Conrad Strabone is a leading web strategist and developer with a career that goes back to New York City’s Silicon Alley in the late 1990's. In 2001, he founded and ran a successful software development company that sold in 2006. In 2007, Conrad felt a natural inclination toward helping smaller businesses, where he could leverage past successes and make a bigger difference, and thus, e9digital, a full-service, boutique, digital agency was born. The Distracted Executive: So, what would you say is your biggest distraction when you are working these days and what do you do about it?
Conrad Strabone: I think the biggest distraction for me is e-mail. I probably get hundreds of e-mails per day. And what I do about it when I need to get some concentrated work done is I just shut off the e-mail and shut off the phone. There’s nothing that is life or death in this business. The fact that somebody waits there for me for a couple of hours won’t really affect anything. If there’s a website problem, we have other people here that they can reach out that would deal with that.
And, the other thing is setting expectations so that if I'm offline I have an auto-responder saying that I’m not answering e-mails this morning and will get back to you. If you set expectations so people know when you’re going to be offline on vacation,they seem to be OK. It is being respectful.
TDE: It’s really about expectations and boundaries.
CS: That’s true. There’s constant connectivity with your cellphone and your text and your e-mail, and people expect instant communication, so I think it’s just good to set expectations where possible. If there’s something urgent, well, let’s talk about it. We’ll deal with it. But if it’s not urgent, how about we talk on Tuesday?
TDE: Okay. So, what would you say has become your greatest challenge around managing time? Or even better, what do you notice regarding your clients’ challenges around managing time these days?
CS: There are no surprises, and there’s communication and the expectations are where they are, and the consequences for not doing it are very clear.
TDE: And so even people who are not time-challenged probably have an easy time working with you because of your process.
CS: It makes it easier for them, but it’s still something we work on everyday: improving our process of managing clients. It is an iterative process. I’ve been doing this almost 20 years, and it’s still not perfected, and it never will be. So it doesn’t become overwhelming. We don’t have to worry about the whole thing at once. We just have to go step by step by step.
So, I guess what would be helpful for your readers is that you map out your process, and be clear about what it is.
TDE: Okay. So, prioritizing is a big issue. Today, everything seems important or urgent. How do you efficiently navigate your to-do list without hindering your success?
CS: I work on that every day. We have a nice project management and cash tracking systems in place so, number one, having the right tools is helpful. I realize that I can’t do everything that needs to be done in a given day, so what I basically do every morning is look at the list and go: what absolutely has to be done today? What would be nice to get done today? And what can be pushed off to another day?
And so, I’m constantly looking at the task queue and, if something doesn’t need to be done today, it’s fine, I’m going to use the brain power to do something. You know what? That’s not that important; it can wait another day. So, it’s not really procrastinating as it is that you know you have limited capacity.
TDE: It’s prioritizing. And you’re looking at it every day, it’s not like you’re avoiding it.
TDE: You’re looking at your inventory every day.
CS: I look at that task list and say, these are the seven things that need to get done today. If I have a little more time, I could do these five other things. These remaining twenty things are not going to get done today; I’ll move them to a future day and revisit them then. So, it’s a constant shuffling.
TDE: How are you impacted by interruptions during the day, and what’s your number one tip for dealing with them?
CS: I think it’s just about having your boundaries and your priorities set. If somebody runs into the room and they’re on fire, you've got to get the water and put them out. But other than that, it's rare that something needs to be dealt with right now. I think that it is important to understand that 99.9% of things don’t need to be done at this particular second. I say "Listen, I could talk to you at 2:30. I could talk to you tomorrow at 1:00." And it works just fine.
TDE: So, as an entrepreneur and basically overall successful guy, what’s the greatest challenge in your business today, and what are you doing to address it?
CS: The greatest challenge in my business today is managing my people, personnel. We go through a hundred résumés to find one person that we feel is qualified to work on our team. So I think hiring well and managing people and keeping your people happy is important. Everything else we do - the computers and all that - it’s all inexpensive, relatively speaking. Managing talent is the key thing - preserving and developing our human capital. My thing has always been try to hire the absolute best that I could afford and then empower them to do their job and be there to support them, answer their questions and lead.
TDE: Conrad… Thanks for this wonderful insight. You did a fabulous job creating my website so I know first-hand that you are a true professional. The process was just as impressive as the product.
If anyone wants a great website or facelift on what you have, don’t hesitate to contact e9digital.
Have an aggravation-free day!