AS Seen On

By: Stephan Spencer


Fail to plan and you plan to fail, as the adage goes. And that’s what we’re about to address today. My guest is Shannon Susko, an accomplished author, serial entrepreneur and business coach. Her books are The bestselling books are 3HAG Way and The Metronome

In this episode, Shannon and I discuss goal setting, contingency planning, and cost-cutting, among other things. Shannon talks about the need to over communicate, to have daily huddles with your team. And, of course, how to cope with the global pandemic and economic crisis. Now is the time to up your leadership game. This is such a timely and important episode, so, without any further delay, let’s get into it!

Shannon Susko
“In this time of crisis, you need to focus on your goals. You might be taking a few different turns along the way but make sure that you don’t lose your mission.”
Shannon Susko

In This Episode

  • [00:39]Stephan introduces Shannon Susko, serial entrepreneur, business coach, and author of books 3HAG Way and The Metronome Effect.
  • [01:22]Shannon shares what 3HAG is all about and the inspiration behind it.
  • [07:52]What helps business owners/employers make great decisions for short-term goals?
  • [11:49]What is over-communicating, why is it vital for organizations, and how is it done?
  • [16:06]How transparency can impact the entire team’s involvement in setting goals.
  • [19:43]Steps in setting an effective team huddle.
  • [30:41]Shannon explains what “thread the needle” means.
  • [36:12]A simple activity that can help get things under control during a crisis.
  • [45:55]How do you map out your cash flow?
  • [54:43]Learn more from Shannon Susko on their website to get free resources, tools, and webinars.

Jump to Links and Resources


Shannon, it’s so great to have you on the show.

Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.

3HAG WAY by Shannon Susko

First of all, let’s start with the 3HAG because that is not a term that everybody who’s listening will have heard of. How did you end up coming up with this and why?

3HAG is a three-year highly achievable goal which sounds straight up. Write down a goal, drive to it. We came up with it in our first organization where we were venture-backed. We had created what I call now Super-Wild-Ass-Guess five-years away and we were being held to it as you would by your board and by your investors, and we kept showing up quarter to quarter, nowhere near being on the path of our Super-Wild-Ass-Guess, that five-year path that we laid out.

We said let’s make it a bit more urgent. Let’s write down where we should be in three-years time. Would we reach a certain level of gross revenue, cash in the bank, how many of what would we need to sell? What would we be if we did that? What would be those differentiating activities, lining up to our strategy, and what would we be known for if we actually leverage that? We, as a leadership team, would sit down and come up with this.

I can tell you, based on my experience of doing this, but also working with many companies around the world doing it. Once you write that down, you want to figure out how to get there. It makes it urgent. It’s only 12 quarters away. It’s not very far. For some people, they want to avoid the three-year highly achievable goal because it is too close and too risky. How could we predict that?

On the other side, most people once they write it down, all they want to do is drive to figure out how to validate and get there, and that success, that’s enough once we write down and say a goal out loud and do it with the team. We want to figure out on how to get there, and that’s the success that we’ve seen over and over and over again, not just with my companies, but now with hundreds and hundreds of companies around the world.

Now we’re going through this major crisis, this disruption to our economy, and to our healthcare systems, and to some of our loved ones’ health. What do you recommend our folks who are doing things that are growth-focused, and so forth, and they’re having to face this new reality, what do you tell them? 

It’s a great question. Everyone’s trying to figure out, where they should look and what they should do. Take care of family, take care of the team, take care of business. One of the biggest things I find myself day in and day out right now, we’re talking to leaders all over the world. We are sticking to one case, we’re looking at the purpose of the organization. We’re looking at the long term goals, still 10-year, our Big Hairy Audacious Goals, Jim Collins  coined it. Our three-year which is our 3HAG, that’s our stepping stone. 

Those really haven’t changed. I’m going to say that out loud, those haven’t changed. People still want to reach those goals. What we’re now focusing on is, what do we need to do right now? Right now, look down, look up, look down, look up. The path we thought we were going to take to get to that three-year highly achievable goal or 10-year goal, we’re just going to take a few different turns along the way now, and there we need to make some good decisions right now, some quick decisions, and align the team to it.

That’s one side of it. Purpose and goals, and a lot of people are going, “I can’t look out that far.” I get it, but we need to just look up and then we have to look down again, and then we have to take care of our team. Our team, we need to over communicate. We can communicate in the morning, we can communicate at night. We have to communicate and it feels weird, but until we say something seven times in seven different ways people don’t hear it, and we need to do that at this time.

The last thing that we’re working with companies out there, one of my favorite statements is cash is king. I know that’s on everybody’s minds right now personally, and in your business, and we take an approach of mapping your cash. Map your cash, meaning start at the bottom. Assume no more dollars are coming in, and then step by step, ratchet it up, and up and up until we find a place where we as a CEO, we as leaders, we as team members can get our heads around it.

