How I distribute my days to run two companies
For six years, I have been running MarsBased and Startup Grind Barcelona at the same time. Even though they're both the same company, management-wise they are two separate companies: two teams, two bank accounts, two budgets, two different sectors, and so on.
People often ask me how am I able to spin so many plates - or, better, two big plates. Although I am fairly chaotic as a person, I must say that I have become a creature of habit and a fairly organised and disciplined person.
I hope this blog post answers many of all the questions I've been asked throughout the years!
A bit of context
MarsBased is my own company. We're 15 people, full-time, providing consulting services of web and mobile development to clients around the globe, but mostly in the US, UK and Spain. All of our profiles are developers apart from our office manager. We don't have an office, but we have an office manager.
Startup Grind Barcelona is the local branch of Startup Grind I lead in Barcelona. It's sort of a franchise, and we host monthly events and an annual conference for entrepreneurs and people in the tech scene. It's mostly volunteer-based - we have a team of 8 people, all volunteers - although we've got our Office Manager from MarsBased working on this project, too.
Even though Startup Grind Barcelona resides inside of MarsBased, I treat them as two separate companies, and it'll be easier for the reader to understand the whole situation by understanding it this way.
How do I do it? Keep reading!
At the end of the day, MarsBased is my own gig and my own company, so most of my efforts need to be focused here. MarsBased gets 4 out of 5 days every week of my time and mental bandwidth.
Startup Grind is sort of a side project, and throughout the year, Startup Grind gets only one day per week of my time. In order to keep concerns separated, my weekly agenda looks like this:
- Monday: Sales (MarsBased)
- Tuesday: Startup Grind
- Wednesday: Growth, Marketing & Communications (MarsBased)
- Thursday: Strategy (MarsBased)
- Friday: Hiring, Company Culture & Chores (MarsBased)
However, about three months every year, prior to our annual Startup Grind Conference (we organise one every May for circa 1000 people), I need to allocate more time for SG due to the sheer efforts required by an event of this size, so I change it to this:
- Monday: Sales & Partnerships (MarsBased/SG)
- Tuesday: Startup Grind only
- Wednesday: Growth, Marketing & Communications (MarsBased/SG)
- Thursday: Strategy (MarsBased/SG)
- Friday: Hiring, Company Culture & Chores (MarsBased/SG)
To have themed days doesn't mean that I'm a taliban about this distribution. If something urgent comes up on Tuesday, not related to Startup Grind, requiring my attention, I will work on it. This is a plan to which I adhere 80-90% of the time. It's the rule, not the exception, and it gives me peace to know that my life is sorted this way.
That also helps me to plan. I know I only have one day to work on Startup Grind per week, so I never overbook me. If that happens, I tell other people affected by this decision "I cannot work on this until next week. Is it a problem if I get back to you by next Tuesday?" - 90% of the times, it works.
If you're familiar with Jack Dorsey's schedule, which allows him to run Twitter and Square at the same time, I drew a lot of inspiration from it. I'm not good at coming up with new things, but I'm great at adapting other people's ideas and improving them so they work for me!
But… what do these categories mean? Let's break them down!
Monday: Sales & Partnerships
Following up with potential clients, partners and sales leads on Monday is a best practice overall. Everyone wants to catch up with a fresh view, well-rested from the weekend.
On any given Monday, I tend to work on the following:
- Write a blog post for MarsBased: First thing in the morning. I get my best ideas when I'm well-rested, so while everyone catches up with reports and stuff after the weekend, I blog. It's useless to call people at 8-9am, while they're still catching up with everything going on in their companies.
- Follow up with emails I got over the weekend: We don't work on weekends, but a lot of people do. I will answer all these emails after I've written the blog, so they get a proper answer from me in due time.
- Work on sales leads: I then work properly in all the leads we've got on our sales pipeline. Usually between 15 and 20 at a time, but not more. That includes calling them, sending kind reminders, providing them with further documentation, signing off documents like NDAs or contracts and solving doubts for them. It usually takes most of my day.
- Same for Startup Grind sponsorships/partnerships: During conference times, I use this day for working on the sales pipeline of Startup Grind, too.
Tuesday: Startup Grind
Running a Startup Grind chapter is not an easy task. Especially if you want to run a good one.
Over the years, we have become one of the top Startup Grind chapters out of the more than 600 we've got around the world. In fact, we were elected chapter of the year 2016, and been on the top 3-5 ever since in many categories.
During Tuesdays, I basically do the following:
- Answer all Startup Grind emails: At most, you know I'm getting back to you on Tuesdays, if you email me to the Startup Grind email account.
- Work on partnerships/sponsorships: We send about 2-3 proposals to companies per week.
- Plan next events: We host at least one event per month, but we always have the next 3-4 months lined up to make our life easier.
- Wrap up past events: Sending thank you notes, invoicing sponsors, reporting to partners, sending snippets to press, paying expenses to our team, working on the feedback from the past event and whatnot. There's always a tonne of things to do.
- Work on the conference: To be able to work on it only the two-three months prior, we work a bit on it every week. This way, we spread our work throughout the year, and it definitely clears up the backlog to be able to focus on the most important things when it matters.
