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Leadership Lessons: Be Available

Leadership Lessons: Be Available

There's no one "right" way to lead a business. Today's leaders have a lot of wisdom to impart about managing the modern workforce, because each one approaches leadership in his or her own unique way. Every week, Business News Daily will share a leadership lesson from a successful business owner or executive.

  • The leader: Clark Benson, founder and CEO of Ranker
  • Time in current position: 7 years
  • Clark's philosophy: "Be available." (Click to tweet)

I've started five businesses. All but one of these businesses were "new things" — i.e., the concept was something that didn't have exact precedents to draw from. These have been companies where the team and I were iterating on almost every aspect of the business as we were flying the plane, so to speak.  

My current company, Ranker, has survived and thrived by me being available. I have been in the office every day for 10 or more hours a day for all of the company's life. I try to restrict business travel to very important needs, ideally no more than a two-day trip once a month. Being in L.A., I even try to avoid taking external meetings that will require being in a car for more than 15 minutes each way. In the rapidly changing online media marketplace, we need to be nimble, and it's hard to do that if you can't get the green light from the CEO, or you can't get advice to steer you in the right direction.

On any given day, I have eight to 15 short meetings with individual team members or small groups, often called on the spot when something comes up. Quick, regular doses of feedback, direction and mentoring go a long way for a young, scrappy staff.

It's physically impossible for one person to both be available and do the important business development and relationship-building work you need to take your company to the next level. Together, Ranker's COO, Glenn Walker, and I made the conscious decision to have him take on the external side of the business.

Time and time again, I've seen other startups where the founders are constantly out of the office raising money or doing deals. That can work if there are multiple co-founders and someone stays behind to man the store, but I've seen it be the kiss of death otherwise — the founder will do deals that the team can’t execute on, and everything falls apart.

Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor.