Season 2 – Episode 15 – Advice to New CEOs with Donald Thompson
“A lot of people become a CEO for the first time with no experience. It’s kinda like becoming a parent. There’s not really qualifications to be a CEO. You can print a business card, you can start a business, then you are in charge of something and really responsible for taking something from a concept to a commercial being. And a lot of times when people start a brand new company, they have an idea, they have a certain perspective. But running a business and creating something that gives you value to the point where you can survive in the marketplace is a totally different thing.”
The book referenced in this episode is Startup Hats by David Gardner.
Hustle Unlimited is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.
Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.
Jason Gillikin, Executive Producer Hustle Unlimited, CEO of Earfluence:
Welcome to the Hustle Unlimited podcast. This is episode five of season two and I’m so excited to share this. We’ve got Donald Thompson in the room. We’ve got Amie Thompson in the room from Creative Allies and I’m a guest on the show as well. So I’m Jason Gillikin, CEO of the Earfluence podcast network and now I am introducing Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West on the Hustle Unlimited podcast. Welcome everybody.
Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West, Host of Hustle Unlimited:
Hey Amie, how are you doing?
Amie Thompson, CEO of Creative Allies:
Jason, you doing alright?
I’m doing great.
Good. We’re going to have some fun day. I’m going to talk for a little bit and really the focus for today is what are some of the lessons that I wish I had known as a young CEO in building my companies and what would I impart to you guys in particular, but then the masses in terms of things that you could look out for. So I’ve got a couple of thoughts initially, but then I also want you guys to kind of rapid fire some questions so that it’s very interactive and if we feel like we’re getting good feedback, we’ll do this again and share it with other people. But one of the things that I’ve found is that a lot of people become a CEO for the first time with no experience.
And a lot of times when people start a brand new company, they have an idea, they have a certain perspective. Maybe they are engineer, maybe they’re are computer scientists, maybe there are creative. But
And a lot of times we miss some of the steps in the middle and that’s some of the things that we’re going to talk about today. So one of the things that I do when I’m learning anything very new is number one, I realize the concept of try fail and adjust is pretty important.
You don’t have to have all the answers at once, as long as you’re not married to the ones that you think you have.
And there’s a very, very important difference between the two. Strong-willed means that you’re willing to push through and persevere, even though something’s difficult, even though there are trials and tribulations that you didn’t anticipate, your goals and dreams are big enough that you’re going to continue to push forward on the journey. Stubborn means you’re going to pick a direction and stick with it in spite of new data. And those two things are very, very important as an entrepreneur because as an entrepreneur you have to be taking inputs all the time to make sure that you’re course correcting while you’re moving forward.
And sometimes that course correcting means, you know, the cool word they use today is pivot. But course correct, change, all that good stuff because of the market place, which I think is the first major point is going to define whether you’re delivering enough value to matter in the marketplace. So how do you determine if you have enough value to survive in the marketplace?
, documented those conversations, listen to what those clients or potential clients are saying and then make a determination of what you should do next.
That is an easy way to do research without having to pay for expensive strategy, without having to have an expensive board of advisors or mentors. It’s just talking about your goals, dreams, and vision, but most importantly documenting those conversations to ensure that you are learning from each and every one of those and most important that you’re understanding the patterns that you develop from hearing from different people, different backgrounds about the endeavor that you’re going after. So number one is doing the research in your business and that’s talking to a hundred people and documenting what they want to teach you. The other thing that I recommend to folks when they’re looking at their business,
Most of the time as a solo entrepreneur, most of the time as a small team of two, three, four or five, you do have to wear a number of different hats. However, you should be very cognizant of where your strengths are, your strengths and how well you perform. Those strengths are going to give you scale. They’re going to be more valuable than focusing on working on your weaknesses. Your goal as an entrepreneur is understanding your strengths. Spend more time doing that than your weaknesses. You’ve got to find people to help you with that because you don’t actually have time in an entrepreneurial setting to get good at what you’re bad at. A couple of things to think about in terms of your high level understanding as a CEO, a couple of things, are trying to get in any kind of business is number one, you’ve got to get attention.