In this time of crisis, you need to focus on your goals. You might be taking a few different turns along the way but make sure that you don’t lose your mission. Share on X

We gotta go back and over-communicate that to give everyone the comfort and confidence that we’ve got this, and then we have to go back and line it up to our goals and purpose. A lot of people are probably listening are going, “Where do you find time to do that? Because we’re in a fire. We’re in the fire.” I get that, and every CEO that I’m working with and leadership teams that I’m working with, we are taking care of the fires that we have in front of us. We’re trying to line it up to one week away, one month away, three months away, and making our best assumptions on what we need to actually realize and talk about, and put the brutal facts on the table.

Do you have an acronym for this?

Yes. What I just talked through?

Let’s just talk through that acronym.

Some people I’ve seen called it, “mission over-communicate, cash is king.” I had a purpose, but you got to put goals in there or communicate cash. I was calling it POC. Maybe MOC is better but I didn’t think GOC sounded good. I just think those three things if we can keep those in focus, it helps keep us as leaders focused on what we need to do every day. The habits and the rituals, we need to keep those alive, but we’re all working remotely.

Some of our teams are going into work, production lines, manufacturing lines. We just can’t stop looking at where we’re going, and assessing it every day, and then over-communicating it, and then lining up our cash because that is changing every day.

Let’s work through this. You have P for purpose, and that includes goals. Can you differentiate purpose over goals for us, so we can understand?

Every organization out there, no matter in what framework we’re working with, we need to know why we show up every day, why the organization exists every day. Honestly, there are some companies out there and what we call this wartime that some of their purposes have changed, based on what they’re doing. That clarity of why we show up every day, and what we’re doing is really important. I think of that as a time like we’re in right now, even more so than any other time, but at any time.

We need that foundation because that helps us understand why we exist? What is our core business? And how do we make money? Those are the things that matter to the foundation of an organization. When we think about that Ps, where do those things intersect, and this comes out of Jim Collins work or the Hedgehog Concept. The intersection of those three things, help us create that long term goal.

A lot of people might be listening and going, “I don’t have a 10-year goal. I don’t want a 10-year goal. I don’t think I’m going to be with this company 10 years from now.” I’ve heard that, but a 10-year goal, why it’s really important is because it helps us make great decisions as a team for the short term right here and now in order to understand where we’re going to end up in the long term so that 10-year goal is important.

If you don’t have one, and if you have a five-year or three-year, that’s fine. Let’s keep those moving forward. Why do we end up with that three-year goal for us? You heard me say it earlier, our original five-year goal was SWAG, the Super-Wild-Ass-Guess. We created that three-year highly achievable goal, what we call 3HAG because it’s a stepping stone. It’s believable. We can map out how we’re going to get there.

The 10-year goal, we don’t have to know how we’re going to get there. We just know we want to get there and we want to go there. The actual three-year highly achievable goal, highly achievable means we know how to get there, and that actually creates comfort for us right now, if we map it out. Then we have a one-year goal, we all had one at the beginning of 2020, everybody, had that one-year goal. Has that changed? Yep, more than likely, probably some have gone up and some have gone down. It doesn’t mean we throw it away, we still have to map our way there.

We just closed out. This is the last day of Q1 of 2020. A lot of people are probably happy to have it over with, but we’re rolling into Q2 now, and we really need to actually have a good path at month one of Q2, month two, month three, even though lots of people are going, “I have no idea what’s going to happen.” I always say, “Get that out, plan for the best-case scenario, but be very aware and have your worst-case scenario mapped out as well.” We have to do both, and that’s why I always talk about when we’re doing planning like this, start at the bottom and work your way up.

A lot of people don’t want to face the bottom. You got to face the bottom because it feels really good to letter on the next step in the next step than it is to ratchet it down. We don’t want to ratchet it down. That’s one piece. That’s the goal, that’s the purpose. A lot of people have this in place already, it’s now their frequency of looking at this. In the framework that we learned, in the execution system that we learned, we learned to look at it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. Most of the organizations I’m working with, the 70 coaches we have who noticed the framework around the world, are looking and meeting with their clients weekly.

Over-communicate the key things that matter to the business.

If you have a coach, weekly is preferred. If you are planning your CEO leadership team on your own, you got to be stepping this out week over week and communicating daily. That moves to over communicate. That’s the next step.

What do you mean by over-communicate?

I know my coach back in the day of Paradata being a CEO had shared with me over-communicate. Then, Pat Lencioni and his framework talked about over-communicating and talked about how we say and think things as leaders. We’ve thought about it the most and we think that we’re being repetitive by saying it once, or twice, and a lot. Why didn’t our team hear that? Well, we need to say it at least seven times, that’s what I learned along the way, and we need to actually communicate in different forms. We need to do it live, in person, as today it’s virtual right now.

We need to do it via email and written, we need to do it through different apps that we’re using, we need to do it through our leaders and cascading messages out. Over-communicate is really sticking to the main focus themes, the things that matter. Right now most companies are focused and need to thread the needle through this time, and we need to focus on some key things. In order to over-communicate, we have to ensure that we’re communicating with our team that they’re okay, and lots of the teams are doing daily huddles.

