A quick internet search reveals extensive advice on how startup CEOs should structure their day and the importance of balancing health, work, and private life. Yet most of these articles leave out one of the most common questions we receive in our work: how do I know as a first-time CEO that I am spending my time effectively every day, performing actions that help me progress while reducing business risk? In this article, we describe a framework that can help startup CEOs answer this question in a manner tailored to their specific context.
STEP 1. RECOGNISE IMPORTANT TASKS
It has been often and correctly said that the desirability of the value proposition, the feasibility of the solution, and the financial viability are the three major factors that have to be simultaneously true for a business to work. While these three factors are necessary conditions for success, they may not be sufficient conditions for your startup. For example, at Neos Chronos we believe that the creation of lasting positive impact for the people, the society and the world we live in is a mandatory fourth factor. Your first step in spending your time effectively every day as a startup CEO is, therefore, to identify your own key success factors and ask the following question before adding any task to your to-do list:
Will executing this task have a positive effect on the desirability, the feasibility, the viability and the realisation of the insert purpose, values, ... of my startup?
STEP 2. MANAGE TIME IN CONTEXT
Experience shows that the timing and the context when executing tasks have a significant impact on the result. For example, if your B2B clients prefer to receive calls before their workday starts, call them at that time. If most of your clients are at sleep during the night, this is when your solution upgrades should be performed to minimize risk. If you want to ensure that payments of your invoices are on time, call your clients well ahead of their planned pay runs. With that in mind, the next question to ask yourself after deciding to perform a task:
Does my choice of time to accomplish a task (date, time of the day, frequency over a period,...) aligns with my clients', my startup's and my own preferences and ways of working?
The order - clients, startup, yourself - is crucial.
STEP 3. MEASURE AND ADAPT
If you followed the first two steps, you are doing the right things at the right time. But how do you know that your actions generate results that help your startup progress and reduce business risk? This is where the metrics you identified during business modeling come in. You will have one or more to choose from per task category, and their weighting will vary at the Problem Discovery, Problem/Solution Fit, Minimum Viable Product, and Scale-up stages. Therefore, the final question to ask yourself is:
Are my current performance metrics adequate to measure the accomplishment of tasks being executed?
At Neos Chronos we focus on the following key areas
When entered into a schedule, the above would result into picture like the following one, where each color represents a different key area.
We kick-off every week with a short planning session. Our enterprise clients prefer to receive calls before their workday starts, so we scheduled our "Channels" work to happen early in the morning. We then switch to the "Solution" and delivery work, gracefully ending the day with any repetitive administrative work for the "Company".
This Block Scheduling technique works well for us. We prepare and complete groups of actions within the same task category to preserve pace and throughput. If we need to "squeeze" an unplanned task, we do so before the start or at the end of a block to preserve focus.
In this article, we provided a framework to help you, the startup CEO, develop an effective daily routine, that is designed to reduce business risk and enable you to steer your startup with confidence. The underlying idea to this framework is promoting a culture of purpose and result orientation, contextual planning, and continuous monitoring.