Focus and Prioritization: The Warren Buffett Way

Any successful executive will tell you that prioritization is one of the key elements to success in business, and in life. Unfortunately, prioritization is easier said than done. During the course of the day, I speak to an average of 25 executives of small to mid-sized Motor Carriers (15-99 Power Units) throughout North America. One of the most surprising, and consistent situations that I notice every day is that many of these executives are ‘covering’ for one of their employees/colleagues. The tasks they are covering range from financial reporting, dispatching, and truck repairs to delivering loads. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is an incredibly powerful tool for company culture when the boss shows that they are willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty with his/her colleagues. However, I believe this happens too frequently in Trucking, and there is an opportunity cost to this behaviour.

As an executive or an entrepreneur, letting go of the reins in certain ‘comfort zones’ is a very difficult task. However, it is absolutely necessary to build the value of your company. Your time is valuable. Instead of covering for your Accounts Payable person, perhaps it might be better to call your top shippers to see if there are additional business opportunities available. Instead of spending your time in the shop, perhaps your time may be better spent negotiating a better fuel program, or service contacts.

In order to optimize your time and the value of your business, you MUST attach an hourly value to your time. You already know what your employees/colleagues are making. From the outside looking in, it doesn’t make sense to replace (alebit temporarily) a $20/hour job, with a $200/hour executive. Again, demonstrating to your team that no task is beneath you is valuable. However, if this behaviour is consistent and prolonged it can stall or erode the growth of your company.

With respect to prioritization, one of my business heroes is Warren Buffett (I highly recommend picking up a copy of Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein, he uses a very simple process for prioritization and focus, called the “Two List Strategy”:

1. List your Top 25 Priorities or Career Goals
2. Circle your Top 5
3. Avoid the other 20 “At All Costs”

Hard to argue with someone as successful as Buffett. A pretty simple, but powerful exercise for moving your business and your career at a higher trajectory…..

In closing, here’s a great video from Simon Sinek: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”