Top Priorities for New CEOs: Where to Begin?

As you step into your new role as CEO, you’re probably experiencing a range of emotions – excitement, apprehension, and even fear. With many responsibilities and expectations, it can be overwhelming to determine where to focus your efforts first. As a seasoned CEO coach, I’ve successfully guided many leaders through this transition. In this article, I’ll share the top priorities for new CEOs and provide actionable advice on where to start.

Assess the Company’s Current State

Before embarking on any major initiatives, create an assessment that gives you a comprehensive understanding of your company’s current situation. This assessment should include:

  • Financial health: Analyze financial statements, budgets, and projections to identify strengths and weaknesses. Company finances are often where you find skeletons in the closet.
  • Market position: Evaluate your company’s market share, competitive landscape, and industry trends. Understand how you are really doing.
  • Organizational structure: Assess the existing organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities. Ask yourself if you have the right people in the right seats.
  • Growth forecasts: Analyze the company’s growth projections and anticipated sales. Consider whether projections, including profitability, are realistic based on past performance. (See: “The 5 Most Common Mistakes CEOs Make When Scaling a Business.”)
  • Operational efficiency: Is the company operating at maximum efficiency? Consider the impact of technology, infrastructure, supply chain, and productivity metrics.
  • Risk management: Understand the critical risk factors, including regulatory risks and compliance. Evaluate the company’s crisis management plan.
  • Stakeholder relationships: Evaluate interactions with investors, suppliers, and the community. How does the company stand with stakeholders?
  • Strategic alignment: Assess the company’s mission, strategic goals, and innovation pipeline.

By conducting a thorough assessment, you’ll be better prepared to make informed decisions and effectively prioritize your efforts.

Develop a Strategic Vision

As a new CEO, you must create a clear and compelling vision for the company. This vision should be grounded in a deep understanding of your market, customers, and competitive advantages. To develop a strong strategic vision:

  1. Conduct market research to identify opportunities and threats.
  2. Engage with key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors, to gather insights and perspectives.
  3. Assess your company’s unique value proposition and competitive differentiation.
  4. Craft a clear and inspiring vision statement that inspires you and your employees.

A well-articulated strategic vision will guide decision-making and unite your team around a common purpose.

Build and Align Your Leadership Team

Your success as a CEO largely depends on the strength and alignment of your leadership team. Assess the existing team and make changes to ensure you have the right people in the right roles.

Consider the following:

  • Evaluate each team member’s skills, experience, and performance.
  • Identify gaps in expertise or leadership capabilities.
  • Make tough decisions to replace or reassign team members not aligned with your vision. (See: “How CEOs Can Overcome Resistance to Change Within their Organization.”)
  • Recruit new talent to fill critical roles and bring fresh perspectives.

Once you have the right team in place, focus on building trust, fostering collaboration, and ensuring everyone aligns with your strategic vision.

Communicate Effectively with Stakeholders

As a new CEO, you must tailor your messages to suit different audiences, including:

  • Employees: Clearly communicate your vision, expectations, and any changes to company culture or strategy. Be transparent and encourage open dialogue.
  • Investors: Provide regular updates on the company’s financial performance, strategic initiatives, and growth plans. Be proactive in addressing concerns and managing expectations.
  • Customers: Reinforce your commitment to delivering value and exceptional customer experience. Seek feedback and address any issues promptly.

Establish Key Metrics and Objectives

To track progress and ensure accountability, define clear metrics and objectives for your team. These should align with your vision and span various aspects of the business, such as:

  • Financial performance: Revenue growth, profitability, cash flow
  • Customer satisfaction: Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer retention rates
  • Operational efficiency: Productivity measures, cost reduction targets
  • Employee engagement: Retention rates, employee satisfaction scores

By setting measurable goals and regularly monitoring progress, you can make data-driven decisions and course-correct as needed.

Foster a Strong Company Culture

Company culture significantly impacts employee engagement, productivity, and overall business success. As CEO, part of your job is to assess the existing culture and take steps to align it with your values and vision. Consider the following:

  • Conduct an employee survey to gauge perceptions of the current culture.
  • Define the core values and behaviors that will shape your desired culture.
  • Lead by example, embodying the values and behaviors you wish to see in your team.
  • Recognize and reward employees who exemplify your desired culture.

Address any harmful or toxic behaviors that undermine your cultural objectives.
Building a strong, positive company culture takes time and consistent effort, but the payoff in terms of employee engagement and business results is well worth the investment. (See: “Importance of Building Positive Workplace Culture as a CEO.”)