Some are doing two huddles a day now, and a huddle is no more than 15 minutes. You can do a full-team, you can do just your own team, but you’re getting on and you’re communicating. The good news, what we need to focus on today, where are we stuck, and then moving on. We need to close out the day that way because things are happening so fast.

We have our weekly, a way to actually communicate in a bigger picture. Then we have our monthly, our quarterly, our annual, but our annual some people are going in to do their annual planning right now. In Canada, in Australia, and other places, they don’t have a calendar fiscal year-end, so lots of companies are planning right now, doing some in the month of April, an annual plan. They’re going to work out what that looks like, and we’re going to gut out. That’s part of this, gutting out where we’re going. 

Over-communicate is if you think you’ve said it enough, this is your test. You probably haven’t, so you got to say it again.

The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham

Where does open book management fit into this idea of over-communicating, because Jack Stack has a great book, The Great Game of Business, and having everybody from the very top down to the janitor who mops the floors, knowing whether you guys have made a profit for the month and what’s going to be needed to push it over the edge. The book talked about the number of machines that were required in order to hit profitability, and that number was displayed on a huge LED display throughout the month.

I’m an absolute fan, having read Jack’s book way back in the day when it came out, and I was so pleased that someone else was being as transparent as we were in our organization. That came from me being an organization that wasn’t very transparent in a startup. One day the doors were open, and the next day it was closed, and if they just had told us, we would have done something different. I’m a huge fan.

In that over-communicate, part of the framework that we worked in, we loved Jack Stack’s view of the dollars and the fiscal. One of the things that we worked into the 3HAG way framework, the Metronome Growth Systems Framework, is we actually have the fiscal as well as a number of widgets. And the widgets are the things that have to flow through your business.

I would say every organization that works within the framework is transparent about cash, all the way to gross revenue back to cash, as well as the number of things we need to do on our business to actually line up to get that lag in fiscal number. In this over-communicate, I had a few questions this past week. If we know something’s happening, what should we tell our team? I said, “Honesty would be the best practice here. You need to frame it up, you need to continue the story, and that’s a part of this over-communication.”

In Jack Stack’s framework, and Open-book Management, and all these pieces and getting the whole team to contribute and own. There’s no time like the present in an urgent crisis situation like this to get everybody lined up on what we need to do this week. What we need to do today, this week, this month, to get through the other side. I’ve found in my time as a founder and as a high-growth CEO building up from 0 to as high as we possibly can go in 3 years, 6 years, 10 years, having lived that out. The more clear we can be and honest about what’s happening in the organization, the more the team will blow you away and what they’re willing to do to reach the goal, and that’s been a huge thing about this over-communicate, and transparency is a part of that.

It is important to know your purpose. Why you show up every day, and what you’re doing really matters. Share on X

I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but Cameron Herold shared Simon Sinek‘s team meeting. It’s very inspiring. We’re going through a very uncertain time, and yet he was just so eloquent in explaining that this is not a time to be fearful and to shrink in the face of adversity. It’s time to really make a difference, survival of the fittest. I found that to be very inspiring and profound, and I’m going to have a team meeting like that this week with my team.

We definitely did that. I’m very lucky on the Metronome team to have worked with a lot of the leaders on my team for the last 15 years plus in my companies, and we’ve gone through a few of these wars before. Have we done a pandemic and a market downturn? Absolutely, not. Are we going to apply similar principles? Absolutely.

It’s been amazing to see what the team has done to step up and actually just be creative at this time to keep the team moving forward. I love the view of transparency is key and then seeing what the team will do to step up and support each other to actually get to the other side to really support and impact our clients and customers, and people who really need help.

What would you say to a listener who’s not used to doing these huddles on a regular basis and they don’t even know what a stand-up meeting is, and then there are these tools out there like Standuply that will integrate with Slack and so forth. There are companies that are already well into this world of being a remote team. They’re using Slack, they’re using Standuply. They’re doing these huddles and so forth.

That’s not everybody. That’s not a lot of us, in fact. What do you tell them to do as a starting point to really roll this out? Do they go on and sign up? Do they make sure that everybody is on Slack? Do they start a 10-minute huddle every morning and just have everybody check-in? Where is a good starting point?

The best starting point is to book a recurring meeting every day. Go to whatever calendar tool you use. You actually set up one meeting, you say recurring, pick a time, no more than 15 minutes and just book it in, invite who you think is… If it’s everyone, great, big teams have been doing everyone at least. Some teams are just doing their team and the leaders are doing their team and so on. It doesn’t matter.

The first step is go and book that in. Step two is just decide on the most basic agenda, and the most basic agenda goes like this. You do a round-robin of good news. One, one, one, one, one, good news is it doesn’t matter what it is, honestly, to kick it off. Just start off everybody’s got good news at a time like this. We can find it, dig deep, and no one cannot have good news. That’s where you kick it off.

Second thing is maybe not everyone’s lined up to have clear metrics like we talked about in open-book management or what we call widgets in our framework. But you know what, put a standing item in there called metrics. Whatever it is you need to share, maybe it’s a number of things you need to ship tomorrow, the number of phone calls you need to make today, put a number in there, and just start with one number. Do not make it complicated. What’s the one thing the company has to do in the next 24 hours?

