Thanks to CoCo for sponsoring our new How I Work series!
Anser Innovation is a pioneer of interactive IoT technologies that enable ‘being there from anywhere’. Their flagship product Petchatz became the first digital daycare system for the stay at home pet.
At the helm as CEO is Lisa Lavin, who co-founded the company and continues to drive it forward. We spoke with Lisa to learn about her work habits and the the way she operates Anser Innovation on a typical day — inside and outside the office.
What one word best describes how you work?
What is your current device/hardware/office setup?
We have an office setting, but we’re all setup so that we can work anywhere at anytime with our laptops. Our team uses the Google Suite for internal communications (especially Google Hangouts and Google Docs for a repository of all of our information). In addition, because we develop a product that needs to work across all platforms, our office has every kind of device imaginable available for testing, but I personally am an Apple user.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
We swear by everything Google! As a matter of fact, we leverage it as the cloud infrastructure for our audio/visual interface in our platform. In addition, we’re a young company, which means that I don’t have an assistant and am doing a lot of administrative tasks myself. Something that has been absolutely invaluable to me to accomplish that is an app called Assistant.to, which allows people to quickly and easily schedule meetings with me. Basically, I’ll throw out a few times that work for me and whichever one they select is automatically plugged into my calendar. It eliminates a lot of the back and forth that often comes with the scheduling game.
What does your sleep schedule look like and morning routine?
I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of person. Unless I’m traveling or have got meetings, I’m in bed by nine (usually reading something) and lights out by ten. Often times, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking about something really good, so I keep a stack of post-it notes next to my bed to write down whatever I’m thinking.
I’m usually up by five – my routine every morning is the same, like clockwork. I workout, I meditate, get ready for the day, grab breakfast and am in the office by 7:00 a.m.
Is there a method to how you schedule your days?
From an internal rocks perspective, we have an operational flow that includes weekly standups with the team where we identify problems, put together a plan to solve them and off we go. On a monthly and quarterly basis, we also have a strategic review.
When I look at my schedule on a week to week basis, however, other than the standard meetings that I have with the team, it really varies. So, no, there is not a set method – it’s largely driven by what’s currently going on with our business.
How much time do you spend in vs. out of the office?
50% in-office/50% out of office
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
It’s very basic, very old-school, but really works well for me. I have a notebook with a designated page that’s covered in post-it notes, and each and every post-it is a to-do. The post-its are prioritized and organized in two distinct columns with the items on the left side of the page being everything I have to get done today and the items on the right side are things that I get to as I have the time. I’ve used this system for years and it’s basically my brain on paper which helps me stay organized and prevents things from falling through the cracks.
So, on a daily basis, I work my way through each and every one of the left column post-it notes and then try and get to as many as I can on the right. The wonderful thing about this particular system is that instead of trying to manage partial lists or multiple lists where half the items are crossed off, I can just remove the post-it note, crumple it up and throw it away when I’m done with it, which is a huge dopamine release. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment!
What is that one thing you have to do, no matter what, every single day?
Exercise! It’s necessary to keep my mental well-being in check and to allow me to maintain my quality of life. I love to eat, but want to be healthy, so this is how I achieve the balance. Empty Inbox (even on days off, which are rare)
What is your preferred form of communication and why?
When I’m in-office with the team, it’s in-person because it eliminates any miscommunication. If I’m working remotely, on the other hand, it’s email, text or Google hangout.
On average, how many hours a day do you spend in meetings?
Approx. 4-6 hours/day.
When, where and what do you typically eat for lunch?
We’re trying this new thing where we’re vegan before 6. So, I try to eat an exclusively plant-based diet before 6:00 p.m – you can ask my team, I eat broccoli pretty much every single day!
I’m a work through lunch kind of girl, so I don’t ever take a lunch break unless I have a lunch meeting. Instead, I’m usually working at my desk while I’m eating, answering emails or taking care of a project or something like that.
How many hrs/week and do you work in the evenings and/or weekends?
Because I start my day so early, I usually work 10-11 hours days and then 1-2 hours/day on the weekend, either answering emails or working on a project.
I don’t necessarily consider this work, but I also do a lot of mentoring for young entrepreneurs and the time spent with them usually falls on the weekend/evenings, because otherwise it’s hard to find time to meet.
What is the best advice you ever received, accepted, and applied?
There are two huge things that guide me. The first is “The next thing is always the best thing”.
About four years ago, we were involved in a major capital raising campaign. We had a big deal on the table that I’d been working on for a good six months and we were in the 12th hour with it- they’d decided they were going to invest, we were working through any outstanding issues and everything appeared to be falling into place. So, we decided to take a weekend retreat with some good friends of ours (which was a very, very rare thing at the time) and over the weekend, I got a call that the deal was off. Naturally, I was devastated because I’d been living and breathing nothing else for the last six months of my life and was having a really difficult time not taking it personally. I turned to my friend that was with us (who was conveniently a psychotherapist) and asked, “how will I ever get through this?”. Which is when she said to me, “the next thing is always the best thing” and that approach is how I have mentally framed everything from that point forward. Bad things happen every single day, but the ability to bounce back from them by using this framing has been invaluable to me while working in a startup.
The second is advice which came from one of my advisors (Michael Miller – Executive Roundtable) very early on in our business, when we were still running things out of my basement! At that time, everything just felt overwhelmingly difficult and one night when I was sitting by myself trying to figure out how I was going to make this all work, I received a text from him, completely randomly, that said “Your humility and willingness to learn will make all things possible.” It made me realize, if I’m humble enough to admit I don’t know everything and continually leave my ego at the door, while surrounding myself with really smart people, then anything is possible. I just need to be able to ask for help (even when I don’t want to!) to be able to achieve my goals. I apply that mentality on a daily basis whenever I feel my ego popping up and it helps me grow both as a person and as a business owner.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see Kathleen Skarven of Electromed from Minnesota’s tech industry answer these same questions.