Why You Need to Control-Freak Your Business

Why You Need to Control-Freak Your Business

Being a “control-freak” is not something most people aspire to. I don’t think I’ve witnessed a time when someone used it as a compliment.   But I’d like to offer up the term as a verb and would suggest that it is a necessary way to manage your business.  (Without the annoying part…)

When you control-freak your business, you recognize that that no one cares as much about your business as you do.  Even if you work with great partners and vendors (which you should be regardless).  You or someone on your team, will, and must, do some of the work that you would expect a vendor to, even if it’s redundant.  (By the way, I’m friends with many of my vendors, so this is not a knock on them.  It’s based on the reality that no one thinks about your business the same way you do.)

I’m not suggesting you go out and build a fulfillment center.  But I am saying that you dig in deep to how your partners operate.  Which means visiting their offices, asking deep and probing questions, and running your own analyses.  “Isn’t that the job of the vendor and why I’ve hired them?”  Yes.  That is correct.  But no business runs perfectly yours included).  If you aren’t making your partners better, then you and your team aren’t working hard enough to improve their, and your, business.

Control-freaking your business means never accepting something, good or bad, at face value.  Clear, fact-based information needs to inform your decisions.  As opposed to someone’s opinions.  Beware especially of folks who speak with confidence but don’t ever have facts to support their statements.  They can be the most dangerous and costly of all.

This sounds less efficient than the alternative.  But whatever efficiency you think you have by not doing so, you’ll actually giving up on the bottom line.  Not pressing hard leads to mistakes, lack of optimization, or just a general sense of apathy.  The upside is that over time, everyone raises their game.  If that doesn’t happen, then you’re not asking the right questions or not pressing hard enough.

At the same time, your partners should recognize that you have made their business better.  Since your hard work is benefiting their other clients and their own bottom line. And if you encounter partners who don’t like to be challenged, find another one.  You deserve to work with people who are obsessed with improving their business.  Regardless of where it comes from.

Final point here.  This may sound like a “don’t trust anybody” or “be a jerk at all costs” philosophy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  These are your partners; control-freaking doesn’t mean you treat them disrespectfully.  But it does mean you don’t relinquish the reins of your business to someone else.

This is what it means to control-freak your business.  If you want to achieve extraordinary results, I can’t see another way to do so.


Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

The 2 Crucial Roles You Need to Hire for Now

The 2 Crucial Roles You Need to Hire for Now


This post is directed more to entrepreneurs but if you want to work with an entrepreneur but don’t feel like you know what product/service to launch, if you look closely, you’ll see a way to do so (I’ll reveal near the end).

I love entrepreneurs. They create something that wasn’t there.  They buck trends. They tolerate the mocking of their friends (and oftentimes customers).  It’s at times a lonely, thankless, and sleepless life.

And if you want to be good at building a business, you have to focus on product and sales.  Without it, everything else doesn’t matter (I’m excluding those businesses focused on audience and list-building – see Facebook).  And so they and their organizations have to move as rapidly as possible to just start generating sales.  Optimizing the back-end, operations, etc. is simply not the best use of time on day 1 if there are no orders to process.

But then once the business has gotten some traction, the business needs additional attention.  But oftentimes the entrepreneur is still in “Ready, Fire, Aim” mindest.  Or even “Fire. Fire. Fire.” Selling. Selling.  Selling.  And not tending to working “on” the organization.  A lot is done on the fly and on gut instinct.  And frankly, I can’t argue with folks who have built their business to some scale with that approach.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t add and build on that.  In particular, I’ve found that the following 2 roles, if added to many organizations, would create huge value but are often ignored.

1. The analyst. 

If you don’t have basic KPI’s (or know that KPI stands for “Key Performance Indicators”), and don’t have someone in your org running even basic reports, you’re missing out.  Yes, having more money in the bank at the end of the month than at the beginning of the month is a good thing, but as Peter Drucker once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

The moment you start tracking and measuring a metric in your organization, it will almost immediately get better.  Partly because it just forces people to stare at a number.  Or even that it allows people to look at a number.  It just happens.

