Many of us, at some point or another, have thought about trading lives with someone. But how many of us have actually followed through?
Enter Rand Fishkin and Wil Reynolds, two CEOs who actually traded work lives with another in a Freaky Friday-esque experiment they called the “CEO Swap.” Rand is at the helm of Moz, a software startup based in Seattle with offices in Portland, and Wil runs SEER Interactive, a search marketing agency based in Philadelphia with offices in San Diego.
Your first question might be: Why? Well, as far as learning experiences go, you can’t get more hands-on than sitting in someone else’s office, responding to their emails, running their meetings, and even walking their dog. “You want to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?” says Rand. “Try replying to 100 emails from someone else’s inbox.”
While both in the digital space, Moz focuses on software and SEER is in the consulting business, which presented some unique challenges to the CEOS. Rand says he gained “a newfound perspective and empathy for the operation of a consulting business. The business is so demanding in different ways, and the problems are so unique compared to the software business I’m in now, that I think I’ve lacked the empathy to help those in the field as much as I could and should. I hope to apply some of those lessons going forward.”
Wil says that as someone coming in and trying to run a company in a field where he lacked expertise: “I learned how to ask better questions.”
Would Wil and Rand recommend a swap to other startup CEOs? Yes, but with some caveats. As Rand told OEN:
- Do it with someone you trust deeply and believe will bring a valuable, new perspective to your business.
- Make sure you have a team that’s scalable enough to support your absence.
- Mutually agree that both parties have valuable things they can learn from one another’s teams.
Here are a few choice tweets from the experience (see more here):
— Wil Reynolds (@wilreynolds) October 11, 2013
Amazing part about the #ceoswap is the ability to contribute at such a high level and be a true team member. Such a unique experience.
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) October 9, 2013
Would you be game to swap work lives with someone for a week?
What would you hope to learn?