I belong to a CEO networking group called EO – Entrepreneur’s Organization. It’s a great organization with great people and it has helped transform my business.
I joined EO and continue to belong to EO for a couple reasons:
1) EO offers some great educational, business leadership seminars from some nationally-known speakers.
2) I enjoy belonging to a small group (forum) where other CEO’s give me their feedback on how to tackle problems using a process known as Gestalt.
While I have learned many great things in EO, one of my favorites is what EO members fondly call “The Parking Lot”. Sometimes this is a list of things we want to do later, but we don’t have time for them right now. Sometimes the parking lot holds things that are a little off topic but we want to discuss and prioritize them later, after we conquer the problem at hand.
As a CEO my most important job is to decide where we should focus our efforts and then get things done through other people. And like most small business CEOs, I have ADD – attention deficit disorder, so focus is not really a core competency.
While some people consider this a liability, I consider it a gift. I think my brain moves faster than most people, so I get bored easily and move on to the next topic. A big positive of ADD is that I am very creative and I have a lot of great ideas that have helped make our business better. A big negative of ADD is that I have a lot of ideas – which can be distracting.
The parking lot is a great tool for me because I can keep an inventory of all these great ideas, but stay focused on the priorities we have set. With a parking lot I can decide to do nothing, I can delegate a task or I can move it to the do now list.
In the book Six Disciplines for Excellence, the author Gary Harpst talks about the importance of setting quarterly VFOs – vital few objectives. The idea is a that a business should focus on just 3 to 5 objectives each quarter. Try to do anything more and you will likely fail to complete anything.
As a man with ideas, the parking lot allows me to keep track of all the things I think we should be doing in our business. In our 2014 planning meeting I can share this long list of ideas with my employees and we can decide together where we should focus our efforts. When we decide to move something from the parking lot to the to do list, it gets a persons name, a mid-term follow up date and a final due date.
Another great book I stumbled on through EO is called Mastering the Rockfeller Habits, by Verne Harnish (founder of Young Entrepreneur’s Organization, which became EO). In this book Verne talks about the importance of regular meetings and having a rhythm of follow up in an organization. While it seems popular to discount the value of meetings these days, I think meetings are still a great tool. I have found that if you hold monthly reviews, everyone prepares the night before. If you hold weekly followups, everyone stays focused.
So the next time you are discussing your business plan, your sales plan or your marketing plan, don’t forget these three tools:
- The Parking Lot
- Quarterly VFOs
- Weekly Follow Up Meetings