Everyone is so busy now, social media, work, family, kids, 50 people pitching something that’s similar to what you do. So how do you get people’s attention in a meaningful way? And that means your content, that means your pitch deck, that means your elevator pitch has to be tight, compelling and powerful. So you’ve got to spend a lot of time on the way you communicate your message to other people so that it resonates so that people are wanting to take action based on hearing what you do and why they should do that thing with you. The thing is trust. So you’ve got someone’s attention. So then why should they trust you with their project? Why should they trust you buying a product? Why should they trust you with your service? And the third thing is how do you describe the value? So when you think about gaining attention, that’s in your marketing, right?
That’s in your messaging, that’s in your attachment with other partners, right? And you need a deliberate plan to do that. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate plan. It needs to be a deliberate plan and getting the attention of people in your target market that actually buy what you’re selling. Now you can do that through a social media campaign. You can do that through billboard advertising. You can do that through direct mail. There’s a million ways that you can do that. The challenge, however, is remembering that
, right? And nobody will even know what happened because there’s so many different things out there. So I think having a marketing expertise on your initial founding team or a partner investor with a marketing expertise is really important.
It only matters if you build a great product that people buy. It only matters if you have a great story that people share. It’s a function of now as a CEO, stepping back and saying that every element of my new business creation, how am I tracking the results based on the efforts that I deliver? And if you can’t track it or trace it, then it doesn’t matter, right? It’s all kind of cocktail party, cool stuff. But you gotta be able to trace the results of what you did. So that’s attention. The other thing is in terms of you’ve got trust, so people develop trust and a couple of different ways, credibility if you will. Number one, referrals, recommendations, case studies.
So that means people that are early adopters, and Amie, in your case, you’ve got hundreds of customers that have used Creative Allies over the course of its 10 years in history and now certainly with you being a CEO, a new CEO over the last year, year and a half, the business has taken on a new flavor. You’re adding new services, you’re growing the company, you’re altering the vision in a powerful way. However, people still need to know that you’ve worked with some of the top music artists in the world that you’ve delivered. Social media campaigns, community campaigns that have created, thousands of designs with some of the top artists in the world that you’ve worked with. Ben and Jerry’s, people need to know that you’ve worked with ESPN. They need to know that you’ve partnered with Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets, and you have to get that information in front of people on a frequent basis.
So now when you pitch them anything, they know that you’ve been there, done that at a high level in one of the lanes of your business. And so that trust and credibility does not come because you’re nice. It does not come because you’re a friend of a friend. It comes based on what you’ve done with the company or what you’ve done in the past that’s been successful. And so you’ve got to amplify those things so that people have a reason to believe what you’re selling. Value is about outcomes. One of the things that is kind of a, a phrase I’m thinking about a lot now is the
So if you’ve built a logo for a startup company and you had a campaign to build a new innovative logo for a startup company that they paid for that, then they got better traction with investors for then you have to tell that story to build trust. You’ve got to tell that story in a creative way to get attention, and then you use that business case study to be the validator. Most people have those elements in their business, but they don’t stay focused on those three things long enough, focused enough, hard enough so they get that thing called momentum, but it’s really the attention. It’s really building the trust and then demonstrating how you deliver that value when learning something new for the first time.
