The responsibilities of a CEO vary from company to company, depending on the size or structure. In small businesses, it may just be the founder and a CEO, or even just the founder managing every task involved in running the venture. 

This article will look at the following tasks and responsibilities to answer ‘what does a CEO do in a small business?’:

  • Growth strategies
  • Branding and marketing
  • Processes and automation
  • Securing funding
  • Budget and projections

What is a CEO?

CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer and they are usually the highest-ranking person in a company. They may be called something else, such as the Managing Director or President. The CEO has the final say in decisions as they are responsible for the growth and success of the company as a whole.

A CEO can be a one-person show, managing all aspects of the business. However, business growth generally doesn’t come from managing day-to-day operations. Therefore, business owners/founders may choose to hire a CEO to lead other managerial responsibilities while they focus on the product or service at hand.

Tasks and responsibilities

There is no standardised list of jobs that a CEO must do when running a company, but here are some of the main tasks that a small company CEO has to manage in their role.

Growth strategies

A CEO of a small business has to have a long-term vision for the company, as well as plans for how to get through the next week. 

By working from a thorough business plan the CEO can identify milestones for the business’ growth for the first year, five years or beyond, and then decide on the strategies they will use to achieve them.

And in a small business, the implementation of these business strategies may be handled by the CEO, too. Common growth strategies are:

  • Establishing your business in the market – improving sales to increase market share
  • Market development – selling your current products to new audiences, by going international or crossing over from B2C to B2B
  • Product development – launching new products/services to your existing market and audience
  • Diversification – selling new products/services to new markets and customers

These four stages are known as the Ansoff model for growth, and CEOs may prioritise effective marketing to reach these stages and meet the milestones for growth they have set.

Branding and marketing

The small business CEO is also responsible for establishing the look and feel of the business ‘brand’. Brand giants like Coca-Cola or Nike always have a recognisable logo, tone of voice, colour palette and consistent messaging. 

Small businesses should establish these brand guidelines too. If there is no marketing employee, it becomes the job of the CEO to ensure all communications from the business align with the ‘branding’. 

Marketing can easily become a full-time role in a small business. The CEO will decide the direction of the marketing strategy or what the business needs to achieve. But there are a lot of channels (both digital and offline) to cover in even a basic marketing strategy:

  • Offline advertising, such as newspapers, TV, or radio.
  • Paper-based marketing like flyers, business cards, or leaflets for local-based businesses.
  • The business website 
  • SEO
  • Content marketing
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Digital PR (gaining coverage and links to your website on news sites or online publications)

All marketing activity requires planning and reporting to understand which areas are most effective for the business. CEO’s who spend a lot of time on the details of marketing tasks may take on an agency to support the activity, freeing up their working hours for more productive jobs. 

Processes and automation

Businesses work better with processes in place. When certain tasks are automated and can happen without a CEO having to manually do them, it results in improved productivity. 

The CEO’s role is to make sure operations can run as smoothly as possible. This means identifying areas that need a process in place to make them less time-consuming and simpler to manage. The CEO may have to look for appropriate online tools, or even create a system themselves that will save time in the long run.

Finding systems and software that handle administrative duties like invoicing and email responses ensure the business runs more efficiently. Additionally, the CEO can spend time on areas that are more productive to growing the company.

Funding and business assets

Larger companies may have a CFO (chief financial officer), but in a small business, a CEO will take on the financial responsibilities of securing any funding the company needs. This could be applying for loans with a bank, grants from a local authority, or even preparing to present the business plan to investors to secure a more stable financial position.

It is also the CEO’s responsibility to secure assets that the business needs to operate. Assets are valuable items that you need to run the business, ranging from vehicles and machinery to product stock or laptops. If you need more information on what your business assets are you can find out more here.

Budget and projections

The CEO splits the company’s budgets into different business activities. They determine what the total spending amount can be, which will break down into many areas, including:

  • Acquiring assets to run the business
  • Paying freelancers
  • Marketing budget
  • Operational costs
  • Professional services (like using an accountant, IT support or a legal advice service).

The CEO makes the decisions about where spending goes and monitors the spending regularly to update the budget if too much or too little has been spent in certain areas. Every year, the CEO will revisit these numbers and draft a more suitable budget for the future, learning from the previous years’ spending.

Using Countingup to make the role of CEO easier

A CEO’s time is precious. Countingup helps thousands of business owners save countless hours of financial admin. 

The Countingup business current account has built-in accounting software that automates many aspects of complex bookkeeping and tax calculations. 

Find out more here about how it can help you keep on top of your business finances so that you can focus on the tasks that are most important to your business.