Then you do another round robin, ask each person, what’s the number one thing they’re going to get done in the next 24 hours? Simple. The last thing is it’s a dynamic. What we call a dynamic and the dynamic is, what are you stuck on? What questions do you have? We’re not going to solve them in 15 minutes, but we’re going to put them on the table. We as a team can take it offline to figure out what we’re facing. Disconnection every day, I can tell you. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years. This is not a new thing for us, 20 years even when I retired for that brief time before I came, I would say became repriored.

I joked with my husband, “We’re going to huddle every day, honey.” He’s like, “No, we’re not. No, we’re not huddling every day.” I’m like, “Yeah, we’re going to huddle every day because we’re going to get stuff done.” It’s just a way to stay connected. At the end of the day, you can run the same 15 minutes, if that’s what you need to keep everybody lined up and moving forward, and you can actually close the day, and so the good news is one thing you learned. What’s one reflection on the day? What are you grateful for? And then go, did we hit our number, our metric? Did you get it done? And then, you can close off with any stocks.

The teams who are running two huddles a day, I’m amazed. The feedback we’ve got is that the team is probably more cohesive than we’ve ever seen. They’re actually following that up. The CEO, I’ve seen teams follow up with the CEO even after that second huddle. They send out a brief email, a couple of pieces of good news, the one metric, the top things they got done and who got it done and shares the kudos, and then moves to closing out. Let’s do it again tomorrow, or whatever the big inspirational thought is.

It’s been amazing to see the way the teams are really stepping up, and everyone’s doing it virtually. I love what they’re doing. Once you get it going, if you’re just starting out, that’s my best thing. Book it in the calendar, show up, and just a simple three-part agenda.

What are your thoughts about meetings that don’t have agendas?

Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish

I don’t really like meetings without agendas. One thing that we learned, I learned this in Rockefeller Habits that Verne Harnish put out there like 1999 or 2000 before he even wrote the book Rockefeller Habits. Always have a standing agenda and never show up to a meeting without a purpose and an agenda.

I love standing agendas because it means you don’t have to create an agenda for every meeting. You just know every meeting. In my world, every meeting starts out with good news and metrics. What are the key priorities we need to focus on? What are we working on? And then, what do we have to dig into that dynamic? That saved my life basically, as a high-growth CEO, working through lots. I always say to my team, “If there’s no agenda and no purpose in the invite, you don’t have to go, because we don’t want to waste time.”

But I can tell you that rhythm of meetings that we learn in the execution system that Rock Habits gave us, and now known as scaling up, that whole rhythm and just putting that daily huddle in place, if you feel like you’re overwhelmed than you’re losing time, like it’s a sieve. As a CEO who was working 100 hours a week at that time, and I know we’re all working mega hours right now, it gave me back 40 hours in my week just by putting the huddle in place.

How was that even possible?

We’d go all day long, working hard together. At night, we’d have all these emails and voicemails, crossing over one another trying to get questions answered. By putting the huddle in and getting focused on number one, the things that mattered. We got to focus right now, thread the needle. We’ve got to actually have those quick questions, understand where we’re stuck, and it’s just bringing the group together at once, all of us together. Especially as a CEO, a lot of us are in really high, getting things done mode, hair on fire, but just stopping for 15 minutes to share what’s going on quickly with your team can save you that time.

That’s me working 100-hour weeks back in the day. The first thing I did after I met Verne Harnish is I put the huddle in place, and that’s what it gave me back. That rhythm, that sense of what to expect every time and you get better and better. After 30 days, you check-in and you go, “How are we doing? What else could we do? Could we evolve the agenda? Could we evolve the time? Do we have the right people?” Those are the things, but 40 hours a week, think about that. It gave me a life.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Hundred hour weeks, that’s not sustainable. That’s not good for your health. I’m glad you’re not doing that.

No, but lots of people are putting that time in right now.

If anyone listening in is putting that time in, please, when you’re done listening, just stop right here and go and book a huddle, if you don’t do it every day.

I’m going to do it. What if you have a team that’s really distributed? I have team members in the Philippines, the US, and Canada. During certain parts of the year, some of my team will actually be in Europe. I have team members that spend summers in France usually, but probably not this summer. What do you do because that’s really awkward with all the time zones?

Our first company we grew up globally, so we had in all time zones, we covered all the way through Europe. What we did is we rotated across the time zones what was the best time for the time zones. We heard in a couple other time zones, say for 30 days. For the team, we’re going to actually be doing this late at night or early in the morning, we’re trying to cover off.

In some cases, I know I used to be in Europe and it was like the middle of the night to actually get this done. I don’t think that’s as healthy as that should be, but we actually found on the edges of the time zones, many times that would work. We rotated the painfulness of those times in different time zones to make it fair to everybody.

How often did you rotate?

We did it every 30 days. I know that as our team grew, we did try every week depending on your size of the team, but it just was easier to just lock in our schedules and whatnot once a month, and then change it and ship it.

