By 6 a.m., Henry Albrecht is already thinking about work. As the chief executive officer of Limeade, a wellness engagement software company in Seattle’s suburbs, Albrecht constantly thinks about work and seemingly is always on the clock.
But it’s a good thing, he said, because he gets to interact with employees on a daily basis, check in with specific projects and learn new perspectives.
With more than 10 years of experience as a CEO, Albrecht knows what it takes to be his best boss self and uphold a conducive and engaged company culture. While to many it may seem that CEOs reside in an ivory tower, the truth is people like Albrecht are everywhere, balancing a company and family time while bearing a great deal of responsibility.
But what exactly is in the daily job description of a CEO? Employer-rating site Glassdoor recently released its 2017 list of “Highest Rated CEOs,” which includes the usual suspects: Zuckerberg, Musk and Benioff. But it’s Clorox Co.’s Benno Dorer who checks in as the No. 1 boss, according to Glassdoor.
The list also allowed Workforce to ponder: What makes a good CEO? To answer that at least in part, we had to ask another question: What is a day in the life like for a CEO?
Whether it is managing a team of individuals dedicated to workplace wellness at Limeade, running a rapidly growing tech startup in Chicago or trying to coax consumers to scrub clean with a bathroom product startup called Scrub30, CEOs often have a tough and stressful job. Sometimes it’s misconceived; other times it’s right on the nose. But the commonality lies in the knowledge that being a CEO can be tremendously rewarding.
A CEO Morning Ritual
Twenty-nine-year-old Matt Mroczek, CEO and founder of Scrub30 in Chicago, gets his day going with a bike ride or a morning run — sometimes before he has his coffee.
“If I am running, that gives me a lot of time to process what I need to get done,” Mroczek said. “I don’t even check my email in the morning. I get right out and I try to prioritize what my day is first before seeing what all my emails are telling me what is important.”
Mroczek, who lives in Chicago with his dog and enjoys seeing the sun rise and set over Lake Michigan from his home, said he used to wake up and get right to emails. But after noticing their ability to suck the day away, he realized it was more important to work on big picture things than make sure every single person hears back right away.
That step back from work is key to balancing priorities.
Although Limeade’s Albrecht is at the office by 7:30 a.m., he still finds time to be with his family, walk his dog and read the paper — along with a healthy breakfast if he has no morning meetings. If the latter exists, he tries to fit in meetings with a social or food component in the morning so he can free up his afternoon to work and be home for dinner.
“I find that there are only so many nights you can do a happy hour when you have a family and want to be home with them for dinner,” Albrecht said.
When it’s a busy day at work, it’s important to notice when the day is running you or when you are running the day, he noted. And if it’s the former, then adjustments need to be made to create space for what is important — even if it’s not on the daily schedule.
Amanda Greenberg, 32, CEO and co-founder of Baloonr, a Chicago-based tech startup that is removing bias from the workplace, said she is constantly experimenting with morning routines that fit her schedule. The Dartmouth College alumna said small teams of five do daily check-ins through video calls, but also added that an internal check-in to make sure business is on track is valuable to start the day.
“I am more of a night owl so I try to leave more flexibility in the morning, knowing that a lot of my creative work and moving things forward happens at night.”
An active and outdoorsy person, Greenberg said enjoying the weather helps get her creative juices flowing, which often results in her best thinking.
Thoughts on Startup Culture
For Greenberg, running a startup has a lot of challenges. “Everything is always moving and you are pushing just to go faster and faster and bigger while paying attention to all of the details,” she said.
Often, there isn’t enough time for all the tasks to be completed, but as with most startups — and even bigger companies — the work gets done with motivated teams and resources, added Greenberg. And according to Albrecht, it is important to set time aside for the projects on his mind and ones that employees may be struggling with.
Mroczek find himself in a similar startup culture vibe. Working with international clients and constantly hustling to network and market his product, time is always of the essence. Separating work and personal is not a thing, he said with a laugh.
Scrub30, a monthly subscription service that changes people’s body scrubbers every 30 days, is busy gearing up for a product launch Aug. 20. Mroczek is expanding his team with designers, a copywriter and interns who will work on video branding, PR and marketing. He is overseeing everything and making sure partners and products are ready to be sold online and shipped. With all of this going on, he sometimes finds himself answering emails at 1 or 2 a.m. The company’s Instagram already has 2,700 followers and Mroczek shared what makes him smile: getting direct messages on social media about people’s excitement for the product — and it hasn’t even launched yet.
“I know where we want to go and people are really starting to latch onto that,” he said. “[People] don’t even know anything about us and they already think it’s cool.”
“As a founder, you get tested on your leadership skills every day,” Mroczek said. Greenberg added, “You are pushed so far and learn so much about yourself.”
Her endless grit, resilience and perseverance are some qualities Greenberg said she has strengthened in herself, adding those lessons come at a quick pace when one starts a business. Despite the failures, both startup founders agreed that the successes and customer appreciation kick challenges and negatives to the curb.
“Everything that comes your way, you can always look at it as a ‘I am putting my hands up and I’m done,’ ” Mroczek said, noting the power social media has these days on a new business. “You are always putting your own reputations on the line because once you put something out [on social media] that is your word.”
Even though there is no guide to being a CEO and making everything run smoothly, bringing diverse experiences to the table through connections is a great way to be successful and rise above company challenges, said Albrecht.
“Diversity is a great way to stay open and stay fresh to new ideas,” he said, adding that many ideas at Limeade come from the diversity among backgrounds, hobbies and opinions of its employees.
Thoughts on CEO Stereotypes
Albrecht admits that in his experience most assumptions about CEOs at good companies ring true. Big egos with confidence in their abilities are two standards CEOs carry — along with being “relentlessly optimistic people,” he said. The falsities in the stereotype lie in the hierarchy of the job, he said. Instead of thinking of the CEO as the “teller,” it’s more of a balancing act to be responsible for all the employees and be service-minded, not to boss employees around. That common misconception, mixed with the perception that CEOs are not approachable, can give the CEO title a negative edge.
From a founder’s perspective, and a female one, Greenberg said it is true that women encounter different challenges than men. Gender bias, fundraising and venture capital received, and lack of proper recognition of the hard work they do can lead to wrong assumptions of women founders, but Greenberg feels positive about the recent strides society has taken to fix these issues. With gender bias research growing and an increase in the numbers of female entrepreneurs, CEOs and founders taking the stage in various companies, there is a shift in the industry.
“I will look back on this time and remember this as the time when everything started to change as more and more women come forward,” Greenberg said.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli is a Workforce intern. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.