“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”
…or so the saying goes.
Sure, busy people are more productive. A person who is great at executing tends to have an empty inbox at the end of the evening, is on time for meetings, and seems to flow effortlessly with a prompt return of that phone call.
Patience is rarely an attribute that describes most entrepreneurs. We see the future instantly in perfect 20/20 vision. When the idea comes, it arrives in version 4.0, with all the bells and whistles, and a crystal clear dream of a future IPO.
Then, you wake up and realize it never really works this way.
In 2020, my business boomed. We increased our revenue by 300% over 2019. We doubled our payroll and helped dozens of executives by breathing life into their idea of becoming a published author.
2021… not so much.
In January of 2021, our numbers plummeted. Our business saw a dramatic drop in leads and it took us nearly 60 days to uncover the culprit. Our marketing program, which served us so well in the previous year, had all but dried up and died.
It was time for a shift.
Not a pivot, not a new vendor, but a dramatic shift in how we positioned ourselves. It was almost as if we needed to start a new business. When it comes to any business, marketing is the life blood and without it, dozens of jobs could be lost. We had to act decisively, swiftly, and in a huge way. With a 180 degree shift in marketing and our brand, I knew we had a chance not to simply survive, but to grow past our numbers from 2020.
So I put pen to paper and mapped out everything I wanted. This included a new curriculum for our student-clients, 3 new websites, a podcast, online TV show, PR, sales copy, and a brand awareness that would exceed what we had done the previous year. If we were to keep the lights on, we could not simply hire a new marketing vendor. We had to shift and move into the big leagues.
My strategy and task list I created was big. Huge. Massive.
New content, websites, copy, graphics and alliances would all have to be completely redone. When we looked at our list of tasks, it was beyond overwhelming; like a deer in the headlights, my leadership team froze.
We would need 3 new major web properties, an upgraded server, over 46 new pieces of content and more. The graphics alone would require more than 142 new images.
When we mapped out all the strategies and tasks, it took nearly 12 sheets of paper-each with a set of directives that our Six Sigma project manager said would take at least 6-9 months to map out and execute.
“If we take six months, there won’t be a company left,” I flatly stated.
As an entrepreneur, we visualize success 100% of the time. There is no room for doubt, fear, or for that matter… wasted time.
“We have 30 days,” I finished.
My project manager knew this was not about my ego or even her job. We had dozens of families who depended on our ability to provide them a paycheck.
Overwhelm? Don’t waste my time. Just get it done.
The reality, however, is not so simple.
Our strategy to meet and beat the overwhelm was elegantly simple. As a Franklin Planner and
“7 Habits for Highly Effective People” fan, I knew about prioritizing. But we would need more than simply putting A’s and B’s next to the tasks.
We needed a 3 dimensional execution map.
Here is how it works:
1. Write out all the tasks. Don’t worry if it was big, small or if it even related to our mission and value statement. Just get it all out of our heads and onto paper.
2. Organize each task. Group each task into a category. Does this belong in sales, marketing, operations, finance, or some other category?
3. Assign a team leader. Each category would get a team leader and people to execute. No micromanaging by yours truly. Each leader would live and die by their project. Leave no task unassigned. It was all hands on deck.
4. Assess each category. Have the team leader look at each module on its own without seeing the other projects. Estimate the resources necessary to complete it. Note resources required. Everything costs money… even time has a financial cost. Be clear on both.
5. Estimate impact. Have each team member estimate the impact of each category. What is the expected output? For marketing, how many leads is expected. For operations, how much time will this automation save?
6. Estimate movement. This is the hard part. We can look at tasks as a moment in time as most are in motion. A marketing plan operates day-by-day. We have to feed the animal and it’s always hungry. Estimate the ongoing resources and output for each task.
7. Prioritize by speed. While one project may be a leader’s “favorite,” it is vital to look at the numbers and avoid pet projects. Three months of networking with an alliance partner may be vital, but if one phone call to one resource will get us 10 leads next week instead, that takes priority.
As this article is being written, we are still in the process of finishing our big project. Writing it down helped me realize MY pet project was at risk. As CEO, my baby would be the slowest moving category with the slowest ROI.
As the CEO, I had to learn to wait… patiently wait for the one project that is my absolute favorite. The one idea that will put our company on the map has to wait.
As an entrepreneur, it’s not my best friend. As a leader, I’ve got to learn to embrace it as my favorite child.