Are You A CEO Or A  Firefighter?

The office is empty, your team has left for the day, and there you are… alone.

As the CEO of a company, your job is to do more than just run the company. Sometimes you’re just running around with a hose, putting out fires… in fact, some days (or weeks or months) it seems like that’s all you do, right? I know, I was there. It sucks. No, it really - freaking - sucks. 

From the moment your day begins, challenge after challenge is piled upon your shoulders. Of course, you’re strong enough to handle it because you’re the CEO of the company! But, is that the way it’s really supposed to be? Is it really your job to be the person who solves every problem, overcomes every challenge, and answers every question regarding any and every aspect of the company? Is that an efficient way to grow and operate your business? No, not at all…

Yes, I posed for this picture. Then I hired a less chiseled version of me out of modesty   😉

Yes, I posed for this picture. Then I hired a less chiseled version of me out of modesty 😉

Many small business owners and entrepreneurs, people like you and me, find ourselves in this predicament on a daily basis. Correction: I used to find myself in a predicament on a daily basis, but that’s changing. (Notice I said changing and not changed.) Growth is an ongoing, evolutionary process, not a one-time revolution. 

Let me peel back the curtain a little bit and talk about how I got in this mess in the first place…

When my business Ad Zombies started, it was just me. In the beginning, there was no team, there were no support systems, it was me, myself, and I. Then came Sean. So now, it was just the two of us, and of course, we thought that we could make it if we try, just the two of us. He and I. (Sorry, I had to plant the song in your head.)

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Over time, we grew. Then came Brandon. Brandon started building our processes and enabled us to hire another writer, Rachel. So, our writing team was Me, Sean, and Rachel with Brandon running Operations. From that point on, we started to grow… rapidly.

As we grew, processes developed, systems were put in place, but one thing never changed… I was still responsible for all of the problems and challenges. If it needed solving, I was the guy to solve it.

Listen, I’m not complaining, nor am I bragging, I’m simply stating a fact. As the CEO, everything falls on your shoulders and you are ultimately responsible for solving a lot of the problems and challenges facing your company. That’s ownership.

But, is that really the most efficient way to run an organization? Is it wise to have one person handling 12 problems at a time? There had to be a better way.

A few months ago, we made a critical decision, something we learned from Tony Robbins at Business Mastery and it’s changed the way we do things as a company. We started having leadership team meetings every week, at a set time. Every Thursday morning at 10:30 AM, our leadership team comes together in the office. So now, rather than one person trying to solve multiple problems, we have multiple people work together to solve a problem or tackle a challenge. It puts the collective brain power of the leadership team together and when we’re done, we leave with tasks and a timeline to accomplish the goals identified during the meeting. What does this mean? It means that everyone on the team is responsible for a different part of a challenge or problem we’re working on. By the end of the week (for us, that means the following Wednesday) we have dealt with that challenge and are ready for our next regularly-scheduled leadership meeting on Thursday morning. Which also means, we’re knocking things out the minute we see smoke — sometimes BEFORE — so no one has to take on the dangerous role of Firefighter.

If you start applying this in your business, you’ll see just how quickly you can check things off your task list BEFORE they’re a raging issue.


Brainstorm with your team and assign ownership to the specific tasks that need to be accomplished. The only way you can continuously innovate your products, services, and delivery is to ask new questions, get fresh perspectives, hear new voices, and try new ideas. Yes, experiment! Be open to trying things and you might be surprised how much you LOVE what happens.

Every leader has an army behind them. Let your soldiers help you grow and soon, you’ll stop having to put out fires. When you stop putting out fires, you can start homing in how to prevent them in the first place. And that, my friends, is a very good, forward-facing, efficient thing indeed.

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ken ‘spanky’ moskowitz

founder & ceo