During his company's Series B financing round, Apu Gupta, co-founder and CEO of social commerce platform Curalate, got a "respectful, but firm nudge" from his investors: "Hey, can you get back to us?" Gupta's intense travel schedule and focus on bringing on new customers was taking up most of his time--and making him neglect his inbox.
"I was bringing unnecessary risk to our fundraising process simply because I had taken on too much," says Gupta, whose Philadelphia-based company also has offices in New York, Seattle, and London. So, after completing the round, he hired an executive assistant. Now, having somebody who can "keep things moving along in my absence is enormous," Gupta says. "There's just better use of your time."
Delegating more responsibilities has allowed Gupta to address an increasingly common problem for founders and CEOs: How do you stay on top of everything at your company when you can't always be there in person? CEOs work, on average, about 62.5 hours a week--with more than half of that time spent outside of company headquarters, according to a 2018 study by Harvard Business School researchers.
"You have to get out and you have to practice telling the story of your company," says TransitScreen co-founder and chief operating officer Ryan Croft, who spends about half of his work life on the road for his Washington, D.C.-based software company. These are some of the strategies he and other founders recommend to juggle running your company with all the travel required to help it grow.
1. Delegate the day-to-day.
When business travel starts to dominate your calendar, you need managers you can trust on the ground. Croft relies on TransitScreen co-founder Matt Caywood, "more of a day-to-day kind of guy," to oversee headquarters. And be sure to show confidence in the people running things for you, warns Jerry Colonna, co-founder and CEO of executive coaching firm Reboot.io: "Don't undermine those to whom you delegated things when you get back to the office by criticizing the decisions made in your absence."
2. Talk remote tech.
Robust, real-time reporting tools and other technology can help you keep tabs on your company from the road. "I have five dashboards that I look at throughout the day, and I especially look at them when I'm traveling," says Jaclyn Baumgarten, co-founder and CEO of Boatsetter, an online boat rental marketplace. Investing in business intelligence "has been a lifesaver for me," she says. "I can see if there's anything that looks like a red flag I need to dig into and start asking questions about."
Beyond continuous communications tools like Slack and Skype, video calls have become "more commonplace and accepted," says Christine Tao, CEO and co-founder of Sounding Board, an executive-coaching startup. But don't abandon old-school methods of communication entirely; as Curalate's Gupta has learned, sometimes video calls don't work in locations with bad Wi-Fi. "All of our meetings now also include a dial-in number," he says. That way, "nothing has to get rescheduled" just because you're on the road.
3. Sweat your scheduling.
Finally, once you have a strong team and adequate systems in place, schedule--and spend--your travel time wisely. Gupta tries to hold weekly one-on-one meetings with his direct reports on Mondays or Fridays and reserves Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for travel. Croft, meanwhile, flies to and from meetings or events during off-peak business hours.
"In February, I took four redeyes," he says. "I just can't stand to waste a day on the plane."