Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

The Rah-Rah CEO is Priority Number 3 of a Good Startup CEO


The third of the top 3 Startup CEO priorities, I believe, is to be the Rah-Rah CEO Face of the Company guy.    People who have pitched us in Atlanta Ventures have heard me ask this question: “Which one of you is the Rah-Rah guy?”

What I mean is this: Who is going to be “out there” jumping up and down, grabbing attention and being the face of the company?   Every company needs a persons face. It’s not enough to be a cool brand.   Facebook is Zuck.  Apple is Jobs.   MSFT is Gates.   Dell is, well, Dell.  Yahoo is Marissa. Salesloft is Porter.  Pardot was Cummings… now is Salesforce, is Benioff.  AirWatch is Dabierre.  ISS was Klaus. Oracle is… Virgin is… Twitter is… Google is… Turner is…     You see where I’m going with this.   Even a 3-person startup, needs the Rah-Rah “face guy.”

Here are some tips and thoughts on being the Rah-Rah guy.

Be active on social media.   Not obsessed. Just active. Show a personality. Share thoughts, share opinions. Be funny. Be where the discussion is happening. Get mentioned there. Not a company twitter handle, a personal Twitter handle.

Write.   Personal blogs are hugely important for Startup CEOs. It gives you an outlet to discuss macro views of the world that aren’t specifically appropriate to your corporate blog. It also gives you good rhythm and is a nice personal brand platform. It’s pretty likely this won’t be your last company. Make sure people know what you are doing.

Be a person.   Don’t be afraid to share personal stories and parts of your life that are important to you.

Speak, educate, inspire.   Startup CEOs need to be in front of an audience every chance they get. If possible, set a yearly goal for how many public presentations you will give.  Help educate your market about what you do. Help them accomplish their mission in their own businesses and they will repay you.  Don’t always be selling in these presentations. Just be there, be inspiring and be helpful.

Share your personal values.    Along with sharing your personality, share what’s meaningful to you. People will connect with you, because more than likely, other people care about some of the same things you care about. Don’t silo your beliefs and passions away from your company. Be open and transparent about them.

Be an active leader in the community.    Participating in non-profits, leadership or otherwise, is a valuable activity for any Startup CEO. It will help you keep perspective on your own problems, but if you have the right intentions, it will repay you with new opportunities, new ideas, new contacts, new inputs that will help your startup.

Don’t be too afraid of other entrepreneurial projects.   The most successful entrepreneurs I know always have more than one thing going on.  One of my friends tells me that he sees his life as a stool, and he wants it to have four-legs.  Your stool can still stand on 3 legs if one of them falls out from under you.   This goes against what most think about being focused and only doing one thing.  While I agree, for first time entrepreneurs, keeping the plates spinning requires 150% focus and attention, but once you’ve been around the block at least once, you will begin to understand that adding diversity to your energy output makes you learn how to be more efficient.   Done right, you can create a personal synergistic ecosystem where each project feeds the others.

Last point… if you aren’t the Rah-Rah guy, it may be hard to come out of your shell and go find him or her. I sympathize with you, although I can’t relate. :)  My advice to you is to get in front of the connectors around you. Investors, bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs.   Be humble and tell them you need a Rah-Rah CEO.  The good thing about Rah-Rah CEOs is that they aren’t hard to find if they are good at being visible.      I can say with confidence that there are plenty high energy guys out there looking to be your Startup CEO.


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