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CMO to CEO: How Marketing Leaders Can Make The Ultimate Transition

Bigger is not always better. Especially if you want to be CEO.

Whether you’ve always had your mind set on being the leader or not, joining a small startup has numerous benefits for those interested in a variety of functions.

FMF guest-host Katie Bullard sits down with Green Revolution Cooling CEO Peter Poulin to discuss the transition from functional to enterprise leader on this #TakeoverTuesday.

Here’s what we’re unpacking today:

  • The transition from functional to enterprise leader
  • The benefits of growing with a startup

This post is based on a podcast with Katie Bullard and Peter Poulin. You can listen to the full episode here and below.

From functional to enterprise leader

Becoming an enterprise leader insinuates that you’ll need to have a solid understanding of all company functions. You will need to effectively communicate with many different personality types and make some tough decisions.

Becoming the CEO will take more work than simply being really good at your current job. That’s why you’re in that position. You will need to put in some extra credit if CEO is in your future.

Peter points out that he has been able to make a bigger difference by being part of a smaller business. He wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that he has today if he had been partial to large enterprises.

Crossing the threshold from functional to enterprise leader in a small organization holds many benefits over a mega-company, including:

  • You will have more opportunities for learning and growth within the business.
  • It’s easier to build strong relationships with your peers.
  • You can potentially accomplish more.
  • Problems seem to be less complex.
  • It’s easier to identify and address obstacles.
  • Communication is more direct.

More opportunities for growth

Peter iterates that the first benefit of growing in a small company is the opportunities for learning and growth.

Upon joining a new business, you should make it clear what your end goal is. This makes it easier for leadership to envision where you’ll best fit into the organization.

Being clear about your professional goals will also introduce leadership to the idea of allocating a wider variety of tasks to you. To reach the point of trust that’s required to take on more responsibility, Peter suggests…

building relationships with other departments. To acquire a better understanding of the company, cultivating relationships with other department heads is necessary. 

Your peers at work are your partners that will help advance the business. Not every strategic partnership is external. Especially in a small organization, it’s crucial to have empathy and a moderate understanding of other people’s challenges and expectations.

In order to learn about other functions in your company, reciprocity must be prevalent in your internal business relationships. Approach your peers with a willingness to help for nothing in return. When the time comes, they will be more open to seeing you move into the CEO position.

doing your job really well. It’s fantastic to show your willingness to learn and grow in other areas. However, if you’re not performing in your current position, it will be hard for leadership to trust you with more responsibility.

Peter stresses the importance of exceeding expectations within the position you have. Earning credibility and trust for the work you do now will speak volumes to the dedication you’ll have as CEO.

More opportunities to clear up confusion

The second benefit of growing in a small company is the increased opportunities to clear up any organizational confusion.

Address obstacles

At Green Revolution Cooling, Peter and the entire team (about 30 people) meet to discuss the progress on their company goals. This weekly meeting allows the team to celebrate any successes, but also to work through any organizational hold-ups.

In these meetings, Peter’s team addresses obstacles they’d come across in their work. Because it’s a small organization, identifying solutions is normally quick and painless. Team members can discuss issues directly as opposed to maneuvering bureaucratic protocols.

Improve communication

Weekly roundups give Peter and the rest of the team plenty of opportunities to work on effective interpersonal communication as well. 

If you’re planning on transitioning to CEO in the future, you should be honing your communication skills with different personality types. Peter has found value in his ability to break down a complex idea into actionable and repeatable steps. This skill has made it easier to effectively communicate across multiple job functions.

CEO decisions are not black and white

Most times, the decisions CEOs settle on mean compromises for one or more departments.

Moving from a functional leader to CEO will require extra work, learning, and relationship-building. If you feel that the CEO’s chair is right for you, consider a small startup. You’ll be able to gain a strong understanding of all business functions, personalities, and ultimately make a bigger difference in your organization.