THE MOST STUPID THING I DID: I became CEO of a burning ship and I won’t leave it

When I told my friends, they called me mental, sick, insane, stupid – and I must agree.

30 days ago, I, female, 29 and with no experience as a CEO, took over my company with a runway of maybe 4 months and with fires all over the place. This company is burning where a company can possibly burn – because of the mismanagement of three really, really, really incompetent young idiots.

I watched them burn it to the ground and when they finally left, I was offered to take over. The worst imaginable decision I could ever take – I said yes. Despite knowing all of the misery.

I think I am insane. I think I should question my self-value. I think I need therapy. Why would I, a girl with plenty of job opportunities all over the world without any knowledge in how to be a CEO – why would I just agree to take responsibilities of a mess I did not create? Just because I want to clean up? Make it better? Prove myself that EVERYTHING can be fixed by good management? Hell, how will I possibly know that? I feel schizophrenic. On the one side I know, that only one mistake will fuck me up completely. On the other side, I feel that I can make it work. And in between, there is me, an exhausted mind and body who hasn’t slept in 30 days, since I took over and who is depersonalizing every day bit by bit. And the worst thing of all is – I don’t feel that I want to change it. So, clearly, I AM INSANE!!!

I just try to trust my instincts, follow my reason, listen to my employees but we are running out of money and I have an investor over my head who only cares for the growth but who is 100% guilty of the mess this company is in. Every single cent I spend will decide on our faith and I got 3 months to turn the destiny of this company and no one to consult. What will happen? For the first time I can only see one way. I must succeed. I don’t see any alternatives.

Is this suicidal? Is this dedicated? Is this strong? Or is this bling?

I will let you know.

  • To you and any other woman in tech,

    Good luck! Go for it!

    There’s a new for-women help desk like StartupsAnonymous (however it’s mainly non-anon). It’s called Leap.

    More info:

    Many, many women join every day. It’s starting to take off…

    Hope to see you there!

  • I took over as CEO of my current company when when we had no runway, were actually in debt and customer complaints were over the roof.

    This was four years ago.

    Today the company has broken even, and as we speak I’m negotiating an acquisition offer, having turned down two offers already. We’ve also raised from two VC’s.

    My mentor told me: it’s in times like these when the strong leaders step up, people like you and me who do not shun any challenge. It’s also in yimes like this when sissies take off and run.

    We are not sissies.

    When the kids are stacked up against you, that’s when you can prove your crazy is Thebes right crazy.

    All the best.

  • I know it’s hard, but try to keep things in perspective! You’re doing everything you can, and even if things don’t end up working out the way you hope they will, you will survive this, and be so much stronger for having done it. Best of luck!

  • That’s the thing about being an entrepreneur… You see where this could go, you believe you can take it there and you keep going.

    It will undoubtedly be one of the biggest professional learning experiences you can have. I say keep going.

    I’m in a very similar position. 33 female CEO of a company that was sinking under previous management. 6 months in, we’re still in huge debt but got many new and important clients, shut down the product that was ruining the company in favor of smaller but more promising and interesting products we already had, changed the entire team and everything is looking sunny again. We finally see that we will make it, even though it’s going to take a while. What I have learned in these 6 months though was more than an entire education, more than a lifetime as an employee. Would be worth it even in we sank.

  • Sounds like you got your hands full. My one piece of advice, don’t allow holding your paycheck, especially more than one, because there is no money. There is a good chance you will never see it.

  • Have you tried hiring a business coach? I hired a business coach after a 5 minute conversation with him. The thing is, I took his tiny amount of advice, went home, and it improved the next two weeks worth of work for me. Then I had an hour long conversation with him, which improved the next month for me. Now, I am about to do a 12-week session in a group… Do you see where I’m headed with this?

    If you haven’t tried it, it might be something you spend an afternoon researching, earnestly.

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