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Hutch graduates team up to transform BaltimoreCity.gov

Baltimorecity.gov, Baltimore City’s municipal website, receives over 40 million page views and 12.5 million visits every year.

Whether visitors are looking to pay a parking ticket, request a pothole repair, or browse the latest news about the City, the website is an important tool filled with essential services. With residents, businesses, and tourists visiting the site every day, it needs to be accessible and functional for everyone. 

Hutch parent company Fearless is proud to announce a contract with Baltimore City to help it do just that. This 9-month contract for a redesigned website will focus on ease-of-use, accessibility, and visitor experience. Along with the digital services agency XCell (Hutch class of 2020) and the design agency Points North Studio(Hutch class of 2022), the Fearless-led team is supporting Baltimore City and its residents by creating a robust and functional online experience. 

Baltimorecity.gov is an important resource for residents, businesses, and visitors. But, it’s not currently meeting its full potential. The website lacks a cohesive look and feel. And using the search function can be confusing and lead to the wrong results. Overall, it’s in need of a redesign that will center accessibility, improve online functions, and be usable on all devices and browsers. 

The team will help make Baltimorecity.gov a one-stop shop for citywide information and services. We’ll take an iterative, agile, and human-centered approach to update their content management system (CMS) from Drupal 7 to Drupal 10. We’ll also prioritize an intuitive and search-friendly design for all visitors. And, to ensure the website is designed for Baltimore City residents, we’ll establish a User Engagement Community. This will be made up of Baltimore City website redesign stakeholders and real users. 

A ‘resident design approach’ for BaltimoreCity.gov

“What’s unique about this contract is that we’re taking what I call a ‘resident design approach,’” says Felix Gilbert, the founder and owner of XCell. “This means that we’ll be focusing on the residents and the community of Baltimore.” This will allow Baltimore City residents to “influence how the government meets their needs while also demonstrating how other cities can better meet the needs of their communities.”

“Whether it’s trying to pay a parking ticket or finding out about road closures, everyone knows what it feels like to not have access to the information you need,” says Jessica Watson, the CEO and Creative Director of Points North Studio. “We’re excited about this partnership and the opportunity to take a deeper look at the current user behaviors and interactions with BaltimoreCity.gov. But we’re also committed to going right to the heart of the matter, having important conversations with Baltimore City residents and stakeholders.” 

Fearless and Hutch are proud to support Baltimore City in their efforts to make Baltimorecity.gov an accessible one-stop shop.

Fearless’ Robert Testerman says the project will focus on “customer experience to ensure positive interactions with this government website.” This work will also “directly help local government staff as well as Baltimore City residents who turn to the website every day.” 

With this project, we’re ensuring the website meets the needs of the City’s businesses, residents, and visitors. We’re also directly impacting the lives of Baltimore City residents and create an experience that inspires change. 

Securing your business and strong password policy

Hector Peralta is the founder of BlackRose Cyber Solutions and is part of the 2023 class of Hutch.

In today’s digital age, strong passwords are critical for protecting your online accounts and sensitive information. But with so many passwords to remember and cyber threats constantly evolving, it can take time to know where to start when it comes to creating a strong password policy. In 2020, a major multinational company suffered a data breach when hackers were able to guess the passwords of several employees, resulting in the loss of sensitive customer data. This is just one example of how weak passwords can leave organizations vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

As a military cybersecurity veteran, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of strong passwords in defending against cyber threats, and I’ve learned a few key lessons along the way. In this article, I’ll share some of my insights on how to choose secure passwords, store them safely, and implement a strong password policy in your organization.

Head over to Medium for tips on choosing strong passwords and best practices for storing passwords safely.

Celebrating our 2022 graduates

Hutch’s third cohort capped off two years of learning and growing with a graduation to celebrate how far they’ve each come and the exciting things coming next. As an incubator that gives graduates the skills and vision necessary to build successful government-focused digital services firms, our team is proud to be part of these four companies’ journeys. 

Hutch empowers underrepresented entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and compete with larger competitors. As Hutch Board Member and NASA Chief Experience Officer Victor Udoewa said at this year’s graduation ceremony, “this work that you’re part of and that Hutch is doing is about representation. It’s about really, fundamentally changing the structure of our government, and the companies that come into the government and provide digital services.” 

