A Case for Co-CEOs | Abacus Wealth Companions


In September of 2021, Abacus started a seek for a brand new CEO. The world was nonetheless in the midst of a pandemic, our workforce was exhausted, and the worldwide financial system was beginning to present critical indicators of slowing down. We had been working onerous as C-level executives navigating the most important disruption to the enterprise panorama in a long time, but the 2 of us threw our hats within the ring to co-lead an organization of 70 individuals as co-CEOs. 

What ensued was a multi-month interview course of, a deep dive into the professionals and cons of co-leadership, and plenty of discussions concerning the idea of “energy.” When our Board of Administrators selected the 2 of us to co-lead this multi-billion greenback agency, we have been elated. The trade – and, admittedly, a few of our purchasers – had questions. 

We welcomed the skepticism, rolled up our sleeves, and started working. One yr later, our nice experiment has gone higher than anticipated and we’re sharing our early classes in hopes of constant conversations about the advantages of shared management in enterprise. Right here’s what we have now discovered up to now:

If It’s In regards to the Energy, You’re Doing it Unsuitable

Management is a humorous factor. It may be onerous to pinpoint chief, but it surely’s fairly straightforward to identify a foul one. A frontrunner that’s so centered on the ability of the place is lacking the purpose. Good management is refined. It’s not about energy – it’s about duty. Management is love to your firm and staff. Management is making the onerous selections, quietly doing what is correct, and never needing to take credit score. Management is one million small selections and actions that add as much as tangible outcomes. Management will not be about you, it’s about everybody else. If it’s about you, everybody loses.

Neither of us cared concerning the title. We cared about making a distinction. The title wasn’t a objective, it was merely a method to that finish.

1 + 1 = 3

We regularly heard the acquainted phrase of “it’s lonely on the prime.” We questioned why? Did it must be lonely? What if you happen to had somebody you would be completely sincere with, who had all the identical data that you just did, who you would speak issues out with? Or lean on when issues are robust?

Managing an organization is an immense duty. You’ve gotten the complete chessboard of knowledge and must make selections that individuals don’t at all times like or perceive. You need to reply to shareholders but in addition construct belief and confidence with staff – all whereas driving the corporate in direction of progress and profitability. It’s grueling work at occasions. Having somebody to fortify these selections makes them a tiny bit simpler to make. A sanity test is an efficient factor.

Now we have discovered that some selections do take longer, however the high quality of the selections is healthier. And when we have now to make the onerous calls, it actually helps to have a teammate prepared to choose you up off the ground.

Do the Laborious Work

Folks have requested us if we struggle or disagree? The reply is sure. The dedication we made to our firm was our disagreements would occur behind closed doorways. We’d be a unified entrance, help one another publicly, and remove triangulation (principally, don’t use mother towards mother – we gained’t play that recreation).

We’re completely different individuals who course of and work in numerous methods. Now we have had so many conversations hashing it out, testing and recalibrating higher methods to work collectively. Attempting to grasp why Neela must spend 12 hours in a spreadsheet to really feel higher a couple of explicit board presentation; determining why Mary Beth wants two totally open days to visualise our ten yr plan and the definition of the tangible impression we have to make. 

Relatively than attempt to make one another work in a different way, we help one another to achieve success in our distinct methods. We divide and conquer duties that carry every of us pleasure. We push one another to stretch our weak areas. We name one another on our bullshit.

Belief Your Intestine

The imaginative and prescient we pitched our Board of Administrators was one in all sustainable progress that put the consumer and worker experiences entrance and heart. We doubled down on firm communication, transparency, and construction. We up to date firm processes and insurance policies to boost the consumer expertise and created extra instruments and assets to work together with alongside the consumer journey. We highlighted our staff method to servicing purchasers. Internally, we shared our quarterly firm financials, hosted “Espresso with the CEOs,” printed details about our partnership observe, and engaged the agency on our quarterly and annual targets. We scheduled espresso chats and enjoyable worker lunches. We held a company-wide retreat in Boston with the only objective of fostering connection.

And you understand what? We expect it’s working. Our enterprise key efficiency indicators are trending in the fitting path. Our staff has shared suggestions that they really feel properly knowledgeable about the way forward for the corporate and the half they play in that future.

Why did we decide to run collectively? Fairly merely, we introduced completely different abilities to the desk and thought the corporate would do higher with each of us on the helm. We acknowledged that the position of CEO is sort of broad and requires time and functionality in lots of numerous areas. We rounded one another out, creating each breadth and depth of experience.

And, lastly, it’s much more enjoyable.

Neela Hummel, Co-CEO

Mary Beth Storjohann, Co-CEO


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