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2 CEOs are better than 1

Netflix has two CEOs: Co-founder Reed Hastings oversees the streaming side of the company, while Ted Sarandos guides Netflix’s content.

Warby Parker has co-CEOs as well — its co-founders went to college together. Other companies like the tech giant Oracle and luggage maker Away have shifted from having co-CEOs in recent years, sparking a wave of headlines suggesting that the model is broken.

It’s impossible to be in two places at once or clone yourself. With co-CEOs, you can effectively do just that.

While there isn’t a lot of research on companies with multiple CEOs, the data is more promising than the headlines would suggest. One study on public companies with co-CEOs revealed that the average tenure for co-CEOs, about 4.5 years, was comparable to solitary CEOs, “suggesting that this arrangement is more stable than previously believed.”

The study’s authors also found that co-CEOs were spread across industry types and that splitting the role can “complement each other in terms of educational background or executive responsibilities.”

I serve as co-CEO of an organic meal delivery company with my sister Laureen. Having two CEOs has helped us take Fresh n’ Lean to new heights. We closed 2020 with $87 million in revenue, more than double from the year before, and project similar growth this year.

We complement each other well, and the results bear that out. During the decade that we’ve served as co-CEOs, the company has grown from a very small team to 475 full-time employees and 40 part-time employees. We’ve delivered more than 17 million meals, launched four different meal lines, expanded our retail offerings, partnered with some great names in sports and fitness, and saw our annual revenues climb exponentially.

The leadership structure isn’t for every company, but it’s been a great fit for Fresh n’ Lean. Here’s why.

Divide and conquer to shorten your learning curve by 50%

Laureen launched the company in 2010 out of her one-bedroom apartment.

“Those early years were especially tough,” she said. “I consistently worked 20-hour days as I performed just about every role — cooking dishes, preparing labels, making deliveries and performing customer service duties. I was devoting so much energy into product, packaging and logistics, but in order for the company to grow, I needed help with marketing, tech and finance.”

Those areas happened to be my strengths. There was too much for one person to oversee as CEO and not enough hours in the day. But given the equal challenges that both sides of the company presented and the trust we shared, it made sense for us to be side by side on the organizational chart.