Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

Wearing many hats while running a business


Last week I reviewed yet another book about Steve Jobs and Apple, the “Insanely Simple” and as you remember, we discussed the idea of simplifying everything when running a business… and the importance of the “key decision-maker” to be taking part in product meetings. In line with this thinking I’m wearing two… actually three different hats in my company which on one hand sounds complicated but on the other is simplifying many aspects of running my business and makes perfect sense… if you make the distinction pretty clear.

Wearing many hats while running a business

One-man-show to CEO migration in progress…

Currently we’re a team of 11 at Nozbe and the team is rock-solid from my stand point and we’ll be growing a little more in the upcoming months but I like our small-yet-effective team :-) The thing is, I started out as a one-man-shop in 2007 when I founded Nozbe doing everything I could, from development, design, to marketing, accounting… you name it. Everything. Transition from “one-man-shop” or “I-can-do-everything-better-than-anyone-else” mindset takes time and patience but is necessary if you want to grow your business. And I do want to. And I am growing it :-)

Real empowerment - people make decisions

The toughest thing for me was to empower folks on my team to make decisions and let them fail. I’m getting better at it. My CTO (Tomasz) and Chief Support Manager (Delfina) are doing a great job at making their own decisions and it’s great to see them grow with you. It’s tough, but it’s necessary.

Being a boss… and a subordinate at the same time

I love Nozbe and designing it (especially when I have a talented designer Radek as my wing man) so my second role in the company is the “head of product” - I’m responsible for the vision and user experience. In this role I belong to my CTO’s team and I’m reporting directly to him because Tomasz, being the CTO is responsible for the entire technical operation (all product developments) and repots to me (the CEO). You see where I’m going with this?

As a boss I plan the product with CTO (who plans the execution) but immediately after that I stop being the boss and now my CTO is my boss as I report to him as the “product guy”. This way he knows he has to demand from me great work, feedback on time, and product decisions on time, just like he demands the same excellent work from his developers. The situation is clear and I need to do a great job like everyone else.

This ties well with the Insanely Simple rule that the key decision maker (me being both the CEO and product guy) is always there at the key product meetings and decisions. It might produce a kind of double-personality disorder but I don’t mind and I think it does make sense.

Similarly I’m also the “marketing guy” in my company. I mean, as the boss and CEO I plan with our head of Support (Delfina) our marketing campaign and she’s responsible for the execution of it. She has to get other support gals and the designer involved to deliver the marketing message on time. In this relationship I’m also the “marketing guy” very often writing the copy of the blog post or email messages or something - and again, I report to her and need to do my job so that she can do her job better… and again, I’m on her team, so she manages me.

More often I’m reporting to someone than they are reporting to me

In relationships with my team I wear my CEO hat usually on Mondays when we do our “Weekly Review” with Delfina and Tomasz. The rest of the week for them I’m just a person on their team who has to deliver a great work so that they could report back to their CEO (me, on Mondays) what they’ve done. Again, may sound confusing but it’s not. I also don’t take part in all the meetings and decisions, only the ones that require my “marketing hat” or “product hat” or (of course) my “CEO hat”.

The more I think about it the more I need to get a “marketing guy” on our team to focus most of my time on the product which actually is our biggest marketing machine and it’s what I really love doing - when the product is good, it just works better and (in consequence) sells better. Other than that, I like wearing my different hats and as our team grows I’m going to be able to wear only few of them (two ideally) but I love the distinction between these roles.

How many hats are you wearing and why? Which ones you love wearing and which ones don’t make sense anymore?