I’ve been using going on offense vs. being on defense as an heuristic to see if I’m working on the right things each day. Am I on offense or on defense? How much time am I spending on defense each day?
I can’t take credit for this heuristic, as I took it from multiple Tim Ferriss podcast guests like Chris Sacca, Naval Ravikant and Derek Sivers. (If you’re not listening to it, highly recommended!).
Offense is when I’m setting the agenda for my day, trying to grow my business. Whether I’m doing research, taking time to think and create a plan then executing it, in the street selling, banging the phones cold calling for leads or creating content/landing pages for my business. It’s the way I grow my business.
Defense is responding to emails. Taking meetings that other people request. Going to conferences and taking speaking engagements that don’t directly help my business grow. It’s taking to the press without a real any real objective. It’s responding to inbound leads and everyday “crises” and letting others set my agenda.
It’s incredibly important to stay on offense as much as possible. It’s the only way your business will grown. If you’re always on defense, you’ll never do anything important. When you let other people control your schedule, you’re not doing the dirty work to move your business forward. If I’m not on offense at least 60% of the time, I’m not happy. And I’m working to get to 80% offense.
As a very successful CEO friend said recently “I don’t even consider it work to be on defense, it’s just treading water.” And he makes it clear to his employees that if they’re always on defense, they’re not doing their job.
Naval Ravikant suggests reserving two full days per week to go on offense so that if you’re lucky you’ll have one full day to yourself where defense doesn’t creep in. I’ve been trying to do this, but I haven’t been able to pull it off yet.
I’ve also been using this heuristic to help drive home the point home to my Magma portfolio companies. It’s useful to help them see that they need to be on offense as much as possible, especially in the early stages of their business. If you’re not on offense, your business will not move forward. Nobody will do the hard work for you. Getting in the press won’t help. Being seen as “though leader”, winning government grants, or having your friends think you’re successful won’t move the company forward. That’s all defense, not doing the dirty work. And your company will fail.
Go on offense, build your business and watch as your competitors and peers fall behind as they’re on defense all day.