EP - 006

Why Great CEOs Are Lazy

With Mark Drager

The most effective CEOs focus on removing business constraints, not on clocking more hours.

The How To Sell More Podcast


September 12, 2023

Do you think all CEOs are workaholics? Think again. Host Mark Drager reveals that the best CEOs are actually "lazy" because they know where to focus their energy.

In this episode, you'll discover:

  • How to spot the weak links holding your business back.
  • Why "laziness" is a sign of a smart leader.
  • The big shift you need to grow your business.  

Don't miss these game-changing insights!

Ever wonder why some businesses scale easily while others struggle? It often boils down to understanding and solving the right problems. Listen to unlock the secret to becoming a more effective leader in business and sales.

Key Takeaways

  • Identifying Bottlenecks: By looking for constraints in their business operations, CEOs can pinpoint areas that require attention and optimization.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Instead of trying to do everything, a great CEO concentrates on what matters the most. This approach may appear "lazy" but is actually strategic.
  • Continuous Learning: Mark emphasizes that even successful CEOs should always be in a learning mode, receptive to external insights and continually refining their approach to business.

Top 3 Reasons to Listen

Unlock Scalability: Learn the key principles to scaling your business without getting caught in the grind of endless work hours.

Actionable Insights: Gain practical advice on how to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in your business for smoother operations.

Fresh Perspective: The episode provides a fresh, counterintuitive take on business leadership that you won't hear elsewhere.

Links to This Episode

More About our Host, Mark Drager

AKA the Badass Brand Architect, 5th Generation Entrepreneur, Host of The How To Sell More Podcast

When he's not podcasting, Mark's the Co-Founder & CEO of SalesLoop. He's a dedicated husband to his high school sweetheart, Jacqueline, and a proud father of four.

Mark didn't follow the typical route to becoming a sales & marketing expert. A connected figure in the entrepreneur community, Mark provides listeners with a unique mix of wit, insight, and straightforward advice.

Some of Mark's unconventional adventures include commandeering a Boeing 737-800 for a day, facing harsh criticism from a billionaire, and shedding 70 lbs in his late 30s. Though he never attended college, Mark stands as proof of the might of maintaining a student mindset and being ever-ready to seek assistance.

Transcription of The Talk

Welcome to "How to Sell More." Today, we're discussing why great CEOs are lazy. I'm Mark Drager. Let's dive right in.

So, I launched my first company at the age of 23 back in 2006. Let's just say I learned a lot of things the hard way, like most business owners do. Around 2011 or 2012, I made a pivotal decision to hire a business coach. It was a substantial investment for my company since this coach came with a high price tag. At that time, we were aiming to scale beyond the $1 million revenue mark. Despite our efforts, we kept encountering the same challenges repeatedly. I recall a conversation with my coach – Warren, that's his name. He posed a question to me: "Mark, why are you doing this?" I responded, saying something like, "Warren, I'm just trying to avoid doing the actual work. I want to grow the company as quickly and efficiently as possible, so I can escape the grind. I guess I'm pretty lazy." We both shared a laugh, and he said something that stuck with me. He mentioned that in all his years of coaching business owners, he had never heard someone say they were investing so much time, effort, and money into building something just because they were lazy. He reassured me that I wasn't lazy.

Recently, I came across a book titled "Great CEOs Are Lazy," authored by Jim Flexor. This book delves into the very concept I was attempting to convey to my business coach all those years ago – the idea that I felt lazy despite working tirelessly. It's important to clarify that neither you nor I are genuinely lazy individuals. Allow me to share a portion of the book's description that I believe will help emphasize the point I'm trying to make:

And this is a quote: "Rather than spending a little time on a lot of things, the best CEOs spend most of their time eliminating the single biggest constraint to the growth of their business. They spend a lot of time diagnosing this constraint before ever taking action." And again, this is a quote pulled directly from "Great CEOs Are Lazy." 

I'll continue reading now. This process is similar to looking for the kink in a garden hose so you can get the flow going. Again, there's no use trying to unkink the hose until you find the actual problem. Depending on the nature of the constraint, lazy CEOs engage in fixing the kink in the hose using one of five different roles: the learner, the architect, the coach, the engineer, or the player.

As I was working through this book, I realized that this perfectly applies to how to sell more. Because often, the issues with sales come down to certain constraints, right? A campaign for lead generation may be working or not working, your team may be at full capacity. And even though you want to launch that new campaign or try that new thing, you simply can't. The sales floor might not be operating properly; your management might need to be restructured. As you think about all the different areas that actually affect sales in your business, it's not just about sales and marketing, branding, awareness, or advertising. It's not just about working the leads to the best of your ability or building up a sales team or managing the floor better, or maybe you sell a service that's completely online. So you're split testing every single little step to try and prevent people from abandoning the cart and addressing all these other things. It's not just about fulfillment or delivery; depending on your type of business, the entire process can really differ from one business to another.

But as other guests have pointed out when they've joined the podcast, everything revolves around sales. Every aspect of your business endeavors should contribute to increasing revenue and enhancing profitability while delivering substantial value to your customers. This approach enables you to establish a strong reputation. 

As the leader of your organization or any project, certain constraints will inevitably emerge. The core lesson here is that we, as leaders, must not only define a direction or a vision but also actively seek out constraints within our business. It's our responsibility to diagnose the root cause of these constraints and then take steps to rectify them. Jim Flexor, the author of this book, provides a comprehensive breakdown of why this practice is essential. 

