Most CEOs worth their salt will exude a tremendous confidence in their start-up’s potential for success. This enthusiasm comes from more than just their passion for their company. Understanding the basis for this confidence will provide you with insight into their leadership, vision and business acumen:
– What is your passion?
– What makes you think your business can beat the competition?
– What is your plan to survive if progress is slower than expected?
– How many startups have you been involved in before?
– How many failed and why?
– How many were successful and why?
– What goals do you have for your company in the next six months?
The list can go on and on, but perhaps the most important and less obvious questions that you should put at the top of the list are:
What is your vision for your company?
In order to succeed, CEOs must have a vision of what direction they want their company to go. Listen closely and ask yourself whether the CEO has a clear idea of where the company is now and if the objectives laid out for the future are attainable. Don’t be afraid to ask how that vision will be achieved if it isn’t clear.
What are your company values?
Most startup companies move very fast. As a result, they could be in a very different place than they were a short time ago. And although things might change dramatically, their underlying values probably won’t. It’s a good idea to understand what these values are because they very well might show you the course the company will take in the future when they become successful, or when things start to go south.
How fast are you growing? What are your plans for IPO and/or exit strategy?
Many CEOs will bristle at these questions and might not even wish to answer them, but they are legitimate and important to gauge whether the company is going somewhere and how fast. This is also a test of the CEO’s transparency and whether they are prepared to involve you in that thought process.
What keeps you up at night?
This is another question that might make a CEO cringe, but whether you get an answer or not says a lot about them. Not only will it tell you loads about the CEO’s fears, but it will also tell you about the current state of the company’s affairs. A good follow up question here would be to ask if there’s a plan in place to address their concerns.
What are some of the most common characteristics of the most successful people in your company?
Answers to this question can tell you a great deal about the company as well as the CEO. It will give you a look at what the CEO considers important about himself as well as other people within his company. It will also give you insight into what attributes can make you successful as well as a heads up on promotions. On the other hand, if the values that the CEO gives you don’t fit your personality and values, it would be better to make your way to the exit door.
Don’t forget that while a CEO is evaluating you, you are also evaluating him. Take the opportunity to do it well.