If I ask you about your company and what it does, you would probably tell me about the industry you are in and maybe about the product or service you offer. You may include where your company is located and if your company is big or small, growing or shrinking. You may talk about your specific job. It may be a great story with some great things happening.
However, the way I am thinking about this question is a bit different. I am not trying to get at the industry or product necessarily, but rather trying to ask a deeper question to understand how your company spends its time.
What if I asked you what you did this weekend? Or what you did last night? Then you would perhaps list the way you spent your time. Maybe you went to a movie, had dinner at a trendy new restaurant, took a long walk or caught up on some much needed sleep.
So let's try and look at your company through this lens and re-ask the question. What does your company do? Or rather, what did your company do last week? Last month? Last year? Last decade?
If you took a monitor and plugged it into your company to track everyone's time, what would it record? Meetings - for sure. We all have meetings. Accounting - we all count the revenue and expenses. Sales - every company has to sell something. Product management, product development, sometimes product sunsetting. Opening stores or opening manufacturing facilities. Contracting. Hiring. Negotiating. Cleaning up.
The activities list is long within a company. So many things happening.
But what should your company be doing? Who am I to even ask such a question? Does the question even need to be asked?
The best way I ever heard this question answered was by Steve Jobs in a brief interview leading up to the introduction of the iMac. He was just back at Apple as the interim CEO, and they were about to launch this strange new translucent, egg shaped, tangerine-colored computer with just a few ports.
Steve said, "At Apple we make great products, and we tell people about them."
Try using that as a lens for the way you see your company. Is the meeting you are in creating a great product or telling someone about it?
This could be a dangerous thing to challenge people to do. If you think negatively about your company then you could use this simple test and walk around and see all sorts of wasted time spent not doing these two basic things. Don't do that. It is a waste of your energy and only leads to frustration.
Instead, think about how you can contribute to these two most important things. If you are in customer service then you can take notes about what you hear regarding your product. You can recommend improvements, enhancements or even entirely new products. You can also capture positive feedback about your products and help turn them into promotional material, social media posts, maybe even a TV commercial!
It is subtle, but the way you think about this sort of stuff can take you down a very positive and productive path. You can begin to see all sorts of opportunities and you can spread the word. You can add to product design or help with the engineering and production of great products and services. You can also be part of spreading the word, telling the world about the great products you have, the improvements you are making and your great company.
I constantly review my own schedule around this simple framework. When I have a day or week where my time is spent with our software engineers and designers working on advancing the Benefitfocus Platform, then it is like pure gold. I feel great because I know I am contributing to new products, better products and ultimately a better way for our customers to manage all of their benefits. When I have a day where I have the opportunity to travel and tell people about our great associates and great products, then I feel like I am also in the right zone.
It is a process of setting and resetting your schedule. Over time you can get closer and closer to one of these two key functions. If you are in the service side of your business, you get the best of both worlds; you get to interact with the customers and learn how they use your products. You get to tell stories about how others are winning with your products and services. Wherever you are in the organization, you are part of the design influence on what your customers ultimately purchase.
Regardless of your industry, your company creates great products and tells people about them. Adopt that mental framework today and see how you can be part of the team advancing both!