Feb 9 2012

2012 Planning / Working Together

It’s been way too long since my last post. I was going to jump in with a post on not blogging, but thought better of it. Better to actually do than write about whether to do or not do. So much for my resolution to write/blog more this year… Hopefully this was just a January hiccup with too much travel and work to fit in regular blogging.

If you’ve read this blog you know I’m a pretty deliberate guy. I like to know where I’m headed and I like to be explicit about where that is, what’s working and what’s not. To that end, towards the end of last year I went through an exercise with each of the companies I work with to lay out both top level goals for this year as well as get some feedback on the interaction pattern between the company and me. I’ve always done some version of this, but this was the first year I was this explicit about it (and the first time I included a request for specific feedback on my working relationship with the CEOs that I work with). The email looked like this:

I’ve been thinking a lot about feedback loops recently and thought it would be helpful to touch base on how we worked together in 2011 and think a bit about anything that we need to change about our interactions in 2012 (talk more; talk less; more concentrated time together; etc.). And overlay onto that the key priorities/challenges for 2012.

With that in mind can you send me your thoughts on:
– what worked best working together in 2011
– what didn’t work (either specific situations where we weren’t on the same page or some overall interaction pattern that just didn’t work)
– what should we do differently in 2012
– what do we together need to focus on in 2012
– where can I be most impactful to the business in 2012

I appreciate your spending some time thinking about this. I’m doing the same and will respond to your thoughts with some of my own.

In terms of how I’m thinking about 2012 for Spanning I think about a couple of key ares of focus:
– [bulleted list for each company of the top 4 or 5 things I felt would really move the needle in 2012]

Obviously there are a million other things that are going to take place in the business in 2012, but these are the general areas as I’ve been thinking about it (would love your feedback on these as well).

This turned out to be a more positive exercise than I ever imagined it would be. While I’ve always talked to the companies I work with about the key goals of their business (and, of course, this is an ongoing conversation), being this explicit really helped spur some interesting conversations. More importantly I’d never asked in a systematic way to all companies in my portfolio how our working relationship and communication pattern was working for them. In the past these tended to either come up on occasion (but never aligning across the portfolio), or be something that was discussed when some kind of problem arose. I’ll write a separate post (hopefully sooner than 6 weeks from now!) about communication patterns between companies and their investors and some of the explicit things I learned through this exercise, but I’d encourage anyone reading this to consider engaging in this conversation with their investors. It changed how I thought about interacting with a number of the companies I work with, reinforced some behavior and forced me to change other behavior. And my relationships became stronger and the goals for 2012 that much clearer.