Someone recently asked me “Are you scared your going to make a bad decision and the company will suffer?”
Of course I’m scared. I make bad decisions all the time but when it’s time to make a big decision I almost always get it right.
Here’s the trick – an incredibly important concept discussed by Jim Collins in his book Great by Choice : Bullets Before Cannonballs – first “firing bullets” to gain empirical validation before making a big bet (firing a cannonball).
We shoot lots of bullets before we launch cannonballs. You can consider these “bullets” as low-cost, low risk tests or experiments. Your missed shots are quick and have minimal impact on the company. When bullets hit the mark your load your cannonballs and unleash everything you’ve got. Successful companies find ways to test the waters before investing large resources into a project or making a critical business decision.
This diagnostic chart by PricewaterhouseCoopers is a fantastic tool that helps identify your company’s stage of growth as well as the management concerns within those stages. It’s something I have referenced back to throughout the years and gives valuable insight into what you may face at the next stage of your business. Planning is one of the most important parts of running a business, and when you know what to expect you’ll dramatically boosts the odds of your success.
We’ve been online since 2001 with annual revenues of $15 million and 34 employees. Our business currently has the characteristics of survival, growth, and expansion with the majority falling in in the growth stage. I give copies of this diagnostic chart to members of my management team and we compare our assessments. It not only gives my team a road map of things to expect as the business matures but also promotes a healthy dialogue between the group.
Here’s a link to the chart: PWC Diagnostic Chart
Mastering the art of getting shit done takes discipline and lots of planning. As the CEO of a $15 million online business I often get asked how I allocate my time during the working day. Well, here it is:
Employee development – 50%
This is the most critical part of my job and the one that I allocate the most time resources toward. Investing in employee training and development strategies is critical for the success of any business. It’s the only way to create sustainable and managed growth. As an entrepreneur who’s bootstrapped a business from $0 to $15 Million, there was a time that I did it all; janitor, shipping clerk, customer service, order entry, human resources, purchasing, accounting. It’s debilitating and exhausting, and will only lead to burn out. As a leader, you’ve got to leverage yourself through employees.
Tactical – 20%
This is the day to day, answering emails, talking with employees, putting out fires. Emails usually take up a majority of this time and I try to limit the email to less than 10% but after all, email ” is a game of tetris. ”
Process Improvement – 10%
I focus on two things here: How can I simplify the process and how can I make the process run better? Typically I will either work directly in the process or scan through email correspondence in my teams email queues or Gmail groups (we have email groups for sales, product team, customer service, products, purchasing, warehouse, and technical support.) I’ll find the bottlenecks and discuss with the department leads how we can simplify and improve.
Thinking & Strategy – 10%
This is my quiet time which is usually on my commute home. I reflect on the day and assess my performance; did I make improvements to the organization? Did I stay focused on what I set out to do in the morning? Did I get caught up in day to day (tactical) issues that prevented me from allocating my time appropriate? What do I want to accomplish tomorrow?
This time also includes working directly with my leadership team in achieving organizational alignment. It usually consists of a 2 hour offsite each week.
Professional Development 10%
This includes listening to podcasts and audiobooks, or reading articles and blogs. My commute to work is 45 minutes so it’s perfect amount of time to get into a chapter of an audio book or two 20 minute podcasts.
How do you spend your time at work?