There are these weekly meetings, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings. What is the structure and makeup of those kinds of meetings?

A daily was good news, metrics, number one thing you got to get done in a dynamic. A weekly is focused on starting a standing agenda. Good news, metrics, where the top three things you have to get done this week, customer, and partner, and team member feedback, then you go into a dynamic. Very similar, just you have 60 minutes now to do that with your team.

What do you mean by going into a dynamic?

Dynamic means make a list, thank you for asking that. Make a list of all the things we need to talk about whether it’s our number one priority is going red or number three priority as super green, or we’re talking about this issue, and I think it might affect our plan. We put everything in a list and then we organize that list, we prioritize it. It doesn’t matter who put it on the table, we prioritize it. The first thing usually lines up to our plan, so if the number one priority is going red, we’re going to talk about that first and figure it out.

If the number three priority is super green, well, we’ll go to that next. If there’s this issue we think that might blow our plan up, we better talk about that for sure. We’re going to fit that in. It usually means we have about 45 minutes of the hour to talk about these things, and if we had some things on the list that was the company barbecue, and maybe it’s our new vendor for coffee or whatever it is, there’ll be further down the list.

If we get to them, we get to them, but whatever is left on the list, and we don’t get it through all, we go back to whoever brought it up and go, “Can you take that offline? Thank you for bringing it up. Can you deal with that and come back to us?” But we make sure we don’t miss it. We make sure as a team we focus on the things that matter to our plan, and getting through our week, our month, our quarter and lining up for the year that aligns us to 3 years to 10 years. That’s how the dynamic works.

It’s a bit different than just throwing things on the table, and whoever talks the loudest gets the time. You prioritize it to what matters to where we’re going. Right now, every company out there is focusing on the things they need to do to thread the needle to get across this time, and we don’t even know how long this time is yet.

Trust, honesty, transparency, and accountability are the building blocks of a strong foundation. Share on X

What do you mean by thread the needle, by the way?

Thread the needle is there’s all this noise going on around us, and there are fires all over the place. Threading the needle means what are the top things that absolutely matter for us to get through this time, from here to there. Some people go, is it three months, is it six months, doesn’t really matter. We need to map out how long that time is and what are the absolute things we must get done.

That’s why when we’re planning for this time, and anytime, really, we map from the bottom up, instead of the top down. Because the top down, we get lost and all these things are going on around us, instead of going what are the things that absolutely matter. There might be one thing that absolutely matters for you and your team and your company right now, and all we need to do is hone in and focus on it.

There could be two things, and everything else we thought we’re going to get done going into next quarter, and our plan we might have to put aside and stop doing them. That’s what I mean by threading the needle. You’re highly focused on what we need to actually get through this week, next week, the next week, the month, the quarter, and map it out.

That really resonates for me. A lot of my team members are working on my podcast shows and my wife’s podcast show, or things that are non-billable activities. What keeps the lights on is the client’s work. I’m an SEO consultant and I’m working with all these different clients, and many of my team never interact with the clients or even know who all the clients are, and that’s what pays the bills.

Getting everyone aligned on what this threading the needle means, and maybe some things are going to fall by the wayside because they’re not revenue-generating or maybe we’re going to cut some corners with regards to the podcast. Not every episode maybe will be video edited and uploaded to YouTube, or not every episode will be a full hour in length or something, we’re going to have to be flexible, because this is a different time than what we’re used to. We got to change.

I would say be flexible and be creative because we know we need to get through this time. That’s what I say thread the needle through and we want to get to the other side. We actually have goals. We had goals when we started the year, let’s figure out how to still get there. If we can’t, fine. We’re going to work our way there but we got to get so focused on the key things that matter to our business and make sure everybody knows what those things are. That’s our over communicative piece.

From there you asked about the meeting. The monthly, as you can imagine, good news, metrics. Focus on the quarterly plan. What’s our monthly plan? What are we going to do to each of the individuals in that planning meeting? What do we need to talk about? Again, that dynamic.

Metronome Effect by Shannon Susko

Quarterly is all about making sure we kick off the same way. I always kick off good news metrics like a broken record, but everyone comes prepared to talk about it. They own it, they recognize each other, and then we focus in on the plan at hand. One of the things I did in that was one of the last chapters I put in the Metronome Effect, and I also put it in at the end of 3HAG Way. It is putting in each of the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually meetings the suggested agendas, how to prep for it, what you should do in the meeting, and the outcomes.

It is chapter eight in Metronome Effect and it’s really funny. I can never remember the chapter in 3HAG Way but it doesn’t matter, if the agendas are there and they show you the buildup. At this time, I cannot recommend enough. We have to spend time planning and we have to spend time executing, and we have to balance that. They’re always in conflict, no matter if it’s a time like this or not, but we’ve got to find time to do it in an efficient way to do it, and this is a great program in order to get it going, starting with the huddle.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

If you are just focused on putting out fires, and you’re not looking at this all strategically and doing the proper planning, you’re basically planning to fail. My favorite quote in The Art of War is, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” We’re just being all tactical powering through putting in hundreds of hours in a week, but then we don’t survive because we weren’t strategic about it.

