CEO: Chief Editorial Officer

Matt Harvey, Stanford University March 18, 2011

Comparisons are frequently drawn between CEOs and the head coaches of sports teams. Maybe this explains all the management books written by championship winners. In this comparison, CEOs are leaders who create game plans and find the players they need to win. Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and CEO of mobile payment company Square, sees his job as being much closer to the role of Chief Editorial Officer.

Young companies are constantly flooded with input from customers, engineers, and support teams. However, startups need to choose the one or two ideas that are truly worth focusing on to sustain the product and service for the long-term, says Dorsey. As the Chief Editorial Officer of a startup, he targets three areas in which to apply his editorial guidance.

Editing Team Dynamics

Dorsey believes that if you’re trying to build a group of people to focus on building one great thing, it’s important to aim for the optimal team dynamic. “Edit the best people in, so [you] have a good cast of characters, and edit away any negative elements,” says Dorsey. Moreover, “editing away negative elements” may not mean you have bad employees, but that these employees may just not be the right fit at this time.

Editing Communications

All competent CEOs appreciate the need to communicate vision to internal teams, but what about external audiences? Dorsey believes that a company needs to communicate everything they are through the product or service. Customers and the general public should not be thinking about a person (like a CEO?) when they think about your company. According to Dorsey, the CEO needs to offer editorial guidance to ensure that, “The product is the story we are telling the world.”

Editing the Money in the Bank

For Dorsey, the CEO also fulfills an editorial need when choosing from financing options for a startup. Do you take money from angels or venture capital investors? Or do develop a business model that allows you to build revenue from the start? Dorsey says Square has been fortunate enough to take in revenue since day one, which allows his firm to better balance these issues. However, as every startup is different, a CEO must constantly be editorially selective in choosing the right blend of revenue generation and outside investment to power future growth.

Watch Jack Dorsey’s full ETL lecture at ECorner.