To be clear, even though the role is called “analyst”, to start, you don’t even need someone to run analyses.  Just basic reporting would be good enough.

Many organizations would be best served by hiring a kid straight out of college who wants to learn the business.  They don’t need to know anything about your business.  They just need to be able to navigate Excel.  And if you have any sort of scale, that investment is going to ROI within 3 months max.

2.  The Disciplined Operations Person

Many / most entrepreneurs have short attention spans – it’s actually what drives/allows/inspires them to do what they do so I am definitely not mocking that personality trait.  But every idea person needs a counterpart.  (Insert reference to Batman needing Robin…)

I was recently talking with a potential client who said they needed another idea person in their organization, so that they didn’t feel the pressure to have to come up with ideas all the time.  Which might actually have some truth to it.  The problem, however, is that they are really good at developing ideas and it’s what they really enjoy.  And in this case, if they just brought on someone to help make sure balls don’t drop, it would give them more time and peace-of-mind to focus in on what they probably should be doing.

Many growing businesses would be better served to do the same.  The problem is that the personality type of the individual who focuses on execution, makes sure that stuff gets done, etc. can be very different, almost diametrically opposed, to the entrepreneur.  They’ll likely ask more questions, be more detailed-oriented, tend to say “no”, etc.

And it’s not that they should have zero ideas.  That’s silly.  But it is to say that they should be more focused on execution and operations than the next big product or service.

And frankly, very likely, others in the organization will appreciate someone in this role (assuming of course they aren’t a jackass…).  People who’ve been with a company from their early days get used to the crazy nature of the entrepreneur, and yet, more often than not, they are yearning for someone with some sense of authority, to help prioritize and create a semblance of organization in the company.

Entrepreneurs like to climb peaks.  These operational people like to operate at high plateaus.  There’s a place in companies for both.   And if they’re good, you should hopefully be less likely to say, “Why did we stop doing that thing that was making us a ton of money? I don’t know. We just moved on to something else.”

How to Find Them?

As I mentioned, the analyst role just needs to be someone smart, hungry, and adept at Excel.  All of which you should be able to screen for and create an Excel test for (one of the best tools I added to my interview process for those folks years ago – feel free to shoot me an email at babak@babakazad.com for sample job descriptions or the Excel tests I’ve used).

As for the ops role, if you’re an entrepreneur, the first point I’ll make is that you’re not going to find this person hanging out with your friends.  Because very likely your friends are just like you.  So you’ve got to start going to more “corporate” events, reaching out to your network, looking at job postings you think mirror the role you want (hint: if the job description makes you think you’ll go crazy doing it, that’s likely the right one!).

And if you want to get in to a growing company and feel like you might fill one of these 2 roles, you also need to stop hanging out with your friends.  Go to events where entrepreneurs hang out – mastermind groups, networking events, etc.  And remember, they may at first not realize the value you add.  So you need to speak in their language – what benefit and value will you bring to the organization, what have you done before, are you as passionate about their business as they likely are.

In this case, I’d hesitate to say that “opposites attract.”  But I would say they can help each other out.  In a big way.


Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

The 14 Questions All Marketers Should Have Answers To

The 14 Questions All Marketers Should Have Answers To


A friend recently asked me for a list of questions that would help marketers make their business more efficient and optimized.  These questions span a variety of areas within a business; while not all may be relevant to every business, the vast majority of them do (or should).

There is no right or wrong answer to any of these. What’s more important is being able to answer these questions yourself or knowing where and who to go to.  None should take more than 5 minutes to answer; if so, then that means you aren’t giving them their due attention.  (Hint: these are important points of leverage within most/all organizations.) And if these are entirely new questions, then this is your chance to address key areas of opportunity within your business.

