Kent Gregoire is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Boston and CEO of Master Key Executive, which helps entrepreneurial CEOs and their seconds-in-command reach new levels of understanding and trust to quiet the noise resulting from working in their business--so that entrepreneurs can work on their business. We asked Kent about the noise entrepreneurs encounter, and how their seconds-in-command can help reduce it so entrepreneurs can do what they love once again. Here's what he shared:
Remember when you started your company? You were young and hungry, eager to prove your concept, introduce smarter solutions, or enhance your quality of life. You spent your days using your talent and drive to its highest and best use to grow the company. It felt great.
But--where did that feeling go?
For the majority of entrepreneurs, after five years in business, you're down to spending around 20 percent of your time doing what you do best. The rest of your day is consumed by activities that result from having too much noise around you.
Why did this happen? Because of the day-to-day distractions of running your company: Making decisions, delegating responsibilities and solving problems. That's not why you started a company, but it's necessary to run one. And it's not just the time you spend on such tasks--it's the allocation of energy toward them. That's noise--it keeps you up at night, distracting you from what you want to and should be doing to grow.
The role of your Second-in-Command
That's where your second-in-command (SIC) comes in--your COO, integrator or operational manager. Whatever the job title, their ultimate role is to enable you--the entrepreneur--to stay consistently in the zone of your highest and best use.
How can a SIC accomplish this? Here are six ways a SIC can eliminate your distractions to make the noise go away.
1. Deeper level of trust. Though you already trust your SIC, it's time to take it to the next level. The relationship between an entrepreneur and a SIC is like a marriage. You have to be all-in, vulnerable and able to talk about everything--even things rarely discussed with your life partner. High-level trust empowers the SIC to remove noise and distractions, allowing the entrepreneur to feel safe and able to focus on growing the company while the SIC handles daily operations. Ideally, the SIC understands the entrepreneur's intrinsic needs, and their values are aligned around the company's higher purpose.
2. Knowing what keeps you up at night. As an entrepreneur, you may feel like you're the only one who worries about your company's progress. Certain aspects of that keep you awake at night. One of your SIC's responsibilities is to find out what's keeping you awake through observing what you're focused on and by asking about your most significant concerns. Then, the SIC can prioritize the issues, handle them, and provide you with weekly updates.
3. Understanding you and thinking like an entrepreneur. To remove the noise, a SIC needs to understand you and be able to think like you. When an entrepreneur doesn't feel safe, it causes noise and feelings of doubt about the business. This can drive you to do things that aren't a wise use of your time. In this mindset, you stay involved in things you hired others to do--checking up on every detail. A talented SIC identifies these areas and provides status updates. Communication is critical, because silence can trigger entrepreneurs to jump back in.
4. Upward communication. Your SIC must keep you abreast of what's going on. But you only need high-level information, presented in a way that won't distract from your highest and best use. Ideally, you two have a weekly, 20-minute meeting where the SIC shares updates and ascertains what's on your mind. The SIC adds and removes areas of concern as they're dealt with or become higher or lower priorities. Frequent upward communication from a SIC to the entrepreneur about the things keeping you up at night is the key to trust.
5. Running operations. Yes, you're an entrepreneur, but that doesn't mean your role is to make all of the decisions--that's why you hire capable people. What so many entrepreneurs get wrong is delegation. When you delegate, it also means you have to follow-up. But that's not your best use. Instead, trust your SIC to own the delegation process so that you don't feel obligated to check up on it. Ideally, the SIC identifies tasks for delegation before they reach your desk. To do so, the SIC must dive deep into the organization with problem-solving and decision-making techniques that fully consider positive and negative consequences. When this happens, the SIC becomes the "first in command" to employees. That's when you know the role of your SIC is evolving to the master level.
6. Innovation gap and priority filtering. As an entrepreneur, you have new, exciting ideas--it's what you're good at. But when you return from a morning run and blurt out six new ideas, staff can feel frustrated about how to implement them. And you may resent that your ideas aren't being acted upon. Enter the SIC. During your "up-at-night meeting," the SIC grabs these ideas from an entrepreneur, filtering and prioritizing them. Then, the SIC presents the message to employees in a way that makes sense within the context of their current roles.
When you and your SIC work to develop a high-trust relationship with consistent delivery of competency and credibility, the noise dissipates. You trust that your SIC has your back. That's how a talented SIC can help you reclaim the majority of your time and allocate it to your highest and best use--so you're once again able to grow your business by doing what you love as an entrepreneur.