What does your day look like? What do business leaders and managers spend their time doing?
In the Autumn issue of Business Strategy Review we will be running a special section devoted to the days of leaders and executives from throughout the world. Whatever your job, wherever you are, we would welcome your contribution. It should be a maximum of 1,000 words and sent to LBSR editor Stuart Crainer (firstname.lastname@example.org). And, if you would like some inspiration here is a contribution from Joseph Timko, chief strategy officer of Pitney Bowes.
What a day looks like
5:30 am My commute takes about 1 hour 30 minutes, so I’m up early and usually out of the door around
6:30 am. My sophomore son needs three alarm clocks to wake, not that he or his ten-year-old brother are going to get up to wave me goodbye. Breakfast is taken on the road during the drive to Stamford, Connecticut. As it heads towards 7 o’clock, I try to get on the phone with anybody who will talk to me at this early hour.
8:00 am It’s time for emails. I’m not someone who schedules regular email time; I prefer to keep up-to-date as the day goes on. During meetings, I’m always writing notes for myself to remind me to send out emails later.
8:30 am Since I’ve been with Pitney Bowes over the course of this year, I’ve been leading a cross-functional senior group looking at new business opportunities. We’re the company’s own venture capitalists, if you like. We’ve got a pot of money to invest, but we want to be pretty sure that it’s going to give us an acceptable return. General managers periodically pitch us ideas and tell us why their project will provide the pipeline of business for the company in the years ahead. We also spend significant time with the management teams of our ongoing investments. It’s our job to invest wisely.
10:00 am Most of my job deals with a one-to-three year time horizon. But Pitney Bowes is a Fortune 500 company, so we’re also driven by the quarterly earnings schedule and cycle of board meetings. I have documents to review and comment on for that too.
11:00 am Now I chair a meeting about some transformational change management issues the business faces. It’s a work-stream that has been underway for some time and now we’re addressing the realities of execution and a communications plan. We’ve already presented a lot of content to the board. Now, working with Pitney Bowes’ internal comms team, we’re figuring out how best to cascade it. We’ll be creating a new website and ‘commissioning video’. I like this stage of a project — having worked through the process from high-level strategic thinking, we’re now getting down to making the plan work.
1:00 pm There’s always someone to meet at the cafeteria at Pitney Bowes, and it has a nice wooded parkland area outside to sit when the weather’s good. It’s not massive, but it’s nice to get some fresh air and makes a change from eating lunch in meetings. I’d like to be joining a larger group and forgetting about work for half an hour, but today I’m having a one-to-one with one of my strategy VPs to discuss HR issues. We’re building a really good team. I’m pleased with progress.
1:45 pm Time for some reading. I have a Winnie the Pooh ceramic “thinker” on my desk and a magic lamp. What strategist wouldn’t? They’re the foil to the serious stuff on the other side of the desk; the strategy magazines and analysts’ reports.
2:30 pm A meeting with my team to discuss a new initiative we’re kicking off. Like all companies, we have to understand the change that our customers are going through — the challenges they have to address, whether they’re SMEs or large corporates. To start with, I’d like the strategy team to analyse best-of-breed organisations — those companies who also have customers that vary in such size and breadth. Being strategy consultants, some of us from the big global firms, the team likes facts. So we explore where we need to look to find those facts. Who do we need to talk to? What modelling needs to be done to understand it? We come away knowing who’s going to examine what. It’s a productive meeting, but we know that the hard work comes next.
4:00 pm The second meeting of the afternoon. I’m leading the marketing strand of the company’s strategic transformation programme. We need to ensure the company is capable of delivering solutions for all our customers, whatever their size, at price points that make us competitive and that still delivervalue for shareholders. We’re looking at a new enterprise-wide software solution to manage our sales processes. Any corporate transformation is complex. It can’t be rushed.
5:30pm Research Lab meeting. These are the guys who make this company so innovative. Each of the people in the room have dozens of patents to their name. They’re inventors; the creators of Pitney Bowes’ intellectual property. We’ve been re-invigorating the company’s “technical ladder” so that they don’t feel pressurised into moving into management just to get on. They can move through a career ladder and become a “Fellow” on the technical side. It’s a good scheme, but as we’ve made acquisitions over the years, especially in software companies, it’s become a little cumbersome. We want more people to join the ladder and work their way up it. It’s a lively meeting. They talk about what they’re working on and I highlight projects and strategy issues that they can help with.
6:30 pm A call with one of the Pitney Bowes salespeople. I’m spending a day with him next week and he talks me through his schedule. We should get in three or four good appointments, including one with a prospective new customer. She sounds focused and persuasive.
6:45 pm A granola bar and sports report on the radio are the only company I have on the journey home, although I do have a quick chat with my daughter who’s at school in Boston. She at least feigns amusement at some college Freshman jokes I’ve emailed her. By the time I get home, the boys and my wife have eaten; the weekends are the time we really get to hang out together. So it’s a light supper and then some time on the exercise bike. I can’t have very late nights. There’s another early start tomorrow.