1. What are your top 2 sources of traffic? Are they different than your top 2 sources of paying customers?

No one is good at everything.  That goes for marketers as well.  It’s a rare company that is actually good at more than 2 media channels.  Folks great at TV are rarely just as exceptional online.  Even within online media, it’s rare to find a company that is great at SEO, YouTube, Facebook and banner advertising.  Which sorta makes sense.  You test a bunch of stuff, find success in 1 or 2 areas, and then push hard there to grow.  And then as a company grows, competence builds in these areas.

As it relates to the question(s) above, many people don’t actually know where their biggest volume of traffic comes from.  And for a lot of folks, the list of traffic sources vs. list of converting customers isn’t always the same.  Impressions, reach and visitors don’t always translate to paying customers.  Understanding that breakdown and then managing accordingly is important to most efficiently use resources, dollars, etc.

2. What is the average lifetime value (“LTV”) of a customer?

The single most important question any marketer (not just a direct response marketer) can answer.  How much is a customer worth? $100? $1,000? Are you including the first transaction or all future transactions as well?  Do you actually have the tools, systems and people in place to measure and track this information? When you think of the value of a customer, are you talking revenues or profits?  Do you know if customers from different channels vary in LTV?

I don’t know how you can manage your media or your business without knowing the answer to this question and the resulting questions that come out of it.  How do you know if your media is working?  Are the customers you acquired last week actually going to make you money? Do you have the cash position to tolerate losing money on the front-end with the knowledge (not hope) you will generate more revenue later?  What steps are you taking every week to increase the value of a customer, either through increasing sales or decreasing costs?

Understanding the value of a customer is crucial for 2 reasons: 1) it helps to ensure the business model is actually intact; and 2) it helps to drive future actions.

3. What is the average amount you pay to acquire a customer?

A direct corollary to the prior question but it deserves its own question.  Some call this a media allowable, CAC (customer acquisition cost), or SAC (subscriber acquisition cost).  The name used doesn’t matter.  Put simply, how much did you spend to get a new customer?  For most folks that means media dollars divided by new customers – assuming you can match customers back to media.  For others, you have to factor in PR, promotions/sponsorships, and other non-trackable media spend.  Regardless, if you don’t know the value of your customer (#2 above), you won’t know whether your cost to acquire a customer works in your model.  For example, while it might sound like a lot to pay $10,000 to acquire a customer, if you are a high-end divorce attorney, that might actually be cheap given the millions of dollars a client might generate for you.  And while a typical Starbucks customers spends around $6 per visit (I’m making that number up but it feels about right), given just how many times they return over not just 1 year but numerous years, Starbucks may be able to spend hundreds of dollars to acquire a new customer and make it profitable.

4. What do your customer service reps say to customers who want a refund because they feel your product/service is too expensive? 

My guess is that even the 99 Cent Store gets customers who say the product was too expensive (Note – I’m not trying to live in an ivory tower – I know there are a ton of people who can barely afford those stores, I’m just picking a low-priced establishment to make the point that every company selling something most likely has customers who think their products are too expensive.).  The question is whether someone has provided guidance to the customer service reps on what to say.  I’m not suggesting making life miserable for customers who want to return a product.  But assuming the product is of value, then presumably it’s a positive for customers to have and use it.

The real issue is whether the product/service actually has value.  Are the people who are buying it the ones it would benefit? Are customers clear on what they are purchasing? And then do customer service folks understand the value so that they can make sure that customers understand and capture the value.

5. When was the last time you personally ordered your own product / service? 

Everyone is busy.  I get it.  And we get so caught up in managing the business, managing others, looking at analyses on the business, etc. that we forget one of the most valuable and simplest things of all – putting ourselves in the shoes of our customer.  And that means going through the same process that an actual customer (or potential customer) goes through.  Whether that means calling a phone number, visiting the website, going into an actual brick-and-mortar location, or even buying person-to-person, pretending like you are a first-time customer and playing that part in the buying process will likely make you appreciate the pros and cons of what you are taking others through.