I like to read a lot and so I’ve got for each of you guys a book by a friend of mine, his name is David Gardner and he wrote a book called The Startup Hats, and so I’m going to use attention, trust, and value as I promote this book to you. So the way I’m going to get your attention is I’m talking to you about an investor locally in Raleigh that is 17 out of 17 in successes in startups that he put money in. So now I have your attention. Trust. I’ve personally invested money with David. He has a track record of returning value to his stakeholders, people that invest money with them, and that value contribution is measurable in terms of the amount of value that he gives and delivers to the startups that he works with and the investors that invest with him. The attention is in the fact that in reading this book, you can study the blueprint that has made him extremely successful. The trust is he’s not giving you information that he thought of theoretically, he doesn’t have a PHD in startups. He just happens to have a portfolio of startups that he’s learning every day about what works, what doesn’t work, the mindset of startups that doesn’t work, and you then can translate that information into your business by reading this book, by reading this book, you can trust, you can get these results because A) you can read, reading’s easy. Learning is not difficult when you’re motivated. So if you want to be the next startup success in Raleigh, North Carolina, why wouldn’t we collectively study the top venture capitalist in our area that we actually know and can get time with? And so that’s why I’m gifting you this book because David knows things that I don’t know. So I read the book, I recommend you read it. We can talk about it and guess what? We can pick up the phone. We can email David if we have questions. And so we can get to somebody that’s an absolute expert in our field, but quite frankly, why do we need to waste David’s time calling him if we haven’t even read the book? I had somebody call me and say, Hey, can you introduce me to David? I was like, yeah, but I’m gonna have you read this book first. Cause I’m not…like, I know David reasonably well, but we’re not best buddies. So I only have, like, how many referrals a year from me is he going to take seriously? So I don’t just refer everybody I talk to to this Goliath in our industry, but I give out a lot of his books. And then when somebody reads the book and then they call me back, then I’ll talk about it with them and then I may introduce them to David. But did I get your attention? Do you understand why we trust him? And then the business value is kind of obvious.
Yeah. And you read the book before contacting him.
100% and that’s one of the ways when I reached out to him on LinkedIn, I said, by the way, thanks. Read your book. Here’s a couple things for it. Love to have a cup of coffee, get to know you a little bit better. And
How smart you are? Everybody’s smart enough to be successful in a business, right? Unless you’re doing something highly technical, highly scientific, right? Then there’s kind of PhD horsepower required, but in most businesses it’s really a function of, is the idea good and is the tenacity real that makes it through? So the second kind of major topic, or maybe this is the third, so we’re going to talk a little bit about personal brand development and becoming an expert in your space. Again, this has little to do with building your product and service and everything to do with building your personal brand. Why would people trust you if they don’t know about you? That goes back to the attention and then once people hear about you, then why would they do business with you if you’re not smarter than the other guy?
So therefore, if somebody gets to the Creative Allies website, is Amie as a CEO, the coolest person they’ve heard about that day, that week, that month? I don’t know the answer to that, but I know that Amie has, within her experience of working with hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies, of working with hundreds musical acts, of working with thousands of designers of creative content, what she did prior to Creative Allies as a project manager at a software delivery, from her experience and the academic pedigree, graduating from University of North Carolina, people respect that. Whether they like Duke or Chapel Hill or whatever, people know that UNC is not an easy school to get into. So if people know that Amie graduated from UNC, they say UNC equals Amie is smart. Amie graduated from high school, from the School of Math and Science. You’re like, why would I go all the way back from high school? Because you’re showing a journey of doing smart things because I’m awesome. It’s that self promotion, right? If I’d went to the School of Math and Science, I’d be telling everybody. I couldn’t get into that. She did. Does that make sense? Right, but if, but if I had that all, I was like, yeah. When I was at the School of Math and Science and people are like, really? You got into that? That’s awesome. Why the North Carolina School of Math and Science, that means I don’t know the top one to the top 5% of academically gifted kids in the state of North Carolina and Amie was one of those young people at that time, followed that up by going to Chapel Hill. Follow that up by getting her Master’s Degree. Follow that up by working with Fortune 1000 companies and following that up by being a CEO of one of the fastest growing companies in our town.
You put together a story about you that is compelling based on what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished. Jason, you’ve been an entrepreneur. You and your wife own a company together, right? You have expertise in SEO, you have expertise in business development, you have expertise as an audio engineer. What are all the things that make you special, and you’ve got to amplify those things because you are the company.
And those two things do not coincide. One goes before the other, and you’ve got to focus on that personal brand as much as any other mission in your business. And a lot of times if you’re not a salesperson, happen to be from a business development background, but most people that start companies wherever they’re an engineer, maybe they’re a creative whatever, but some people are a little bit too humble. They don’t want to brag on themselves, but that actually is the economy that we’re in. And that goes back to getting people’s attention, giving them trust and showing them how you’ve delivered value in the past. So that personal brand development is crucial. Now here’s a couple of ways that you do it. Your LinkedIn profile should be as important as the time you put into your business card or the time that you put into your pitch deck, the amount of time that you put into anything else you do. LinkedIn is now the new business currency in terms of how we check each other and do research, right? What writing have you done, right? What blogs have you written, what podcasts are you on, what white papers have you done so that now when somebody goes to your website or goes to your LinkedIn profile, they not only see about what you’ve done but also what you are doing and then what you can help them be educated to do better. And so that LinkedIn profile is pretty important because that’s a jump off point for trust. And then that value validation. I’ll let you guys pop in with a couple of questions, but those are a couple of initial thoughts and then we’ll, we’ll keep going. We’ll, we’ll kind of pepper it in.
