A Formula for Effective Time Management – A conversation with Mark Self, CEO of Vector Textiles

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John: Hey everyone, welcome to Life is Digital. I am your host, John Bianchi, get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on the current trends, best practices, and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age. Well, I am excited this morning because I have Mark Self, CEO with Vector Textiles, on board with me today, he also leads several other companies on a fractional basis, Mark, it’s so great to have you on board this morning.

Meet Mark Self, CEO at Vector Textiles 

Mark: Hey John, thanks for having me.

John: You know, Mark, we’ve had a couple of different conversations and coming into our podcast today, I feel like this is a really important topic that we’re going to discuss about accountability and ownership, making sure that you prioritize your tasks correctly and delegate effectively. When we think about accountability and ownership from the C level, what are some key points that come to mind?

Mark: Well, so I think it took… From my perspective, John and I worked in large corporations as well as really small companies, it’s all about how you document and plan out your year, your quarter, your month, your day, and then move that through the organization in the case of larger organization. In the case of smaller organizations, it’s all about how you document, have candid conversations with the team about why the top priorities are the top priorities in order to ensure buy-in and make sure that everybody is really kind of pulling the same horse so to speak, to use a sports analogy. There are differences between large and small companies right now, as you know, is just that I’m running several small companies, and for me personally, it’s all about documenting, documenting and documenting some more, and then going back and look, making sure that what you document it is the right prioritized list of things to do today, tomorrow during the week and during the month. And I should also point out that no matter how well documented you have things, constant communication with the team is really, really important, especially now, when we’ve all been reduced to meetings like this, for the most part, you’re talking to people on a video conference as opposed to running into them or in the meeting room. It’s even more important now and constant communication is even more important now, if that’s possible, than it was pre-covid.

John: I think that’s a very interesting point, especially as it pertains to making sure how you prioritize that documentation, making sure you’re focused on the task that actually move the organization forward. So in your perspective, how do you decide to do block and manage that time and decide, this is something that we can take care of this quarter, this is a task that we wanna actually get done to move the organization for, but maybe we can’t take care of that right now, in these next couple of weeks, how do you kind of prioritize the different goals that you have for the organization?

How do you prioritize different goals you have for the organization? 

Mark: Well, I use a couple of different methods, for one thing I wanna point out is that it… Depending on the life cycle of whatever company we are working at, you have different goals and objectives in order to grow that business. For example, if you’re pre-revenue or you’re a seed stage company, you and you are aspiring to raise capital, you need to do the things that matter that get you in a position to be able to get that brand, I know that sounds blatantly obvious, but if you’re in a larger or more going concern, it’s really more about… Lets say you’re public, publicly traded, it’s more about what do you need to do to make that quarter’s revenue number. If you’re in a company that has taken some investment and you’re trying to ramp up and scale up the business, do you need to change some things foundationally that allow you to have that successful engine to grow the business? And if you do, what are they? And what are the easy ones? What are the important ones? What are the more difficult ones? And you use this kind of like ultimate goal in mind to map out your prioritization and how you decide to block and manage. Now, in my case, since I’m involved with several companies, I have to laugh at myself, because back in the day when I was working at one large corporation, you know that at Outlook used to have a little color coded blocks… I remember looking at that then, who in the world who would color block their time out and the jokes on me now, because since I’m doing a lot of different things for a lot of different companies, I’m a big fan of color coding ’cause what I’ll do is I’ll lock out times on my calendar and I’ve got a color for each company, so I know that I’m spending X amount of time on company Y and this much time on company X. And so I use that as a way to kind of visually manage how I am spending my time, and my precious execution hours against the different companies that I’m hopefully having an impact on. So that’s one thing. Everybody has their processes, and mine revolves around a fairly tactical tool where literally I just have an action list, and that action list I print out at the beginning of every week, I have it… I’m not as Anal as having everything the list prioritized, but I do have the list by company, and then every single day in the morning, I go through that list and I will highlight the things that I need my “must-do’s” for that particular day. And then I take great… I gain a lot of satisfaction from crossing the things out as the day goes on, and then the next day I print out the document again, what the thing’s taken off and invariably, there’s some additional things that I put on, so just a real simple electronic action list, list of things that I need to get done. Always, there’s things that happen during the day that changed that list, that’s why I print it every single day, but it’s kind of a ritual for me to print the action list every morning, a still says for the week of… I’m looking at mine right now, the week on 9/28. So I put it out in the morning, and I review what I did the day before, and then I re-highlight if I have to run new things for that particular day, and I just manage my week against that. That’s the main thing, I used to a lesser degree, I use other applications like Slack, Google Docs, Microsoft Outlook, of course, I’ve got all of my business email going into that client. Microsoft notes I use, but the very simplistic Apple Notes application that you get with every Apple laptop you buy I just print that thing out every morning and review it and look at it constantly as the day goes by. That’s how I do it for better or for worse, and there’s some days that I think I’m just absolutely knocking it out of the park, and there’s other days where you get on a lot of different calls, yo u think I haven’t crossed one thing off of the list. So it’s not a perfect process, but for me, it helps keep me focused on how I’ve kind of planned out my week against the different initiatives that I’m working on.

John: Well, that makes absolute sense, and I guess that process that you have, obviously is something that you’ve honed and makes sense for you, but I think we can take some key points out of that, obviously, of time blocking is important, making sure, like you said, for our prioritization by task and by department, obviously as a CEO and CEO’s in general, there’s potentially multiple departments that they’re managing. So each of those different departments can have prioritized tasks, you know goals and initiatives that are important, so managing multiple companies is probably not unlike managing multiple departments as well, and I guess this kind of connects into the next question I have, which is about effectively delegating, because obviously if there were hundreds and hundreds of things that you wanted to get moved forward, there would be virtually… Obviously, we all think we all have more time than we think, but obviously it takes a team to move initiatives and goals forward, so how do you delegate effectively, what are some of the key things that CEO’s can take away from what you have found works to delegate effectively to their team members, maybe even to delegate to themselves at a later date, what are some key things you use to manage effective delegation?