A couple more thoughts – if you sell online (I know that sounds silly to actually say today), go through the process both on your desktop/laptop as well as your smartphone.  Also, once you’ve bought the product/service, try to return it and see what that experience is like (see #4 above).

6. When was the last time you personally ordered your top 3 competitors’ product / service? 

Here’s a shocker to some marketers – your competitors are better than you in at least one area.  You actually aren’t the best at every single component of your business.  Competitors are also a great source of ideas and inspiration, both because of the good and the bad things they do.

See what their experience is like.  You’ll likely pick up a thing or two.

7. Have you opened the emails your company sends to customers on your smartphone?

Because that’s where the vast majority of them are reading them.  And do you know where they physically are when they are reading those emails?  Especially if you send them overnight or early in the morning, they are reading them (and likely deleting them) while sitting on the toilet.  Email, just like TV, is too often described as dead or at least no longer relevant.  Yea, no.  There are still plenty of companies that use only email (and TV) to build 9-figure businesses.

But it is getting harder to get through the clutter.  So whether it’s evaluating the subject line, design, or content, experience your emails how most of your customers are.

And if you don’t feel like you are aggressively emailing your customers, you probably aren’t.  (Btw, here is a great analysis of the email marketing campaign used by the Obama campaign in 2012 – https://blog.kissmetrics.com/email-marketing-lessons-obama/.)

8. If you have a physical product, are you selling on Amazon? How many images do you have on your listing?

News flash, Amazon is taking over.  I’ve already written about this once before here, so I won’t revisit it in depth other than to say if you put your physical product up on Amazon, you’re going to make more money than you do today.  It’s largely incremental, and there are a lot of folks out there (myself included) who try to make as many of our purchases on Amazon, even if we found your product on your website.

The question about the number of images is really about how optimized is your listing.  You are allowed 7 images.  Most people have 1-2.  Not to mention, there are a host of additional areas to optimize your page – the bullets, description, and reviews.

If you don’t have your products up on Amazon, get them up there.

If you don’t have some who is accountable for maximizing Amazon, get that assigned – whether it’s their full-time job or a component of it.  It needs an owner.

9. What happens to customers whose credit cards decline / default on a multi-pay or a subscription payment?

Another point I previously wrote about here, but these are really important points that I keep re-raising.

10. How often do customers get a call from someone in your organization checking in to see how things are going?

I was at a mastermind event last week where I heard the CEO of MemphisInvest describe how every month, their folks call each of their Company’s 1,200+ investors to see how they are doing.  And yes, there are investors who tell them they get the point of calling and don’t need a call every month, but I was struck at the level of service.  It also goes to show how much they think of their offer that they aren’t afraid to call customers.  As silly as that may sound, many marketers don’t want to talk with their customers, whether that’s because they know their product isn’t good, they think it’s a headache to deal with customers, or they just don’t care to improve.

As with many of these questions, there are implications of the original question.  Each reflects assumptions, attitudes, and philosophies of your business.

11. What is the 2nd item (product/service) you offer to a customer?

It’s amazing how many people don’t offer more to their customers.  Some think it’s sneaky or beneath them.  But there are countless examples in mainstream companies where it’s happening everyday:

-Do you want fries with that?

-For $0.25 more, you can get the large drink instead of the medium

And if you think it’s only at McDonald’s or the movie theater when this happens, go add an item to your Amazon cart.  What shows up immediately below is the “customers who bought this product also bought these” section.  That’s an upsell.

Depending on what the initial offer is, upsells can be orders of magnitude greater value than the original offer.  But whether they add up to 10x or .25x more, adding them – I’ve seen up to 8 and still make sense – is a crucial way to add to your customer LTV.

