Outcomes vs. Activities

06.12.07 | 1 Comment

Yesterday I had lunch with another startup CEO and we were discussing how busy we both were and how it seemed like there was so little time to devote to the myriad activities we jointly faced. Then, in my RSS reader, I came across this entry from FoundRead.com (a very good business blog, I recommend it highly:)

I am embarrassed to say that it took me 10 years to learn one of the most fundamental pillars of leadership: It is all about outcomes — and not activities. This business truth is simple and obvious, yet, extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately, it remains strangely elusive for many founders, and most people.

As many of you know, the world came crashing down in the spring of 2000 when the bubble burst. The next two years were exceedingly difficult – layoffs, hurt feelings, and an overwhelming sense of foreboding that we would likely lose the company. In 2002, we were down to just four weeks of cash and about ten employees. It was during this most difficult period that we had little choice but to focus on absolutely the most critical element of corporate life support – cash flow from operations.

When forced to make difficult tradeoffs in an exceptionally constrained environment, good leaders focus only on those things that matter. *The pressurization of Military.com leadership forced me to choose only those activities that drove key outcomes: cash-flow, membership growth, and monetization. As I reflect over both those experiences, I realize that I had confused being busy — lots of activity — with accomplishing something of value. Today, Military.com has over 9 million members and has delivered double digit profit and revenue growth since those dark days in our history. In 2004, I sold the company to Monster Worldwide (Nasdaq: MNST).

Read the whole entry, it’s worth your time.

Sure, I could pontificate about this more, but what’s the point? Chris Michel has covered the topic more articulately than I could hope to do in his entry. What can I say? I’m guilty of this, I get pulled into activities continually, it’s like a blackhole. Outcomes are the only thing that matters and only those activities that directly support the outcomes. Everything else can wait or be delegated. Period.

If you’re an entrepreneur, read this article and practice it with diligence. If I can find a system to break out of the tyranny of activity, I’ll share it. In the meanwhile, I’m headed back to work on outcomes. Oh, and Chris, it’s unlikely you’ll ever read this, but if you do, thanks. The reminder is constantly needed and appreciated.

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