That is right. Maybe not everyone agrees with this but this is just coming from my own experience of being a CEO and building a company and living with it with my team is keeping him focused and looking up, and looking out 10 years, 3 years, 1 year and then looking down going right. Okay, right, that’s where we’re going, and being creative and working with each other on the team, and that’s where that over-communicate, that structure comes into play and just making sure it’s easy and practical to have these meetings.

That’s what gave me time back in my day. My expectation, knowing I’m going to connect with everybody, the best meetings and the shortest meetings are the ones we prepare for. If we just take time to prep for each of these meetings. I saw someone posted, “I’m a huge fan of coming out of every day and this is something anybody can leave this podcast with this, one is a daily huddle, two the other thing that can get you a whole lot of value back is finish out your day every day writing down the top six things you’re going to do tomorrow, top six, just random.”

Tomorrow, come in and start prioritizing, number one, you get through number one and two great. Write down the six you got to do for the next day at the end of the day, so simple. Simple but it works. These are the things, these rituals, these habits that keep us sane and they’ll work for now and they’re going to work after this time as well.

The key that really helps a team get through a crisis is making decisions together.

I have a very young child. I have a six-month-old and have rituals, where I always read to him at a certain time before bed. You get them ready for bedtime instead of like springing it on them. You do this for children growing up not just when they’re infants or babies. You do this with adults too because when we have rhythms and rituals, we feel more confident, and comfortable, and bring us a sense of certainty and safety. It’s really important.

We’re human. At the end of the day, we’re human. When we went to school, we had certain expectations. When we went to university, we had certain expectations. Then, we got out into our work life, and there are certain expectations. I find the best teams I’ve ever played on whether it’s athletic, or business teams have a really strong process and rhythm and create that expectation, so we know how to perform within it. If you like that rhythm, and you like that process, it’s amazing what people will do together because they’re all expecting the same thing.

You do these six things at the end of each day or is it right before bed? When do you do it and why is it six?

It comes from a story from the 1930s of a gentleman by the name of Ivy Lee. My coach back early on in Paradata gave it to me. I didn’t realize that it’s touted out there as the top six. I thought, “Oh, that’s a good way maybe to get things under control before I can get all these plans in place. Well, I’m going to try it with my leaders.” All I asked of my leaders the same way Ivy Lee went in to work with a company that was needed to get some things done faster. It’s the way the story goes. 

He was a consultant at the time. He went in and he basically said, “Just give me 20 minutes with each of your leaders.” I think it was even less than that. “I’m going to go in, talk to each one of them and I come back in 30 days. Don’t pay me now, pay me when I come back.” As the story goes, I went in and just basically advised each leader at the end of every day, like when you’re shutting down for the day, like office time for the day.

Write down your top six things. Write down in your notebook so that when you come back, the next day in the morning, you’re going to look at that, and you just going to start working on number one, and number two, and number three, and if you can get all six done great, but if you only get two or three done. When you go to close out your day at the end of that day, look at what you got done, write down the next top six, and then go to the next day again, and get them done.

The weird thing is that I did the exact same thing with my team of the day, and I didn’t know there was a story like this out there, but I found out about it afterward, but obviously, my coach knew. I got each of my leaders to do it for 30 days. The way the story goes is Ivy Lee comes back to the company and walks in and meets with the CEO, the owner of the business and said, “How did we do?”

The CEO said, “Wow.” The CEO ended up paying at that time in the 1930s, and ended up paying something like $20000 because of the efficiency that was brought to his organization just by getting the leaders to do that. In my own organization, as we put in the daily huddles, we put in the top six even before we had anything rolling. It’s so easy to do, and all you have to do is ask yourself, what are the top six things I need to do?

Over-communicating is when you think you’ve said enough, you probably haven’t, so you have to say it again. Share on X

I actually get every one of my coaches out there, the Christmas gift I handed out to our coaches this past year was this nice little leather portfolio. That’s the piece of paper every day. Just move it with you and put it in your pocket. We had a little leather portfolio put together that just would hold it. Just write it down every day, it’s as simple as it gets. The relief that people leave with when they write down what they need to do today at the end of the day.

They can put that aside, go enjoy their family, go enjoy what they need to do, come back in the morning focus in when it’s still fresh, they wrote it down last night they walk in. It’s not the next fire they need to deal with, it’s like what I think yesterday was the most important thing.

It’s a great book end for the day, and it helps with this tendency that many of us have to go right into our email first thing, and prioritize our day based on the biggest fires we happen to see in our email.

Those fires will get dealt with. Yes, we need to talk about them and all those things, but when I talk about focus and threading the needle, these are the things that help us, and it’s so simple. I’ve been doing that, I’ve been doing this ritual myself since 1997. God, that ages me, that’s a long time, that key from my own coach. It’s so simple.

When you were a young child, you started?

Yeah, young child, young CEO child.

I do something similar but I think your method is a bit better because mine I learned from one of my coaches, Mike Vardy, who’s the Productivityist. He’s awesome. I’ve had him on the show. It’s a great episode, listeners, definitely check it out. 