12. What was the last test you ran on your thank you page?

Or let’s just start with, when was the last test you ran period? Too many people aren’t testing enough (or at all).  There is just no way that what worked last year or what worked initially is the most optimized way of doing things.  But it’s also not about just blindly switching things – your organization has to become a testing organization.  It needs to be built into the culture.  Testing means failing, and too many organizations are fearful of failure.

But testing is the only way to get better.

Please do it.

13. What tasks that you individually do are the highest value and which are the lowest value? What are you doing to delegate or eliminate the lowest value ones? 

There is a value associated with everything we do. Hopefully it’s positive, sometimes it’s neutral, and the reality is that some of our actions have negative value.  But when was the last time you looked at how and where you spend your time, and whether explicitly or otherwise, put a value on each of the things you do?  What during your day is the greatest ROI thing you do?  For some, it’s about writing copy, for others it’s about building technology, for other it’s about hiring for key roles.  Too often people are doing a lot of the things they did when they were on their own or didn’t have a team.  But those can be really really low-value time-sucks.  Everything from managing your schedule, filling out expense forms, booking travel, etc.  This is not to say that you necessarily need to hire someone.  New tools like Expensify make the expense process tons easier.  Or for $10/ month you can use travel app Native to help with booking, re-scheduling, etc.  It’s time to start getting rid of those low-value tasks, especially those you detest, that you’ve been doing “just because.”

14.  In 2 sentences, describe where you want your company to be in 18 months? 

Depending on your role, you may have varying ability to affect your company’s strategic vision.  Sounds obvious, but a lot of professionals feel that they are so busy that they don’t have time to plan.  These are the same folks who are usually complaining about the same types of issues over and over.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, all roads lead there.”

For your sake and for that of your company, you need a written plan of where you want your company to be in 18 months.  In your head or even spoken isn’t good enough.  Something happens once you write something.  It forces a different clarity of thought, allows people to react to it, and serves as a reference document that everyone can refer to.

Bonus Question:

15. In 2 sentences, describe where you personally want to be in 18 months?

And then there are folks for whom business planning is a no-brainer, but they forget that planning for themselves should also be such.  Whether it’s around the New Year, halfway through, or a quarterly review, it’s the same idea as business planning.  You certainly need to know where you are and then plan for how to get where you want to be.

Btw, one of the best books I’ve read recently about getting from Point A to Point B is Straight-Line Leadership by Dusan Djukich.  My favorite line from the book is, “It’s been said that your life, when it’s over, will either be a warning or an example.”  Powerful words.


Feel free to take this list and have a conversation with your partners or management team. Because these are some of the more important issues every business should not only be paying attention to but also be working to optimize.


Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

The DR vs. Brand Conundrum No Longer – Modelling Income vs. Wealth

The DR vs. Brand Conundrum No Longer - Modelling Income vs. Wealth

If you asked a DR marketer or a brand marketer what they think of the other, you would most likely hear about a lack of understanding of the other model, possibly even a snide or cynical view of the other.

Most DR marketers are pretty proud, borderline arrogant, about how they approach marketing – and very few truly care about building a brand; I say this not because they avoid spending money on “brand” advertising, but rather because of their business practices.  More on this point in a bit.

At the same time, many brand marketers either don’t really know what DR is or describe being a DR marketer themselves, but in a way that most hard-core DR marketers would scoff at.  Managing to impressions or reach is not how a pure-bred DR marketer manages their media.  But a brand marketer’s emphasis on the longer-term is usually superior to that of DR marketers.

So why such a difference? Why are direct response and brand often times so much at odds with one another?

Some of it is legacy.  And some is just practicality.

From a historical perspective, many DR marketers had a churn-and-burn mentality, working to extract as much money from a customer as possible, knowing full well that that customer would rarely refer the product (rarely a service) to a friend once that relationship (read: billing) had ceased.  Very few DR marketers – think infomercial guys from the 90s – were interested and working towards building a business.  They behaved in a way that created the stereotype about infomercials – I remember hearing about a marketer that required a return be shipped in the original packaging, despite that the packaging was designed to essentially fall apart when originally opened.  That kind of practice deserved a crappy reputation.  And clearly reflected a lack of concern about impact on the brand.