Yeah. And you talk about your own personal brand. I went to Carolina as well, just like Amie did.
You’re smart also. Awesome. I just want to point that out. So I went there too.
No, but you said enough about me already. I appreciate all that. But you know, you own your personal brand in a different way. So you did not go to Carolina, and you talk about dropping out of college and you talk about just the hustle from there. But that’s your personal brand. That’s you. That’s your story to promote. And so it’s different. But that’s your story to tell.
That’s exactly right. And everybody has a personal brand story. And so I think that’s a great way to phrase it, right? What’s your personal brand story and how do you build that out in a compelling way? And it’s really interesting where I…today’s session is talking about a CEO and a lot of times being a better CEO, and a lot of times you think about, all right, what’s my go to market strategy, right? How do I work on that? How do I define my pricing and go to that? Well, all of that, you’re going to try fail and adjust. That’s actually not the whole thing. It’s some of it for sure. And we’ll get to some of those things. But really it’s about how do you attract investment and clients to what you’re doing, and people do business with people they like that they trust that they believe will return value to them and that credibility has to be amplified.
And you guys both, as well as most CEOs, have that in your past, but it’s just not promoted properly, right? It’s just not promoted intentionally. I think most CEOs that are just starting out missed that mark because they’re focused on trying to have the perfect product and that goes back to what I said in the beginning. You don’t really know about the perfect product until you talk to a hundred customers and it’s usually by the time you get to 20 you’ll know the customer voice is something that you want to hear on a regular basis more than anything else. As a new CEO, talking to people that are in the market to buy what you’re selling so that you then can tweak your messaging, tweak your product, your service offering, tweak your pricing, and people will tell you in that form of stage and then you spent a lot less cycle time on building the wrong thing and you actually build the right client profile roster based on the people you’re talking to. You actually spend less money getting the market. Most people miss the research step.
Yeah. There was a reason that we put our service offering in a Google sheets rather than printed out and frame it because it’s going to be in flux.
One of the things that most people want is a great value. So if you think about going to a very expensive restaurant, the higher the price, the higher your expectations. So that restaurant, a high end steak house, a high end seafood house, you know that’s going to cost you 300-400 bucks for two people to go out. They’ve set a standard based on their price and that means if almost anything goes wrong, you’re a little bit disappointed, right? Because you’re paying for perfection, right? You’re paying for everything from how you’re greeted at the door, right? All the way to the wine selection, how the food is presented, all of those good things. When you think about fast food, it’s very transactional, right? And really your expectation is that the right food (and I use that loosely) is in the bag and it’s hot, but your standards are radically different.
So you have to
So what you have to do is you have to figure out what are the choices you want to give your clients and where do you want to play in in terms of market, in terms of features, in terms of product to where you can dominate. But most people are doing too many different things, so they’re not good at any one, two or three things. And there’s nothing wrong with having a primary set of services that you offer. And we also do X, Y, and Z, and that gives people the breadth that you can be full service as a service business if you’re in the consulting space, but you need to have a specialty.