To help them on this journey, Hutch ensures the digital services firms in every cohort receive the tools, mentorship, and peer-to-peer support needed to have a lasting impact on government clients and communities.

This year, 4 companies joined the growing list of Hutch graduates:

  • Ibeify
    • Founded by Kalada Opuiyo Jr 
    • Full-service technical consulting company that empowers companies to embrace innovation by providing customers with unique solutions to addressing their technical challenges.
  • Jumpstart: HR 
    • Founded by Joey Price 
    • Agile development HR firm that aims to help small businesses learn, adopt, and implement habits that reduce workplace friction and make workplace culture more productive and profitable. 
  • Points North Studio 
    • Founded by Jessica Watson
    • Design agency that challenges the status quo by creating experiences that bring people, passions, and causes together.
  • VITG Corp 
    • Founded by Vasu Togari 
    • Digital services firm that builds and delivers simple and intuitive digital solutions to improve the lives of our citizens by leveraging data and emerging technologies. 

Hutch program manager Stephanie Chin with the 4 Hutch graduates and Fearless CEO Delali Dzirasa

In his opening remarks celebrating this year’s graduates, Fearless CEO and Hutch Lead Coach, Delali Dzirasa looked to the graduate’s futures and encouraged them to “take all of the lessons, take all of the notes from the past two years, and go fly.” But he also reminded them that they “have a family and support from each other, from the broader Hutch community, and from the broader digital services community.” 

This theme of support is an important part of  the Hutch ethos. 

When you graduate from Hutch, “you have a family that you can depend on,” said Emmanuel Iroanya, the founder of Theta and a 2021 Hutch graduate. This support comes from their current cohort, “but also from the cohorts from years one and two.”

Wallace Sermons, the Deputy Director of Area and Field Program Execution at the US Small Business Administration, reminded the graduates of the value of their work. “You’re taking a chance, but you’re also bringing solutions to the fold,” he said. “If the government had the solutions, they wouldn’t be procuring them from you.”

He also echoed the sentiments of Delali and Emmanuel around the importance of community. “Look at the people in this room, and think about how you can strategize and share,” he said. 

Established by Fearless in 2019, Hutch is the only digital services incubator that’s managed by digital services experts and focused on supporting women and minority entrepreneurs working in digital services. With 20 companies currently in the portfolio, Hutch has a goal to grow to 45 digital services firms by 2025. 

Sessions for the 2024 class begin January 2023. Learn more about Hutch and get notified about future educational opportunities for your business.

Hutch company theta. wins seat on $10B Defense Health Agency IDIQ

For almost a decade, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) has used its OMNIBUS contract vehicles to procure innovative health-related solutions. 

As part of prime contractor TechWerks’ team, we’re proud to announce Hutch company theta. won a seat on the latest iteration of the OMNIBUS IV Multiple Award Military Medical Research and Development Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) vehicle.

OMNIBUS IV has a 10-year ordering period, helping shape medical research and development in the Department of Defense (DoD) for years to come. Through the $10 billion IDIQ, awardees can provide a range of medical research and support services across the Defense sector. 

Emmanuel Iroanya, theta.’s founder and managing member, is excited about the impact this work will have.

“There are such interesting computing problems in the health fields, specifically for the warfighter,” Emmanuel said. “The OMNIBUS IV IDIQ is an opportunity for us to further build out our R&D-as-a-Service offering at theta. to help Defense customers solve these kinds of problems. We’re so excited to be a part of this.”

What theta. and Team TechWerks bring to OMNIBUS IV

The OMNIBUS IV IDIQ is broken down into four market segments that future Task Orders (TOs) will fall under. These include Research & Development, Research & Development Support Services, Regulatory Processes, and Translational Science Support and Services. 

TechWerks is one of the only Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOSBs) awarded a prime seat on OMNIBUS IV IDIQ. Their team is also one of just two that were awarded all four of the IDIQ’s market segments. 

To support these market segments, Team TechWerks’ member companies all bring unique capabilities to the table. 

theta.’s core contribution involves emerging technology. As a full-service digital and management firm that operates at the intersection of innovation and technology, theta. can offer cutting-edge technical services. This, paired with the company’s history of delivering innovation to Defense customers like the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), made them a perfect fit for the OMNIBUS IV IDIQ.  