What DR folks have done well, however, is being laser-focused on optimizing traffic and media, and maximizing revenues and customer LTV.  Especially early on in a business’ life cycle, maximizing the return on money spent is crucial.

On the other hand, traditional advertising has been focused on branding and awareness.  Once TV advertising was opened up, marketers realized they could dramatically increase their reach.  The mentality was more about influencing public opinion, but the need to specifically track the effectiveness of individual media wasn’t as prevalent.  It’s what spurned the comment, “50% of media doesn’t work, we just don’t know which 50%.”  If a DR marketer said that, they be laughed at, fired, and/or out of business pretty quickly.

Where brand marketers have been particularly good, however,  has been in, well, branding – crafting a story, persona and experience around a brand.  More than that, they oftentimes have a greater attention towards true customer experience and satisfaction, and all the work that goes into increasing those measures.

So which is better? And which is more relevant in different phases in a business’ evolution?

The answer to both questions is “yes”…

The value of a DR sensibility is the attention towards optimization and increasing revenues/margin.  For a startup with minimal funds, it’s almost a requirement to think this way.  But for a business that wants to stay around for the longer-term, it’s nearly impossible to do so with a crappy brand (though the cable companies have done so in spite of themselves, but that’s a different conversation…).  People want to associate with brands.  A brand is what garners a premium vs. the generic option.  A brand is what helps people to choose between multiple similarly-appearing offerings.

In some ways, DR can be likened to income, while brand can be likened to wealth.  One helps you generate money, the other helps you to keep and grow it.

The reality is that both models need to be considered and used by all marketers.  The idea that DR is a niche business model needs to end.  DR folks understand the importance of tracking and measuring as much as possible and are obsessed with ROI of any spend.  At the same time, unless an organization wants to continue to reinvent itself, sometimes weekly, and just wants to live in the acquisition world, they have to understand the value of a brand – and that understanding needs to be reflected in how the company treats its customers, how much they try to “extract” from their leads and customers, and frankly, how they realize that everyone customer interaction is both an opportunity as well as recipe for disaster if mis-handled.

These are not issues to address, especially when DR can be like a drug that a marketer wants to keep peddling, while being focused on brand can be really fun when it comes to creative advertising.  But branding is so much more than media and advertising.  Ultimately, the brand is your consumer’s experience and perception of your business.  And anyone interested in building an enterprise that lasts any remotely-extended period of time, needs to pay attention to that experience.

Marketers traditionally immersed in one need to understand how to apply the relevant component’s of the other business model.  Both have significant value and need to have attention placed towards them.

You don’t generate wealth without an income.  And unless you pay attention to what you do with your income, you don’t build wealth.

And that is why it shouldn’t be a conundrum, but rather a matter of figuring out how both DR and brand fundamentals are relevant to your business.


Please leave a comment below because I’d like to hear what you think. 

The most valuable free education available

In a world dominated by social media and video, it seems incredible to me that, separate from direct interactions with people, my greatest daily educational source is recorded audio.  Or more affectionately termed, “Podcasts.”  Think, on-demand radio programming.

Podcasting has been around for years, and in the last year, it became more mainstream with a single podcast called “Serial,” but I’m amazed at how few people know about podcasts and certainly how few people realize how much amazing content is available.  For free.  And for those who don’t know, podcasts are essentially recorded audio files (video in rare cases), that you can download thru iTunes or your smartphone – typically there’s a show host, and the formats can be everything from interviews to stories, the same person speaking to a new speaker each week, business-focused to entertainment.  Even to get going, it requires pretty minimal resources, cost and time.

