A recent email from one of my social media platforms reminded me that had over 18,000 unread inbox messages in 2017 alone. As I glanced over some of the messages with a quick scroll, most were outside of the scope of my boundaries. Messages such as "can we meet for a cup of coffee," "I have a quick question for you, can we jump on a call" or "can you give me some advice," were all out of the scope of my time.
Seven years ago, I made a decision which greatly impacted the success of my business -- I set clear boundaries around my availability. After spending the first five years as an ambitious entrepreneur, who was giving away every free moment of my day, with high hopes of new business acquisition and networking, it became clear that the return of accepting every coffee and phone meeting was adding up to nothing more than daily cups of caramel macchiato and empty promises.
Subsequently, I missed several major high level partnership opportunities in the early stages of growing my company because my calendar was filled with daily coffee meetings, generic networking and phone conversations with no objective.
Once I completed an audit of time, it became clear that the lack of boundaries was the issue. The probability of failure for early stage entrepreneurs is high, partially due to this lack of boundaries and vulnerability to giving time away.
As much as it is our duty to solve huge problems and help others, scaling time is a challenge. Everyone has a question, but you need to create limitations on your own accessibility to answer, so you can spend time working on more constructive matters; such as, your pitch deck for your new investors, etc.
Every growth stage entrepreneur, who can envision building a multi-million dollar brand, must be aware of how they spend their time. Growing a company requires dedication and focus, hence, those midday coffee meetings and afternoon chats may need to be postponed in the interest of your time as a leader.
Here are six time boundaries that you must implement to grow your company:
1. Execute a formal agenda .
Any meeting without a formal agenda will create unclear expectations, which often lead to generic discussions. A formal agenda creates timed transitions within a meeting to determine a successful outcome and best use of your time.
2. Say no .
Rejecting meetings is difficult, but often necessary. The preservation of your time is crucial for you to focus on productive tasks in your business. Be poised and direct. You can leverage from the responses to your submitted agenda if the purpose and potential outcome of the meeting is an investment for you.
3. Limit your availability.
Set aside specific times of the year when your calendar is open for meetings. This will create urgency for those who insist on meeting with you.
4. Set boundaries on your website .
Make your restrictions very clear online. I learned this strategy from Tim Ferris, author of Tribe of Mentors. His website is clear about restricted availability, which is extremely helpful. Most people will stop to reconsider moving forward. Avoid adding email addresses and phone numbers on your site to discourage immediate contact with your staff.
5. Set solid time limits .
Timed conversations are a great way to guide a conversation toward the purpose of the meeting. Five to ten minute meetings help to avoid the urge to be subjected to non-germane discussions that are not listed on the agenda.
6. All parties should be vetted .
It may sound extreme, but vetting all person(s) beforehand will allow you to decide if the meeting is worth 10 minutes of your time. Audit their business, social media, etc., to ensure the best use of your expertise. If all parties are aware of your process, it will set the tone for the progression of the relationship.
Networking is essential part of growing a successful business; however, open meetings can be the ultimate distraction that can affect productivity and profit. Early stage entrepreneurs need to beware of making this pivotal error by giving away time.
Unsolicited meetings are an unproductive use of time in today's evolving business climate. Growing a company to scale will demand most of your attention to be dedicated to growing your staff, policy changes, monetizing new products and services, raising capital and growing margins. Full scale businesses require focused leaders, therefore, you must be selective with your time.