“The emerging technology aspect of this IDIQ is what made us really want to be a part of this at theta.,” Emmanuel said. “There’s a lot of room for innovation, and we’re hoping to use the vehicle to bring some of our exciting Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing R&D efforts to DHA.”

Hutch Company Code360 Inc. Supporting the CDC’s Data Analysis Program

Hutch cohort company Code360, Inc. is supporting the CDC through a contract with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the CDC.

As the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to protect the public’s health. Using science to increase health security and the well-being of the public, the CDC protects Americans from health, safety, and security threats, both foreign and domestic. The CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.

A win for Code360

The SBA 8(a) and HUBZone-certified IT Services company is providing software development and consulting services to NCHS. The contract award is valued nearly $3 million.

The NCHS collects, analyzes, and disseminates timely, relevant, and accurate health data and statistics. Their services are key to guiding program and policy decisions to improve the nation’s health.

“This is one of those great opportunities in our journey that directly aligns with our vision. We strongly believe that our people deserve a better life and better health and this contract is at the core of that, said Makesh Pitchaipillai, President and Solutions Architect at Code360 Inc. “Working with the CDC is a step in the right direction as we break into the federal sector. We’re working collaboratively to help change the way the government serves its people.”

Code360 is providing Health IT, professional support, staffing, cloud computer programming, and statistical support on the analysis, analytics, and publishing of healthcare surveys to the public.

“At Hutch, we believe our companies can build a better world. Code360’s work with the CDC will help the government better support its users, our fellow citizens,” said Hutch program manager Stephanie Chin. “We are proud of Code360 on the growth they’ve seen just in their first year of Hutch.”

About Code360

Founded in 2013, Code360, Inc., specializes in:

  • Advanced Enterprise Solution Architecture,
  • Health IT
  • Cloud Technologies
  • IT Best Practices and Governance
  • Software Development
  • Business Intelligence
  • Open Standards

Code360 is in the first year of the Hutch program. The IT company empowers passionate people with opportunities to continuously learn and seamlessly evolve as subject matter experts (SMEs) while exceeding its customers’ satisfaction.

This announcement was published independently of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This release does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the CDC or the United States Government of the product, process, or service, or its producer or provider. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document do not necessarily state or reflect those of CDC or the United States Government.

Expanding programming through ‘Build to Scale’ grant

New programming and expanded support is coming to Hutch thanks to a “Build to Scale” grant.

Awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), Build to Scale” grants accelerate tech entrepreneurship by increasing inclusive access to entrepreneurial support and startup capital.

“EDA is proud to partner with this year’s ‘Build to Scale’ grantees as they invest in entrepreneurs and create equitable access to capital in their communities,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo in a release from EDA. “These projects will give the next generation of industry-leading companies a seminal boost that will result in job creation and private investment – potentially transforming a regional economy and creating economic opportunity beyond what we can foresee.”

Our joint grant with the Baltimore Development Corporation is one of 51 grants. The EDA is awarding $47 million in grants as part of the program.

$48 million in matching funds is available from private and public sector sources.

“We’re excited and honored to receive this grant award from the EDA with our partner BDC. Collaborative funding partnerships are integral in closing the gap for access and opportunity for people of color and women. This funding will allow Hutch to scale our ability to grow. We’re creating thriving ecosystems of companies positioned to deliver and compete in the federal marketplace,” Fearless CEO and Hutch Founder, Delali Dzirasa said.

With our “Build to Scale” grant, we plan to build capacity to scale, growing 45 digital services firms by 2025. This funding enables us to nearly double the number of entrepreneurs we serve. We’re connecting mentors, digital services experts, and government administrators.

Our plans for our Build to Scale grant include:

  • Bootcamp Immersion Experiences:

    • Mini-accelerator programs in topic-specific areas such branding, strategic planning, proposal development, and more

  • Financial Aid:

    • Reduce the barriers remote participants experience to access coaching

  • Nationwide Partner Engagement:

    • Leverage a broad network of digital services firms to deploy our curriculum nationwide

  • Mentorship:

    • Each company will be paired with two mentors. A Domain Mentor within their targeted federal agency and a Capability Mentor within their technical capability

Hutch Program Manager, Stephanie Chin adds, “This grant directly aligns with GSA’s Equity Action Plan. The plan looks to integrate a higher level of diversity, equity, and inclusion into federal contracting. This paves the way for smaller, minority-owned businesses to compete for federal contracts. With Hutch support, our companies have been able to add 27 new jobs and generate $2.3 million of new revenue.”