His method is called The Three Absolutes, and we do it in the morning. The problem with that is it’s not a good book end for the previous day, it just starts me out in the morning. I still feel I’m never done, my day spills into the evening, and then it spills into the night, especially since I work from home normally. There’s no barriers or boundaries, which is very frustrating for my wife. I’m going to apply this.

It’s so simple. It works so great. I probably butchered the story, but I didn’t know the story before I started doing it. I learned a bit afterward but just look up Ivy Lee’s top six.

Another thing that just came to me when you’re talking about threading the needle and that concept of getting through this, that reminded me of a quote from Sean Stephenson, who sadly passed away last year, “Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens through you.”

We’re going from one thing to the next and we’ll get through this. This too shall pass. Life happens through you. Let’s all get through this together.

I think that the key that really helps with this is even if you didn’t have a 3HAG, a three-year highly achievable goal or 10-year, whatever you have to look up and then look down, look up, look down, it just shows us that people want to figure out how to move forward and live through this. I love that statement, because we are going to live through this. It’s what are the decisions we need to make together with our team to get through it?

The one thing that’s going on, and we’ll keep this going for as long as we need to. One of the things that we’ve been doing at Metronome United, we’ve 70 coaches around the world. We’re all doing these open office hours, roundtables that any leader can just zoom in with us. You got questions, comments, you need help, because we all are trying to live through this, and we need sometimes just some support. Is this the right thing to do right now? What do you think?

Isn’t it amazing? I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met a lot of people over these last few weeks, and I look forward to continuing that on. It’s been just a really good time in knowing that others are going through it and the feedback we are getting is that I’m really glad I showed up. I wasn’t sure if I should, but it’s nice to hear out what others are doing with approaching the same issue I have, so it’s been really great.

The last letter in your POC acronym, cash, C for cash. Cash is king and you talked about mapping your cash but you didn’t explain yet what mapping your cash means and how to do it. Let’s go through that if we could.

Thank you for that, because I think as we all know cash is king. We used to have Elvis all over our organization and I think people would come to our offices thinking what is with this company? Why is Elvis all over? We’re thinking Elvis is the king, cash is king. It was a nice way for us to remember. Cash is king. Let’s focus on cash.

One of the things we did rightly or wrongly back in the day is we were absolutely focused on cash growing up our companies, and we would map days. A lot of people say days of cash, and we would say days to cash, because they mean the same thing.

We wanted to know, if today, you said, look, no more cash is coming into your organization as of today. How many days can you survive as an organization with your current fixed and variable costs? Pretty geeky, pretty technical, shouldn’t be but just how many days? I’ve heard all kinds of answers over the last few weeks, but as a startup founding CEO who we feel like we’re at war trying to grow a company, we would do this.

You have to efficiently spend time planning and executing and balance them at the same time. Share on X

Then what we would do and I want anyone listening to do, that’s your first step. Just start with assuming no more cash coming in, and we know that’s probably not true. In some cases, I have met with CEOs over the last few weeks, that is true. We’re trying to figure out what to do and be creative. Let’s put the brutal facts on the table. Let’s go to the very bottom. CEOs if you’re going to do this, do this on your own first so you can get your head around it. Then you do want to do this with your team, your leadership team to work through it.

Do it yourself first and go to the bottom. Then start layering in the things that could happen, meaning where could cash come from? We have different avenues for cash right now across the board. We have it from our clients. Who are we going to keep? What are the big ones we know? What are absolutes? Map those in. Now map it out, how many days of cash do you have? Go to the next level which I think this cash might come in the top line. Now, map out how many days of cash you have.

Then you can easily continue to ratchet up, layering in where you believe cash is coming from. There are different levers we can pull once we have that view. We have levers to say, “You know what, in our most likely scenario, we believe step one, step two is going to come true. It gives us X amount of days of cash, but we need maybe 30, 60, 90 more.” How are we going to get there? It allows us to then look at what levers do we have to pull? Are there facilities out there for us? Are there loans? Are there grants? Are there things we need to do to lower our fixed and variable costs, to actually get the runway of cash going forward?

While I say go to the bottom and map it up, because in working with lots of companies, I think the first company I worked with started facing this in the middle of January, they sold into China when China was shutting down. The two companies I worked with had a lot of business going into China and it was shutting down. Their original tendency was to actually just ratchet it down, let’s just take it out and ratchet it down.

When we ratchet down as humans, it doesn’t feel that good. Week over week to ratchet things down, and to continue to go, “I’m not going to get there. I’m not going to get there. I’m not going to get there.” As a human, I don’t know why we did it this way but maybe we started out with cash and not revenue in our startups because that’s the way it works.

We mapped from the bottom layering where we thought we could get some revenue from, where’s the next competent place, where’s the next competent place and so on. I’ve done this now with many CEOs out there, both my clients and others stepping it up. The feedback I’ve had, CEOs work at yourself first, then bring your team and do the whole exercise again. You’ve got your head around it. Help them get their head around it.

