The Smith Report - Operational Playbooks

The CEO’s Checklist

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Results are all that matters. A CEO’s tenure, sell by date, runway is highly dependent on results. $1Bn in revenue, pre revenue start up and everything in between, it all comes down to performance. Leadership of any entity can be a lonely place. How can the CEO ensure that resources and tactics are being optimized to deliver results? I’m wary of short-cuts, of magical formulas that claim to work in every domain! But checklists to guide your agenda? They can work, but only to guide your deep domain knowledge of your sector. I’m sharing the checklist we work through with leaders to unlock potential, to spot leakage, to drive execution.

Checklist
  1. Positioning can prevent operational excellence. If you are chasing a commoditized market you are by definition underutilizing the remarkable talents of your team.
  2. Drive innovation across the business and allocate serious time to relentless product innovation. Become a relentless tweaker.
  3. Align departmental silo objectives with the big three (or 4 or 5) company objectives you want to achieve this year. This ensures that even small departmental objectives have purpose. People need purpose.
  4. Define high priority projects and select a cross-functional team with a leader to leverage those special talents.
  5. Continually validate your managers’ agenda to ensure they are not being busy fools.
  6. Continually look for hidden gems in your talent pool that could do so much more (hint it’s nothing to do with experience).
  7. Ensure the delta between last year’s EBITDA and this year’s forecast is grounded in real life initiatives that you are controlling. What projects are going to drive you from A to B. (Hint it’s unlikely to be the same road map as articulated in the budget)?
  8. Ensure your sales and marketing teams are competitively savvy. Cheats sheets should be kept up to date to ensure your proposition is kept relatively sharp.
  9. Remember what gets measured gets done. Ensure the top ten metrics are measuring the achievement of your present goals. Build your personal dashboard that grabs the business by the jugular every day, week and month (hint different dashboards).
  10. A CEO should be the person closest to the customer’s needs. Don’t abdicate your responsibilities to the marketing and sales teams. Thus always move in when you notice that customer’s needs are moving away from the service you are bringing to the market.
  11. Communicate your story, the manifesto of the business often both internally and externally. If it doesn’t feel like missionary work you’re not trying.
  12. Treat cash flow with massive respect. 70% of businesses that go under are forecasting profit for the next three months.
  13. Don’t assume your vision has been translated into relevant actions by your managers. Continually validate.
  14. Own the messaging of your web site. Today it’s a Board Room issue. The tone of voice it narrates is all that most people will ever hear.
  15. Don’t assume that how you made money yesterday is the way it will work tomorrow. Oracle, HP, Blackberry, Barnes & Noble, GE, IBM and Washington Post.
  16. Build a culture of clear next steps. So many businesses have wasted meetings with no follow through. After all that’s all execution is.
My top 3? – 1, 3 and 12. What’s your top 3?
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About the Author

Ian founded The Portfolio Partnership (TPP) in 2010. TPP is an operational consultancy focused on scaling private businesses safely. He believes his resume of building 4 previous businesses from publishing, investment banking to software in Europe and the States gives him a unique set of skills and a sense of humor. He remains a competitive masters track & field athlete and in 2012 was ranked #2 indoors in the world for his age at 400m.

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