10 Stages of a CEO’s Journey and How Personal Branding Helps You Crush It

Jun 10, 2024 | CEOs, LinkedIn Best Practices, Personal branding

Navigating the CEO journey is exciting and exhilarating . . . and sometimes exhausting. But you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, right?

From founding a business to exiting with grace, successful CEOs rely on foundational skills that remain crucial across all phases of their journey, including strategic thinking, adaptability, relationship building, decision-making, and exceptional communication skills.

At the same time, each stage presents unique hurdles and opportunities that shape the trajectory of your company and personal legacy. To effectively navigate these stages and overcome the challenges, leveraging the right tools is essential.

With 1+ billion members and unparalleled networking opportunities, LinkedIn is indispensable and almost unlimited in potential to reach prospects and speak directly to stakeholders. Here’s a look at each stage, its key communication and relationship-building challenges, and specific LinkedIn strategies to enhance your journey.

Additionally, I strongly encourage you to track results and measure the ROI of your LinkedIn initiatives. Beyond tracking basic metrics — connections, views, reactions, and comments — tie these actions to increased visibility, inbound website traffic, and new investors or sales that originated as interest on LinkedIn. Estimate the financial impact of your LinkedIn efforts, calculate the ROI, and of course, refine your approach for greater success.

#1  Founding the Business

The earliest stage of a CEO’s journey involves setting up the company’s essential operations and legal structure plus defining the business vision, mission, and initial offerings.

Key Communications Goals

    • Develop and demonstrate a strong personal narrative that aligns with the company’s mission.
    • Establish credibility and trustworthiness to attract initial stakeholders.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Activate Your Network: Most early deals, hires, and investors will come through your current network. Start by refining your profile to tell the story you want prospects to find. Also, create a LinkedIn company page — keep your profile and company page aligned but distinctly separate. Send connect requests to your professional contacts (and ask them to follow the company page, too).
    • Build Credibility: Regularly post about your vision, mission, and founding story. Share milestones by celebrating your company launch, key hires, and achievements.
    • Engage: Participate in relevant conversations originated by thought leaders who already have a large audience on LinkedIn.

Measuring ROI

    • Increased Investor Interest: Track the number of investor meetings and follow-up interest generated from LinkedIn and estimate potential investment secured through the platform.
    • Partnerships and Support: Measure the number of strategic partnerships or advisor relationships formed through your LinkedIn connections and estimate the value of these partnerships in terms of resources and support received.

#2  Gaining Early Customers/Achieving PMF

With business operations established, CEOs direct their energies to reaching the market, differentiating their product or services from the competition landscape, and of course, securing their first sales. At this point, most CEOs will be actively involved in marketing and sales activities.

Key Communications Goals

    • Showcase expertise and unique value propositions through thought leadership.
    • Leverage personal networks for early customer acquisition.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Publish Thought Leadership: Use LinkedIn updates, articles (blogs), and videos to share industry insights and the unique aspects of your solution.
    • Engage with Potential Customers: Consider LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find and connect with potential customers.
    • Showcase Your Product/Service: Share product demos, features, and customer success stories.

Measuring ROI

    • Lead Generation: Track the number of leads generated through LinkedIn activity and the conversion rate. Estimate the revenue from these leads.
    • Customer Acquisition: Measure the cost of acquiring customers through LinkedIn compared to other channels. Calculate the savings or additional revenue.

#3  Raising Capital

The responsibility for raising funds keeps many a CEO up at night as they strive to attract the attention and gain the confidence of potential investors. As CEOs present a compelling case for the scalability and profitability of their business, they find themselves increasing their networking activities and engaging in discussions with angel investors or venture capitalists.

Key Communications Goals

    • Build a reputation as an innovative and capable leader who can steer the company toward growth.
    • Actively engage with investors. Expand your network to include both investors and people investors respect (like other portfolio CEOs and industry thought leaders).

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Highlight Achievements: Regularly update LinkedIn with key milestones.
    • Engage with Investors: Connect with or follow potential investors, and engage with their posts.
    • Showcase Team Strengths: Highlight team members’ expertise and achievements.

