Do you always feel like going to work on Monday? Do you ever have one of those lazy weekends you enjoy so much that it makes you wish Monday would never come? Have you ever experienced such a challenging time at work that it makes you wish the weekend would never end?
And what about CEOs? Are they normal human beings? Do they ever wish they didn’t have to go to work on Monday?
Let me share my experience.
I found out I was a CEO in 2013; that is, almost 5 years after I co-founded Agroknow. A colleague from Michigan State University invited me to talk at an event they were hosting. She asked me for my job title. I wasn’t sure what to say. She said “Nikos, it’s obvious that you are the CEO of your company”. I Googled it to make sure it was correct. It was the first time I understood my actual job title was: CEO of Agroknow.
For the next 5 years, I struggled to figure out what this job was really about. I read Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg more than a dozen times. I studied and practiced leadership tools and methodologies by experts like Pat Lencioni and Verne Harnish. I went through countless hours of training and coaching. I joined the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), interacting with my CEO peers. I read TONS of books explaining the business of running a business.
Still, every week is full of challenges. To name a few:
- Running a business that 10 years ago was so niche and exotic that nobody quite understood what it was we did. “Information management for agriculture and food? Really?”. These days, in both agri-food trends and digital transformation, data economy and AI are here to stay — with fierce competition from huge multinationals and dynamic startups to boot.
- Leading an extremely diverse team, with people from completely different worlds. Sophisticated computer engineers. Nerdy software developers. Passionate food scientists. Traditional agronomists. Twisted MBA holders. Disciplined accountants. Fashion-icon communication experts.
- Transforming a group of all-rounders into a well defined organization with people that have roles, specializations, magic powers and KPIs to measure them, without spoiling the fun.
- Taming a wild financial beast. From the 2015 crisis and empty pockets, to doubling our revenue, for 3 years in a row, and maintaining 5-zero profits. Preserving the cash we need to grow fast, while managing the ups and downs of a competitive market.
- Doing international business while being based in Greece. Being far away from the markets our main customers and partners are based in, but also giving them plenty of opportunities to pay us a visit.
I could keep going. The things that keep me awake at nights. The difficult moments that bring turbulence. The Fridays I go home after a terrible week, completely exhausted, to tell my wife I’ve had enough. Feeling disappointed, that I am not fit for this job, that I’ve no courage left. Feeling like I don’t want to go to work on Monday.
Then the beautiful Greek sun shines and a new week begins. I wake up on Monday morning knowing the job I’m doing is special and very rewarding. I head to the office for our weekly management meeting with a load of questions for the team and plenty of new ideas. I dream of what seems impossible and what a group of dedicated, inspired people can do, together. Feeling like I have the courage to take on the responsibility and serve them as their leader.
After all, this job has nothing to do with managing people. It is all about serving them — as the best leader you can become, the best version of yourself.
This is why I still love doing this job. Even on difficult Mondays.