You’re Not A CEO; You’re A “Synthesis Point”

The head exec is where the organization intersects, notes former Bazaarvoice CEO Brett Hurt. And the best make the most of that position.

You’re Not A CEO; You’re A “Synthesis Point”

“You guys don’t know much,” former Bazaarvoice CEO Brett Hurt tells a room full of founders at First Round Capital. “I don’t know that much more than you do. You aren’t born knowing how to either found a company or be a CEO. You aren’t born knowing how emotional this journey can be.”


Hurt, who led the Austin-based social marketing service Bazaarvoice into its über-successful IPO, draws a distinction between being a founder and a CEO: While the founder brings the idea to the world, the CEO builds and leads the organization into its opportune land.

That distinction reminds us of the same qualities that venture capitalist extraordinaire Marc Andreessen is looking for in founders:

“We aim for a trifecta in the people we want to back. We’re trying to find a product innovator who is entrepreneurial and wants to start a company, and who also has the bandwidth and discipline to become a CEO.”

So while being a founder is a single event–Look, Ma, I started a company!–becoming a chief executive is an on-going process, one that Hurt says is unique by its intersectionality. A highly functioning CEO, he says, is a “synthesis point” where the arcs of the organization converge–by way of coffees, walks, and well-pruned meetings.

Informed by that perspective, “The CEO has the ability to look across the company and reinforce the vision” of the company, Hurt says. And as a steward of that vision, the organization can grow into the long term.” He explains:

“We had the opportunity to sell Bazaarvoice many times. We could have sold it for $25 million when it was a year old. There are certain people in Austin, where I’m from, that would have said, ‘Hey, congratulations.’ Instead, we created a company worth about $600 million with 800 people and lots of economic ripple effects as a result.”

So how to best take advantage of that vantage? Hurt studied up on how to do so; as a result, he recommends Marc Benioff’s Behind the Cloud and Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations–two books that will inform your leaderly decisions.

The Bottom Line: The CEO is where the organization intersects, so build that bandwidth within yourself.


Hat tip: First Round

[Image: Flickr user Daniel Oines]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.