Measuring ROI

    • Investment Secured: Track the number of investor engagements and successful fundraises attributed to LinkedIn activities. Estimate the total funding raised.
    • Valuation Increase: Measure the increase in company valuation due to enhanced visibility and investor confidence.

#4 Reinvention & Pivoting

It’s a rare company that does one thing in one way for its entire lifecycle. Instead, most companies navigate through major shifts in business models or market focus as they respond to changes (market, global, economic, and more) and evolving industry landscapes. 

CEOs guide their company through each pivot or reinvention with announcements of major shifts in business direction, significant changes in their product/service lines, or perhaps, restructuring within the company.


Key Communications Goals

    • Clear, consistent messaging, aligned with the vision and distributed to all stakeholders.
    • Strong personal branding garnering stakeholder trust that the founder can lead through uncertainty.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Communicate Changes: Use LinkedIn to announce and explain pivots — repeat and reiterate often.
    • Share Vision and Roadmap: Post about new strategic direction and transparently share progress.
    • Engage Stakeholders: Respond to comments and questions from stakeholders.

Measuring ROI

    • Stakeholder Retention: Track the retention rate of investors, customers, and employees during and after the pivot. Estimate the financial impact of retaining key stakeholders.
    • New Opportunities: Measure the number of new opportunities and partnerships formed during the pivot. Estimate the potential revenue from these new engagements.

#5  Rapid Growth

With success comes growth! As their companies grow, open new offices, and expand into new territories, CEOs focus on skillfully managing their growing team, scaling operations efficiently, and maintaining a strong company culture.

Key Communications Goals

    • Position themselves as thought leaders in the industry.
    • Attract top talent by showcasing the company’s culture and vision.
    • Maintain visibility and authority to assure stakeholders of a calm hand on the reins during rapid changes.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Highlight Company Culture: Post about company events and achievements, giving credit to your team.
    • Share Growth Milestones: Update your LinkedIn network about new job openings, hires, and market expansions.
    • Position as an Industry Leader: Share insights on managing growth.
10 stages of a ceo's journey by proresource

Measuring ROI

    • Talent Acquisition: Track the number of high-quality candidates applying through LinkedIn and the hiring success rate. Estimate the savings from reduced recruitment costs.
    • Stakeholder Confidence: Measure the increase in stakeholder engagement and satisfaction. Estimate the impact on revenue retention and growth.

#6  Hiring & Team Expansion

Significant growth also demands attracting, hiring, and retaining the right talent to support it. In this stage, CEOs — who need to delegate some of their responsibilities — often implement professional development programs to raise up internal leaders. This stage is often when a company establishes an HR department to post jobs, vet candidates, and systematize policies and procedures.

Key Communications Goals

    • Demonstrate a commitment to employee development and corporate responsibility.
    • Enhance the employer brand to attract high-caliber candidates.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Promote Job Openings: Share job postings on LinkedIn.
    • Showcase Development Programs: Highlight employee development initiatives.
    • Celebrate New Hires: Use LinkedIn to publicly welcome new team members.

Measuring ROI

    • Recruitment Efficiency: Track the number of applicants and successful hires through LinkedIn. Estimate the cost savings in recruitment.
    • Employee Retention: Measure the improvement in employee retention rates. Estimate the financial impact of reduced turnover.

#7  Leadership Scaling

Continued success leads to CEOs transitioning from their hands-on founder role to a strategic leader. These leaders hire other C-level executives to sustain alignment and momentum as the company grows.

Key Communications Goals

    • Introduce new senior leaders and establish their authority and credibility.
    • Maintain alignment across all communications — internal and external.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Feature Senior Leaders: Use LinkedIn to introduce new senior leaders. Be sure to tag them in the appropriate posts and engage with their comments and posts they originate.
    • Expand Leadership Visibility: Highlight the capabilities of your executive team on their LinkedIn profiles and align each executive’s profile and activity so it serves their role.
    • Distribute Thought Leadership: Encourage senior leaders to repost the company’s content to maximize reach and to post thought leadership content of their own to demonstrate the depth of your leadership team and attract top talent.