You need to have a handful of things that you’re better than the rest. And one of the things that is important in that is the specialty has to be something that you can replicate without the need for superstars or experts. So if you do deliver a service, but it requires $100,000 consultants to deliver that service, you need a lot more money to run your business, right? If you’re building a product, but it requires everybody that buys that product to have $1 million, you’ve shrunk your market. Most people that are starting companies these days, when you’re looking at that product market fit, you’re looking at where you want to play on that cost continuum. There’s enough tracking horses, right? So if you wanted to be a, let’s just use CRMs for example, right? Customer relationship management tool, so what is a CRM people have heard of? Salesforce.com. They’ve heard of NetSuite. They’ve heard of SugarCRM, they’ve heard of Zoho CRM. They’ve heard of Pipedrive. That’s a CRM. Well, Salesforce and NetSuite on the higher end of CRMs and then you have on the value, and I don’t want to discount anybody’s product in terms of the way I describe it. Then you have SugarCRM that’s kind of in the middle and then you have PipeDrive that it’s on the bottom. When you’re thinking about what you want to do as a business or service, you’ve got to understand the players in your market and where do you want to play? Are you trying to displace Salesforce or are you a lower cost provider that gives tremendous upscale value. In the case of Creative Allies, you’re doing design services with 100,000 designers and content creators in your community so that you can do crowdsource design and scale.
Are you trying to go after Ogilvy as an agency or really are you competing and trying to win with people that have one or two marketers in their company and they need a helping hand? Either way you can make money, but you have a higher degree of ability to create attention, trust and value, if you’re going after companies that have one or two marketers in their company, the CEO is also the chief marketer and giving them a helping hand with expanding their brand. So by choosing where you play in a market space allows you to be smarter, faster and use your resources better. As a CEO, you cannot do everything. And so back to what we talked about earlier, Amie, in your case, you’re not a natural business development person. You can do business development, you can sell products and services, but that’s not your natural gifting. Your natural gifting is an operator. You’re super organized. Setting strategy is something that you’re very good at. Listening to the tone and the construct of what people are saying and understanding customer needs. So you have tremendous value to add to your organization and any other organization. What Amie is building out is a brand ambassador program to where she’s building out partnerships with highly successful business development people in the area to help represent her brand. Now she wouldn’t have done that if she was trying to be the chief marketer, the chief business development person, the operations chief and the HR representative for your company. So knowing what you’re good at is step one, knowing how to staff around your weaknesses is radically important and how to do that in a creative way, right? With a very, very small company. Now how do you have that self assessment if you don’t know yourself that well?
So here’s the thing that I think is really important for CEOs. Build a board of advisors and use them. Build a board of advisors and use them. So it’s one thing to have a board of advisors and the names and the resumes look good, but you never really called them. You’re never really open to feedback. You kind of want people to look good for your pitch deck for investors, but you’ve got a way that you want things done. And I’ve been on advisory boards of both companies. I mean there was a company I was on an advisory board for and they raised a bunch of money, called me once a week for six weeks and each six weeks I started asking the CEO and their CSO questions that they didn’t want to be asked. I gave them feedback they didn’t really want and all of a sudden they stopped calling me and then maybe a year later they ran out of money and were struggling and then all of a sudden my phone was ringing again.
Okay. They didn’t really want information and feedback. They wanted my name, my credibility, my background to show investors and then, I want to do whatever the hell I wanted to do. Now knock…I mean they’re fixing their company, it’s all good and I’m helping them do that. Some different folks doing that. But the point is, build a board of advisors and listen to them. Find out the strengths and weaknesses. So that they can identify those things that you need to work on. So I’ll use Jason as an example. Jason is very, very good in terms of the construct of podcasting, storytelling, building out the themes around podcasting. And what Jason needs to focus more on is now the building of the community. So if you build a podcast for Hustle Unlimited and nobody listens to it, then what difference does it make?
If you built me a great podcast, it actually doesn’t mean anything to your client. The only thing that matters in the podcasting space, and I mean the only thing, is how do you get attention so people know that you actually have a podcast. How do you build the hooks, the promos, the marketing people trust that if I listen to that podcast, I’m going to learn something. And then for the client of influence, how many downloads of my podcast? Now, once you get that metric rolling, then it is how many people listen to it again, how long did they listen? Right? How many ads are we able to sell? But the fundamental build-out is how do you build a community around the product or services that you’re offering. In this case, we’re not actually offering podcasting as much as we’re offering impactful storytelling. A platform for CEOs to better brand their company or personal brand to grow their individual business community, one person at a time that’s going to buy their products and service.
And so those are some of the nuances when you’re looking at your business as a CEO, you have to take a step out of what you’re actually doing and then really think about what needs to be done. And a lot of times you guys can get so busy in doing what you think should be done that you’re not looking at whether or not you should be doing that anyway or whether you’re the one that should be doing it or you’re delegating. And those are a couple of things that I thought. Amie, a couple of questions from you.
