The number one place for the CEO or founder to spend their time is with customers and strategy formulation. This should be the focus 80% of the time and unfortunately the opposite is usually the case. Most often the CEO is fighting fires or dealing with a poor hire. Or maybe the founder is trying to scale a business where processes were not properly developed. Most often this is work that should have been completed before the first $1mm in revenue was realized but now ensure the leader is working 70+ hours every week. So what are the top 5 things that will ensure this is remedied?
-Develop a capable staff and second in command
-Prioritize key process indicators and assign an owner
-Ensure a strategy is in place and operating rhythms are developed
-Create a process to listen to customers for feedback
-Create a strategy process
The primary order of business is to hire and develop key leaders well before you 11themployee. This involves psychometric profiling, developing a network of hiring partners and create a robust process. With this system in place the founder can on-board the most capable executives well before the business starts to scale. With those leaders in the business a developmental plan can be implemented to ensure these leaders are in place and ready to help grow the business and run the day to day operations.
From there it is important to ensure the prioritized key process indicators (KPI) and in place to drive the correct behavior and initiatives. It is equally as important to have a clear owner for each KPI. And of course, with a great hiring system in place, you will have the most capable of business leaders to make stellar progress. Your business will have a great sales manager in place owning lead generation, a marketing person that is driving conversion strategies and a manufacturing guru reducing cycle times to drive cash generation.
These leaders will consequently own operating rhythms to ensure progress is made on a daily and weekly basis. A quick one hour review daily or weekly, depending on the size of the business, will quickly resolve issues and drive cross-functional accountability. While it will take time for the KPI owner to conduct these reviews, countless hours will be saved by reducing emails, adhoc meetings, and countless voicemails looking for information. These operating meeting should have a clear agenda and a follow up list generated to drive accountability for actions.
Now that the CEO is free from the day to day details they can create a customer feedback process with sales, marketing and customer service. Focus either on key customers or work with NPS data to gather valuable product or service feedback and respond with solutions. This will show your customers you value their input and let them know you are continuously improving for their satisfaction. These efforts alone will drive customer affinity and loyalty. This activity should consume a great majority of the CEOs time and provide daily and valuable feedback for business improvement.
Finally, the CEO should reserve the balance of the time for strategy creation and execution. Weekly, quarterly and yearly mechanisms should be in the CEOs default calendar to review progress with various levels of leadership depending on the size and complexity of the organization. At least weekly the leader of the company should have an early breakfast meeting with other C leaders in the business to discuss strategy in a more informal manner. On a weekly or monthly basis the CEO can review departmental progress of key strategic initiatives to ensure progress and accountability. This can be combined with quarterly and yearly reviews with a larger portion of their organization to leverage ideas and drive clarity deeper in the organization.
The leader of any organization regardless of size must ensure the correct people, processes and tools exist to free them from the day to day grind of business operations. Their role is to work directly with customers and direct the strategy to grow their business to include revenues and gross margins. This infrastructure should be developed early in the life cycle of the company and most certainly before the organization has 50 employees or $1MM in revenues. With this in place the organization can scale and realize double digit growth year over year.
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