43 Truths I’ve Learned as a First-Time CEO

(Photo: Pexels) (Photo: Pexels)

This is a list of lessons, big and small, I’ve learned over my time as the CEO of BlueLight. There are 43 sorted into themes and they range from simple habits to observations on effective fundraising.

Themes in order: Serving customers, Determination, Partnerships including Hiring & Fundraising, Habits, Storytelling, Learning, Decision Making, And Other Observed Truths

Serving Customers

1. Always keep nurturing and growing your community of true believers. They will feed you when you are down.

2. People will take action when perceived value is greater than cost.

3. Competition only matters if customers perceive them as an option. The rest is just noise.

4. Talk to your customers to stay humble and motivated.

Determination

5. You’re going to have people who don’t like you and that’s okay. You can’t be all things to all people. As Churchill said, “So, you have enemies? Great. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

6. Starting a company is painful. If you’re wondering on whether to start it or not, that’s a sign not to. Many flame out because they thought it was sexy, not because they truly wanted to make something happen.

7. If you can’t smile at the end of the day, for multiple days in a row, you’ve got a real problem.

8. Being CEO is often being chief punching bag — even by your alma mater.

9. You need to have an inner scorecard to judge yourself. The court of public opinion isn’t reliable. At the end of the day, you should be proud of yourself and excited for the next move.

10. No matter how often you get knocked down though, you gotta get back up again. Pump up songs help.

Partnerships

11. If you’re doing a good job hiring that means you’re constantly firing yourself from jobs.

12. Fundraising is simple. Find people who think you’re doing excellent work and want to own some of it.

13. Don’t be greedy with valuations or equity sharing. If someone is needed to help create a winning outcome, you want them to enjoy that win as well. This is especially true since new company formation is usually a binary outcome: something is there, or it isn’t (how big it can be is the next question).

14. There really are shitty investors out there who will pretend to be interested in your company only to be spying on behalf of a portfolio company.

15. Work with great people — they will constantly amaze you.

16. Truly great employees don’t work for you. They work with you.

Habits

17. When you get less sleep, you are a worse CEO.

18. You’re happier when you spend a little bit of time outside.

19. Your environment is shaped by where you are, who you spend time with, and what you read. This feeds into your attitudes, actions, and outcomes.

20. Actions have compound interest.

21. Keep investing in your strengths so they become unfair advantages.

22. You need to focus on work/life harmony, not work/life balance. You’ve only got one brain after all.

23. Just do it! (thanks Motiejus and Nike)

Learning

24. Some of the most powerful ideas are simple and that makes it easy to underestimate them — don’t.

25. Take time to think for yourself.

26. You have to keep learning because the game keeps changing.

27. An insight’s value is completely derived from the follow up action.

Storytelling

28. If you’re truly selling a great service to people, it’s not sales. It’s improving someone else’s life.

29. Don’t underestimate the power of a great story.

30. This is an age where information can spread across the world in a matter of hours. All of a sudden something can go from nowhere to everywhere!

31. A compliment is the best cold email to send.

Decision Making

32. The nature of focus is intentional neglect.

33. Excellence has to be your operating standard. (If you can’t do it well, you probably shouldn’t do it.)

34. Removing the bad is often better than adding something new and potentially good.

35. Convention is only valuable if it’s correct.

36. As Phil Libin says, “There are uncomfortable decisions and there are difficult decisions, know which one it is.”

37. There are four currencies that you can invest: time, social capital, attention (aka willpower or energy), and money. Most of us have no idea how to manage the first three.

38. “A general fights on his own terms or doesn’t fight at all” — Sun Tzu. There are right times to do some things and wrong times to do them. Don’t forget when you got creamed in an early morning negotiation.

Other Operational Observations

39. A successful business has customers and makes more money than it spends.

40. You need to know how you’ll get your product into customers’ hands (distribution) and how you’ll make money from it (revenue model). A great product alone isn’t enough. It’s easy to underestimate this.

41. Money in the bank buys you choices and time. Those are nice.

42. We’re still in the early innings of how the internet and digital technology is being applied to the world. Definitely haven’t realized all the ramifications.

43. Be bold and assume it’s a yes until it’s a no.

Preet Anand is the co-founder and CEO of BlueLight, focused on improving personal safety and bringing 911 into the digital age. They are raising their next round to fuel their expansion.  

43 Truths I’ve Learned as a First-Time CEO