Dave Lindsey: How ‘focus = growth’ for rapid business expansion involves the ‘main thing’

Dave Lindsey, founder, Defender Direct

Dave Lindsey, founder, Defender Direct

You will never get it all done!

My first job out of grad school was managing one product line, no people and a “to do” list that was a mile long.

I remember breaking down to my dad one night, who at that time was a bank executive who managed multiple divisions, hundreds of people and a lot more responsibility than I could ever comprehend. I was beyond frustrated working 70+ hour work weeks yet I couldn’t manage to get everything done, and my to-do list kept growing!

That’s when Dad gave me some of the best advice that I have ever received. He said, “David, they don’t pay you to get it all done. They pay you to get the most important things done.” Wow! That simple phrase changed my life.

Let me clarify by saying that some jobs, entry level specifically, do warrant the employee to get everything done; all phones need to be answered, hamburgers cooked, etc. prior to leaving for the day.

But as we begin to move up the ranks of responsibility we don’t want to take this mentality with us. When we are managing people, places or things, the options of what we spend our time on grows exponentially. We can conduct training, print a new catalogue, go to a meeting … the list goes on and on.

 

Learn to focus

So many options and requests on our time and soon, we find that we can never get it all done. This is why it is imperative that as we grow in our positions, we learn to focus on the right things.

The power of prioritization is undeniable in terms of your future success and in order to be exponentially successful, you must learn how to differentiate time management from prioritization.

Peter Drucker says it best: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Don’t waste your energy just crossing things off your “to do” list. Instead, spend some time prioritizing. Then pour your energy into the projects and tasks that you have deemed to be the most important things to complete today.

In the early days of Defender, I was a young entrepreneur obsessed with thoughts about how I could grow our business. As Defender grew, our team members were presented with new opportunities everywhere we turned.

While sometimes it was hard to turn away from an opportunity to sell what was presented as the “next big thing,” early on I took a step back to really evaluate our business. Every time we said yes to a new idea or product, it meant more training, more options, more complexity.

 

Stay in focus

Success does create more and new opportunities, but that means we must stay focused say no more often! Otherwise, our team and focus will fragment and slow us down.

I hear so many stressed out business leaders say, “But it’s all important!” However, by definition, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

If you want to be the leader of a high performance, fast-growth business, then your No. 1 job is to figure out what is most important and to “keep the main thing as the main thing.”

Still, today I divide my to-do list into A,B,C and D priorities and every morning I write my top three A priorities on a Post-It note, which I carry with me throughout the day as a reminder to keep me focused.

If each day I can get my top three most important things done amongst the chaos of life, I figure I’ll have a pretty successful life.

Remember, there will always be more things to do than there is time to do them. You’ll never get it all done and your “to do” list will never be empty. Let this philosophy release you from the stress of trying to get it all done and put that new energy into getting the right things done today.

Rafi Holtzman shows employees the love at Luidia

Rafi Holtzman, CEO, Luidia Inc.

A few years ago, when one of Rafi Holtzman’s employees called him from Europe and said she forgot her bright pink suit pants she needed for a trade show she was attending, he went to her house and, not wanting them to get crumpled in his suitcase, carried them by hand on the plane. He got odd looks, but it was just one way the CEO of Luidia Inc., a creator of interactive whiteboard technologies, showed his employee that he cared about her.

Holtzman also drinks his coffee with employees so he can talk to them, and he bought employees expensive ergonomic chairs so they would be comfortable. And when any of his nearly 100 employees have family emergencies, he says he’ll see them when it’s over instead of expecting them to work during the crisis.

“Even if you’re a cold-hearted capitalist, you still want to act like this because it buys you the thing that money can’t buy — it’s the personal responsibility, it’s the self-motivation — salaries will not do that for you,” he says. “Salaries are short-term sugar highs. If people understand you’re there for the long-run … it goes a long way.”

Smart Business spoke with Holtzman about how values affect a company.

What role do values play in an organization?

There are two kinds of motivation in human life — and it’s basically falling into two buckets. One of them is fear and the other one is love. Fear is a great motivator for a short-term burst — if you’re running away from a wild animal or doing a very fast project that you need to do right now and kill yourself to finish it. But if you really want to sustain growth, creativity, teamwork for the long run, then you have to be highly motivated to continue this for the long run, and the only way I know how to do that is personal involvement. I’m using the term love, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a combination of respect and personal responsibility and taking things really personal.
It helps a lot if you believe in that. You can fake it and do pep talks. A lot of companies will say that people are their strongest assets. But from my experience, not a lot really do mean it on the basic level. If you can really believe in that, you’re a large part of the way there.