Our partner on the award, BDC, is a nonprofit economic development organization for the City of Baltimore

BDC strives to grow a more equitable economy for the city. BDC promotes investment in neighborhoods affected by institutional racism and/or generational poverty. The organization works to retain, expand, and attract minority and women-owned businesses.

“We’re committed to building a more equitable and inclusive economy here in Baltimore as well as developing economic development strategies that are more diverse and inclusive. This grant from the EDA is an example of the types of funding we are trying to attract in Baltimore to support more entrepreneurs of color and provide them with the resources needed to build and scale successful businesses in the city. We’re excited about our partnership with Fearless and Hutch to work towards these goals,” said Colin Tarbert, President & CEO of BDC.

We expect to launch new programming in 2023.

Stephanie Chin joins the DSC Board of Directors

As a proud member of the government digital services community, Hutch is excited for Program Manager Stephanie Chin to join the Digital Services Coalition’s (DSC) Board of Directors.  

The DSC is a group of like-minded digital services companies that share a goal of transforming government. An advocate for modern digital services, the DSC aims to improve the way the government delivers services to the public.  

These goals align with our own at Hutch, and we’ve supported the DSC for years. Stephanie sees her two-year term on the DSC’s board as a chance for the two organizations to work together to make a real impact.

“This is a great opportunity to help move digital transformation forward across government,” she said. “During my term, I hope to broaden the DSC community and expand the way the coalition shares thought leadership. I’d like to create more learning opportunities, programming, and events that bring business leaders together. This is especially important now, as many companies transition back to in-person work,” said Stephanie Chin.   

Stephanie was appointed to the DSC’s board after presenting to its members at a July All Hands meeting. Also joining is Mike Gifford, a Senior Strategist at CivicActions, and Jason Stoner, Director of Experience Strategy at MetroStar. 

“Stephanie is a perfect fit for the DSC Board of Directors,” said Traci Walker, Executive Director of the Digital Services Coalition. “The enthusiasm and professionalism that she exhibits while running the Hutch Program is going to be a huge asset to the leadership team. Not only does she deliver on a successful program as exhibited by the multiple graduates from the program, Stephanie also brings the passion for what good digital transformation can mean for the government through all of her words and actions. I am very much looking forward to working with her over her term,” said Traci.

Stephanie’s excited to strengthen Hutch’s ties to the DSC during her term. “The DSC and Hutch are both impact-driven organizations, and there’s a lot of synergy and overlap between our missions. It was natural for us to come together so we could collaborate more deeply.”

But Stephanie’s work with Hutch isn’t the only thing that made her a good fit for the DSC. She’s a leader in the entrepreneurial community in her own right, and she serves on the boards of many local organizations. On the board of the Maryland Business Innovation Association (MBIA), Stephanie supports incubators, accelerators, entrepreneurs, and organizations across Maryland. She also serves on the board of Baltimore Community Lending, which provides small business loans and capital, with a focus on underrepresented groups in Baltimore City. And she’s the Board Chair of Open Works, a maker space in Greenmount West that provides technology (and the access and knowledge to use it) to makers and innovators. 

Across all these leadership positions, Stephanie always aims to strengthen and diversify the entrepreneurial community. In fact, this is what prompted her to apply to the DSC’s board in the first place. 

“Community is such a big part of what we do at Hutch, and it’s also a huge part of what the DSC does,” Stephanie shared. “As the Program Manager for Hutch and someone who represents many diverse business owners, it was important to me to make sure that they have a seat at this table.” 

Think Hutch might be a good fit for you?

To learn more about Hutch and what we offer, check out our website or register for an info session

XCell creates access to grant funding with The Opportunity Project

The White House has selected Felix Gilbert of digital services firm XCell to help get part of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure package into the hands of underserved communities.

