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Cleaning up our house…and staying focused!

Rupa Sethu, COO

Rupa Sethu, COO

This month, with great pride and a whole lot of heavy lifting, Risk Focus moved into our new office space in New York. As we decluttered and organized the office, we’ve streamlined our business and put long-term strategies into motion.

We’ve previously aligned our engagements into four business streams – Trade Solutions, Risk Solutions, Cloud Solutions and Validate.Trade (now Report-it.Trade), restructuring our consulting and product development arms in the process.

The move to a new, larger office coincides with our ability to call ourselves a software and services provider, as 10 top tier organizations are now using our software. The new space allows us to expand our efforts to build and support our global software products.

This milestone was an opportunity for a fresh start, and a hard look at where we wanted to go as a company.

I started as COO at Risk Focus a few months ago and during that time I’ve had to deal with a wide array of issues both big and small. You’d be surprised how many things fall under the “operations” umbrella. I think of it as keeping the company running smoothly – be it the financial health of the company, or the daily logistics of meeting our staff’s needs.

As I tackle my never-ending to-do list, I think about how best to work my way through it. Some items are reactionary and of short-term significance – unfortunately I have too many of these – but there are also longer-term strategic items. This is not something that I think about daily, but I periodically pause and assess our progress on these goals.

Are we headed where we said we needed to be in three years? Of course this applies at an individual level just as it applies to the company as a whole. To help mitigate the stress of trying to get too many things done in a limited amount of time, I thought I’d share a strategy that made a lot of sense to me.

The Eisenhower decision-making principle has its origins in the leadership style of the 34th President, though it was later enhanced and popularized by American businessman and author, Stephen Covey. It addresses how to direct our efforts. In his words, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Important tasks are those that have an outcome in line with our strategic goals while urgent activities demand immediate attention and serve as constant distractions.

Within that framework, our tasks and activities can be grouped into one of four categories, as illustrated below.


The theory is that with some smart planning and foresight, very little time should be spent on Quadrant 1 activities. Most of your time should be spent on Quadrant 2 tasks for a renewed sense of control in your life – otherwise these will become urgent. By doing so, you’ll feel like you’re making real progress towards your goals. Quadrant 3 activities are usually distractions or interruptions that are typically trying to address other people’s needs. Learn to say “no” to such distractions or set aside a limited amount of time to devote to them. Lastly, minimal time should be spent on Quadrant 4 activities since these do not help achieve any of your long-term goals.

The mandate for my role as COO is quite diverse. Some of my strategic objectives are:

  • Provide the management team with accurate forward and backward-looking financial data to inform strategic decisions
  • Better understand the business at a global level (by business stream, client, location etc.)
  • Foster skilled, well-informed, happy employees
  • Roll out robust processes and policies that are active and adhered to

Each of the above strategic outcomes has their own set of operational issues and tasks. Due to the varied nature of the role, I find that the Eisenhower decision-making principle is an extremely useful tool to keep me honest and help me achieve my objectives. While on the surface it seems like common sense, we all get pulled into things that are really not important.

The management team needs to be in control to run the business effectively, while also ensuring our team is satisfied and prepared to reach our goals. This starts with one of my favorite parts of the job, getting to know our people personally. These conversations enable me to determine the steps we need to take in order to support our people and keep them committed to our vision. Our greatest asset is our team. No enterprise can succeed without an engaged and committed workforce. The success of our people is, in fact, our success.

As we are hit by the multitude of daily issues, we must also pause to consider our long-term objectives, and make time for the things that truly matter. Ask yourself: “am I taking the right steps toward where I really want to go?” And if you’re not, make sure to revisit the quadrant for a more focused, impactful workflow.

– Rupa Sethu, COO