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200: How To Become A More Effective Executive

Posted by Austin Brawner on May 21, 2019


When I’m working with my private coaching clients our conversations inevitably end up focusing on how to become a more effective executive.

In today’s episode, Andrew and I share four rules to follow that will help you make better decisions as an executive and run your business, team, or agency more effectively.

These rules include tracking and understanding your time, focusing on doing more of the right things, setting and reviewing your goals often, and asking yourself what the business needs from you. We’ll also share how we’ve implemented these rules in our own businesses and how they’ve made us more effective.


Episode Highlights

  • 3:49 Rule #1: Respect and understand your time.
  • 5:04 How to efficiently track your time and what to do when once you understand where you’re spending it.
  • 6:56 How finding his “Zone of Genius” helped Andrew focus his time and better delegate tasks.
  • 9:02 Rule #2: Do more of less.
  • 11:12 The importance of setting aside uninterrupted time for high leverage projects.
  • 12:29 Rule #3: Set the right goals and review them often.
  • 14:14 The metrics you should be tracking to predict success (HINT: Revenue isn’t one of them).
  • 16:06 Rule #4: Ask yourself what you can do to help the business.

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I am Andrew Foxwell. I'll tell you, I'm very excited to talk about, with you, how to be a more effective executive.

Austin Brawner: So am I. It's one of my favorite things to talk about.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah.

Austin Brawner: It really is.

Andrew Foxwell: It reminds me of Ron Burgundy, something like I would like an Arnold Palmer at the Omelet Parlor, just some vocal exercises, effective executive.

Austin Brawner: It is. It is one of those things that I find, when I'm working with my clients, that it almost always ... We come in talking about something different like the business is going this direction. I need help. Then very quickly, we pivot to focusing on how to be a more effective executive because ...

Andrew Foxwell: Sure.

Austin Brawner: What it comes down to, that is where a lot of the leverage is. Even last week, I'm working with a client. We started working together about 30 days ago. We started working together because she has a big business, doing about three and a half, four million dollars a year, but had just kind of been in a rough spot, was losing money over the last three or four months, and we sat down, went through a process of analyzing what's going on, made some changes, went from $15K loss last month to $10K profit in 30 days.

Andrew Foxwell: Hey oh.

Austin Brawner: Huge, felt incredible. She was excited. I was excited, but all the changes that were made were more based on just being a more effective executive and making better decisions. That's, today, what we want to talk about. Yeah, gonna basically share four things you can do to become a more effective executive.

When I say executive, that does not just mean a high-level person at a business. That means anybody who has any agency over their life and makes decisions. You can be a one-person marketing team at an agency. You could be a founder or a marketer in the ecommerce business. If you make decisions, you are an executive.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, absolutely. This is kind of something that's related to the time management episode that we went through and was very popular, and so this goes directly into that. You're an executive of your own life, as well. So, let's go ahead and get into it. The first one, respect and understand your time, the first rule. Do you want to go into that a little bit?

Austin Brawner: Sure, yeah. If there's just one thing you take away from this episode, this is the most important one to take away, which is if you can show me or Andrew where you spend your time, then I'll be able to tell what you're actually prioritizing and what you're doing because often, there's a big disconnect between what you think you're focusing on and what you're actually spending your time on. I'm really, really a huge proponent of tracking your time in realtime, meaning actually physically tracking. Right now during this episode, I have a Toggl tracker that says, "Recording podcast." I've been doing that for the last 52 minutes. I use Toggl. What do you use, Andrew? You got a different tool, right?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, Tracking Time, Tracking Time, so yeah. I completely agree with you. It's huge. You respect and understand that time, and it helps to eliminate a ton that you didn't realize. That's absolutely the number one thing. I completely agree. On the task, what do you recommend doing in terms of the first rule of respecting and understanding your time?

Austin Brawner: There's a couple of ways to do it. There's your process. You track every day of every year, right?

Andrew Foxwell: All the time.

Austin Brawner: You're always tracking.

Andrew Foxwell: I am, yes.

Austin Brawner: That's one way to go about it. You've been tracking time for some time, so you're more experienced, but you can either go about it and track all the time, or you can do a review, let's say two or three times a year to see where you're spending your time.

I typically will ... Every three months, will track for three weeks, and get a better feeling of where I'm spending my time. Just doing that tracking yourself, just putting in the numbers and figuring out in realtime where you're spending your time will give you a better idea of what you're doing, and you'll just automatically be more effective. But once you do that, then you need to review your log and start, first, by eliminating things that you don't need to do anymore because as the business grows and changes, you're gonna come up with things that at one point were important, but now are no longer important. If you can get rid of those, that's fantastic. That's number one.

