A CFO's Perspective on Mastering Time When Your Startup Needs You Most
Time management and prioritization is critical in a startup that is growing rapidly. It is essential that there is always a balance between the phase of the company and the amount of time and investment made in people and processes. From the CFO’s perspective, especially in the early stages, time is money certainly rings very true.
1. Overall playbook.
You should have an overall plan for each phase of your company as you progress from a startup to a “scale up” type of organization. The essential part of your playbook should be balanced. Determine the key employees, systems, and processes that you need to support each phase of the company’s growth. You only want to invest in key resources in the early stages, but you can’t be too short-sighted so that when growth accelerates, you aren’t able to properly support key projects. Not getting bogged down in minutia or over engineering processes, while being thoughtful, is critical in the startup phase.
2. Leadership and managing.
It is important to establish a transparent management and leadership style. Prioritizing your time in your management approach is one of the most critical areas where time can be mismanaged. Tailor your approach based on the makeup of the team and how you plan to achieve your goals. Depending on the role and level of experience some folks need more frequent one-on-one meetings, others may be fine with less formal interaction and are more self sufficient.
If there is an area as important as your strategy, it is recruiting the right players to your team. In the startup phase, when your staff is small, you must have folks who can execute in their core competency as well as many other areas. Each hire as you progress from the startup phase to a larger company is critical to ensure crisp execution. Getting the right hire who can meet operational needs today and grow as your company scales will minimize any future challenges to support continued growth. Growth also creates the need for more roles and specialization. Make sure there are constant dialogue and feedback with the team to best prepare for future growth and roles.
It is essential that you have an internal systems roadmap for each phase of the company. It can limit the amount of your internal tech debt that you have to face in the future if you can deftly balance when to plan to upgrade your systems. Some systems, like CRMs, can scale from one user to thousands of users. Others like your Financial System / ERP can be scale-blockers for your company’s growth if you wait too long to plan for upgrades. At a minimum, make sure each system you implement or upgrade can easily integrate with your mission critical systems.
5. Strategic planning.
You need to prioritize your bandwidth for strategic planning above all else. Implementing a regular cadence to meet and review your company’s strategy with the management team is essential. Ensuring that your strategic planning receives the proper attention from key stakeholders greatly increases your ability to execute.
Be known as the person who questions whether certain meetings are necessary or superfluous. Recurring meetings without set agendas and firm deliverables can easily turn into an inefficient time use for multiple people. Questioning what goals a specific meeting is meant to accomplish will be appreciated by all.
Though time is infinite, figuring out how to master it as a CFO is finite. The sooner you figure out how to navigate mastering time management in your startup, the better it is for the health of that startup, your employees and your effectiveness as a leader.