Rand Fishkin On The Best And Worst Parts Of Being Moz CEO

Chris CrumBusiness

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Last month, we learned that Moz (formerly SEOmoz) CEO Rand Fishkin is stepping down from the role. He revealed that he would be handing the reins over to President and COO Sarah Bird, while taking on less of a people management role, and instead focusing more on his product and marketing passions with the company.

We reached out to Fishkin for some more about his decision and the pending transition. He told us about what he liked and disliked about being a CEO, as well as his regrets about holding the position.

On what he enjoyed most, Fishkin told WebProNews, "The ability to create and influence the company culture, product, team, and mission have certainly been the best parts. I'm hopeful that the 'influence' parts will continue for a long time to come in this new role."

On what he enjoyed the least, he said, "Over time, it's been a lot of the organizational development, conflict resolution, and people management issues. Those seem, to me, to be less about how to make a great product, market it, improve it, and deliver value to customer and more about politics, which I wish didn't exist. The bigger a company gets, the harder all that stuff is, and the better you have to be at it in order to have success doing all the customer-value-add stuff."

"I also don't really enjoy interacting with financial folks outside of Moz," he added.

Fishkin had plenty of nice things to say about Bird in his announcement and in an email he sent to Moz staff. He told WebProNews, "Sarah is far more capable of possessing and projecting optimism to the team, more emotionally and culturally well-suited to the people challenges at scale, and she's not as easily overwhelmed by non-productive emotions as I am (which is something we definitely need)."

When asked if he has any regrets about being CEO, Fishkin told us, "Absolutely. I think I've made numerous terrible decisions as CEO."

"That said," he added. "It's also been a remarkable run for the company - we've built something really amazing culturally, product-wise, and with the Moz brand, and I'm hopeful that long term, we'll achieve the mission we've set for ourselves and help hundreds of thousands of SEO-focused marketers to do their job better."

After sharing his plans, Fishkin wrote a blog post titled, "Can't Sleep; Caught in the Loop," in which he talked about his worst weeks of 2013 in which he had what he described as a "weird mental cycle," which has kept him awake. He calls it 'the loop."

"Moz's performance this year (which wasn't great, but was still fairly good, ~25% growth) isn't directly connected to Sarah taking the leadership role, but it does have an indirect impact," Fishkin told us. "I think the people challenges at our scale, combined with some of the tough decisions that didn't pan out created a lot of cycling negativity in my head that I've referred to as 'The Loop.' That negativity and the emotional impact it's had on me, and by extension, Moz, are certainly part of the reason I wanted to make this move."

"That said, there are others, too," he added. "I think Sarah will make an excellent CEO long term, and I want to focus more on individual contributor types of work. I also want to put my energy into things I love (like product & marketing) rather than those I don't, but felt obligated to do (like people issues)."

Fishkin and Bird recently spoke with the Moz board, and determined that the move will be made in mid-January, when they'll be moving to a new office.

Image: Rand Fishkin

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.