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Avoid appointing a 'Chief Everything Officer' in a growing gaming business

Imagine this. You are a Founder CEO of a high-growth gaming studio, you've successfully completed the Series A funding round, overcoming numerous challenges by bootstrapping available resources and are just about holding on to your sanity! Now, at the crucial stage of scaling up, you recognize the need for additional senior leadership to drive success - and preserve your sanity!

However, appointing this executive entails significant expense and affects the burn rate, making it crucial to approach this decision carefully. Failing to act or executing it poorly can impede growth and hinder seizing valuable opportunities. So, how can you navigate this situation and ensure the best outcome?

The Pitfall of Overburdening New Executives:

It is common for founders to expect newly appointed industry executives to solve a myriad of problems, placing an unrealistic burden on their shoulders. And therefore, it is vital to define the responsibilities that are NOT their domain. Whilst these executives may possess a broad skill set and the capability to solve multiple challenges independently, expecting them to be tackled concurrently spreads them too thinly and prevents them from making a substantial impact. In the rapidly evolving environment of a growth-stage company, appointing an executive team of generalists has the potential to cause the business to stagnate and not move forward with the necessary pace.

Balancing Holistic Understanding with Defined Responsibilities:

How many times have we heard the T-shaped leader analogy?! While effective executive leaders should understand all functional and business challenges at a holistic level, it is essential to establish well-defined areas of responsibility where they can truly make a difference. This doesn't necessarily require appointing a Chief X Officer for every function, as that is an unfeasible luxury for a small, growth-stage business. Instead, avoiding the trap of a Chief Everything Officer is key.

Whilst blurring the lines between people’s responsibilities is often a necessary evil in ‘getting stuff done’ when launching a business, continuing this way of working into growth stage and beyond will hinder progress.

The Chief Everything Officer trap has the potential to cause frustration and suboptimal outcomes for both the newly appointed executive and the Founder/CEO, resulting in unrealized potential for both the business and the individual.

Guiding Principles for Founders/CEOs:

To navigate the challenges associated with appointing additional senior leadership, consider the following principles:

1. Foster Open Dialogue

Maintain regular and open communication with the newly appointed executive. Whilst their appointment has allowed you to have a greater focus on fundraising, investors, and long-term strategy, minimizing time spent with the executive is counterproductive. Ensure their integration and ongoing support by valuing their input.

2. Transparent Representation

During the hiring process, provide an honest, warts and all representation of the challenges and weaknesses alongside sharing the excitement of your vision for, and potential of the business. An experienced executive can help prioritize these challenges and provide a realistic assessment of their ability to address them effectively.

3. Evolving Responsibilities

Regularly review and redefine the executive's responsibilities at appropriate checkpoints that relate directly to the evolution of the business, and its challenges. This enables the business to leverage their breadth of experience while avoiding spreading them too thin, ensuring maximum impact and growth.

4. Consider an Advisory Board

Before making an additional executive hire, explore the option of establishing or expanding an advisory board. This approach can provide deep specialist knowledge and broader leadership without incurring the high cost associated with a new executive. A well-cultivated advisory board can offer valuable guidance and support.

In the dynamic landscape of a growing gaming business, the appointment of additional senior leadership is crucial for sustained success. By avoiding the pitfall of burdening executives with a plethora of responsibilities and embracing well-defined roles, founders and CEOs can unlock the true potential of their business.

Championing open dialogue, providing transparent representations, and continuously evolving responsibilities will ensure effective collaboration between the executive team and the visionary leaders at the helm of the company.

If you are a Founder or CEO of a growth stage gaming organization or a group-level executive leading a number of portfolio gaming companies and would like to discuss this further, please contact Kathryn Spetch, Consultant in our Global Gaming Practice, or get in touch with us here. 

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