I was asked recently by a CEO, “What should my time allocation look like? I know every sector and company has unique traits, but is there a baseline?”
Background: His non-technology company was over $5M in revenue and profitable for the past 2 years. He was considering expansion capital (he was 100% bootstrapped so this would be the first investment capital of any kind) and along with it he knew there would be a call for professionalizing the company by the new investor(s). As part of that analysis, he confessed that he had allowed “to-do” items to be “dumped on him by staff” – but this was being addressed.
I summed up my assessment of such a “baseline” as follows:
- Ambassador: Get out to see at least 2 key customers per month. That’s 24 customers or 24 visits per year. Even a CEO that is really a CTO should get out and meet customers (or key partners). The head of sales should appreciate the help (and the CEO can evaluate his/her performance).
- Direct Reports: 2 hours 1:1 with each direct report every week. Don’t get too busy to meet and remember to ask “so what do you think?” (AND LISTEN TO THE ANSWER).
- Dashboards: Demand each Direct Report provide a simple set of metrics / KPIs each week along with a VERY short narrative about the comparison to the prior week. Don’t micro-manage the list – demand execution by the responsible people (mentor if needed, but don’t “take back” any item).
- Strategy and Vision: Articulate a three year plan with attainable numbers and relate the current year progress to it at all times: “We are going to do $7M this year and be profitable while launching 2 new products. This is just a stepping stone to our $20M goal.” There is power in simplicity! Consistency and repetition (not changing strategy every month) also breeds certainty about the mission.
- Company: Walk the halls and be visible. Encourage people and mention specific facts when you do (such as point #4!). This tells people that they matter -AND- you are paying attention. It is an encouragement to them and breeds accountability.