Staying focused as a CEO is crucial. You can’t let your day-to-day, in-the-moment demands – meetings, client emergencies, “just a quick question,” vendor issues, the list could go on and on – distract you from what’s going to make or break your business: growth and sustainability. Those day-to-day distractions can sometimes be the greatest test of your CEO leadership skills.
Throughout my years as the CEO of RTS Labs, figuring out how to lead a company has involved a lot of on-the-job, learn-as-I-go training, as well as instinct and intuition. The rest I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from the advice of my peers. While my priorities sometimes change depending on the day, and I’m always happy to be there for my colleagues and employees when they need guidance, there are five things I stay laser focused on, regardless of what pops up.
Starting the day and setting priorities
First off, I start my day early. In the early hours of the morning, my inbox is not filling up, my phone is not ringing, and no one is demanding my time. The morning is my time to look at my schedule and prioritize my day.
When setting my priorities, I categorize them into five main functions:
- Sales and marketing
- Culture and operations
- Prospects and customers
- Future vision
Breaking all my daily tasks into these five areas of focus helps me prioritize my day and delegate other tasks that may not need my personal involvement. This way, I can stay focused on growing the company and supporting my team and our clients. After all – what better way can I be there for them than by doing everything in my power to ensure that RTS Labs is going to be there for them for a very long time.
Sales and marketing
I spend about 25% of my time on sales and marketing. That doesn’t mean I actually perform sales and marketing tasks. It means I spend time on strategy and on leading my team in a productive direction. It’s important to spend time and energy on this for two reasons.
1) Sales and marketing are what drive growth
2) Marketing represents who we are as a company
As our leader, I need to be involved in the process to ensure we represent ourselves properly.
At RTS Labs, we have an internal team that works on sales and outbound marketing, and we have consultants that work on inbound marketing, blogs, and social media content. In order to lead us in the right direction, I keep the following tasks on my to-do list.
- Meet with my consultants to give them ideas and go over metrics.
- Search for learning tools to help us grow and improve.
- Work with designers to craft the right look.
- Write blogs (like this one).
- Research new tools to keep us on the cutting edge and make sure we’re working smart.
- Measure key performance indicators (KPIs).
This month, I led the relaunch of our website, which has a completely different focus and targets our core demographic more appropriately. Projects like these keep our marketing fresh, which gives the right impression to both prospects and current clients. They see that we keep moving forward – and that kind of forward motion can only come from a CEO.
Culture and operations
Our company culture is extremely important to me. I spend 40% of my time focusing on supporting our team and fine tuning our operations. I believe strongly that taking care of business means taking care of employees. Not with material perks like nap rooms or craft beer on tap, but with perks that will help them elevate themselves personally and professionally.
RTS Labs is a flat organization with no offices and very few meetings. I don’t even sit in an office – I sit out in our open floor plan and keep my finger on the pulse of the team and the environment. I spend time with my employees one-on-one, in small groups, and with the team as a whole.
Spending time on your company culture and fostering one of collaboration and mutual respect is important for two reasons:
1) Building a kickass culture helps you attract talent and clients.
2) Turnover is expensive. I focus on hiring A players who fit our culture.
I am also deeply involved in the operations of my team, making sure we are on top of client projects, always learning and improving.
Clients and prospects
“You’re the star. We’re the secret weapon.”
Our clients are the lifeblood of our company, which is why I dedicate 25% of my time to clients and prospects. My role is to provide the vision and keep the team aligned. I meet with clients for realignment and strategy sessions and also take them to lunches, dinners, or on fun outings. Whatever it takes to build the relationship and make them successful!
I also spend time with prospective clients. Sure, we have a business development team, but it’s important to be involved in the sales process. I spend time honing our pitch and making sure our value proposition is spot on.
Another area I enjoying being involved in is developing relationships and partnerships. One of the most impactful business lessons I’ve learned is that having multiple referral channels and well developed relationships is much more effective and leads to better results than going out and getting customers directly on your own. You usually end up meeting clients who are a better fit with your work and your culture. (That’s right – clients have to be a good fit with our culture, too.)
It’s important to have a network of peers who experience the same struggles as you and who understand what you’re going through. I spend about 5% of my time with peers, improving myself personally and professionally. I do this through the Virginia Council of CEOs, an excellent organization here in Richmond. We have a roundtable of 10 CEOs who meet every month to discuss challenges and provide insight. The council also has luncheons, workshops, and retreats that are always valuable.
As a CEO, it can be easy to bury yourself in work. Here’s the thing: You don’t know everything. You need peers and advisors to challenge you, share their experience, and be there to check up on you. I assure you, time with peers and advisors is time well spent.
What about that last 5%? I spend that on our future – on my vision for the company. As a CEO, I have to be able to pull myself out of the day to day and look to the future. I have to make sure the ship is steering in the right direction. So, I set time aside for forecasting, strategizing, and planning to make sure we are moving forward in a direction that’s right for the company, our clients, and our team.
One more thing: Delegation
Delegation is necessary when running a business. I am deeply involved in process, marketing, and culture, but that doesn’t mean I execute everything. I focus on the vision and then translate that vision to capable people. That’s why hiring is so important to me. If you hire the best people and manage your company culture and processes, then you have the luxury of giving your people the freedom to make decisions, take the lead, and get their work done without need for micromanagement.
Beyond people, we are a technology company. We rely heavily on technology to help us get things done efficiently and effectively. If there is a process that can be done with technology, we delegate to technology and let our people focus on project management and client relationships.
Prioritizing my time in this way is what has made RTS Labs a successful tech company with a great culture. Our clients love us, and this is why.