Gilbert’s company, XCell, is one of the five teams working with the White House as part of the 2022 “Opportunity Project,” an initiative that began in 2016 to use federal and local data to tackle issues of inequality.

As part of the project, Felix Gilbert and his team at XCell are making it easier for under-resourced communities to apply for and win grants. XCell is trying to connect small municipalities to the skilled labor necessary to fill out the paperwork for a grant. Although there are plenty of places to search for government funding, few of them help understaffed grant seekers get connected to contractors who can complete the important work, such as getting cost estimates or construction timelines necessary to win a grant.

Gilbert and the other teams that are part of the volunteer-based White House project are also looking at creating products to track federal money to make sure states distribute it to smaller municipalities. XCell is focused on Aurora, Colorado as well as Native American tribes in New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The three-person digital design company was founded in 2004 and moved to Baltimore in 2011 to work with Zion Church. The company has worked with a variety of clients ranging from the U.S. Navy, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare, and a variety of nonprofits.

Felix Gilbert said he has been speaking directly to people to help understand their needs. Though the White House often finds it easy to give money to larger cities such as Baltimore, Gilbert said it can often be difficult to fund projects in small cities.

Read the full article on Maryland Inno and learn more about what XCell is doing to make it easier for under-resourced communities to apply for and win grants. 

8(a) certification tips from Ey3’s executives

At Hutch, we’re all about making an impact in government. And thanks to their recent 8(a) certification, Hutch company Ey3 Technologies is going to be able to do that much more easily. 

Ey3 Technologies is a woman-owned (EDWOSB and CBSB) systems engineering and cyber security digital services firm that’s committed to combining technology with purpose to affect change. CEO Summer Bazemore has been a member of Hutch since 2020, and she and her husband Terry Bazemore, Jr. (Ey3’s COO) earned their 8(a) certification in June of 2022. 

“We’re so excited,” Summer said. “I’m hoping that this will open the door for others to learn more about who Ey3 is. We want to work in government, and this is a great catalyst for us to reach into many different industries.” 

About the 8(a) program

Becoming 8(a) certified by the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a big win for any company. The nine-year program aims to lift up socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners, enabling company growth in government. 8(a) certified firms can get help from business, procurement, and compliance experts, access mentorship opportunities, and receive free training. And most importantly, 8(a) certified companies can get exclusive access to government work through set-aside and sole-source contracts. 

8(a) certification creates a great opportunity for Minority and Women-Owned businesses to conduct business with the federal government.  Of all the contract vehicles available to procurement officials, through efficient marketing, 8(a) is the one that can open doors that might otherwise be closed. It provides firms the ability to compete effectively with other businesses of the same and similar size instead of against large businesses,” said Monica M. Randall, CEO of The Randall Group

But the program can be challenging to get into. And this is something Summer and Terry experienced firsthand. While you’ll hear about companies getting certified in a few months, Ey3’s certification took over a year. 

“It’s been some long nights,” Summer said. “And as we continue to maintain the business, dinner still has to be cooked. The house still has to be cleaned. But I’m doing this for my family. I’m doing this for my kids. And I’m doing it for my longer-term peace of mind. So, it’s worth it.”

Ey3’s 8(a) certification experience

The challenges Ey3 faced

Their experience got Summer and Terry thinking about other small, disadvantaged business owners who could benefit from the 8(a) program. People with families, lives, and limited free time to spare. To help make this process smoother for other entrepreneurs, Summer and Terry wanted to share their lessons learned.  

One lesson Summer and Terry learned was that, when submitting your 8(a) application, it’s not just about the information provided. How you present that information is also key. 

“One of the obstacles we faced was the way we had our finances organized,” Summer said. “And it’s not that it was bad — I’m actually kind of anal retentive about organizational finances — it just wasn’t organized in the way that they needed to receive it. So we were having to go back and redo a lot of things, and that drew the process out for us.” 

Summer and Terry worked with their accountant to resolve the issues that SBA brought up, but it took time. They had to redo their paperwork, put together a new submission package, and wait for it to be reviewed. After that, all they could do was hope there weren’t any more issues. But the issues just kept coming. 

For one thing, the fact that Summer and Terry are married made things a little complicated. SBA requires personal financial information about business owners applying for an 8(a) certification. And this meant that Terry and Summer had to submit a lot of their shared information twice plus any additional information requested.

