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Don´t do it!: CEO by accident (Chapter I)

by: Lionel Olavarría, CEO Imagemaker

Content edited in collaboration with JP Faúndez Raddatz

Being a leader is something that can be given innately because is one of those qualities that few people carry in their blood. Sometimes you can be a leader without even knowing it, especially if the hierarchy and role that preceded it was another, and this is - perhaps - the most complex situation because "you have to get the bike moving" from the box that is to learn mechanics of a General Management.

It could have been very easy for me to say no, for fear, for not having the proper preparation, for ignorance, for all of the above.

At the end of 2017, the General Manager of Imagemaker informs me that he was going to returns to live in Germany, his homeland, to be closer to his family. This obviously sets off alarms and I immediately contact headhunting companies to help me find the new leader of the company. I spent months searching, interviewing, and nothing. No one managed to 'click' me or get me excited enough to be able to hire him.

I, from the presidency of the board of directors, watched the deadline for having someone in charge of Imagemaker approaching with abysmal speed, which generated great anxiety and quite a lot of stress. I couldn't have a headless company, that for no reason.

The rest of the directors found me stressed out with the situation and they came up with a brilliant idea: “Lionel, why don't you take over the General Management? There will be no one who knows this company better than you. " Inside I thought “S#1t! until they asked me to. How do I get this off my back? ”

I practically started giving me a panic attack. Being responsible for how my own business is doing?! And if things go wrong, who am I going to blame? To myself?

The fate of the Imagemaker and the 90 people who work in it today depend on my decisions. My answer to the directory was "I'm going to think about it", but I knew it was a politically correct answer because I couldn't say something like "for no reason", "I don't dare" or "I don't feel prepared".

Despite the fear and the uncertainty, I have always gone straight, facing each stumbling block and each problem with an inflated chest, but this was something important on multiple levels.

It had been weeks without sleep thinking about what to do. Practically I offered the General Management to anyone who was passing through the street so as not to have to assume the role that corresponds to me and that apparently everyone in the company was waiting for him to assume.

The days seemed to have more hours, and not in a good way.

On one of those catharsis nights, I had a conversation with a great friend and businessman, Pablo Iturbe, who says to me, “Dude, I can't believe how you are not General Manager of your own company ”, and mocking me he says“ Mr. Chairman you have to be the General Manager ”. I took a deep breath while thinking inside: “Damn. He is right".

A couple of days after talking to Pablo, I meet with Benjamin, Director of Imagemaker, and say to him "Ok, I'm ready to take it on, but not ready." His answer came along with a tone that was comforting and with an enormous burden of responsibility: “Yes, you are ready, Lionel. You are going to do it well ”.

The more words of support and motivation I received, the worse it was for me, I controlled, everyone had gigantic expectations and what had to stand out in order to take the company to its next step. My step.

I got emboldened and took control of my own company after 13 years of working in it. I know it sounds ridiculous but the more I write these words, the stupider I feel. A complete fool.

But the various cheers I received from the Board made me take enough courage to start coming up with a plan that, despite having a few bumps along the way, ended up being somewhat robust and profitable for Imagemaker.

Being an entrepreneur implies knowing that you learn from triumphs and setbacks. But the leader knows that learning delivered by a fall has immeasurable value. And I had everything to be able to make mistakes, learn and get closer to success.

That is why we want to tell the history of the company from the day-to-day side as well as what its history has been. We want you to be part of this path that all Makers will record. Join us in this story that we will be telling every week.

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