Too busy working IN your business to work ON your business?
That’s a common complaint I hear from professional services leaders. If you run your own firm, you wear many different hats and have many competing demands against your time. It can be a challenge to find time to step back and steer the ship.
But someone has to “play CEO”. If you don’t do it, no one’s going to do it for you.
The good news is playing CEO doesn’t need to take up a lot of time. In fact, you can do it in as little as one hour a week… if you follow my instructions very carefully.
In this lesson, you’ll learn:
- Why only you can be the CEO of your business
- Why you must carve out the time for strategy
- What every CEO’s #1 priority should be
- What to do every week to keep your business moving forward
Here’s a video version of this lesson
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Hey there folks, welcome back to the show. I’m your host Ahmad Munawar, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer here at Boutique Growth where we help professional services firms build actionable marketing plans so they can generate more leads and win more business.
In this lesson, I’m going to show you how to play CEO of your business in just one hour a week. As a professional services leader, you are responsible for the success of your firm. When revenue is down, it’s on you. When clients leave or they’re unhappy, it’s on you. When staff are having issues, it’s on you. When growth is slow, it is ultimately on you.
Now this is obviously not unique to professional services. This is true for the boss or the CEO or the president of any business. But for some reason, professional services leaders tend to ignore the CEO role that they must play and that’s to their detriment, frankly. So in this lesson, I’m going to show you how you can play the CEO of your firm in just one hour a week.
I want to show you how to make sure that the business side of things is going the way you want it to. Now this will work whether you’re a small solo firm or you’re a multiple partner firm. Either way, if you go through the routine I’m going to show you once a week, I guarantee you, your firm will be better off for it.
Before we dive in, if you haven’t yet joined us inside our free course on lead generation for professional services firms, you will get a proven step by step process inside that course to generate a flood of new business for your firm. I don’t know why you would say no to that. Who doesn’t want more business? Who doesn’t want more leads? You can get immediate access to the entire course free of change at fiveleadgen.com. You can spell out five or use the number, either one works, that’s fiveleadgen.com.
So let’s talk a little bit first about why you need to play the CEO role. Why is it such an important role for you to fulfill? In a small firm, everybody wears multiple hats, that’s unavoidable. Now this is true for the junior staff in a firm but it’s even more true for the leadership, that if you run a small firm, and that includes solo firms, then the buck ultimately stops with you.
You’re in charge of finance. You’re in charge of marketing. You’re in charge of client relations. You’re in charge of human resources. You’re in charge of operations. You’re in charge of project management. You’re in charge of business development. And I could go on and on and on. The challenge is that you don’t have enough time in the day to manage all of this stuff effectively. There just isn’t enough time. You can’t do it all. So what happens is some of that stuff ends up floating to the top and it gets your attention and the rest of it floats to the bottom and never really gets addressed properly.
Now, in an ideal world, the stuff that floats to the top would be the stuff that’s truly importance, that if you had confidence that although you can’t really attend to everything then at least you’re attending to the stuff that really matters right now, then really, what more could you ask for? But that’s rarely what happens. Usually it’s the urgent stuff that floats to the top, it’s the fires, it’s the crises, it’s the stuff that you need to deal with right now because something terrible is going to happen in the immediate whether or not it will actually have a material impact on your business in the longterm.
Now in a professional services environment, this is usually some kind of client related task. It’s a request that the client makes at the last minute. It’s a complaint from a client. It’s a staff member who can’t quite figure out a client deliverable. And everybody knows that in the end, between the clients, between the staff, they know that you’re going to come to the rescue in the end, and you do, and everyone’s happy, except that eventually, if you do this for long enough, you’ll find that you’re spending all of your time putting out all of these fires and attending to these demands and you have no time left over in the day to actually check-in on the health of your business.
So what happens then is the lead pipeline dries up and you barely notice or you’ve got a very slow drip of new clients walking in the door this month, but you’re so busy that it’s kind of hard to tell, or you’re competitors are slowly encroaching on your territory but you don’t have the time to pay attention to that because you’re so busy putting out these fires and attending to these crises.
And if you continue like this, I mean, sure you may have some happy clients, hopefully, but the problem is you won’t have many new clients and that’s a big problem. So here’s the good news, I think you can play the CEO role in just one hour a week. Now, you’re not going to get everything done, but you can at least get the important stuff done, the stuff that needs your attention on a regular basis if you want your business to grow month in and month out.
Now, what is that stuff? Well, surprise, surprise if you’re listening to this podcast, it’s marketing and business development. Obviously, I’m a little biased here, but let me say this: sales should be the primary concern of any CEO because without sales, you don’t have the luxury of having other problems like HR, client service, and so on. Now that’s not to say that all of those other things aren’t important, it’s just that they’re only important once the sales house is in order, because if there’s no sales, there’s no business.
Now you might say, well, CEOs of big companies don’t make sales their primary concern. They take care of the entire business. Ultimately, they’re in charge of steering the entire ship which is not just sales. Now, first of all, I actually don’t think that’s true. If you listening on a quarterly earnings call with analysts and a CEO is speaking about the progress of the business, guess what the focus of the conversation is? It’s earnings. If earnings are down, then that CEO is going to get an ear full of question. That is hands down the most important thing.
Secondly, CEOs of big companies have VPs and directors and chief executives who are responsible for sales, so they outsource the sales problem at least on a day to day basis to those sales executives. It’s still their biggest concern but they have someone managing the day to day for them. Now, if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m assuming you don’t have that person. You can’t outsource the sales problem to anybody else, you’re probably the only one who is actively thinking about marketing and business development at your firm. And if even you’re not really thinking about it on a regular basis, then you’re going to run into trouble.
