CEO Shoptalk – Time Allocation

Time allocation is a critical consideration for the CEO of any size enterprise, but particularly for CEOs of small businesses and startups.

Big Red Car here. Been in Savannah spending time with My Perfect Granddaughter offspring of My Perfect Daughter, the red head.

So, when I am there, I get into a convo with a young C-suite type guy and we are discussing how a startup or small company CEO should allocate his time.

It is a conversation I’ve had with a million CEOs. It is a universal problem faced by all CEOs.

How does one allocate their time as the company is faced with growth in a crawl, walk, run scenario?

Allocate what, Big Red Car?

CEOs have to allocate their time amongst three large considerations:

 1. Vision and growth – the driver of the company, its raison d’etre. This is the big one.

 2. Operations – what the company actually does. Like flying  an airplane into or out of trouble one must always aviate first and only then navigate and ask for help,.

 3. Fixing broken stuff – no sooner do you stand up your company than stuff starts to break and the CEO has to be involved in fixing it. (Think customer service.)

There are great number of ways this can be approached, but this division is a good start – Vision/Growth, Operations, Fixing broken stuff.

This is done within the phases of growth in a startup or a small company – crawl, walk, run.

In some ways, how the CEO allocates her time is an indicator as to what phase the company is in. Remember this.

OK, so how do we do it, time allocation, Big Red Car?

The answer is very simple – it changes as the company matures.

In the crawl, walk phases of the company’s life, it looks like this:

You can see that at first, the CEO is all about the launch. They have formulated the vision and now it is being converted into a real enterprise.

Soon, the newly launched company is up on its knees and the CEO is able to begin to expand their own bandwidth. Now, they do more of everything, but Operations and Fixing Broken Stuff compete hard for the time to do Vision/Growth.

Then what happens, Big Red Car?

Then, dear CEO, you begin to run. Crawl, walk, run. Running starts when you are able to begin to delegate effectively. Maybe as much stuff gets fixed, but you are not personally doing it.

Maybe operations is still as challenging, but you have hired some folks to handle that burden.

It looks like this:

As you can see, the original triangle is turned upside down. Now the CEO is able to husband the time created through people leverage – delegating fixing broken stuff and hiring folks to assist in the day-to-day operations of the company.

Bottom line it, Big Red Car

Do not be afraid to suffer at the beginning of your adventure. It builds character, but be constantly thinking about crawl, walk, run and how the allocation of your time will change as you grow.

To achieve substantial or hyper-growth, you will have to get back to having Vision driven Growth as your primary focus.

And, that, dear reader, is how the cow eats the cabbage as it relates to the allocation of time for the startup and small business CEO.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Last thought – in 33 years of CEOing, I lived this. In later companies after I learned this lesson, I could kick it into gear without any resistance because I had learned this lesson. Have a great week.