What are key things you use to manage effective delegation?

Mark: Well, so that’s kind of funny question right now, because a couple of the companies I’m working is literally like, I’m the team, so I’m kind of delegating to myself, but in other cases where there is a team, I think it’s important for me, it’s been very useful to go back to what’s the annual and the quarterly plan. How did you build that plan, hopefully you built it with buy-in from the team, and then everybody knows that we need to get these things done and we need to make these objectives. In the case of the non-revenue generating activities, how do those activities support the sales team or the marketing team in terms of generating revenue or customer satisfaction or customer experience, and then when you’re delegating somewhat on the fly or during the week, I think it’s… For me, it’s very important to link that task back to the plan. So I need you to do this, and I need you to drive this, and here’s why, and here’s how it supports the plan. It’s a reminder system that so this is important, and it’s not just important because I said It’s important. This is a two-way conversation. So in the case of medium to large teams or even small teams, John, I think it’s important to delegate, but delegate in effect, back to the plan. Why is this important? And how does this help the firm move forward. In the case of the really early stage companies of which there’s a couple that I’m involved with, where it’s just me in my little office echo chamber, I go back to the list of prioritize tasks and whether or not… If it’s something that’s new, how does this new potential initiative or work effort or cast… How does this support where I’m trying to take the company and how I’m trying to build it with the end in mind, for a lack of a better term, trying to build them with a case of, Hey, I’m gonna do these things now, but it’s gonna help me next week because it’s gonna build on my ultimate, but I’ve got a business plan in the case of all of the companies, so how does it help support that business?

John: Absolutely, and here at BOS, we’ve implemented and are using, and I’m sure you probably heard of it, the EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system, and that’s allowed us to produce those rocks and goals and initiatives that, like you said, relate back to moving the company forward. What do we need to do to all work together and then, like you said, delegate to the goal. So I think that’s an excellent point about making sure that we’re all… We’re not a bunch of random people doing random things in different departments, in the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, but we’re all working together for one mission and vision, which is to move the firm forward, as you said.

Mark: Yeah. I’d like to add one other thing too, in the case of people who you know maybe are trying to build their skill tool kit, if you’re giving somebody a brand new assignment, it helps occasionally, I think, to have a conversation with that person about how this helps build their own resume external to the company. So if you’re giving somebody a new task or initiative and maybe they’re not… Is completely new to them. It’s, in my opinion, it’s helpful to have a conversation around, listen, John, you’re gonna… I need you to do this, and this is maybe a little bit of a stretch for you because you’ve never done it before, but when you come out the other end after you’ve done this, you’re gonna have a stronger tool kit, you’re gonna have more things to say about yourself, or have others say about you relative to the things that you’ve been able to accomplish, and sometimes, depending on the individual… Done. Sometimes that helps as well.

John: No, that makes absolute sense, and I appreciate you sharing that. Mark, as we come to the end of our time today, we’ve talked about a number of different things, how do you block and manage, taking accountability and ownership, and obviously making sure that you delegate effectively, I wonder if you could leave the audience with a few key takeaways that focus on those three areas that are maybe some things they can implement immediately in their business that really helps to drive like you said the initiatives forward that grow the firm.

Key takeaways 

Mark: Well, that’s a really good question. Thanks for the follow-up I take… For me, based on what I’ve seen with other entrepreneurs and my own failures and successes, I think it’s helpful because sometimes it’s hard, it’s helpful to really force yourself to build that initial plan, even if it’s very rudimentary, and then from that plan work… Do what’s the obvious is get feedback about it, but then have your tasks build up and support the plan. So I would say have a plan. And sometimes that’s not all as easy because depending on the business or the job you’re in, it’s really easy to react to stuff all the time and just have your calendar and incoming appointments drive your activity. So build the plan, and then in my case, as I said earlier, I’ve got that task list, which happens to be my kind of work Bible. Look at that all the time, and look and ask yourself and ask your team and the others stake holders, make sure that everybody’s in agreement that those actions actually do build and support the plan, and then the final thing, I don’t wanna leave you with the impression that the plan is the plan and it’s in stone, the plan needs to be a somewhat flexible and you need to constantly look and be honest with yourself about what’s happening in the market place with your customers, and does the plan need to change, and if it does, why? , how do you kind of overuse the word, but how do you pivot it in some cases in order to stay on top of the market that you’re trying to serve, so the plan… How do the tasks support the plan, and then make sure that you’re constantly based on market feedback, re-evaluating that plan and in a positive and candid way.

John: Mark, those are extremely important points for us or a member business is that the plan will shift from time to time, especially in current times, like you said, now we do a lot more virtually than before, that can affect the sales process, that can affect your client relationships, but obviously, being able to pivot and use those new opportunities to your advantage. Mark, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on this morning, and I really appreciate you taking the time to have this really important conversation with me about accountability and ownership, delegation, and making sure that you can get to the task that you need to and stay on point to grow the organization. Thank you so much for taking the time with me today.

Mark: Hey, John, has been my pleasure. And one last thing, make sure that you give yourself the rewards, don’t just be a task Automation. Make sure you give yourself some time in the data… I actually enjoy what we’re going through every day. So it’s been my pleasure to join you on the podcast. And thanks so much.

John: Well, thank you, and I also thank you, the audience, for joining us for this episode of Life is Digital. Once again, I am your host, John Bianchi. Please remember to rate, review, and subscribe to the show. Until next time. Don’t stop marketing.

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