Top 10 best and worst chief executive positions

Being the chief executive of a major company can be a pretty great job. From the generous pay to the prestige of being top dog, it’s what millions of people around the world strive for.

But it can also be a huge burden. From long hours to sceptical boards and shareholder rebellions, the chief executive’s office can be a terrible place to be when things aren’t going well for a company.

This week we look at some company’s that would be great places to run, and a few others where being in charge could well be an absolute nightmare.

The Best

Honourable mention: Zynga

Shaun Nichols: Currently the darlings of the social gaming world, Zynga most likely makes whatever Facebook game you’re hooked on at the moment.

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From games like FarmVille and CityVille to Mafia Wars, the company has cost businesses more time in lost productivity than the flu and Mardi Gras combined. In the process, they have made money hand over fist. In October, the company was valued at roughly $5.5bn. Not bad for a social networking game developer.

That’s not to say things will always be so rosy for Zynga. If there’s any market more fickle than gaming, it’s social networking. In addition to making games people will play, the company also has to make sure its covering all the right platforms.

At the moment, however, things are looking very good.

Iain Thomson: Zynga worked out a way to make serious money from Facebook before Facebook did. The company has taken games onto the site and convinced people to spend real money to build their own virtual cities and farms. It’s a business plan that few thought would work in the mass market.

That said, there is a dark side to this success. Former staff from Zynga speak of a nasty atmosphere in the company, with programmers instructed to rip off web games and turn them into something Zynga can sell. If those allegations are true then Zynga faces strong growth, as the number of web games proliferates.

One reason to not envy a new head of Zynga his or her position – games companies are hell to manage. Computer games are a very up and down business and things may not look so rosy for Zynga in the future.

5. Amazon

Iain Thomson: I’ve always had a soft spot for Jeff Bezos ever since he advised people not to buy his company’s shares at the height of the 1990s tech bubble. He also warned shareholders that the company wouldn’t be in profit for years. That kind of honesty is rare in chief executives.

But the results have been very good indeed, and Amazon’s success done a lot to solidify confidence in e-commerce. Amazon’s business model now looks very good indeed and the company looks well set for the future.

However, the head of Amazon faces some major challenges in the future. The key issue for the company is now tax. Individual countries, and US states, want a chunk of the sales taxes that Amazon has so far largely avoided. Dealing with that issue in these cash-strapped times will be a full time job.

Shaun Nichols: While most people know Amazon for its retail operation, the company has another very important property in its web services offering.

In case you haven’t heard cloud computing has been something of a big deal in recent years. And with its EC platform, Amazon has a cloud platform that is beginning to gain some very significant traction in the enterprise space.

Additionally, the company is staking out an early claim to the e-book market with its Kindle reader. In a few years, Amazon could find itself diversified in a number of areas with some very bright prospects.

Perhaps down the line the company may even spin a few of its operations off and some executive will be lucky enough to get the chief spot at the new firm.

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January 2011
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