Take Action Now

Focusing on these top priorities as a new CEO will help you lay a solid foundation for success. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Working with an experienced CEO coach can provide valuable guidance, support, and accountability as you tackle these challenges head-on.

As a CEO coach, I’ve helped numerous leaders like you successfully transition into their new roles and drive meaningful results for their companies. If you’re seeking personalized guidance and support as you embark on your CEO journey, I invite you to contact me directly. Together, we can identify your unique challenges, develop a tailored action plan, and unlock your full potential as a leader.

Don’t wait – take action now to maximize your impact as a new CEO. By focusing on the right priorities and seeking the guidance of an experienced coach, you can navigate the complexities of your new role with confidence and clarity.

My name is Glenn Gow, CEO Coach. I love coaching CEOs and want to help make you an even better CEO. Let’s decide if we are a fit for each other. Schedule a time to talk with me at I look forward to speaking with you soon.


Take Their Word For It

What Glenn’s Clients are Saying…


Janice Raises Over $100M for Her Company

Janice Raises Over $100M for Her Company

As one of the founders, Janice had created the perfect solution in an exploding market. As her CEO Coach, we worked very hard to create a scalable business model that significantly accelerated revenue growth. This model included geographic expansion, the addition of new product offerings, and stickiness to create repeat business.

This triple revenue-acceleration model not only worked but it attracted the interest of growth investors.

But a growth model wasn't enough. We needed to help Janice become a better CEO. Specifically, we worked on how to manage her board, so their faith in her as the CEO grew as time went on.

For some CEOs, the board can be intimidating. At first, it was for Janice as well. We worked on how to manage the board and get the most out of the board. Ultimately, we turned the board into a strong set of advisors and advocates for Janice as the CEO.

The support and confidence of the existing board was a critical factor in enabling her to raise well over $100M in the next round, increasing the valuation by more than $600M.

Darren Raises His First $3 Million

Darren Raises His First $3 Million

My CEO client (Darren) was starting a company in a new category. He was focused on raising capital for his business and wanted help crafting his story. Darren is a brilliant CEO, yet he realized he could produce a better story with help from someone who has created successful fundraising stories many times.

When we started working together, his story was overly complex, difficult for investors to understand, and not as strong as it could have been. Together we built a story about the tremendous value the company was creating. We used historical precedent to bolster the vision and mission. We gave investors confidence in the founders. We proved that the company could scale.

Investors are pattern-matchers. They look for the patterns that tell them this opportunity is like other opportunities they’ve seen, giving them a strong belief in the potential ROI. Together, Darren and I constructed a winning story that helped key investors see the patterns of success.

According to Darren, “Glenn gave me the perspective and confidence I needed to succeed.” Darren raised $3 million for his startup company in his first round. Darren has continued to successfully raise money in later rounds as well.

Meilin Creates A Scaling Organization

Meilin Creates A Scaling Organization

Meilin was always asking, "How can I help my company grow faster?" She was successful by most measures but had higher growth ambitions.

As her CEO Coach, I helped focus her efforts and energies on an often-overlooked area for many CEOs. This area enables scaling and enables the CEO to manage their team more effectively -- values.

Most CEOs have corporate values but don't use them as the ultimate way to install a belief system - a way for every employee to focus on the most critical issues for the company.

Meilin and I worked on making the values core to the thinking and speaking of the management team. Once the management team adopted these values and started speaking about them in their regular communications, we knew that we were on our way to ensuring that every employee “lived” the values.

While values are not the only thing a company needs to grow fast, they are critical to its success. Meilin's company is now growing over 100%.

Sean Gets It All Done

Sean Gets It All Done

As CEO, Sean had no work-life balance, and he was struggling with the overwhelming responsibilities of being a CEO. One of the biggest challenges of any CEO is to get everything done. The list of critical items seems to grow every day.

As his CEO coach (and as a former CEO), I recognized the stress he was under. That level of stress is no fun. To help Sean become a better CEO, I focused him on delegation, talent development, and balance.

First, we focused on developing Sean's delegation skills. Delegation is the "8th wonder of the world." When you make it work, your workload diminishes, and the company performs at a higher level. As Sean became better at delegating, he also began to see strengths and weaknesses in his leadership team from a different perspective.

The next step was to refresh his leadership team. We created a plan to either develop the ones that could step it up and perform better or find new leadership team members for those that couldn't help the company grow.

Finally, we worked on creating a way of living for Sean that provided him some balance. I tell my CEOs to "put their oxygen mask on first." If a CEO wants to perform at the highest level, they need to take care of themselves first.

