Early in my career I really struggled with managing my time. There simply was never enough time in the day for me to help in all the areas that needed it.
—or that I thought needed it.
I was the CEO and co-founder of a growing aerospace business called EMTEQ. My day would consist of checking over 200 emails, returning phone calls, and working through a task list that never ended. Some of these tasks consisted of handling the day to day management to make sure things got done, problems got solved, and that all stakeholders were taken care of.
As a business owner or founder, you are naturally involved in many things. You know the in’s and out’s of the company, the products, the customers, the supply base, and systems better than most.
I became so good at these day to day tasks and problem solving, that for me, it was an adrenaline rush and an accomplishment. Some call this firefighting and it made my job feel very rewarding.
I eventually ran out of time to do what was needed to grow EMTEQ.
EMTEQ had became a command and control operation. I hired managers, but I didn’t delegate or trust them to do their jobs. When you have managers but you are still making every hiring and firing decision like I used to, this should be a huge red flag. I quickly realized that I would be more effective by delegating and empowering my staff.
Some changes had to be made. Over time, I turned to business coaches to help us improve our operations. I came to appreciate continuous improvement, deployment, and business management tools. We just needed to apply them to our business processes.
With a goal to save time, you have to plan and think about what could be worked on and how it brings back the most value. The reality is that every day consists of planned and unplanned activities. This is okay, but you need something to fall back on when that unplanned activity is completed.
At EMTEQ, that something was the Single-Page Plan. We created this business plan to include only our vision, mission, initiatives, and goals for the year. We communicated it and made sure the employees understood it.
This plan made it possible for everyone to align their major tasks and activities with the company’s initiatives. It helped me prioritize my schedule and think twice about firefighting. Instead of answering 200 emails per day, I would think about what I needed to focus on – and attend to those matters first. As the leader, I started to eliminate my activities from problems that held minimal value. I started to become really conscientious of the ROI of all I did.
Our Single-Page Plan was simple, focused and became the roadmap to growth. Instead of completing everything that went across my desk, I only did what was outlined on the plan. Similarly, the leadership team and our vested stakeholders would work together to achieve our goals. We spent less time on non-value added activities when everyone worked towards the same plan.
Throughout the year, we implemented a deployment process to keep everyone focused on the plan.
We would schedule and define our meetings at the beginning of the year. Our meetings became more efficient and less frequent when they were defined. These meetings allowed us to come up for a breath of fresh air, strategize, hold each other accountable, and modify how to execute towards the plan. Afterall, the plan for your business will likely change throughout the year. Between meetings, we would enforce accountability through our Must Do/Can’t Miss boards which propelled growth and employee engagement.
The video below shows STUCK Co-Founder, Paul Schulls, talking about how businesses can easily minimize the time (and waste!) teams spend in meetings.
If this article speaks to you, just remember that it’s okay to not know where to go next when it comes to saving time. It took EMTEQ years to perfect the Single-Page Plan and it’s execution cycle. My advice is to use a system that works for you.
I will challenge you to free up time to work on those critical items that will push your business forward. Your growth will happen when you align your people and processes to a strategy.
Best of luck on your business journey!
Prepared for Milwaukee’s BizTimes