Personally, I found myself falling into this trap, and you might have experienced it too. We often become engrossed in various tasks and responsibilities, to the point where a highly effective action, team, or aspect of our business conceals the challenges in other areas. To counter this, we must adopt an explorative mindset – let's embark on a journey to uncover, hunt down, and explore the different facets of our business. For instance, if we decide to focus on sales and marketing, we should identify the segments of sales and marketing that face significant constraints. Are there kinks in the hose preventing a smooth deal flow or hindering effective lead generation? Perhaps our cost of acquisition or advertising expenses are spiraling out of control. Maybe the quality of our leads has declined, or our close rate is diminishing. The point is, there are various aspects of our business that demand attention.

But if we shift our focus to the various areas of constraint, spending some time delving into them to uncover the issues and untangle the hose, we can then hand it back to our team and proceed to address the next constraint. Progressing from one area to another, continually working to untangle the hose, allows for a seamless flow across the entirety of our business – from the initial point of contact to the ultimate delivery. Imagine the power of that approach.

As I began to view my business through this lens, I extended this perspective to the different podcasts I host, the content we share on social media, the nature and platforms of our content, and our operational systems and processes. You see, as a visionary CEO, I find it effortless to jump into new projects and get excited about novel ideas. However, I acknowledged the challenge my team faces in responding to these constant shifts. I strive to prevent corporate whiplash, minimizing abrupt directional changes. Embracing the fact that my time, resources, and budget are finite and that every effort must be channeled toward the most significant metric was transformative. We had Lee Benson on the podcast discussing "your most important number." Combining his insights with the concept that great CEOs focus on problem-solving and delegation, it shifted how I approach business and prioritize activities and resources. This shift has been liberating. Viewing my role as that of removing constraints and roadblocks, focusing on the critical drivers, has led to a new approach.

Sometimes, it's necessary for me to step into various roles. The book delves into five key roles: the learner, the architect, the coach, the engineer, and the player. The learner role emphasizes that leaders are constant learners – an attribute shared by those who listen to this podcast. Our desire to improve, develop, and acquire knowledge drives us. However, there's also a time for leaders to step into the role of a learner. This applies to research and development, staying updated on changing technologies, and ensuring we're well-informed. 

Another role that aids in constraint removal is that of the architect. Here, we create new systems, processes, and innovative ways to perceive the business. This includes new products, services, and strategies that set us apart. Next is the role of the coach. In some cases, the constraint within our business may be related to people. Coaching our team members, implementing new systems and processes on the human side of operations may be required.

Alternatively, you might find yourself needing to address constraints by either coaching your team members or revamping the people-side of your operations. This could involve removing underperforming team members and actively seeking out new leaders and players who can contribute to shaping the future of your business.

Now, let's consider the engineer. This role stands apart from the architect. While architects design the visuals and outline possibilities, engineers immerse themselves in the intricacies. They dive into the operational details, seeking ways to enhance processes, minimize costs, and bolster profitability. They engage in refining processes to optimize efficiency, potentially reducing delivery timelines and refining the quality of products or services. It's about making continuous improvements to the core of what you offer.

Lastly, let's discuss the player role. According to Jim Flexor, CEOs should occasionally step into the player role themselves. I recall attending a mastermind event where a fellow business owner shared that they had spent six weeks taking on a player role, actively engaging in the day-to-day tasks performed by their staff on the floor. The experience provided valuable insights into the everyday operations of the business. As entrepreneurs who have built companies from the ground up, it's easy to lose touch with the frontline aspects of the business. While we may have established standards and expectations, things can change over time. Complexity can creep in, and our staff might not adhere to our intended practices. 

In essence, what I've gleaned from "Great CEOs Are Lazy" and how it can influence our sales, business growth, and untapped potential is that we should identify constraints in our sales, marketing, onboarding, referrals, and more. We need to don the hats of learners, architects, coaches, engineers, or players to address those constraints. Once we've unlocked one constraint and restored the flow of deals and revenue, we move on to the next constraint, which will likely reveal itself. By consistently addressing constraints using this framework, we don't just strengthen our business; we enhance our company's value and culture. 

Consider this: we cultivate happier team members by making processes smoother. Our value proposition becomes stronger as we tackle the work others avoid. We're building a better company, fostering a robust team culture, and refining ways to deliver potent sales and marketing while lowering the cost of acquisition. Adopting this approach shapes a formidable machine, creating an unstoppable force. The key lies in shifting our focus from firefighting and maintaining the status quo to embracing a more efficient approach. Often, we're too consumed by working tirelessly when in reality, the solution might be to fix it and delegate. This shift embodies the core takeaway – the reason great CEOs are often referred to as "lazy."

And to conclude this episode, let's delve into a three-point roundup.

Number one: In your business, there exists a constraint that's hindering progress. Your responsibility is to identify that constraint and rectify it.

Number two: It's not only acceptable but encouraged to transition from the CEO role to other roles. Embrace the roles of a learner, an architect, a coach, an engineer, or even a player within your business. Flexibility across these roles is vital, as they encompass the essence of your responsibilities.

Number three: I'd like to share a quote from Bill Gates, which beautifully encapsulates this entire topic: "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it."