CEO Shoptalk – Energy

Energy, today we focus on energy.

Big Red Car here after an afternoon of menial labor. I like menial labor, I do.

So, today we talk about how a startup, a small business, or a medium size business deals with energy.

First, there are energy sources and energy sinks. An energy sink is an absorber of energy. We will come back to this issue of energy sinks. Now, we focus on creating, maintaining, and multiplying energy.

Here is an example of a dragon projecting energy, hence, the name “dragon energy.” Haha, Kanye and Donald, both DRAGON ENERGY.

Fire breathing dragons are sources of energy. Usually, they have eaten burritos with jalapenos.

Every enterprise is, essentially, an energy equation. Let’s apply that to business, shall we?

Initial energy sources

Great companies and elite military units create and exude energy from the beginning.

The big question is how?

Like any business enterprise, the answer begins with the energy contained in the Vision for the company. The founder creates the Vision. Tepid visions do not generate a lot of energy. Bold visions do. The best people gravitate toward big challenges, high standards, bold visions.

Elite military units generate energy with the nature of their training, the quality and selectivity of their personnel, their leaders, the fierceness of their training, and the audacity of their missions.

Special Forces exists “To Free the Oppressed.” Rangers harken to lead the way with their motto, “Rangers lead the way!” Paratroopers jump into the night bringing “Death from the skies!”

When The Boss ran companies, his motto was always “Urgent Excellence.”

Maintaining energy

Enterprises with good starting energy maintain that high level of energy with the quality of their planning, the communication of their plan, and the quality of their execution. Winning and success build energy even in the earliest phases of a startup.

Elite military units maintain their high level of energy by their exploits on the ground.


Ultimately, the issue of energy resides in the culture of the company. The values of the founders determine the initial culture of the company, but it soon outruns the founders and belongs to the company. This is a healthy development, because now you have multiple carriers and keepers of the flame.

In business enterprises, the notion of cultural energy is encompassed in the idea of morale.

In military enterprises, it’s called esprit de corps.

They are both the same things.

Multiplying energy

Companies can multiply, increase, their energy by having a clear plan, communicating it, measuring performance against it, and maintaining communication with the team.

The military multiplies its energy by celebrating its lore with parades and awards. The issue of awards is very important as the military is unable to provide much in the way of extraordinary financial rewards, something business can.

Killing energy

Energy sinks must be eliminated immediately. They consume energy, but they also stand in the way of multiplying energy. Dealing with energy sinks can be exhausting — an indication of how much energy they are consuming.

The classic energy sink is the brilliant employee who creates more trouble than he is worth. The brilliant coder who irritates the entire rest of the team.

You must look at it solely from the vantage point of energy — is this individual a net creator or consumer of energy? If he is a consumer of energy, an energy sink, get rid of him.

A big problem I often see is not dealing with the energy sink as quickly as necessary. By the time a CEO does make the move, the losses are real and there is negative energy loose in the air. It will take time to get back to the point of departure.

Hire fast. Fire faster.

Got any tips, Big Red Car?

Yes, here are some tips which I know work.

 1. Communicate well. The CEO’s time is the most valuable commodity the company possess. Use it wisely to communicate the plan. Make sure your company is ready to engage. Be “Ready To Fight Tonight.” [You get that what’s the military does, right?]

 2. Pay well. Pay as well as you can.

 3. Conduct monthly meetings in accordance with #1 above. Don’t end the meeting until you have forced every question from the audience. Unasked and unanswered questions are a cancer on the fabric of the company. Ignore them., fail to purge them, the cancer grows. Remember, your team listens to what you say and what you don’t say.

 4. Conduct an annual Anonymous Company Survey. It is a pain, but it provides an incredible problem identification exercise. It, thereby, breathes energy into the company.

Anonymous Company Survey

 5. Reward performance. Even little performance. Create a company reward, some talisman. Catch people doing something well. Reward them.

 Whatever behaviors you reward, will be repeated.

 6. Manage by wandering around. Watch people doing their job and talk to them about what the company can do to make their performance better.

 7. Conduct your annual performance appraisals in a timely manner. Tie performance to objectives. Tie compensation to the attainment of objectives. Again, reward the habits you want to see repeated.

Take a second to think about the damage not doing performance appraisals in a timely manner can do. Energy sink?

 8. Harness the power of peers. Ask the team – in the Anonymous Company Survey – who is the Most Valuable Player in the company or work group? They will always get it right. Reward that person.

First, you reward a good person, but you also tell the team you value their opinion.

 9. Spend some time documenting and nurturing the company culture, in particular, by having an excellent employee handbook and great policies.

 10. When you do get rid of an energy sink, tell the company exactly why. This way they understand “energy” is the currency of the land.

OK, so that’s it, dear readers. Take an hour and think about the level of energy at your company. If you get stuck, call Kanye! Haha, sorry. Call me. I’ll help you.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a 327 HP Big Red Car and I can run the Hill Country, top down, all night.