Wednesdays: Growth, Marketing & Communications
Wednesdays are always exciting. As a marketing aficionado, I find myself doing my most creative work on Wednesdays. Experimental projects are also stuff for Wednesdays.
Traditionally, I used to write all of our MarsBased, Startup Digest and Startup Grind newsletters, but not anymore, hence the "communications" thing. I don't do them anymore, but I review them, or I still do internal communications. Usually, I update the MarsBased on stuff.
Let's see Wednesdays into more detail:
- Account reporting: Between Monday and Tuesday I catch up with all of our clients, so on Wednesdays I process everything, digest it, and report to our team so they get feedback from the client, visibility for the upcoming months and so forth.
- Work on content: Whatever other content needing a bit of a push, Wednesday is a good day to work on it. That mostly includes our corporate website, our Handbook, our Playbook, presentations for events where I'm speaking, etc.
- Improve our SEO: Everything I know about SEO, I learnt on my own. I still do small tweaks here and there to our websites on a regular basis to try new stuff, and also to fix the bits I break with so many experiments.
- Review newsletters: My team runs the newsletters now, but I make sure to populate content for them or to review them before they get sent.
- Work on StartupsBCN: We have been curating an online community for entrepreneurs on Slack for five years now. Even though it doesn't require too much attention management-wise, it's good to keep improving it and adding cool features and content to keep it lively.
- Review websites: We've got a bunch of websites online, so on Wednesdays I update their content, audit them, fix bugs and whatnot.
Thursdays are always pretty diffuse days. I admit I almost never get to work on strategy because things accumulate from the previous days. However, an ideal Thursday would see me doing the following:
- Review goals: I check our annual goals for both MarsBased and Startup Grind and see how we're performing, how far are we from meeting them and what can be done to get closer to them. I also eliminate goals that don't make sense and make new ones throughout the year.
- Review Google Analytics: I rarely ever do this anymore, but I used to do it a lot in the past, and get reports off Google Analytics.
- Review Google Search Console: This one I still check very often because it's fundamental if you want to have excellent SEO. I'm very passionate about organic SEO so I live inside Google Search Console.
- Take decisions: If I need to make decisions that I don't need to bounce off my partners at MarsBased (something small, quick marketing actions, or even Startup Grind things), I block a couple of hours and work on them.
- Prepare the weekly partners meeting: Every Friday, I have a quick call with my co-founders at MarsBased to review, discuss and take decisions on everything in the company. I prepare this meeting the day before to sleep on things.
Fridays: Company culture, recruiting & chores
Fridays are casual days and pretty easy. I tend to work a bit more every day so I can work less on Friday. If I can, at 2-3pm I'll stop working on Fridays to have a longer weekend. I usually accumulate lots of small tasks from the previous days to plough through them on Friday. It's my "mechanical tasks day".
- Reports: I write a minimum of 5 reports for my team every week. They help me to line up ideas in my head, keep everyone informed, take action on overdue stuff and report asynchronously. No useless "status update" meetings.
- Tidy up: I do a quick review of Google Drive and Basecamp to archive unused stuff. By doing a bit every week, it always looks organised and tidy. Don't let it accumulate.
- Send receipts to accounting: I collect all my expenses of the week and send them to administration on Friday in a single email.
- Small tasks & chores: As I said, accumulated stuff from the previous days gets dealt with on Fridays.
- Partners meeting: A one-hour meeting with my two MarsBased co-founders to walk through all the things in the company requiring our attention, but mostly sales opportunities, hiring and occasional fires.
- Review CVs: Although I'm not very active in the hiring process of MarsBased, I tend to receive CVs outside of the regular circuit through recommendation, so I like to review these ones.
- Everything related to company culture: Mostly it's either working on the Handbook/Playbook or reporting to the team on the cool stuff we do and how our company culture helps them to run the company.
- Review investment decks: Although it's not strictly work-related, I check all investment opportunities on Fridays. It takes me one or two hours tops and I tend to do it while having lunch.
Saturdays and Sundays
Contrary to Jack Dorsey, I take both days off. Of course, my companies are not of the magnitude of his, but I believe in a strict balance between life and work.
However, I oftentimes like to gear up on Sunday evenings to prepare the week ahead, and this is something I wrote about on Give Yourself a Head Start on the Week by Gearing up on Sunday Evenings.
You can't be 100% disciplined and follow the above strictly every week and every day. However, if you stick to them 90% of the times, you will build a habit.
The above is a result of four years following this recipe. I've iterated them many times and my daily planning has suffered many changes, but on the whole, they look pretty much like when I started following this strategy.
It is important to know that I had been constantly mixing things up and not respecting the schedules most of the time, then I wouldn't have built the habit.
For instance, if I cannot finish all the reports on Friday, I don't work on them on Monday, I just don't send them, and I try to cover two weeks in the next one. If I can't do all the stuff I wanted on Thursday, I postpone it till next Thursday. I am only allowed to cheat the system by sending small tasks to Friday, if they take bare minutes to complete them. I can't recall any big task being sent to Friday ever.
Of course, exceptions can be made, as long as they are exceptions. When exceptions become the rule, any and every system is broken.
Alright, that's it from me now! Hope you found this useful!
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