to hire staff for executive-level positions requiring those same skills. The importance of these hires helps explain why 53% of CEOs/founders will invest their time to conduct three or more in-person interviews before offering employment.
Finding the Right Match. A major disconnect with an outside investor could mean the difference between a company’s success or failure. Individual partner expertise (47%) was cited as the most important factor when seeking a lead investor, followed by alignment with their company’s vision (44%) and the ability to fund their company over the long run (42%).
Treasured Trait: Once the decision has been made, a premium is placed on bringing business development skills to the table (33%) as the most important help their investor could offer.
Widening the circle. The search for allies to succeed in business does not stop at the workforce. CEOs/founders eventually find they need to attract outside capital. Fortunately, most CEOs/founders recognize fairly quickly that they will require expertise and resource beyond just family and employees. Within a year of starting their company, 79% sought outside investment.
Spirit Animal = Warren Buffett. 36% of respondents say their business personality is best described by the intuitive investor, Warren Buffett, followed by the serious risk-taker Richard Branson (29%) and the idea generator Elon Musk (20%).
Driving Force. All that time networking and polishing their skills leaves many needing an outlet for pent-up energy. That could be what has driven nearly half (48%) of CEOs/founders to test their limits over the last 12 months through extreme sports such as skydiving, mountain biking or zip-lining. Three out of five (60%) have a need for speed. Of that group, 46% enjoy driving high-performance sports cars, 35% ride high-speed watercraft such as jet skis and 25% ride motorcycles.
Norwest Venture Partners launched this initiative to take a deeper look at how CEOs and founders operate and function, how they approach hiring and company culture, and how their leadership styles reflect their own personalities. The insights gained help us offer the best resources and programs to support them on their company-building journeys.
We thank the more than 200 industry-diverse CEOs and founders of privately held, venture- and growth equity-backed companies who responded to our survey.