Here are a few rules I live by as CEO of B/C. I continue to learn and grow but these are a few things I really focus on.
1. Don’t over explain yourself: Whether that is when presenting work or even in simple emailing with clients. When showing a new design to our clients, we always make sure we concentrate on the ‘why’ for each element and really focus on the strategy behind the design. But there’s also a risk of over explaining, make sure all your decisions are strategic without over complicating and over explaining your thought process.
As someone who is (it seems like) always ‘on,’ I sometimes find myself apologizing for not responding to someone’s midnight email within a few minutes (silly, right?). Not only is this unnecessary, but it can set up unrealistic expectation for future interactions.
2. Don’t pretend to know everything. Especially with a new client, it can be tempting not to reveal a gap in your knowledge by asking questions. But you’re an expert at what you do, not everything! Take the time to ask a question and, at B/C, we believe our clients are critical to the process as they have experience and domain knowledge. As we get to know their particular problem or industry through our research, we can bring fresh perspective. I’ve gotten to learn about everything from fashion sourcing to investing to non-profit funding cycles through working with my clients and asking those questions. This not only helps me offer more strategic advice and hone in on my clients’ needs, but it’s fascinating.
3. Set aside work blocks in your schedule. It’s amazing how much of your workday can be filled up with everything but your actual billable work. Yesterday, I had a new client meeting in person, a Skype call with another, put the finishing touches on a proposal, answered a string of emails, troubleshooting with my team, and verified arrangements for an upcoming speaking engagement. And then it was time for lunch! As CEO, you have many important demands on your time to manage and grow your business. But as one of the most experienced members of your team, you’re also needed on the ground to turn out great quality work for your clients. B/C’s theme for the year is “The grass is always greener where you water it.” So set aside specific blocks of time in your schedule when you’re not available for interruptions (digital or otherwise).
4. Always simplify. We’ve said it before. The most powerful word can be “no.” You’ll have to learn to say it a lot as CEO if you want to focus your time on what really will benefit your business and clients.
5. Organize. Every CEO needs an organizational system — or waste precious time combing through emails and double booking appointment time slots. At B/C, we categorize and color code all emails and calendar events by client brand colors (yes, super nerdy we know!) or internal function. Start organizing now; you’ll thank me later!
6. Don’t forget the power of paper.We live in a digital world, but writer’s (or creative) block can often be solved putting pencil to paper and brainstorming and sketching until inspiration hits.
7. Step back, regroup, reevaluate. It’s a mantra we use constantly to make sure we aren’t falling back on habits or the way we’ve always done things just because it’s comfortable.
8. Process is key; but so is flexibility and adjustments: It is is so important to have processes in place throughout your business. It leads to optimal efficiency combined with top notch deliverables; however it is also important to know when that process needs to be amended or changed!
9. Don’t put off daily touchpoints. Part of your job as CEO inevitably involves managing your team. Make sure you check in with your critical team members daily. It helps create transparency in tasks, creates an open conversation, quickly identifies potential problems, and allows for creative group solutions.
10. Go with your gut. Yes, many people would say CEOs should be guided by pure logic or a predefined set of rules. But, to me, the gut is undeniable; it’s the combination of factual knowledge on a particular situation, project or client with intuition based on years of experience. Following your gut is likely what got you to the CEO position in the first place.