A Busy CEO's Guide to Getting and Staying Connected
David Ashen, Principal & Founder, Dash Design
Do you spend a good deal of your time travelling to service or grow your business? If so, I can definitely relate. Like many CEO's, I spend about 40 to 50 percent of my time on the road. While there are many positives to that face time with clients and new business prospects, there are also unique challenges inherent in that "push - pull" of being out of the office nearly as much as when you're in it.
Fortunately for modern day CEO's and road warriors, recent technological advances have made it easier than ever to stay connected with the office regardless of your location. One of my favorites is Trello, a web-based project management application that uses a paradigm for managing projects and offers basic free services and a premium business-class solution. The technology was originally popularized by Toyota in the 1980's for supply chain management and has now been more widely adopted by those running busy companies. The benefits are many: tasks can be overseen remotely, tracked throughout the office and updated in real time, enabling each member of the team to carry out their responsibilities seamlessly and take a project from the idea stage right on through to implementation.
Another helpful productivity tool is Share File, a cloud storage system. When I was away in Europe or Asia on business, it was complex and tedious to access our firm's server. No more. Now, my design team, accounting department and marketing manager can upload folders for me and others who are on the road to access anywhere, anytime. We also frequently connect via GoToMeeting, a virtual meeting tool that allows multiple parties to conference in and share ideas, both from your own office as well as a client's. It's remarkable how easy it's become to "meet" with your team in Miami and New York, along with a client in Cleveland, while sitting in your hotel room in China.
Surprisingly, I've recently become a huge advocate of WiFi on airplanes, something I once thought to be over-the-top. Increasing business demands and longer, international trips have made me see the light! While on a full-day flight heading back to New York from Istanbul this past month, I was able to keep up with the 200-plus emails that hit my inbox, responding to important questions from members of my team and meeting clients' demands without missing a beat. When I landed at 4 p.m., I felt a sense of relief. My previous routine of anxiously logging in to catch up on the day's events went by the wayside. Instead, I headed to baggage claim with a clear head, knowing I had efficiently used my downtime.
In spite of all of these incredible advances, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the single most important aspect of successfully managing a business while on the road: investing in people. This past year, my firm opened a second office in Miami, which increased my time travelling back and forth between the two locations. To stay on top of that growth and manage it effectively, I appointed several senior-level executives with the experience to methodically make decisions and execute them on a day-to-day basis. Delegating and empowering were essential to the success of this venture. After all, without a person on hand to make localized decisions, preferably one person per office who can transmit and grow the company culture, clients cannot receive optimal service.
By removing smaller tasks and decisions from my own to-do list, I'm able to build the business and engage in the kind of "big picture thinking" that can take my company to the next level. While letting go is a challenge, particularly if you are the one who has built the company from the ground up, every entrepreneur needs to become adept at overseeing remotely and delegating. It's not so much about creating a clone, but about replicating different aspects of yourself in others, either by recognizing an executives' strong points or by nurturing them to grow that skill and take on those tasks.
About the Author
David Ashen is a principal and the founder of dash design (www.dashdesign.net), an award-winning New York-based interior design and branding firm specializing in retail and hospitality projects. Known for his ability to tailor each project to answer clients’ specific business needs, Ashen and his design team update spaces and reinvent brands. Clients include market leaders and Fortune 500 companies from all over the world including the US, China, Hong Kong, Turkey and Aruba.