Oct 11, 2015
Most entrepreneurs are accustomed to wearing many hats and juggling a near-endless supply of priorities, requests and fire drills. At times this pressure can become almost unbearable. So at what point do you stop trying to do it all and either eliminate the unnecessary or outsource it? And how do you know what is unnecessary?
Ed Borromeo, partner and COO at Tallwave, routinely works with startup founders and innovators on helping them bring their products to market. Prior to that he served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, so he’s no stranger to the stress and responsibility that can come with being in a leadership position. Over the years he has developed a system for identifying and focusing on the most effective priorities and drowning out the rest of the noise.
For entrepreneurs it’s essential to define those top priorities that will actually move the needle then determine who the best person is to tackle that priority.
“When you’re trying to get your product to market, there’s inevitably, this tremendous pressure to produce and get ahead,” Ed said. “Sometimes we can buckle under the weight of the many top priorities. It’s a challenge, but what I practice is taking it a month to a quarter at a time, and determine the outcomes that matter the most for that timeframe.”
Of course the long-term vision and goal is important, but you have to break it down to get to the most important thing you need to be doing right now to get your business to that end goal. Start big, then get narrow.
“I highly recommend keeping this list to three to five things that will really move the needle towards accomplishing those outcomes,” he said. “From there, it’s a daily gut check. Everything we’re doing should be benefitting those three main things. If they’re not, you have to question whether their necessary activities.”
One way Ed forces himself to distill his weekly priorities or goals down to one or two things is by writing them on a three-by three sticky note, which he keeps in his pocket all week to serve as a daily reminder. Every time he goes for his keys or wallet, he feels the sticky note - keeping the goal literally at his fingertips. If he hasn’t yet accomplished the goal, it motivates him to devote more attention to it. But once he has, that sticky note becomes a little validation for what he accomplished that week.
How do you distill your priorities down? Ed says, it starts with complete clarity to what success looks like.
“If you have that understanding, you’re better able to sort through the noise,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to have clarity on the outcome and understanding of the business.”
He recommends spending 10 minutes each day planning and organizing your priorities to get to the one thing that will get you closer to your outcome. Once you’ve identified it, it may be time to think about whether to outsource or keep it in house. For that, Ed has a few methods for gauging which is the best route to take.
1. Pipeline - sometimes instead of assuming overhead you might outsource or find a good, capable partner. “I always recommend you crawl before you walk. Find ways to outsource, and then you’re also networking and developing good business deals. It also allows you to understand how critical that function is to your business before you commit to that overhead right away.”
2. Understand your core competencies - “If it’s core to your business you probably want to insource and keep it in house.” Outsource functions that are not core to your biz.
3. Timing - how long does this function exist? Is it short or long term. That will also help you determine.
Now that you’ve determined you have a function you need to outsource, the next (and often most challenging step) is to find quality talent to outsource to.
Ed has a couple of suggestions, starting with asking to see their work. It may see rudimentary, but many people overlook this step. Simply asking for samples and/or references can help you quickly weed out any candidates who may not be the best fit. Another key component is understanding how they communicate.
“How well do they communicate? Communication is a huge factor,” Ed said. “I’ve learned that the endeavors that have gone very well were a function of a capable, organized and great communicator.”
Ed also said he has found success hiring contractors any time they take a vested interest in the business and ask questions about the outcomes you’re trying to achieve. Try to find critical thinkers who will ask questions and presents strategies for helping achieve the outcome. Make sure they are prepared to be flexible enough to adjust along with you.
Bottomline, find your one thing right now that will either make every other task easier, or better yet, unnecessary.
Book referenced in this podcast: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.
Clear is an app that organizes tasks, reminders and to-do lists. It allows you to input multiple types of lists whether for personal or business and can sync across all iOS and OS X devices. The goal of the app is help you become more productive. Clear is $4.99 for the iOs app and $9.99 for the Mac app.
Next week I’m in the Lab with Ryan Hermansky, co-founder of Talk 2 Legends, a cool new app that just launched in the app store that essentially allows fans to schedule times to talk to their favorite pro athletes. We talk about how he took this idea from concept to reality, and how he did it all while juggling a full time job. Be sure to tune in. Until then, have a prosperous week.
Music in this episode: "They Just Don't Know" by Gyft.
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