Especially in a town like LA, where the average commute length is 30 minutes, there is a good amount of downtime that can be better utilized for folks who want to learn something – as opposed to texting while driving, for example.  And of course commuting isn’t exclusive to LA.  Even if you have a 15 minute commute (which I do), that is still plenty of time to get great listening in, and even if a podcast is longer, I just resume on the way home or the next day.

In the business category, many folks I know use podcasting the same way they use their professional Facebook page – it’s just another source of attracting an audience.  The plus for their listeners is that they have to produce really good content to build and maintain their audience.  Because the audience has to listen to a podcast from anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour, the content has to be good to keep people’s attention, as opposed to a social post, where it takes 5 milliseconds to scan a post, but even if it’s no good, there’s another opportunity right afterwards.  Not so with recorded audio.

As for what I listen to, these days I’m heavy on business and marketing-related podcasts.  My favorites include:

  • Russell Brunson’s Marketing in your Car – he literally records these 10-12 minute episodes driving to and from work
  • Ryan Daniel Moran’s Freedom Fastlane – particularly good for Amazon sellers, but he has expanded well beyond Amazon for broader entrepreneurial content
  • Startup – a podcast following a startup trying to build, of all things, a podcasting network
  • The Tim Ferris – focused on top achievers
  • Brad Costanzo’s Bacon Wrapped Business – another solid one, typically of successful business owners

Bottom line, especially if you’ve got your own business, this is the best and cheapest way to get access to some amazing people and to hear their secrets, lessons, etc.  And if you “only” want to listen to comedy, sports or science content, there’s very likely a podcast for you.

One trick I should pass along – just as I do with some online videos, I rarely listen to podcasts at normal speed.  There’s an option to listen at 1.5x to 2.0x.  Which means you can get thru even more than you thought.

There’s a good reason why you were not invited to that meeting

There’s a line near the end of the movie Apollo 13 when one of the engineers at flight command tells Ed Harris’ character (the Flight Director) that the capsule is a bit lower than desired for their re-entry.  The engineer asks whether they should tell the crew, to which Ed Harris inquires whether there’s anything anyone can do about it.  There isn’t, so Ed Harris responds, “Then they don’t need to know, do they?”  It’s a great example of recognizing that there is information that, while interesting, may not be actionable and would in fact be a distraction to the people on the team.

Especially in today’s age of unprecedented access to information, it’s easy to want as much information as possible, whatever the topic.  In particular, oftentimes people want to be included on something, whether in a meeting or in an email, without their being a real business benefit (translation: it’s often about our egos).  But allowing people to focus, or sometime it’s a matter of forcing people to focus, is the best thing for the organization and the individual.  (There’s obviously a balance point between excluding someone for good reason – because the right people are already in on the conversation – versus excluding someone who has an important and valuable perspective on a topic.)

At the same time, more information might make us feel like we understand the business better, but it might turn out that there are really only a few key pieces of information – whether quantitative or qualitative – that truly are important.  If a few metrics, for example, aren’t in line, then the supporting ones may just not matter.   Similarly, there can be a significant cost to gathering information – in resources, technology, time, and potential to our customers.  Sometimes, we may even unknowingly detract from the customer experience in our search for better info (e.g. imagine a sales rep in a clothing store asking you about each and every item of clothing you tried on after each fitting – that would get you more information than asking after all the clothing was tried on, but would also likely be an annoying customer experience.  And yet we do things like this all the time in other contexts without realizing it.)

Both of these issues – being excluded from certain conversations or looking only at certain pieces of information – require a certain amount of competence, communication and trust amongst the rest of the organization.  Not everyone, and that includes you, needs to be a part of every conversation.  And not every piece of info has to be present to effectively manage a business.  Note this doesn’t imply that no one is doing so and that everyone in the organization is hand-off – a topic I’ll discuss in a future piece.

But assuming that the right people are looking at the relevant info and the appropriate people have entered the conversation, less may actually be more and better.  And realizing that you weren’t invited to a meeting may be less a cause for consternation and in fact a relief.