Do you have any tips on how to make that differentiation between, you know, I think the hardest thing is just realizing that, why am I doing this? Like, I don’t actually need to be doing this for the company at all. You know, if you get into this rhythm of always doing X, Y, and Z because we’ve always done X, Y, and Z , versus really what are the most important?
Alright, so how do you make the delineation between what you should be doing, what you should be delegating, and what shouldn’t even be done? So the number one thing is when you look at your business,
in the very beginning because you’ve got, you’ve got to have customers. And I say that even if you’re in the process of building out your product, because even if you’re in the process of building out a product, you’ve got to be focused on how you’re going to market that product, how you’re going to pitch that product and sell that product. Because you’ve got to get feedback on what you’re doing at every phase in your product development cycle so you know you’re building the right thing.
So the first thing is just the priority of the handful of big rocks in your business and it’s your revenue and it’s your marketing. Because if you get your pipeline, your business pipeline of potential clients large enough, you have the opportunity to fund the support you need to grow. If what you’re doing excellent, building a product, writing a press release, doing other internal things. If you’re not doing something to grow the top line of your business, it almost doesn’t make it make a difference because every investor you talk to is going to ask you what your pipeline is. Every single one, they’re not going to lead and say, when’s your product going to be ready? What’s your target client market? How many of those clients do you have identified? How many of them have you talked to and what do they say about your product or service?
And once they understand those high level things, then they do come back to product delivery, product launch. What you’re going to market, strategy, all those different things in detail, but everybody wants to know how much are you going to sell and how quickly, and you have to keep that top of mind. Keeping that top of mind is going to take three or four hours a day now of your time. So you’ve got less time to waste on things that don’t matter as much. And then the second thing that you want to think about is other people on your team, whether it is interns, whether it is freelancers. Let’s say it’s two or three people in a startup, you and one or two other people. What are they doing that is driving the bottom line to the business? Now their view is based on their talents, which is different than yours.
Their view is based on some of the mundane things that maybe you don’t have time to do, which is very, very good. All those things make absolute sense. And so what you want to think about is are you leveraging your staff, your team, your contractors, to do those things that they’re really, really good at? And have you picked people that are reliable. So here’s another issue. Every day is interview day for the people that you’re talking to. And one of the bigger mistakes that people make as a CEO is hanging on to talent that’s not performing. You don’t have time for that.
Or money. Because while you’re delaying that decision, you’re draining money and draining time.
And the value that they can bring though, that can be freeing up your time as a CEO.
100%, if they’re providing value. I’d rather know I’m alone if I’m alone. But if you’re getting good value from the team that you’re building, it does free you up to scale, but
And when you waste it, you cannot get it back.
Yeah. And time tips too, that’s huge for me right now, is figuring out how exactly to allocate time. I read the first chapter of this Startup Hat book yesterday, in just a free Kindle download and I’m so excited to read the whole thing now. But one of the things that David Gardner talks about is the chaos of entrepreneurship. And you have a plan, and you might start up an email to be the first thing in the morning and then not finish it until, you know, last thing that night because so many other things happen and that’s true. But I’ve got to figure out how to, okay, here’s my block of time for sales here.
And yeah. Any tips that you have and, and Amie, Don said you’re a great organization, any tips that you have as well?
Yeah. So your question was, you know, how do you manage the chaos from a prioritization and a time management standpoint? You’ve really got to
Right. A lot of times people are nice people. They want to be polite to folks but the most polite thing to do is tell somebody no versus a yes that’s half ass. And you want people to in your reputation to be such that your word is good. And so if you say you’re going to do something, you’re going to do it with a high degree of quality on time with a high degree of value for your partner, your client. But specifically what I would say, and this is a little off kilter, is you should be reading still 30 to 40 minutes every day.