It just allows us to address the brutal facts of what’s happening in the marketplace, what we feel is going to happen to our business, and at the end of this the best thing I’ve seen happening is that the creativity that comes out of your team of how we can get through threading the needle, getting across this period of time with cash thinking of days of cash out rather than the opposite way. The creativity piece has been absolutely amazing.

I’m going to put out there that we’re doing a webinar, map your cash from the bottom up, we’re going to do it live, but then the recording will be available on-demand for whoever wants to watch it. We’re going to put the framework out step by step. I just think this helped me as a CEO, building up a company, going through lots of downturns. I think I hit everyone as a CEO, and currently, it’s still valid for the time we’re in today and going forward.

You got an email last night from a client who applied a lot of your principles and got some really great feedback. If you could share what happened, that’d be great.

It was this client’s in a time zone behind mine, and I was closing out last night and I’d send out emails checking in with all clients. He immediately sent me back an email saying, “Look, here’s where we are, here’s what’s happening.” Then the third paragraph was one I didn’t expect, but probably the nicest feedback that I’ve received in a long time. He said, “Shannon, we thought we engage you to expand our company hugely over the last two years, which we’ve done, but now I know why we were really aligned and lined up to work together. It was to take the framework that you have implemented with us in our organization, in order to actually face this crisis of COVID-19. Everything that we’ve done over the last two and half years has absolutely applied to what we live through in the last two and a half weeks, which has been everything from over-communicating, the daily rhythms and rituals, to ensure that we have the right priorities, 10 years, 3 years, 1 year to focus in on where we’re going, and then align the team up to make better and faster decisions.”

Even just saying that just right now continues to give me goosebumps because no matter what, the Metronome Growth System Framework that is practical that we put together, aligns us up for high growth but lines us up for everyday business and what we’re going to face. It absolutely made my day. I actually closed my day out last night with that, shut my computer and said, “Okay, that day is done, let’s get up tomorrow, and hopefully we can share that with some other CEOs and impact some other companies with the same rituals, and steps, and habits as we’ve talked about today.”

This was really inspiring and very pragmatic as well, and I’m just really excited to get this episode out there for our listeners to start implementing this stuff so that they can not just survive but do well considering this is a scenario that they probably hadn’t planned for.

I think that the big thing, I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share and for what you’re doing at this time and thinking about maybe when we set this up, we didn’t think we’re going to talk at this level all about these things. But truly, as we go forward, and we think about how do we live through this, I love that. It is the actions we decide to take each and every day for ourselves and our team.

Ourselves first, we have to make sure we’re healthy and all those things, our team, and then we have to look forward and go, that’s where we’re going. How are we going to get through this? Thank you for the opportunity.

Thank you, Shannon. And where should we send our listeners to, to learn more, to work with you, to connect with you, etc.? There are tons of free resources, lots of webinars, lots of tools, lots of just everyday meetings if you need support, just put the buttons as big as possible. Ask the team please make these as big as possible, so when people come to the website, they know exactly where they can get help. I appreciate the opportunity. It’s

Thank you, Shannon. Thank you, listeners. Now, get out there and change the world, make it a better place, and stay safe. This is your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.

Important Links

Checklist of Actionable Takeaways

?Create a 3HAG (3-year Highly Achievable Goals) list with my team and write them down to check if our vision as a company is aligned. Keep it as simple as possible so it remains realistic.

?Once the goals are set, figure out a detailed plan on how to achieve them. Each task must have a realistic deadline and be delegated to someone fit for the job.

?When in the middle of a crisis, reevaluate my long-term goals and decide whether they are still feasible amidst the current situation. This will help me create fast decisions for better distress management.

?Hold quarterly, semi-annual and annual company meetings to remind my team about my organization’s purpose, core, and mission.

?Plan for both the best and worst-case scenarios. Have everything mapped out and prepared to guarantee the protection of everyone involved.

?Communicate regularly with my team and utilize different types of media such as email, chatting apps, or phone calls. Overcommunication is acceptable as long as I can ensure the message is clearly conveyed.

?Be as transparent with my team as much as possible. Let them know what’s happening with the business. Being honest is the best way to make everyone step up, support each other and make an impact.

?Make it a habit to write down a list of at least six things I need to do the following day. It’s a good way to get things under control and get them done faster.

?Map out my cash to make sure that my business isn’t in the red. According to Shannon Susko, “cash is king.” For a business to run and keep its employees, I need to make sure my finances are intact even in emergency situations.

?Check out Shannon’s website to learn more about 3HAG and where to get a copy of her book, 3HAG WAY: The Strategic Execution System that ensures your strategy is not a Wild-Ass-Guess!

About Shannon Susko

Shannon Susko is the CEO and founder of Metronome United, and the creator of the 3HAG, and the lead trainer of certification. Shannon has over 20+ years of experience building and leading high-growth technology companies in the financial services industry. She is co-founded, served as CEO, and led the sale of the two companies less than six years apart: Subserveo, Inc (Founded in 2008 * Sold 2011) and Paradata Systems Inc. (Founded in 1995 * Sold in 2006).

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