I recently met a young man at an entrepreneur’s seminar who was to me the stand out in the whole building. Not because he was the most savvy, well dressed, and well-spoken though. This young man was about 5’7, 140 pounds with a light grey 3-piece suit. Even though his pants were slightly too high showing his lime green and white argyle socks, he was decently dressed. What made him stand out was his strong cologne, acne, braces, and the look on his face like there was no place that he would rather be than here. The same look that a kid has on his first trip to Disney Land. He had managed to gather a bag full of brochures, pens, and other gadgets, but really didn’t seem to be networking. Being the introverted networking guru that I am, I approached him and started a conversation.
After formal introductions and exchanging business cards I asked him what he planned to get out of being at this conference. His response, “I want to be the CEO of a company!” Well after more probing, he didn’t really want to start his own company (mind you that we’re at an entrepreneur’s conference), just move up the corporate ladder. After asking why, I learned that he wasn’t really sure except for the fact that being a CEO had so much prestige and it made so much money!
A lot of people have the aspiration of being a Chief Officer (CO) within a large company. Frequent travel, golf outings with business associates and board members, expensive dinners all on the company’s dime sounds great, right? Of course it does but with every career, there are advantages and disadvantages.
The same advantages can also be disadvantages, like having a security detail follow you everywhere. Sounds like you’re a political figure, right? Well you are! Being the face off and company is great if the company is doing well, but in the tough times of the company, it can be stressful and dangerous! If you were ever known as a party animal, it’s time to put that behind you and keep your nose clean as well.
I had the opportunity to speak with a CO of a Fortune 500 company. He was a man of integrity and modesty, not what a lot of people would expect from a CO. In fact, he was also a farmer and after he retired planned to manage is 300+ acre farm and is a man after my own heart. He’s a strong believer in putting people in a position for success. His openness has led him to be a well-respected leader with his company for years. He shared with me that the glamor of the title isn’t always worth it so you have to have a strong desire to do the job, and do it well. Consider this: a CO’s biggest love was his family and despite that love there were many years that he only spent between 2-5 weeks with them. Luckily this CO talked to his wife before making this career decision way before it was offered to him. He understood the time constraints and the level of commitment it took to be in this position. After little explaining, his wife understood too and was fully supportive of her husband’s career goals. “It’s not something you just do, it’s something that you must really think about!” Those were the words of a man who loved his job and loved his family even more. Vowing to make up for all of the missed birthdays, anniversaries, and lonely nights this CO plans to retire with those things in the forefront of his mind.
The saying, “It’s lonely at the top” is so applicable to a career where reaching the top of a corporation is the goal. If you’re thinking about becoming a CEO, really consider what it means to be in charge of a company. It’s a great position but it may not be all that you have envisioned.
- Retirement plans
- Stock options
- Company paid expenses
- Perks (private planes, country club membership, etc.)
You are a role model and sometimes celebrity in your industry
Time away from friends and family
Majority of your time not your own
High stress position
May be dangerous