I was wandering (lonely as cloud, naturally) in some old files on my computer when I came across a piece which seemed to me entirely relevant in these difficult days for business people.
What makes an entrepreneur tick? It's quite a long list and covers such criteria as drive, decisiveness, enthusiasm, passion, energy, obsession, energy, creativity, excitement, self belief, a positive approach, the thrill of the chase, spotting opportunities and taking action, and above all, FOCUS.
I remember going to see a new Vistage member who immediately told me that he didn't really have enough time to discuss the business - he was fully committed just to running it. After a little judicious questioning, I asked him if he had a "to-do" list.
"Of course", he said: "How could I do everything that I have to do without one?"
I asked how he organised the list and he said that he tended to bunch items into functions such as finance, production, sales and so on. This sounded worrying so I asked to see that latest version which turned out to comprise 72 items - things to do, all of which he said were of equal importance.
To be fair, his background and training was that of a computer programmer so his default mode was micro-management.
This is an obvious example of what not to do, of course, but if it happens with one executive, how many others run their businesses in much the same way?
I am a great believer in the need to focus on those issues in a business which either are of such importance that they genuinely need the attention of the top person, or alternatively, it should only be an issue which contributes to the wealth whilst maintaining the values of the business.
If that is the ideal situation, there is a strong case for limiting the "to-do" list to no more than five items at a time, setting the priorities by the above criteria.
A simple approach is usually the best. A company in which I was involved used what was termed the "red folder" system. A limited number of red folders were allocated to the sales department and if they were used, then their query would be given priority. If a red folder was not immediately available, then the query took its place in the queue. It was a remarkably effective method and stopped all arguments about what was or was not important. Sure, certain things got out of kilter but overall it worked well.
Setting priorities is one of the most important functions of the entrepreneur and one of the most tasking for many. Ask yourself, whose job am I doing right now and give it to them. Then get on with working on what is really important for the business.
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