Ey3 also operates under a DBA (“Doing Business Under”), so some issues came up around the company name. SBA needs to be able to trace the entire history of a business. So, if your legal name is one thing, but you do business under another, they need documentation to link the two together. 

And then there was the business address problem. Like many small business owners who don’t want their home addresses plastered all over the internet, Summer and Terry used that address in certain instances and a mailing address in others. 

These are all common practices for small business owners, so Summer and Terry’s situation isn’t unusual. But still, it made getting 8(a) certified a real challenge for Ey3. 

How Ey3 overcame their 8(a) certification roadblocks

Summer and Terry decided to bring in some outside help early on to ensure that they left no stone unturned. They hired Monica M. Randall, 8(a) Certification SME of The Randall Group/Monica Randall, and she was able to provide expert knowledge and instructions on how to properly prepare and submit for the 8(a) certification. 

“One of the best tips I have for companies looking to get 8(a) certified is to work with a consultant who does submissions,” Summer said. “It takes a little money, but I was so grateful for it. I don’t think I would have been able to get all the documents together without her,” said Summer. “Monica M. Randall knew/knows EXACTLY how the information would need to be organized for submission as she had actually worked for SBA in the space for over 2 decades and been in business herself for quite some time holding a very high success rate for 8(a) certificates.”

This was invaluable to Summer and Terry, who had been trying to make these decisions themselves up until that point. 

“I wouldn’t advise that people try this on their own,” Terry said. “It’s worth it to have somebody to hold your hand and guide you through this process. Because some of the information they asked for, I didn’t even know how to find out. I think having a consultant probably cut out 80% of the problems for us.” 

While bringing in expert help was Summer and Terry’s top tip for streamlining the certification process, it wasn’t their only one. So, if you’re a small disadvantaged business looking to become 8(a) certified, Ey3 has some advice for you. (And if you’re not sure if you’re eligible for 8(a) certification, you can check out SBA’s Am I Eligible tool to find out). 

Ey3’s top five tips for getting 8(a) certified

  • Hire a consultant to guide you through the process. A consultant can speed up the application process and help you avoid rework. By advising you on what documents you need to provide and how you should present the required information to SBA, they can help you submit accurately and efficiently. 
  • Keep your financial information (both business and personal) organized. Even if you work with a consultant, you still have to gather a lot of information for SBA about both your personal finances and your business’. Because of that, it’s important to keep your finances organized so you can find what you need when you need it. 
  • Make sure the official name you use for your company is consistent. If you have a DBA or have gone through a name change, make sure you use the same name on your official documents and in places like SAM.gov. Doing this ahead of time can help you avoid having to go back and update your documents partway through the process.
  • Keep your business address consistent. Just like your company name, you’ll need to make sure that the business address you use is consistent across your official documents. Keep in mind that this business address also has to be a physical, brick-and-mortar location — virtual or mailing addresses were unfortunately a no go for Ey3. 
  • Find your community. When you’re working on something as complex as 8(a) certification, bouncing ideas off of other people going through similar things can be a huge help. For Summer and Terry, Hutch provides that space where they can ask questions of their peers and get tips from people who have gone through this before. But wherever you find your people, don’t be afraid to lean on them for support. 

Think Hutch might be a good fit for you?

To learn more, check out our website or register for an info session today. 

Tips for Time Management for CEOs

Tips for time management for CEOs who want to reclaim their time. 

When you’re the leader of a growing company, it can sometimes feel like you don’t have time to breathe. And when you’re just trying to keep your head above water, it can feel impossible to find the time to think through better time management strategies. This playbook is here to help. With practical and easy-to-action tips and tricks, we’re providing our best advice and tips for time management.

Play 1: Access your current time spend.

The first step in reclaiming your time is understanding where it’s currently going. To start, you should look over your calendar and see what’s taking up the most time. 

  • Evaluate your calendar. Take a look at the past few weeks on your calendar and identify the things you spent the most time on. This can give you a sense of where your time is going and if there are areas you could tighten up. You should aim to focus the majority of your time on your priorities (check out our prioritization playbook for more on that topic), as this will ensure that you’re working on the most critical tasks for your business. 
  • Identify your time sucks. You should also take a look at what unimportant tasks are eating up a lot of your time. Email is often a big time suck, and meetings can be another (see play 2). Identify any tasks that are low-value but high-effort so you can start proactively shifting your attention away from them. 