Measuring ROI

    • Leadership Perception: Monitor stakeholder feedback and engagement with posts featuring senior leaders. Estimate the impact on the company’s reputation and business.
    • Strategic Partnerships: Measure the number of new strategic partnerships formed due to enhanced leadership visibility. Estimate the revenue from these partnerships.

#8  Market Expansion

When a company enters new markets, the CEO plays a key role in building a strong local presence and fostering trust and credibility among new stakeholders. As the company initiates new or multimarket campaigns and adapts products to the new markets, the CEO’s visible leadership streamlines the formation of strategic partnerships and builds confidence in the company.

Key Communications Goals

    • Establish credibility and build trust with potential customers, partners, and employees in the new market.
    • Clearly communicate the company’s vision to the local media, influencers, and other potential stakeholders.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Announce Expansion Plans: Use LinkedIn to announce your market expansion plans, detailing the strategic reasons and expected benefits.
    • Highlight Local Partnerships: Share news about partnerships with local entities and how they will advance both companies’ value.
    • Engage Local Influencers: Connect and collaborate with industry influencers in the new market, sharing their insights, and endorsements.

Measuring ROI

    • Market Awareness: Project the increase in brand awareness and engagement in the new market. Estimate the potential revenue from a faster ramp-up in the new market.
    • Local Partnerships: Measure the value of partnerships formed through LinkedIn engagement. Estimate the impact on market penetration and revenue.

#9  Preparing for Acquisition or Public Offering

With an eye on acquisition or an IPO, a CEO focuses on ensuring the company is attractive to potential buyers or fit for the public market. They begin navigating the complexities of these transactions by engaging with financial advisors and investment bankers, implementing audits and financial transparency measures, and building visibility and credibility with potential buyers and investors.

Key Communications Goals

    • Enhance visibility and reputation in broader business communities.
    • Position themselves as strategic thinkers capable of leading a major transition.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Enhance Visibility: Build buzz about the business by sharing updates on the company’s milestones and continued growth.
    • Raise Visibility of Team: If you are planning to leave the business, start building the brands of the management team and thought leaders who will stay. Emphasize their roles and importance and delegate appropriate posts for them to originate.

Measuring ROI

    • Increased Interest: Estimate the number of inquiries and meetings with potential buyers or investors that result from higher visibility. Estimate the impact on acquisition offers or IPO valuation.
    • Stakeholder Confidence: Estimate the impact on company valuation and deal terms resulting from an improvement in stakeholder confidence and engagement.

#10  Exiting the Business

As Longfellow said, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” The process for CEOs who exit their businesses includes both ending well — smoothly transitioning out of the business — and beginning — establishing a new identity and purpose post-exit. 

This stage of a CEO’s journey is a whirlwind of announcements about stepping down or transitioning to new roles, which may include new ventures; involvement in boards, advisory roles, or philanthropic activities; public speaking; and mentorship focused on experiences and learnings post-exit.

Key Communications Goals

    • Shift personal branding to reflect new roles and aspirations.
    • Maintain relevance and influence in the industry outside of the previous company.

LinkedIn Essential Actions

    • Announce Transition Plans: Announce transition plans and new roles on LinkedIn.
    • Share Lessons Learned: Post about experiences and insights gained.
    • Engage in New Opportunities: Connect with potential partners and collaborators for future ventures.

Measuring ROI

    • Maintaining Influence: Project the number of new advisory roles, board positions, and speaking engagements secured through LinkedIn activity. Estimate the financial value of these roles.
    • New Ventures: Project the value of new business opportunities and partnerships formed post-exit. Estimate the potential revenue from these new ventures.

Make LinkedIn Work for You in Every Stage

From founding to exiting, the CEO journey is a monumental endeavor. Each stage presents unique challenges and opportunities, requiring a strategic approach and the right tools to succeed. By leveraging LinkedIn’s capabilities, you can amplify your personal brand, connect with key stakeholders, and unlock new opportunities that propel your business forward.

Are you ready to take your LinkedIn strategy to the next level? Our team can help. Contact me on LinkedIn or book a quick call. Your journey as a CEO deserves the best tools and support — let us help you make LinkedIn work for you in every stage.

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