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Your independent C-suite: A guide to roles in your independent business

Do you feel like you do it all? It’s probably because you do! Learn about the eight C-level shoes you’re filling as an independent.

CEO contemplates next move.
When you’re independent, you’re the C-level everything!

Ask an independent to write a job description for their role and you will likely get some laughs (and maybe a few eye rolls) in return. It’s hard to condense a business owner’s responsibilities into a neat package, as we are often wearing multiple hats at once. 

Juggling business tasks is nothing new, especially when you are just starting and figuring out how everything fits together. But even when you have the experience and budget to hire a team to share the load, your title as “independent business owner” means you are still the one leading the charge in every department. 

Whether you are in startup mode or have years of business development under your belt, you will always be the CEO. In many ways, you operate as the independent C-suite and it can feel like carrying the weight of eight executives all on your own.

However, that does not mean you need to feel stretched in eight directions. By defining and understanding your executive functions, you can pinpoint key challenges and identify new ways to streamline each area. Here are the eight CEOs in your independent C-suite and how you can step into each role effectively.

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1) Chief operating officer

Successful businesses are built on effective operations. It is your responsibility to ensure your entire clientflow is running smoothly and producing the expected results. It is also up to you to locate inefficiencies and implement solutions to increase productivity. The COO’s job is to define standard operating procedures (SOPs), set and maintain goals, seek growth opportunities and support the team’s productivity.

Key tasks for you as COO:

  • Defining company goals and objectives
  • Designing and implementing operational strategies
  • Communicating SOPs to employees
  • Ensuring all departmental decisions align with the company’s mission

2) Chief systems officer

Operations and systems go hand-in-hand, so your duties as CSO and COO may overlap. After all, systems are built to streamline operations—you may discover a new virtual tool as CSO and integrate it into existing processes as COO. Stay vigilant with industry updates and new technologies that can simplify your operation, allowing your team to invest their time and energy into business-building endeavors.

Key tasks for you as CSO:

  • Pinpointing inefficiencies and procedural gaps
  • Researching new technologies
  • Implementing and optimizing systems
  • Training employees to use systems properly

3) Chief financial officer

What’s a business without profit? If you look at any Fortune 500 company, you will likely find a highly successful CFO keeping the numbers in order. As a business owner, though, you are the one responsible for managing finances, cutting costs, and producing more revenue. Even if you have an accountant or bookkeeper tracking cash flow, it is up to you to review the numbers and make strategic decisions to protect your bottom line.

Key tasks for you as CFO:

  • Overseeing and meeting with bookkeepers, accountants, and tax professionals
  • Establishing and nurturing profitable relationships
  • Analyzing financial statements
  • Identifying areas to increase profit margins

4) Chief experience officer

A CXO is dedicated to the brand experience. This includes everything from how the business is perceived online to how customers are treated after booking a service or purchasing a product. Consider yourself the protector of your brand’s reputation. You should be actively providing (or overseeing) intentional touch points with customers, generating positive reviews and testimonials, and ensuring a consistent client experience from start to finish.

Key tasks for you as CXO:

  • Overseeing and optimizing the customer lifecycle
  • Building and updating a customer journey map
  • Supporting the client experience with customer service
  • Developing client-facing SOPs to ensure consistency

5) Chief product officer

Your customers rely on you to solve their problems, so your offerings need to meet their expectations. Whether you run a product or service-based business, your role as CPO is about defining your offerings, optimizing packages and pricing, and guaranteeing quality results for every customer. While you may not have your hands on the development side, it is still on you to maintain the top-notch quality your audience expects.

Key tasks for you as CPO:

  • Developing vision and strategy for new offerings
  • Overseeing product development and service delivery
  • Conducting market research to improve offerings
  • Tracking industry trends and competitors

6) Chief marketing officer

Great offerings fall flat if nobody knows about them. As CMO, it is your job to increase visibility and boost brand awareness. This includes everything from advertising on social media, submitting to podcasts, posting on social media, and writing guest posts to reach new audiences. Even if you are outsourcing content creation, you are still on the hook to ensure your brand messaging is consistent and compelling.

Key tasks for you as CMO:

  • Defining and adhering to a consistent brand voice
  • Building marketing funnels to attract new customers
  • Manage the brand’s reputation and external communications
  • Producing or overseeing content for social media, email marketing, public relations, and other channels for outreach

7. Chief of staff

Experienced CEOs recognize the value of a reliable team—stepping in as a leader is essential for business growth. The chief of staff is responsible for all personnel issues, from identifying where the company needs help to ensuring payroll is on time. Whether you have a team of full-time employees or a few contractors on your side, you know your business’ success depends on your team! 

If you are still operating as a one-person show, rest assured that you will enter this role soon enough. Start thinking about the foundational steps you can take now to prepare yourself to hire and lead later. 

Key tasks for you as chief of staff:

  • Overseeing the hiring process to select the best candidates
  • Onboarding and training staff to follow company policies
  • Providing feedback for improvement
  • Ensuring team members are satisfied and successful

Now, you may have realized that there were only seven c-suite roles outlined. While they are all integral to a successful business, your eighth role is the most important.

8) Chief executive officer

As independent c-suites, our physical and mental well-being is crucial to our success. After all, a broken-down, burnt-out business owner cannot communicate authentically, sell big or lead a team to bring in more revenue! You need to take care of yourself before you can give your business (or your clients) your best.

Caring for your needs and personal growth lets you show up as all of the CEOs in your business without feeling like you have bitten off more than you can chew. You will feel more inspired, creative, and driven to reach your goals, so do not forget to protect your business’s most valuable asset: you and your energy!

Key tasks for you as CEO of you:

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep (rest is vital!)
  • Trying new hobbies that unleash your creativity
  • Spending intentional time with loved ones
  • Seeking continued education for personal growth

Reading through these eight areas might seem like more than you can handle. If you look closely, you will see that you already do wear those hats regularly. It is not a matter of taking on more responsibilities, but rather finding clarity and owning your role as a business owner and chief of everything.

As your business grows, understanding these eight departments will help you determine where you need the most support and hire the right people to fill those roles. You might feel like all roads lead to you (and, in a way, they do!), but that certainly does not mean you have to navigate them alone.

Disclaimer: The advice featured in this blog post was sourced from our HoneyBook Disputes Specialists for sharing general information and knowledge. For specific financial or legal information and advice, please consult an authorized professional.

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