Play 2: Rethink your approach to meetings.

One of the biggest time sucks for many founders and CEOs is meetings. While it’s hard to do away with meetings entirely, there are some quick and easy things that you can do to reclaim some time from them. 

  • Decline extraneous meetings, and cut the rest in half. Seriously. Start by removing any low-value meetings from your calendar, and then trim the rest by 50%. Make your hour-long meetings 30-minutes, and your 30-minute meetings just 15 minutes. Fearless Founder and CEO Delali Dzirasa did exactly this, and he hasn’t looked back since. You’ll be surprised at how much everyone can accomplish in a short amount of time when they put their minds to it. 
  • Maximize your meeting time. To make the most out of your shorter meetings, our friends at Unison have some helpful advice. First, make sure that every meeting has a clearly defined purpose. If a topic comes up that isn’t aligned with that purpose, table it. You’ll also want to make sure that everyone understands what they’re bringing to the conversation and avoid inviting people who won’t play an active role. You should define the purpose and roles for any meetings you’re running, but also get comfortable asking for these things when you’re just an invitee. That can give you a better sense of if you actually need to attend the meetings you’re invited to. 

Play 3: Dream up your ideal calendar.

Once you’ve gotten a handle on where your time is going and some time back from your meetings, you can start to think about what you’d like your days to look like. At this point, you should start thinking about your dream calendar. 

  • Think about your ideal ratio of meetings to working blocks. What this looks like will depend on your working style, so ask yourself questions that will help you figure out what an ideal day or week would look like for you. Do you like to have large chunks of uninterrupted work time? Or does breaking up the day with meetings help you keep your focus? There’s no wrong answer here; it’s all about identifying the balance that works best for you. 
  • Create quotas and caps for how much time you’ll put towards different tasks. To help ensure that the majority of your time is going towards your priorities, it can help to come up with some metrics that you can track. You might want to target 20% of your time towards building relationships with a high-priority customer, for example, or make sure that you’re spending no more than 5% of your time on emails. Set target quotas for different kinds of tasks, test them out and iterate as needed.

Play 4: Bring in help to enforce your ideal calendar.

Now that you have a sense of what your ideal calendar is, you’ll want to work on making your actual calendar match this as closely as possible. And to do this effectively, you’ll need some help. 

  • Hire an assistant (if you don’t already have one). While you may be able to manage your calendar on your own if your business is in its early stages, this can be a big time suck, and your calendar will only get busier as you grow. That’s why we recommend bringing on an assistant now to start managing your calendar and protecting your time. 
  • Work with your assistant to create (and enforce) your rules of engagement. Start by figuring out what guardrails you’d like to have your assistant put in place around your time. If your working blocks are sacred to you, have them auto-reject meetings requested during these blocks. Or if you find yourself writing the same email over and over, have them take this on. Define those expectations early so your assistant can start protecting your time as quickly and easily as possible. 

Play 5: Don’t bend your schedule to meet someone else’s needs. 

Once your ideal calendar is in place and you’ve set up your assistant to enforce it, you’ll be in good shape. But there will always be exceptions that you’ll be tempted to make. An old business associate will call you for advice or you’ll be asked to speak at an event that’s important to you. That’s why it can be helpful to define when and why you might not follow the rules you’ve put in place. 

  • Bend the rules of your calendar for things that are important to you. When something comes up that’s critically important for your business or that’s personally meaningful to you, that’s when you might want to consider bending the rules that you’ve put in place. If an opportunity comes up for you to meet a hero of yours, by all means, take it! Just don’t feel the need to rearrange your schedule for things that aren’t a priority for you. 
  • Don’t rework your calendar to meet someone else’s needs. When someone wants to meet with you for their own sake, you shouldn’t feel the need to change up your working style to accommodate them. If you’ve set aside Fridays as your heads-down day, don’t feel pressured to change this just because someone has asked you for a favor that day. When someone is asking something of you, it’s up to them to bend their schedule to meet your needs. If it’s important enough to them, they’ll find a way to make it work.