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    Spending Time on the 'Right Things'

    Are you spending time on the right things? You probably have asked yourself that same question. While the ‘right things’ vary by position, personality and industry, I believe there are some activities that should be priorities of almost any leader.

    My most productive days are not spent at my desk – or in front of a computer. They are spent in the field, meeting with current and prospective clients. Sales is my strong suit so I have a tendency to devote time to that part of the business. But if you’re a leader with a strong accounting or operations background, you, too, should make it a point to spend time in the field as well. Why? Customers like interacting with company leaders.

    I have intentionally developed my skills to ensure that the interaction is more than just a smile and handshake. I want my face-time to be productive both for the client and our company. Here are some of the ‘right things’ I regularly spend my time on:

    1. Demand Generation: It’s a task that many leaders are inclined to delegate to others. While leaders may be reluctant to “knock on doors” and make prospect calls, they are actually best suited for the job. Leaders often can get better results faster because they have established many relationships throughout their career. Are you effectively leveraging your business connections?
    2. Client Presentations: I personally developed our corporate sales presentation – and am active on a weekly basis presenting to prospects and clients. It continues to be a priority for me because we’ve seen the results. It also has allowed me to gain a better connection with our customers and employees. It sends a message to employees that this matters and it allows us to more effectively compete because few CEOs spend time on this important activity.
    3. Public Events: Public events provide leaders an opportunity to expand their circle of influence and enhance the image of their company in the community. Whether it’s an informal golf tournament or a large local charity event like the CentraCare Health System Holly Ball, I devote a lot of personal time attending and actively participating in community events. Being visible in the community has helped our company grow and be successful.
    4. Client Satisfaction: As leaders we’d like to think our company does everything right all the time. But we know that certainly is not the case. Customers like to see when the CEO has some skin in the game and is willing to help find a resolution. I play a consistent active role in ensuring client satisfaction. I recently contacted an unhappy customer. The first thing he said was “Oh, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to get involved.” But it’s important that clients know that I’m committed to their satisfaction. This to me is related to the No. 1 rule of growth: Don’t shrink.  In other words don’t lose your customers.
    5. Field Work: Spending time in the field is essential for a leader, no matter the background or primary responsibility. It provides a great opportunity for me to learn more about our customers and their needs – as well as our products and employees. With 100 sales professionals and 200 service technicians actively communicating to thousands of customers on a regular basis, it’s probably in my best interest to know firsthand what they are communicating and how they are representing our brand. The number of requests I receive from members of our team to attend client meetings is a validation that my time spent in the field is productive. This activity is a priority for me and takes precedence over almost all other meetings (that is, after I write my blog).
    6. Volunteering: Executives should not only lead in their companies, but also in their communities as volunteers. Most often, this involves board work or major fundraising activities. Getting involved is a good practice that’s also good for business.

    Finding the time to do these activities is only an issue when the item is not a priority. The more time you spend on the ‘right things’, the more you’ll contribute to the performance of your company.