23 Mar A Co-CEO Future for B2B SaaS Companies: Fantasy or Inevitability?
March 23, 2023
I believe that in the near future, software companies will be run by two CEOs.
-CEO#1 will be the inside-out-leader, facing the company, managing the portfolio of company investments and assets, owning Product, Finance, and HR.
-CEO #2 will be the outside-in-leader, facing the market, owning all outside communities of interest, including Customers, Prospects, Partners, and Individual Influencers, as well as key functions like Sales, Marketing, and Business Development/Partnerships
They will truly be Co-CEOs and will share critical functions like vision, planning, strategy, and culture.
Two CEOs: harmonization at the helm
In today’s structure with one CEO flanked by CPOs, CFOs, CHROs, CCOs, and CROs, we have one CEO managing the assets (product, people, portfolio) and the communities (customers, prospects, partners, influencers), but IMHO, this job is too big and leads to C-suite battles which could be better harmonized within these two domains and with two leaders.
In our two-CEO future model, the one CEO who faces the CPO, CFO and CHRO is pretty straightforward. This CEO manages all of the assets and the ‘portfolio’ decisions that relate to how these IP, Human, and financial resources are harmonized across the company.
The second CEO, who manages all the GTM communities of interest as well as the Sales, Marketing, and CS teams, is more controversial. Our model solves a giant B2B SaaS GTM dysfunction, namely how CROs and CCOs typically mismanage the larger communities in the market.
A holistic GTM future
As we discussed in our December column on Outside-In GTM = GoToEco, a holistic GTM cannot focus on getting and keeping revenues from prospects and customers, which is where CROs and CCOs typically focus; instead, it must consider all the communities of interest as shown the diagram below.
In a two-CEO future, the leader that faces the community will be the Ecosystem Chief who thinks about the Ecosystem, including all market-facing communities in the diagram above – customers (@12 O’Clock), prospects (@6 O’Clock), customer partners and influencers (@9 O’Clock), and the company’s partners and communities (@3 O’Clock). Working for this CEO will be CROs, CMOs, CCOs, and Partner/Community teams.
In this Co-CEO future, Sales and Customer Success as we know it will also change forever:
-We will never sell alone
-We will always leverage the trust that others have to add greater value to customers and prospects
-We will prioritize and value the trust we lend to partners and communities to drive the all-important reciprocity flywheel
-We will change our orientation from “me” to “us” and from fear and greed to caring and abundance
Unlock the ecosystem
Is this mentality shift practical, tactical, and effective? Yes, and right now!
Not every SaaS company will have Co-CEOs out of the gate, but the smart ones will realize that taking a holistic view of ecosystems and maximizing the value added to the collective community is the only way to “GoToEco.” The dual CEO model transforms business and unlocks maximum customer ecosystem potential by creating shared value and perpetuating ethical and sustainable businesses and business models.