Category: Uncategorized

How to Get Stuff Done and Over the Goal Line

Here’s a small productivity hack on how to help you all get more stuff done and over the goal line

Consider you have a solution to a potential problem in the organization and you want to pitch it to the your co-workers, management or Executive Team. Notice how these two emails below are very similar in content but very different in their messaging.

Example 1 

“I’ve included you all on this email to get your feedback on my potential solution.  If anyone has any comments, concerns, or suggestions please let me know. Once I get all your feedback and approval I will move forward with my solution.”

Example 2

“I’ve included you all on this email to get your feedback on my potential solution. If anyone has any comments, concerns, or suggestions please let me know within the next 24 hours. Otherwise I will be moving forward with the solution.”

In Example 1 you have left this open ended, hamstringing yourself until all feedback is received. You’ve created an impediment and now you’ve lost control of the process – not good.

In Example 2 you’ve given everyone an opportunity to provide feedback but you’ve time-bound it, so you are still in control of moving forward on your timeline. Silence is considered approval. This will promote a strong sense of urgency as well.

It’s s small adjustment but if you deploy strategy #2 you will be able to get things over the goal line quicker.

How Should CEOs Spend Their Time?

In October 2011 I looked back on that first year and the even more difficult weeks and months that followed as I settled in to my new role as the CEO at FCP Euro. At the time we had just surpassed 10 million in revenue but we were struggling with profitability and severely under-capitalized, desperately needing to make major people, technology and infrastructure investments to stay relevant in a quickly changing competitive landscape. The culture was quickly deteriorating and I was spending most of my time tactically executing and firefighting, not seeming to make any meaningful financial or operational improvements.

So I started asking myself- “As CEO, how should I be allocating my time?”

Fast forward 6 years later to present day; FCP Euro has reached 30 million in annual sales, we’ve got a healthy balance sheet, a strong market position, and a thriving company culture. Thanks to a good mentor and some discipline I’ve finally got my orientation correct.

The Role of the CEO

The role of CEO must be one of charting the course for the company while constantly evaluating and weighing its implications across all dimensions (financial, competitive, human, regulatory, etc.). As in all executive roles, there is a balance between today’s exigencies and the commitment to the formulation and pursuit of a long-term strategy. The higher the executive rank, and the greater the depth of teams being led, the less time an executive should spend on short-term challenges and the more time he should spend on medium to long term planning and execution.

A ship being sailed and steered by a commander is always a good analogy: A commander who is strong on the oar might help get the boat to the other side faster, but probably will be off course by 1,000 miles (which could be fatal).

Another analogy is one of fire-fighting: many executives fall prey to the romance of being a great fireman (“No crisis can defeat me! Watch again tomorrow and you’ll see another round of heroic deeds!”) instead of the romance of being a great leader who steers his company around storms and rarely through them. This happens because a well-run organization becomes less thrilling day-to-day, and successful people tend to be adrenalin junkies who need their fix.

All start-up company executives need to make this transition as the company progresses (and starts to hire more staff).  Heroic fire-fighting should start to get reduced and replaced by thoughtful planning and execution that in turn relies on teams of people who are empowered to handle the tactical day-to-day blocking and tackling.

CEO Time Allocation

The time allocation I’ve adjusted my orientation to is roughly as follows (not carved in stone anywhere):

Day-to-day = 15%
Current fiscal year = 35%
Longer term strategy / market position = 50%

A critical, but often overlooked key to effective CEO time management is carving out time to think, as opposed to constantly reacting. During that thinking time, you’re not only thinking strategically but also thinking proactively and longer-term. You’re literally thinking about what is important versus what is urgent – and those aren’t the same. Trying to strike that right balance is key to success in any executive level role.

Most early-stage company CEOs are 60/30/10 (day to day/current year/long term strategy) and with coaching are trying to get to the above 15/35/50.  Having the right executive team is a key part of that, of course, and the same is true for each executive

Bootstrapped and Profitable; The Story of the $25 Million Online Retailer FCP Euro

FCP Euro was established by Harry & Kathy Bauer in 1986 as a small brick and mortar auto parts store in Groton, CT. Transitioned to an online store in 2001 by their son Nick Bauer and longtime friend Scott Drozd, we have grown to become an industry leading eCommerce provider of Genuine and OEM Parts for European cars. Throughout our journey the company’s values have remained the same: selling only the highest quality replacement parts, providing unparalleled customer service, and providing the do it yourself enthusiast with technical support to help fix and maintain their vehicles.

Present day, FCP Euro has grown to nearly $25 million in annual sales still internally funded through the continuous reinvestment of it’s profits. On our website we offer over 350,000 SKU’s across  all European makes, with the sharpest focus on high quality Original Equipment and Genuine replacement parts. We’ve committed ourselves to building a culture of service, quality, and continuous improvement, because we know that if our employees care deeply about our products  and services that it will be reflected in what our customers receive. Located in Milford, CT our 25,000 square foot FCP Euro Distribution Center stocks nearly $1.5 million of inventory and has developed a highly efficient distribution model that has the ability to ship out almost all orders placed within 24 hours.

When you place an order with us you receive something very unique and special: a Lifetime Replacement Promise. Everything sold by FCP is backed by an industry-leading comprehensive, lifetime parts warranty – including wear and tear items like wiper blades or brake pads. We’ve spent over a decade tirelessly cataloging our own products and developing a comprehensive proprietary parts database with precise and accurate fitment data so you also get peace of mind that you’re going to receive the correct replacement part for your car. Additionally, you will receive industry leading customer service with a 365 day return policy and free shipping over $49. Our goal is to keep our customers for life.

It’s our vision to be the most valuable and trusted European online auto parts retailer in the world through our pursuit of quality and service. To do this, we will continue to innovate our customer experience through better utilization of technology and data management. As we continue to expand across other European makes, we are committed to handcrafting and curating each vehicle’s catalog with the same precision that we did over the last 15 years – ensuring only the highest quality replacement parts and the most accurate fitment data.

The growth and success we’ve experienced over the years is because of customers like you, who faithfully support our business. We appreciate your trust, and we’ll do our best to continue to give you the kind of service you deserve. Your continued patronage and suggestions are a vital part of our growth. And for that, we are most grateful.

Watch and enjoy!