This CEO is unusual because he shares so much information about running a company with his workers. It’s no coincidence that so many of his former employees now run businesses of their own.
Here is a key piece of advice that the CEO told us about running a business.
A CEO really has only two jobs:
- choose a small number of real priorities to focus on right now, and
- find and retain the right people to work with.
This concept sounds simple, but it can be a real challenge in practice – especially since time is limited and new priorities often arise.
Choose Your Priorities
The CEO’s first job is to not get too distracted by day-to-day issues that don’t impact the survival of the business. There are plenty of things you can focus on that might bring some improvement; your job is to choose a very few priorities that can make the greatest impact.
That doesn’t mean that you should ignore the many lower-priority issues you’ll face every day. However, you should focus enough of your efforts so that those few really critical concerns get all the attention they need.
As our business grew we found that our top priorities changed significantly. When the company first started I had to focus on building enough products by myself to meet demand, and finding ways to begin advertising without draining the family’s savings.
Today the challenges have shifted because the business is so much larger. Right now the priorities include maintaining the same good levels of customer service, working with suppliers to keep enough components in stock, and positioning the company for longer-term growth.
Find the Right People
If you’re starting a company that sells physical goods, finding the right people at first will amount to choosing your suppliers carefully. Our early priorities were to find one or two reliable suppliers, and to treat those businesses unusually well by communicating frequently and paying promptly.
We found it very helpful to call key individuals at those companies often enough to develop a good business relationship. Eventually I asked those contacts to recommend other suppliers in the marketplace who didn’t compete. I’d also ask if I could mention the referrer’s name as I approached those new suppliers. With those introductions from other suppliers, I found it much easier to get larger, lower-cost vendors to work with us.
As your company grows, you may soon reach a point where you can no longer handle manufacturing, fulfillment, and customer service by yourself. At this stage you’ll need to decide whether to hire your first employees, or find the right outsourcer.