I became a startup CEO because it was the only palatable job I could find. But I never really knew how to do the job well.

After $1.1MM, 17 employees, 4 years and 2 companies, I think I’ve finally figured it out.

The first job of a CEO is to define the mission, to set the goalposts and to define the units used to measure progress along the way. Fail that and there’s no hope. Your ship is rudderless. Even the best people will flail and work in discord.

The second job of a CEO is to build the organization and recruit the best possible team to execute on job #1. Do this wrong and you’ll underperform. You are beatable. Hell, do it really wrong and you’ll never ship a product. Do it right and you can build the next Google.

The third job of a CEO is to acquire the resources––money, typically––to build the team and buy the equipment you need to properly execute on job #1. Money is an enabler, a necessary reagent like oxygen, that keeps the fire that is your startup alive. It’s presence guarantees only survival, not success.

If you do job #1 right, the rest is a lot easier. Do it wrong and you’re in for a long, unfulfilling slog.