EntrepreneurHow This CEO Helps His Employees Stop Stressing Over EmailsWilliam VanderbloemenMar 16, 2017
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you stay sane with little to no free time?” is written by William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.
Streamlining team communication is the key to keeping sane at a startup. When I first built Vanderbloemen, I only had about eight employees, so we had no trouble managing and replying to our emails. And we used email for everything: requests, company correspondence, and general chatter.
But as the company has grown to 30-plus employees, we’ve had to create more structure to our communication process. We decided to move the more fun workplace chatter from email to other forums like group texts, and started streamlining emails so that each person gets the information they need without overloading the whole team.
Implement a communication code
We’ve implemented a Vanderbloemen communication code that every staff member knows and follows: If I email you, I need a response within 24 hours; if I text you, I need a response as soon as possible; and if I call you, I need you to pick up or call back immediately.
This helps to set clear standards for employees and relieves some of the anxiety that comes with the pressure to drop what you’re doing just to get to a manager’s request. Once you have a communication code for your employees internally, you can start setting external expectations for your employees’ interactions with clients and leads.
See also: Why Every Entrepreneur Should Start Leaving the Office at 2 p.m.
As the CEO, I’ve set a huge precedent for responsiveness on our team. In fact, one of our values is “ridiculous responsiveness.” Having systems for responsiveness, like a communication code, helps to streamline systems for you and your team. I believe responsive systems also increase sales.
Many sales studies prove that when you respond quickly to a lead’s inquiry, you are more likely to connect with them. A study by InsideSales.com shows that the likelihood of having a good connection with a web-generated lead decreases by more than 10 times when an inquiry goes unanswered for an hour.
Understand individual communication styles
Another way we make communication effective and easy between employees is by having them take personality tests. There are so many great personality tests available, but at Vanderbloemen, I have all of my staff members take the Insights assessment. Since each person communicates differently, it’s helpful to have a guide for each person that clearly shows who they are, how they work, and their communication preferences so I can understand how to best interact with them.
Focus on what only you can do and delegate the rest
When I first started my company, it was just my wife and me. I wrote all of the proposals, contracts, and reports. And when I got a client, my wife would send out the invoice and manage our books. As the company has grown, we’ve been able to hire more people, but as the founder, I’ve struggled with handing over some responsibilities and delegating effectively. However, I've learned that although it may seem careless at first glance, making yourself less essential to your company often ends up being what’s best for both you and your company in the long run.
As a business owner who loves his job, I often find myself doing little tasks that should probably be delegated to others. Many founders experience this same struggle; they love being “in the trenches” so much that they forget to teach and train others, which is what a good CEO should do. It’s important to invest in a team that can take over your mission and ensure that your business runs exactly how you want it to, even when you’re not there to manage everything.
Although business owners must get out of the trenches in order to stay sane, there are times when I do need to get involved. However, I must decide in each situation whether I need to jump in or just want to. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten was to get to a place as a business owner where I’m working on broken things and new things. This phrase has really helped me, especially in deciding whether or not to hit the trenches. I believe that if more entrepreneurs would stay out of the trenches—except when working on broken or new things—their companies would experience faster growth and leave a longer legacy.