Wow! Are your relationships important!

Forming business relationships at the highest level

As you follow these insights from ignition to liquidity event, you’ll detect a continuing theme, emphasizing the need for deep and wide relationships that the CEO and senior staff can call upon for advice and guidance.  This is the time to elevate those insights to the level of highest value for the corporation, one that cannot be listed on a balance sheet nor included in an appraisal of corporate worth.

And yet, such relationships properly used and never overused, can quickly and precisely help you cut through delays in government agencies, speed the process of product planning and ultimate release, aid in positioning in the market and help you avoid a myriad of mistakes that could prove costly in time and money.

Analyzing your commitments of time to business

Often, I am asked by young CEOs how much time should be devoted to various types of tasks by a good senior manager in a small, growing enterprise.  Of course, the response depends upon lots of variables, including whether the company is in a fund-raising mode (in which case the CEO may be spending up to 80% of their time on this alone).

[Email readers, continue here…]   I am chairman of the Technology Division of the ABL Organization, a roundtable organization with multiple CEO roundtables of about twelve members each, meeting monthly.  Each CEO is asked to make a deep presentation once a year in which he or she starts with personal and business goals for the coming year followed by concerns as to how to reach these goals. Much of the rest of the presentation is devoted to explaining to the group the causes for the concerns and offering information for the group to use in the feedback session to help that CEO seek solutions and to provide resources to them for that purpose.

The format also calls for the CEO to examine their calendar over time and report classes of activities by percentage of total time spent, so that the group may add comments about use of that person’s valuable time to the critique.  It is from over a thousand of these CEO presentations over the years that I attempt to make the following generalities.

How much time do you devote to each type of activity?

A good CEO spends at least 30% of their time dealing with customers, including meeting directly with customers and being involved in closing the largest deals, maintaining valuable relationships, and “sniffing” the attitudes of customers toward the company as well as exploring customer needs that might be satisfied by new product development.  15% typically is spent on direct management issues such as supervision of next level subordinates.  15% might be spent networking with those in the CEO’s relationship circle, including the roundtable organizations.  10% is typically spent networking with board members and advisors, usually with frequent phone calls, and preparing for board meetings.  10% is typical in exploring strategic concepts, reading about new developments in the industry and just spending quiet time contemplating opportunities.  That last 10% is most important and often overlooked. It represents strategic thinking.  “What if?”  “How about…” “When should we…” “How could we…” You get the idea.

There are many other classes a typical CEO will list for that remaining 20%, some concentrating upon time spent in meetings of all kinds, lumped together as if all meetings are of some equal value. The group cohort reviewing this time spent often pays close attention when this happens, since it is a sign that the CEO considers meetings of all kinds a drain upon available time, and few meetings of special importance.

How many hours do you spend on business each week?

Whatever the spread of percentages to make 100% of a senior manager’s time, the roundtable presentation requires the CEO to estimate the average number of hours spent each week at or on work.  Most respond with between 60 and 80 hours a week, emphasizing what you already know, that CEOs are not often 40-hour workers.  But then again, in this new world of always-on communications, who is?

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One Response to Wow! Are your relationships important!

  1. Great overview of your ABL roundtable experience, which could be generalized to represent all of our Tech Round Tables over the years. You’re absolutely right, the most successful CEOs typically spend more than 50% of their time in relationship discussions with their key external and internal people. And as we wrote in our book, some 30 years ago, one of the key types of “bankruptcies” which sink companies is “relationship bankruptcy”. Above, you, in my opinion, did a great job of summarizing what successful CEOs do to avoid this type of disastrous “bankruptcy”. Thanks, on behalf of all of our ABL Tech Members.

    As always, another great posting by my incredibly valuable chairman-mentor!

    Bob Kelley,
    CEO, ABL Organization

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