One of the things a CEO learns quickly when running a business is that growth rarely happens easily—you have to constantly work and dedicate time to it above and beyond the basics of running your business. In order to make growth happen, you need to set firm priorities and focus on key tasks and metrics. Here are some tips from my decade of experience running two businesses:
CEOs with new businesses often spend up to 80 percent of their time on sales. If you’re running an established business, dedicate 30 percent. That may sound like a lot of time, but it shouldn’t. What could be more important? When you dedicate time to sales, checks get written and things get done. This matters tremendously. If you think of an established successful company—IBM, Oracle, McKinsey—it almost invariably succeeded largely because it excelled in sales as much as it did in having a great product or service.
Fully exploiting the advantages technology can bring isn’t just about using Salesforce to manage your lead pipeline, it means systematizing all aspects of your business, including training, accounting, customer care, ordering and record keeping. Technology is not only a tremendous time saver, it can also help you ask questions and explore business options that you never had time to consider before.
Stay in touch with people you’ve met, even if you’re just checking in once a quarter to see what they’ve been up to. Make time to join industry associations, attend events and stay up-to-date with organizations in your community. It can greatly pay off.
Make sure your company’s accomplishments are something the media, your community, your competitors, your partners, and your current and potential employees are aware of. Public relations not only provides a morale boost, it helps grow sales, build your brand and attract partners. Don’t just send out press releases, even though they are important. Speak. Write. Become known in your industry.
Organizations such as The Alternative Board (TAB) or Vistage offer you the chance, for a fee, to meet regularly with other CEOs from all sorts of fields in your area. Learn and advise each other about how you’ve struggled against competition, dealt with thorny new regulation, managed an HR problem and more. There’s a special level of understanding other CEOs have that’s great to avail yourself of, and you can incidentally find new business opportunities.
If you bill faster and arrange to get paid quickly, you’ll have much healthier cash flow. If you work faster, you may be able to condense four three-month jobs into three three-month jobs and get more done each year. If you learn to delegate, you’ll free up more time to focus on your most important priorities.
Growth happens when a customer increases the size of its business with you just as much or more often than it happens because you found a brand new customer. Every customer you have represents not only a huge time investment you’ve already made, but a potential source of future referrals and product strategy advice. Take care of that relationship.
Stay resilient, keep your enthusiasm up, and enjoy the thrill of building and developing a lasting legacy.
Danielle S. Wilson is president and CEO of Aero Jet Medical, an all-inclusive provider of worldwide air ambulance transport services.
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