And let me tell you why that’s important. You need to sharpen your decision making. And the way you sharpen your decision making is learning new things about your industry, about being a CEO, about being a leader. So you make better decisions real time. So what’s interesting, cause you said, how can I cut time and I gave you something to do, right? Which is kind of, which is was kind of odd, right? But if you read this book, Startup Hats, and you make better decisions about how to articulate your time, it’s going to pay you dividends over the course of your value. So number one, don’t sacrifice your learning habit. Don’t sacrifice the cups of coffee with people that will teach you and take time with you or the things that you need to read because a lot of times CEOs will sacrifice personal development for short term points of progress and so that’s why I lead with that.
Number one. The second thing I think is most important is that business development is your number one job.
Because the customers are going to tell you everything about what to build, everything about what your market is saying, everything about what your competitors are doing, which will then inform your marketing, inform your product or service selection, inform your delivery because you spent the first couple of hours of every day talking to new prospects, existing partners, existing customers about using your product or service. The other thing that I think is important is when you’re managing your calendar, I don’t necessarily, I book things weeks in advance with different things are happening, but I look at things mostly one week at a time. That’s really the reality and I try to have a great day and if I balance great days together, then I can have a great week.
And so I don’t make things too complicated there, but what I will tell you is when you meet with people internally or externally, get good at doing all of your follow up activity five to 10 minutes after. So let’s say you’re, you’re having an hour cup of coffee with somebody, right? Shrink that to 40 minutes. After the 40th minute you’re usually not getting much more value and you’re just more on the chit chat and other things. Then you have 20 minutes in that same hour to do all your follow-up from that meeting. If you have having a 30 minute meeting, bring it down at 25, 20 minutes. So instead of, you know how these calendars have 30 minute blocks or hour blocks, that’s like a facade of that’s how you’re supposed to block your time. That’s the increments. But I think you can have a lot that can be done in a 20 minute conversation with somebody and you keep it to one topic and then you do your follow ups and then that 30 minutes you were highly productive, your action items are good, your follow ups are good and you don’t have to try to remember things that you could handle pretty quickly. And then if you have an hour meeting with somebody, as busy as you guys are, there needs to be money attached to it.
Like you gotta be really particular with who you give a full a full hour to. The other thing that I would, I would say in terms of your, your time slicing, don’t try to context switch to too many different things in a single day. It’s taken me years to get used to that emotionally and to be effective at that and I don’t think most people are naturally good at it.
What do you mean, like go into your emails and then going somewhere else?
I think going from email to writing a content piece to making phone calls from business development to handle an errand for your kids to talking with an investor to talking with an advisor to going back to writing a piece of content. Because you know there’s math behind the context switching and how much time you lose. I really am a firm believer in time blocking and don’t over-schedule yourself.
I run into this, I’m not an expert in it yet, but if I look at a day that I have back to back meetings for six, seven hours straight, something in there is cancelable, something in there you can shoot. Don’t be afraid to move meetings that aren’t of high priority. I had an interview today at one of my companies and one of the key people in this interview on my team was out. Kids were sick, they weren’t gonna be able to make it. They’re going to try to call in. Another one was on a sales call and it just started getting weird. So I could have pulled together some other folks that talked to the candidate. I could have talked to them, but we called the candidate and said, Hey, listen, if you’re gonna come in and spend your time and effort to talk to our company, we really want you to talk to people that are focused about the position, care about the position because it affects their work. And those two people just can’t be here today. So would you rather come on in and talk to a couple folks or let’s just push this out for a week or two and make sure we got everybody that’s good to go. Candidate’s like, Oh man, I’d much rather talk to the people that I’ll be working with than just hear about the company and then need to come a second or third time anyway. So by being respectful of the candidate’s time and then realizing that we had to punt, it’s no big deal. Sometimes it just happens, but you gotta be willing to do that so that you make things that are super productive. If the right team can’t be in the meeting. And that’s critically important when you look at your calendar. Most people will look at their calendar and they run their calendar as if when they put it together a week ago and things change in terms of priority. So there’s a couple things that I would think.