Okay, so now let’s break this down. You’ve got one hour a week to attend to this. You’ve got one hour a week to play the CEO. This is the one hour that you’re going to shut the door to your office, you’re going to turn off your phone, you’re going to turn your email off, and you’re going to play CEO with no distractions whatsoever. Question is what should you actually do in this hour? And I’m going to suggest two things here. I’m going to suggest that you spend a chunk of that hour, it could be as little as 10 minutes, could be as much as 20 to 30 minutes of that hour just thinking about the business.
I mean no particular agenda, no deliverable, no exercise, just think about the business. How are things going? Are they going up? Are they going down? Do you feel like you’re getting traction? Do you feel like maybe you’re scattered? Do you feel like you’re spreading yourself thin? What’s going on with your staff? How have they been responding? Are they engaging? Are they kind of drifting away? Are they not doing what they’re supposed to do? How are your clients? Do they seem satisfied? Are there any particular grievances that you need to consider and address?
I want you to just sit back and think with no particular agenda about how business is going. I honestly believe that if you just take the time to do this every single week, you will solve so many problems, because quite often what happens is we get so caught up in the day to day, right? We get caught up in going from meeting to meeting, solving problem after problem, putting out fire after fire. But quite often, we don’t actually stop and think about the big picture.
We don’t stop to look at the forest and we miss the forest for the trees ultimately. So I think part of that hour at least 15 minutes if not 20 to 25 minutes needs to get just playing … you can stare out the window for all I care. I don’t care what you actually do physically but your brain needs to be thinking about the business, needs to be thinking about how things are going, reflecting on the week that was, and thinking about the week and the month to come. And then for the rest of that hour what I want you do is I want you to look at your pipeline.
Now if you don’t have a CRM in place then that’s the first problem that we need to fix. You need to have a CRM in place that’s a customer relationship management tool where you’re tracking all of your conversations with prospective clients and you’re organizing your prospects by deal stage, so it might be something like you’ve got leads coming in one column and then they’re progressing through stages like maybe you had a first meeting, maybe you make a proposal, maybe you’re negotiating the budget, until finally the deal is closed.
Whatever sales pipeline stages make sense for you, there’s a lot of data you can get on that and ideas you can get on that elsewhere. What ever stages make sense, put those in, put all your prospects in, all your leads in, anybody that you’re having a conversation with or that you want to target for business, put them into that CRM, because that’s what I want you to stare at in the rest of this 30 minutes of the one hour.
Stare at your pipeline. Look at what’s going on here. Look at where the gaps are. If you’ve got a ton of leads coming in and there’s a really slow trickle of progress through the rest of the pipeline stages, then you know you’ve got a sales and a business development problem. You’re not actively engaging those leads and pushing them through the pipeline. And what’s going to happen is those leads will become stale, right? They’ll forget why they reached out to you. They’ll forget why you connected. And the longer you wait, the more stale those leads get, the harder it will be to push them through the pipeline.
Or maybe you’re finding that you’ve got leads coming in and they’re pushing through the pipeline, but they’re getting stuck someone. Maybe they’re getting stuck at the proposal stage or maybe when you actually send a quote or an engagement letter, leads are going dark and they’re disappearing and they’re not responding to you. Maybe there’s a bottleneck at some other stage of the pipeline. Again, that’s important to know. If you didn’t take the time to stare at your pipeline and stare at your CRM and look at where the gaps are, look at where the bottlenecks are, then you wouldn’t know that, and you wouldn’t be able to take action.
So if you notice that a lot of leads are just kind of falling off the planet and they’re not responding once we send a quote, then maybe you need to build a more robust follow-up process after the quote or maybe there’s something wrong with the way you’re quoting or maybe you’re quoting too early. It can be any number of things and the point of this lesson is not to help you diagnose what those are, but the point is you need to build in the time to look at the pipeline, look at the CRM, see how leads are progressing through your pipeline, and identify where the obstacles are, where they’re getting stuck, so you can then work to address that and alleviate and remove that obstacle going forward.
And that’s literally all I want you to do. In that one hour, I want you to spend anywhere from 30 to 50% of it just thinking about the business, thinking about what’s going on, thinking about how things are going. If you prefer, if it makes it easier for you, write some notes down. Make a list of what’s going well. Make a list of what’s not going well. And make a list of what you want to fix going forward, what are the actions you’re wanting to take to address some of those issues you’re seeing in the business going forward. And then for the remaining half of that one hour, I want you to stare at your pipeline.
And literally, if all you do is you stare at it for 30 minutes, then that’s better than not staring at it. But chances are you’re not just going to stare it, you’re going to stare at it and you’re going to look at where the issues are, you’re going to look at where leads are getting stuck in the pipeline, where you tend to have blockages, and you’re going to start thinking about ideas and how you can improve lead flow through the pipeline so you can get more of those leads coming all the way through and turning into clients.
Now I can promise you this. If you actually do this very single week, and I would actually encourage you to put a calendar appointment in your calendar, and I’ve got one, it says, “CEO hour,” that’s what mine’s called. And every week at that time when it’s CEO hour, I close my door, I turn everything off, and I play CEO, and I think about my business as a CEO of a large company would. And I can guarantee you this. You’re not going to solve every problem over night and that’s not the point of this exercise, but if you do this every single week, you’re going to make incremental progress. You’ll start closing the gaps. You’ll start fixing the problems that you otherwise never had time to stop and think about and over time, week after week, month after month, things are going to get a lot better for you.