Number two, delegate tasks that can be done just as well, or close to as well, as you do it by somebody else. That would be the next thing to focus on. If you do those two things, that, I would consider, the kind of key to respecting and understanding your time. Personally, I find that I was getting sidetracked by podcasts, and so both of us have worked hard to get ahead with our podcast recordings so they're no longer emergencies. I don't know. What about you, Andrew? What have you found from going into your time, tracking things that you have made changes because of your tracking of your time?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I mean, the big one, honestly, this year for me is there's a specific area where we have a friend who is named Sarah Young, and she does a lot of life coaching and business coaching, and her big thing is asking where your "zone of genius" is. I'm trying to realize where my zone of genius is. There are things I don't need to be doing in the delegation part of that. The hard part about delegation is you think like, "oh, it's 5 minutes or you think it's 10 minutes to do this little thing," but the reality of it is, if you can go through and outline that very quickly for somebody recording a video and saying, "Here's how I want to outsource this," that can save you loads of time later.

It seems like it's not a big deal, but in the reality in tracking time, there were things I was spending like 30, 40, sometimes over an hour on, 30-40 minutes a week or over an hour on that were tasks that were not in my zone of genius and not things that I'm uniquely positioned to do, and so I needed to outsource those, and so I've been really trying to basically go through, review that, send these videos off to my employee who also edits this podcast. What's up, Shane? Thank you. You're the best and say, "Hey, man. Can you help me with this?"

One is, we have a client who does a lot of launches, and they do a lot of launches of their service in different cities, and so they're a food delivery service. These dates change all the time and everything, so that was something I don't need to go through and do. He can do that because I can do a coaching call that's more strategic and more ... Something where I can really add the most value, and that's not what the client is paying me for. It's things like that.

It's like these small, little things, that's where I found a lot of the value. I found a ton of value in, where am I spending time that doesn't align with the revenue that I'm making? I lined that up. It's like, oh, okay, well, I'm spending a third of my time on this thing and it's not providing a third of my revenue. That's a mismatch, and we need to fix that. I've used that to justify rate increases and things like that, so respecting and retaining your time is huge, and then I think you can start to get into the number two rule of do more of less. Go ahead and get into that 'cause I think this is the one that is huge and hard for entrepreneurs to understand, me included.

Austin Brawner: Yes. This is very, very difficult for ... I feel like entrepreneurs, especially, but we live in a society that tells us to do more, and more, and more, and more, and more. If we're not doing as much as we can, we're not doing enough, and so doing more of less means, basically, don't fall into the trap of focusing on more than one or two things at a time, and ideally, just one thing.

I've set kind of a rule for myself that I can only do one or two important things per day. That's it, because I know if it's actually truly important, it's gonna take me some time to focus on, and it's gonna take me some time to accomplish it. So if I'm choosing correctly and I'm choosing important things, I can't do more than one or two of those a day. If I do one important thing per day, that is a win.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think this is huge because for me, the biggest issue that I run into, in terms of being an effective executive, is I try to do too much. I'm unrealistic in what I can actually accomplish. This is something I have to always be revisiting with myself. You can do one to two important things per day. I think you're totally right.

Yesterday, I was working on a presentation, and those take a lot of time. I always have this idea that I'm gonna get it done very quickly, but the reality of it is, it's a big presentation and it deserves the time, and it's gonna take me a long time because it should. So, it's setting those expectations very clearly with myself of what I can actually get done. High-achieving people want to do everything, so blocking out those big chunks of time is a really big one for the do more with less or do more of less kind of number two rule.

Austin Brawner: It's so important because as you continue to move up that kind of value hierarchy and you are focusing on higher leverage activities, the more leverage an activity has, the more focused uninterrupted time you're gonna need to be able to work on it. If that means defining a marketing strategy or something that I've been working on with a client recently has been setting quarterly goals for the entire team and setting metrics that relate to the growth of the organization. Now, that's not something that you can do 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. You have to literally get out of your day-to-day and work on it for two to three hours to see any ... And that's kind of a minimum to see any progress on something like that. That would be an important task, and if you can block out a morning to work on that, or ideally, a full day, that's going to lead to you being more effective. When I say effective, it doesn't mean just getting more done. That means getting more of the right stuff done.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, absolutely. It kind of goes into number three of setting the right goals and reviewing them often. You've talked a lot about setting goals and asking questions every week about why you're not hitting them and kind of going into its one thing to kind of set your goals for the quarter, but it's really different to review them throughout the quarter and pivot.

Austin Brawner: Yeah.

Andrew Foxwell: Right? Why don't you go into that a little bit? 'Cause I think that's really, really good advice.

Austin Brawner: It's really interesting because everybody wants to set goals, and it's really fun to go and set goals, whether it's setting for the quarter like I focus on, which is setting quarterly goals. That is really, really fun. You go through it. You're like, oh my gosh, we're so aligned as a team right now. We all know where we're gonna be going, but the problem is, you set the goals at the beginning of the quarter, and then the typical process is, nobody reviews them until three weeks before the end of the quarter. Then you realize, oh my gosh, we're totally off. We got sidetracked by all these fires we had to fight, and then you're in a scramble towards the end of the quarter to try to hit these goals. That's very, very typical. Rather than doing that, it's extremely important to just set the time in advance to go back through and have time to review the goals at least every two weeks. We review our goals every single two weeks.

Every two weeks, we set time for a sprint, so we prepare for a sprint of work. At the beginning of that sprint, before we plan what we're gonna do, we review our goals and say, "Are we getting closer, further away? Do we need to pivot and make changes to what we're gonna be doing?" Then we'll dive into that.

