I’ve started up a fast-growth company and, in order to fuel this growth, I have to take regular trips across the country for business opportunities. However, I’m worried that I am neglecting the ‘nuts and bolts’ of my business by always being at the airport. How much should I be travelling in the early stages of the business?
There’s no definitive answer, but you need to be where your customers are to generate revenue. And you need to be where your staff are to make sure that the day-to-day execution is great.
My first suggestion, if you can afford it, is to try and split the management of the business along these lines.
Have one person (probably you) responsible for strategy, generating revenue and getting the feedback you need from customers (in the early stages all feedback is valuable – even the not-so-good stuff helps shape your offer). And have a second person responsible for execution – for making things happen.
This also helps the business because in my experience it’s unusual to find one person who is genuinely good at both. If the two of you communicate regularly and trust one another then you can grow much faster using this approach.
If, on the other hand, your budget doesn’t stretch that far then the golden rules are prioritisation and planning.
1. Prioritisation – you need to be clear on which is more important, given the stage you’re at. Is the product or service good enough? Then focus on sales and business development.
If it isn’t good enough yet, focus on getting it up to scratch – otherwise you’ll wind up signing up customers and being unable to deliver, which is worse than not signing them up at all. Start-ups need relentless focus given limited resource. Be clear what you’ve decided and communicate this openly to your team.
2. Planning – then, as you will probably still be doing some of both the sales and the nuts and bolts, decide how you’ll spilt your time in advance, and communicate this very clearly too. It doesn’t matter that you can spend only two days per week in the office if everyone knows which two days those are, and what you expect from them when you are physically there.
Schedule regular meetings, and establish processes that can be reviewed in that time.
Crucially, stick to this schedule, and you’ll be fine. But avoid last-minute decisions to change it – this creates uncertainty and makes it much easier to let things slip through the cracks.
Finally, technology does make it much easier to stay in touch when you are travelling. Use it!