Now that Sean has a much better leadership team, he has become a master delegator. By delegating many of the activities he had taken on before, he now has much more time to take care of himself.

Sean's company has now entered a new growth phase. More importantly, he is enjoying his work a lot more and his life a lot more.

Viraj Fires His “Best” Employee

Viraj Fires His “Best” Employee

As a CEO, Viraj was focused on employee retention. He recognized the value of keeping high-performing employees and the high cost of turnover.

One of Viraj's direct reports was one of his "best" employees. This person consistently out-performed against their targets. Within their function, they were a rock star.

However, this same person was toxic to the rest of the organization. They constantly argued with others, and they made most others feel bad about themselves. Viraj found he was spending a great deal of time managing around the toxicity created by this employee.

Viraj valued this person's contributions within their function, and he also really hated the idea of employee turnover. As a result, Viraj put up with this person and continued to work around the toxicity issue.

As Viraj's CEO Coach, I helped him understand that team alignment and team cohesion are critical factors to help the company grow. We agreed that preventing employee turnover is a good goal, but not at the expense of creating a well-functioning team.

Viraj wanted to become a better CEO, and he knew what he had to do. While it was difficult, he decided to fire the person he once thought was his "best" employee.

The first thing he heard from the rest of his direct reports was, "What took you so long?"

Olivia Finds Product-Market Fit

Olivia Finds Product-Market Fit

Olivia, my CEO client, is a product genius. She is highly creative, an excellent problem-solver, and knows how to get products out the door on time.

Olivia raised a great deal of money based on her product ideas and some early successes. The challenge was that her company wasn't growing fast enough. The pressure from the investors was building, and she was worried.

Raising a lot of money early is a blessing and a curse. The curse is that Olivia delivered her product too quickly. She delivered it, making too many assumptions about the market she was serving. When the product was released, it was a good fit but not a great fit.

Olivia was concerned about the time and dollars it would take to conduct research and test product-market fit in multiple market segments. We created a partnering strategy that enabled us to test multiple new market segments in a short time.

Olivia has found multiple market segments that are a fit for the product. Now that she has achieved product-market fit, the strategy is to "go big" on the go-to-market. And her company is taking off.

Wilson Turns the Board Around

Wilson Turns the Board Around

Wilson was a first-time CEO. The company was doing well, but not quite as well as the board had hoped. Wilson found himself uncomfortable as a minority shareholder working with a board that could fire him if he didn't perform.

Wilson wanted to know how to manage a Board of Directors. The first step was to acknowledge that a board has different measures of success than the CEO. That means there will naturally be tension. The second step was to dig in to deeply understand what the key drivers are for each board member.

Based on this information, Wilson can now address his needs, the company's needs, and the board's needs. That was the first breakthrough.

Once he knew how to address the needs of the board, we turned to address his needs. As Wilson's CEO Coach, I helped him realize that the board is an incredible asset to leverage.

Wilson began to build relationships with the board members individually to understand better how they could be of service to him and the company.

When Wilson works with the board, he is fully aware of their needs and addresses them appropriately. More importantly, he now tells the board what he is doing and relies on their insight and experience for feedback on how to help the company perform at a higher level.

Wilson is no longer concerned about the board and now gets more out of them than ever before.

Darius Solved His Crisis

Darius Solved His Crisis

I got the call at 10 PM on a Thursday. Darius, a CEO client, reached out to me just as I was about to end the day. "Glenn, my Chief Revenue Officer, just resigned, and I'm not sure what to do."

Darius was running a rapidly-growing business that was highly dependent on a well-run sales organization. He had delegated sales responsibility to his Chief Revenue Officer so Darius could focus on engineering and product.

The good news is that Darius didn't relinquish oversight or reporting of sales, just sales execution. It's also true that Darius wasn't in a panic, and we had worked on a plan for the departure of each of his direct reports.

At the moment, though, Darius and I needed to review that plan to ensure it was our best option. We checked whether or not the interim head of sales could genuinely step into the role. We discussed which accounts Darius should immediately nurture relationships with. We agreed that the recruiter we would need was still the right recruiter.

We quickly put together a communication plan on how to bring this news to the leadership team and the rest of the company. We worked on the exact next steps to interact with the interim head of sales, the director of sales operations, and HR.

Darius felt he didn't know what to do, but in actuality, he did. We had prepared for this, and he just needed to talk it through in the heat of the moment so he could execute against the plan immediately.

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