What's important about that is if you start looking at these things every two weeks, it naturally moves you away from focusing on things you can't track until the end of the quarter. Now, the biggest predictor ...the easiest thing to look at is revenue, right? People like looking at revenue. They're like, "Oh, well, we had a great month." Revenue is often a very bad predictor of success because the massive month that you just had was usually set up by the previous months of work. If you're trying to have a predictor of whether or not you're doing a good job, revenue is terrible.

A couple of things you could be looking at that might be better predictors of the success that you're having right now would be the number of email addresses you're capturing, or your audience size, or revenue per user, or average order value. Those are all things you can track on a day-to-day basis.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, absolutely. That's really important to mention. That's a huge indicator for so many different people and talk about this on the financial investment podcast that I like to listen to, not that I have a lot of money to invest, but I think it's interesting, is they talk ... Revenue is part of it, but obviously, as you go through revenue per user, AOV, as you said, huge things that you can track on a day-to-day basis and can allow you to pivot and look at that on a more regular basis.

The thing that will kill you, as you said, putting goals up on the whiteboard and never revisiting them until the last few weeks before the end is over, and then you don't know. Think of it in the agile development way. Set the right goals and review them often, and then the number four, ask yourself what you can do to help the business. Can you explain what that means?

Austin Brawner: Yes. That means that if you truly want to be more effective and be more valuable for the business, you gotta really start thinking about what the business needs from you, not what you, specifically, want to do in the business. There may be things that you really want to do and that you really enjoy, and maybe that's creating Facebook ads or maybe that's being creative, but if you want to be more effective, it doesn't really matter what you want to do. It's what the business needs you to do.

Once you have an idea, and this is something when you're looking at your goals after every quarter and you're trying to figure out, what's our focus for the next three months? Once you figure out what the highest leverage activity that needs to be done is, then it's your responsibility to try to focus as much of your time on that one specific thing. If you make a goal that the next quarter, you realize that the website needs to have some improvements made. You guys went through and you're like, "This needs to be changed. This needs to be changed. All these things need to be changed."

Well, then, if you are the person who has the power to move those things across the finish line, then you need to be ruthless to move all those other tasks off of your plate and just focus on the one that's super high leverage and you're trying to get to right now. This is extremely difficult and something I've struggled with. I find that I have to continue to remind myself to push the other things that are on my plate off and just focus on what I need to focus on right now that's most effective for the business.

In quarter one, for us, it was growing and focusing on list growth, so figuring out a way to consistently generate more leads for the business. That was my number one priority. The first month and a half, I was experimenting but didn't have enough kind of ... I wasn't making enough progress, reviewed goals, realized I wasn't making enough progress, and then I really had to clear my plate and dive into it. We were able to actually hit our goal, but it was only because I was continuing to review the goals, and I realized I needed to just clear my plate and focus deep into getting this thing and moving it across the finish line.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, it's absolutely that essentialist mindset we've talked about before and kind of making sure that you're focusing on the one thing that you need to get done because to me, I have the same thing. We returned from California, and I had been working out there, came back. I was like, oh, when I'm home, I'll work on X. Then all of these other things that I had set to bring back up, like, oh, talk when we're back from California, come in, and then it's all these small ... As Greg McKeown would say, the many versus the essential few. I was looking at all these things. I was like, oh my God, I have so man things to do, I have all these meetings, and I wasn't actually accomplishing what I was trying to set out to do. I completely hear you. Ask yourself what you can do to help the business and focusing on that.

Well, this has been awesome. I think going through them again, number one, respecting and understanding your time. Number two, do more of less. Number three set the right goals and review them often. Number four, ask yourself what you can do to help the business. Any final words from you, Austin?

Austin Brawner: No. This is the type of stuff that I'm working on with my clients on a day-to-day basis. You can go check it out., if you're interested in getting some coaching. This is what I'm doing. It's helping people figure out where they're most valuable to the business and then setting the right goals, diving into it. It's a lot of fun. It's highly, highly impactful, and I love it. If you love the podcast and you get a lot of value out of it, go check it out, love to have you join up.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, definitely. It's an incredible community with a lot of value. We'll look forward to hopefully seeing you in there, but until next time, thank you very much for listening.

Austin Brawner: Hey, guys. It's Austin again. If you've been listening for a while and you have yet to join the Brand Growth Experts membership, now is the time to do it. It is an incredible resource for you. It's my online coaching community. It's really the engine that drives the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. We got about 115 members, all ecommerce business owners and ecommerce marketers, and in that community, I work with you guys one-on-one to help scale up your business. That could be scaling up advertising, hiring a team, diving into marketing strategy. It's a really, really good resource, and we go really in-depth every single month on topics that we also talk about on the podcast.

If you've enjoyed the podcast, it's something that you get some value out of, you're going to love the Brand Growth Experts membership. Head over to, and you can learn some more information. Can't wait to see you guys on the inside.

Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I am Andrew Foxwell. I'll tell you, I'm very excited to talk about, with you, how to be a more effective executive.

Austin Brawner: ...

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