Andrew Kinzer, Chief Product Officer of Seattle startup Outreach, is religious about time management.
He sees time as the most valuable capital a person has and, in a startup, efficiently wielding the hours in a day can be a big competitive advantage.
Kinzer applies this philosophy at Outreach, where he’s responsible for leading the strategy for the company’s flagship product — a communication platform for salespeople.
When he’s not focused on the core product, he’s busy finding people to maintain and improve it.
“I invest a lot of time seeking out exceptionally talented folks with backgrounds in product design, product management, and product strategy to own really large zones,” he said. “To solve the specific problem we are focusing on, our product needs to help users with everything from emailing and calling, to bi-directional database sync and communication automation, to task flow and data intelligence. That’s an unusually sophisticated product, resulting in really large zones of ownership for any given team member.”
We caught up with Kinzer for this installment of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current Location: “Seattle.”
Computer types: “Macbook Pro.”
Mobile devices: “iPhone.”
Favorite apps, cloud services, and software tools: “These days, my calendar, email, spreadsheets, and slide decks are at the core of what I do.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “An open office plan where you can see everybody. It’s great for exchanging upbeat energy with as many people as possible, and quickly finding the folks you need to have a quick sync with.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “You’ve got the same 24 hours a day everybody else does, and until somebody solves that problem, the question is how you use that time better than anybody else. That means your most valuable currency is time, and being extremely effective boils down to making smart decisions around how to prioritize bodies of work – both in terms of time investment and order.
Look at a racecar driver. Every lap is focused around shaving seconds. If you’re in a high-growth startup and you’re trying to extend your lead and lap your competition, every quarter hour counts – so it’s all about time management.
To help support that, almost everything in my work and personal life is on a calendar, all the way down to driving to work or meetings, getting ready for bed and running personal errands. Blocking time provides a framework by which you can plan your days, nights and weekends by. It also ensures people can’t put things on your calendar when you’re in meetings, in transit, or have personal errands to run (but it doesn’t necessarily stop them from trying).
Some people like to create to-do lists, but frankly, that’s just a list of items in cascading order. A calendar, on the other hand, is a list of items in chronological order with specific amounts of time allocated to them. If you know you have five things to get done, you should put them on your calendar in half an hour or greater blocks. From there, place them where you expect to tackle them, with an estimated amount of time applied to each. If everything doesn’t fit in one day, you need to figure out where to make sacrifices. Make sure the right things fall off your plate, it shouldn’t be an accident.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “LinkedIn — mostly for scoping out potential new hires, and for customers.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “Typically 20 to 60.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “Around 25, not counting personal time blocks.
How do you run meetings? “Fast, to the point, and with a very specific desired outcome laid out so we know what we’re aiming for.”
Everyday work uniform? “Jeans, long sleeve shirt, leather shoes.”
How do you make time for family? “As a head of product, especially in a high growth SaaS startup, there’s no magical answer on how to find enough hours in the week. One of the realities is that you can be called at any time to any number of unexpected situations that need your assistance. If it happens to be during a time you’ve set aside with family or friends, you have to be there for your team — that’s reality, and it’s outside your control. It’s unfair to your team to be radio silent.
Because of that, you need to find ways — even small ones — of increasing the number of opportunities to spend time with the people you care for, so if something does come up and you need to switch gears to work mode, it’s not like you’re running off on the only time you’ve had together in a while.
Oh — and don’t forget to block everything off on your calendar so it’s clearly visible to your colleagues the times they shouldn’t touch unless it’s an emergency.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Movies.”
What are you listening to? “Books on tape!”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Mostly topical news of the day.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “The McKenzie Way.”
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Straight down the middle — in bed by 11:30 p.m., up and at ‘em at 7 a.m.
Where do you get your best ideas? “In the shower, or while reading books.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “Elon Musk. Running SpaceX and Tesla all while raising five kids still boggles my mind. But hey, maybe he also invented a time warping machine and is just keeping it all to himself?”