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Guest: Danny Peykoff, the CEO of Space Jam, which is a fast-growing company in the e-liquid vaping space. In five short years, the company has grown to employ over 60 people with a global footprint. Danny is also a client of CEO Coaching International.
Episode in a Tweet: If you don’t grow as a CEO your company will never get BIG.
Quick Background: One of the hardest lessons for CEOs to learn is: You can’t do everything. This was especially tough for Danny Peykoff because he’d grown up watching his father do just that while running the family business, Niagara Water. But when Danny became the CEO of Space Jam, he discovered that letting go and delegating were essential if he was going to grow into the kind of leader that the expanding company needed.
On today’s show, Danny discusses how to grow as a CEO and how he narrowed his focus to four key activities that were essential to making BIG happen.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
Key Insights on How to Grow as a CEO
1. Let your mechanics fix the trucks.
“I came from a bottled water company where my dad, for all intents and purposes, ran a one-person show,” remembers Danny. “He was the old-school CEO who does everything. A truck breaks down, he’s under it fixing it. That’s the mindset that I had going into Space Jam. This is what CEOs do. They do everything.”
No, they don’t – not if they want to grow as a CEO and run a sustainable, scalable business.
That’s why at CEO Coaching we’ve developed an exercise called “The Stop Doing List.” It helps our clients clear the clutter off their desks and get focused on the highest possible uses of their valuable time: Vision, People, Cash, Key Relationship, and Learning.
If you’ve hired the right people and put the right systems in place, then your company should have plenty of “mechanics” who can handle day-to-day, nuts-and-bolts issues.
2. Focus on your top priorities.
To paraphrase Danny, it’s better for you to be fully-submerged in two or three big buckets than to dip your toes in every bucket.
Danny decided his big buckets were vision, culture, P&L, and key relationships. He refocused the company’s culture around five values — Accountability, Action, Passion, Positivity, and Camaraderie – and made sure these values were recognized and reinforced with staff. He made difficult cuts based on P&L and not sentiment. And he started making connections that he knew would be vital to taking Space Jam to the next level.
“As far as what my day-to-day is now,” Danny says, “it’s finding whales for our industry that are going to tremendously move the needle, establishing those relationships, nourishing those relationships. That’s something that I can uniquely do at this company better than anybody else.”
3. Never be cheap when it comes to talent.
One key step Danny took towards focusing his own activities and helping the company grow was hiring a Grade-A COO and letting him go to work. Instead of taking six weekly meetings with his department heads, Danny delegated those meetings to the COO, who then reported to Danny. The COO kept the sales team accountable. He streamlined the data gathering that had taken up much of Danny’s time. In other words, he did all the work that was keeping Danny from doing the work of a top CEO.
I share these kinds of stories with struggling CEOs all the time, and way too often they reply, “But Mark, you don’t understand! I can’t afford to hire someone that good!”
Top CEOs like Danny don’t think like that. They ask themselves, “What is the effect that this senior hire is going to have on my company, and ultimately, my bottom line?”
“When you’re talking about talent, especially at the executive level, never be cheap,” Danny advises. “No one’s ever said, ‘This guy is unbelievable. I just wish we paid him less.’ If they’re great, they’re great. Conversely, nobody has ever gone back and said, ‘Boy, that guy who was just decent, I really regret letting him go.’”
4. Don’t lose your vision in a dream.
Danny’s original vision at Space Jam was centered on one big, hairy, audacious goal: E-cigarettes are safer than smoking, so the company would be saving lives. “People 30, 40 years from now are going to be fishing with their grandchildren because they used our products and they didn’t smoke cigarettes,” Danny imagined.
Now, I like companies and leaders who think BIG. But you don’t get to BIG with noble intentions: you get there by setting targets, hitting them, increasing your revenue, and scaling up.
So Danny drilled into his vison more deeply. He asked himself questions and found a more realistic and actionable BHAG: “We want to be the number one convenience store portfolio brand for vaping products.” And then he kept going:
“Whatever you put as your vision, you need to be able to go one layer down, ‘Okay, now, what’s A, B, and C that are going to get us there?’ If you can’t do that, then it’s just a jolly thing to imagine, ‘Hey, grandparents fishing with their grandkids.’ That’s more like a dream come true as opposed to, ‘We’re going to be number one. We’re going to be in X amount of stores. We’re going to be the most readily available.’ Great, then, trickle down one layer. ‘How do you get there? What’s A, B, C, and D?’ Keep quantifying it.”
And if you can’t break down your goal? If it doesn’t have actions and outcomes you can quantify?
Get a better goal.
1. You can’t do everything. A CEO who’s not delegating the small stuff and focusing on BIG is not doing a CEO’s job.
2. You get what you pay for. Top talent costs more than mediocre talent for a reason — they’re worth a multiple of your investment.
3. Set BIG goals, but make sure you have the smaller, everyday steps in place that will get you there.