I wanted to mention if I can, because when you were talking about attention, trust and value, you were framing it really about customers and things like that. But actually in the discussion, I think about it for your employees too. And the thing that I have really worked on this year is the trust piece. Because when you are used to doing things like just focused on your job, you’re not really delegating a lot to other people. And now I have to delegate. And what I’ve realized is most things don’t matter as much as you think. And so if somebody is working on X, Y, and Z, do I really need to review it or should I just trust them to get it done? If it’s wrong, we can fix it later. And so one of my employees today, she’s like, Oh, how can you review this? And I’m like, you know what it’s probably good enough because I don’t have time to look at it in a way that I would feel good about. So why should I hold things up? Like I don’t want to be the bottleneck. So why should I hold things up? But it comes back to me trusting them and being okay with, look, people are gonna make mistakes. So it’s like these three buckets. Value was the same thing. Don’t keep people if they’re not adding value. So these three things that you mentioned are really good for the people part of the business.
No, that’s…Amie, that’s such a powerful point. And I would just extend that in thinking about it like this, 80% of your quality may still be good enough to do the job in a 100% way. And so a lot of people that run the business are perfectionists. A lot of people that own a business, attention to detail is higher. So you think it’s lowering the standard, but it’s having the right standard for the right work, not actually lowering the standard of how you would do it. It’s the right standard for the right work. I did a video for a client and our director of video production, Melanie Sanders came in, said, Don, we’re done with the video we’ve done with the editing. Do you want to take a look at it? And I was like, a thought through my mind. I was like, well, Melanie, number one, I trust you. You’re amazing. Former journalist, Emmy award winner. Like you’re amazing. So do you think it’s good? Says yeah, I think it’s great. So Hey, what am I gonna tell her that Melanie doesn’t know? Number two, if I do have questions, what are we going to do? Redo it? We’re gonna re-edit it? No, because we are, we’re on a clock. And so Amie, to your point of really aligning expectations to the task and giving people that trust, that’s, that’s really powerful. And the other thing is when you’re interviewing people for your startup or you’re interviewing people for your company, no matter what business you have, you need to have some kind of testing before hire, and early into their tenure to know if they can do what you expect. And if they can’t do what you expect, are they close enough to what you expect that they’re workable.
And then you can modulate that trust issue because you’ve actually seen certain snippets of their work. So now you know where they are and then you can assign them the right tasks based on their skillset so that they as an employee can have more wins initially and then less coaching opportunities for you initially and you can get a higher productive employee faster. And that has to do with interviewing, which we’ll cover the next time. Some people say they want to work for a startup and they have no idea what they’re comparing it to. They’re enamored with what they saw on TV or you know, Google or some advertisement. And some people are meant to work in a big structured company and some people are built for the chaos of entrepreneurship and there’s some interesting ways to find that out. So I think we’ll wrap it up for today.
Was this helpful?
Oh, that was great. I’m excited about the book too.
And so the book Startup Hats by David Gardner, I think is amazing. I think that, you know the last thing that I’ll end on, you know when you think about your business, and I try to coin things in little phrases I guess that I can remember, one of them that’s on my mind now for my clients in our firm Walk West, which is a digital consultancy, is, our goal is to create demand and drive business growth, and every single thing we do in the digital marketing realm needs to do those two things, which is create demand and drive growth. And we keep that at the forefront of what we’re writing. The video that we’re doing, the SEO that we’re delivering, the websites that we’re building, the PR that we’re generating for our clients. If we don’t hit the mark exactly, we are not going to be so far off the mark that we can’t course correct if we’re keeping those two things in mind because at the end of the day, your outcomes validate you. All right. Thanks guys.
All right. That was Donald Thompson, host of Hustle Unlimited, CEO of Walk West, investor, mentor and adviser sharing some amazing useful tip for CEOs of smaller companies on how to spend your time and what you need to be focused on on a day to day basis. The book that Don gifted Amie and I, Startup Hats by David Gardner is available on Amazon, and we’ll be sure to share a link in the show notes. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Leave us a rating and review as well. This episode was edited and produced by me, Jason Gillikin for Earfluence. For more podcasts on the Earfluence podcast network like Backstage at DPAC, Weddings for Real, Beyond the Obituary, and Talk West, go to Earfluence.com or visit us on social media @EarfluenceMedia. Intro and outro music for this episode comes from Jensen Reed’s “You Can’t Stop Me.” For more on his music, go to JensenReed.com. Thanks for listening everyone, and we’ll see you next time on Hustle Unlimited.