save time ceo strategy

5 lessons every CEO can learn from the lazy CEO

By mihiri Apr 05, 2019 Comments

The qualities of great CEOs are a hot topic. While you may never face the challenges that belong to the CEOs of behemoths like Google, Apple or Amazon, there’s no shortage of demands on your time, either.

Yet, every CEO is human and has the same amount of hours in their day. What are the top performers doing to keep their business growing, profitable and accumulating happy customers and staff along the way? How do some leaders manage to ‘do it all’?

Not doing it all is the mantra of exceptional CEOs, says author of Great CEOs Are Lazy, Jim Schleckser After interviewing 1000 CEOs over seven years, Schleckser says the really great leaders are uncompromising about one critical factor: they deploy disciplined, gutsy (and sometimes uncomfortable) time management.

Strategic time management lets you achieve faster growth and more revenue says Schleckser.

But how?

  1. Spend time only on the tasks that free up your business to move forward faster.
  2. Diagnose the root cause of problems.
  3. Systematically remove constraints as they arise.
  4. Create permanent system and process improvements that let ordinary people do extraordinary work.
  5. Measure your improvements.
So where's the lazy part?

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How can you be both a great and a lazy CEO?

Strategic time management permits you to be strategically lazy, advises Schleckser.

At its core, it’s a productivity play. Great and lazy CEOs are very clear about spending time only on the tasks that will make all the difference in their business. In fact, they are unwilling to spend time on anything else.

What that means is that the lazy CEO views the world far more systematically than the average performer. They think:

  • Where are the constraints to the growth of the business?
  • How can I alleviate the blockages?
  • What specific activities will generate the biggest returns?
Then they get to work on removing the constraints that hold back their people and their growth.

The mistake of spreading time like peanut butter

Great CEOs are lazy 3

Lazy CEOs believe that when they spread their time evenly across the business they end up  diluting their impact. Schleckser's advice is don’t treat your time like peanut butteryou’re not aiming for the even spread!

Rather than working on every function and hoping that something will yield results, the lazy CEO concentrates only on those activities that will permanently drive the business forward.

In fact, the only work the lazy CEO does is to remove each constraint as it arises. Once cleared, they hand over the improved system or process to their staff before moving on to remove the next limitation. Remembering that it's not realistic  to keep recruiting superstars, the lazy CEO builds a robust process that lets ordinary people achieve extraordinary results.

Take the CEO who allocates 50 percent of their time to constraints versus the CEO who gives 10 percent of their time—the first CEO remove limitations five times faster. The effect? The business is freed up to move forward faster.

While this is the only work, it’s not easy work, says Schleckser. Getting to the root cause of problems is not an easy task.


Unkink the garden hose

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Schleckser likens this approach to unkinking a garden hose that has failed to deliver water to the garden.

Find the kink. Untangle it. Then promptly hand the hose back to someone who can get on with watering the garden. But not before making sure the system won’t allow another kink in the same place or somewhere weaker down the line.

This approach follows the Theory of Constraints, a management principle first coined by Dr Eliyahu Goldratt in the 1980s. The big idea is that every process is limited by a constraint that stands in the way of achieving the goal. The fastest way to improve business profitability is to systematically improve constraints so they no longer hold back your business.

Find your bottlenecks

Diagnosing where to focus your efforts can seem like a daunting task. Schleckser advises asking: What’s the one area in your business where a change would bring about the most profound economic, revenue or profitability impact?

  1. Start with activities under your control. For example, you can’t control external factors like interest rates, but you can control your own collections process.

  2. Where is the biggest pain point in a process? Hint: It’s likely to be the one issue that consistently remains unresolved and impacts internal operations as well as your customers.

  3. Where is there waste? Wasted time, wasted effort and wasted resources are all signs of systems or processes that can improve.

  4. Ask your team what slows them down. You're not the only one with ideas.

  5. Which system, if improved, would speed up its cycle time?  Imagine optimising your collections process for efficiency so collecting unpaid invoices took half as long AND you recovered twice as much money in the same period. Game changing.

  6. Measure. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

A real-life example

“As Project Managers, we’re good at looking after our customers but we aren’t great at collecting money,” says Bruce Carr, Head Ninja at e-commerce solution provider, Web Ninja.

The burden of chasing customers for money via phone calls and emails took up 50 percent of one person’s time. While Web Ninja eventually got paid, the payment cycle was taking too long, and cash flow was obstructed.

“We always got paid, but I didn’t realise how long it was taking us,” says Bruce.

Bruce decided to improve an inefficient accounts receivable process with ezyCollect’s automation.

The result:
  • Automated reminders replace a manual chasing process and save hours of admin time each week.
  • Cash flow consistently improves as debtor days reduce.
  • The person responsible for accounts receivable management is freed up to focus on other high-value tasks.
  • Customers appreciate Web Ninja's systematic follow-up service.
  • The set-and-forget system brings a permanent and measurable improvement that no longer requires Bruce's time.

Web Ninja graph with legend-1

With ezyCollect, Web Ninja's cash flow improved as debtor days reduced.

With a permanent improvement, Bruce says: “We can now keep our customers within our agreed trading terms.”

In summary:

Great and lazy CEOs:

  1. Strategically allocate their time to removing business constraints.
  2. Prioritise the activities that will yield the biggest returns.
  3. Spend time to diagnose the root cause of the problem.
  4. Create permanent system and process improvements that let ordinary people do extraordinary work.
  5. Measure improvements.

To see how you can strategically improve your accounts receivable system book an ezyCollect demo today:
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save time ceo strategy

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