For the past 14 years, I've worked between 8 and 16 hours a day. Many weeks I worked 6 days a week; sometimes 7. Finally, earlier this week, I realized that I have been doing it wrong all along. All work and no play makes Robert unproductive and stressed out.
Why have I been doing this to myself? Because I thought I had to. For as long as I can remember I have heard stories of entrepreneurs working insane hours to become successful. I believed that I had to as well. However, I realize that that is no longer the case – it is possible to work less, be more productive, and make more money.
My epiphany came during the recent Advanced BTS I attended. I came to understand that I had taken on a label – “entrepreneur” – and that to me, that label meant sacrificing everything in life to build a successful business. I'm happy to report to you that I was mistaken.
The Definition Of Entrepreneur
A quick look at Wikipedia reveals that the definition of entrepreneur has changed many times since it was first used in 1803. Nowhere does it say you have to sacrifice anything in life to build a business! Rather it speaks to an entrepreneur being:
- A risk taker
- An innovator
- A pursuer of opportunities
- Someone that starts a new business
- A person with a need for high achievement
- A shatterer of the status quo
- Highly energetic
Let me re-iterate – nowhere in any definition does it say that in order to be an entrepreneur, you must work 12+ hours a day. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if you are working 12 hours a day, you may be doing it wrong.
My first business was an IT services company. I was a one-man operation, and I did everything – all the service, marketing, sales, operations – everything. And it showed. I burned myself out on a regular basis. Like clockwork, every 3 weeks I would get sick for 3-4 days and have to rest. This cycle went on for close to 2 years.
In my second business – Atlantic Dominion Solutions (the current official name of Dempsey Marketing) – I decided to do it differently. Within a year-and-a-half I had 9 full-time employees. Hiring people was easy. What wasn't easy was standing back and letting them do their job.
However, I made a critical mistake – in the rush to grow the company and take on more clients, I only hired developers. This resulted in a case of one chief and a ton of indians. In addition, one bad hiring decision made by yours truly led to the complete loss of an entire years worth of profit! A hard-learned lesson indeed.
What I should have done was make 3 key hires: account manager, sales person, and an HR person. Instead, I took on all of these roles, in addition to speaking at conferences, holding developer classes, and much more.
The key to working less in your business is building a team. This is one of the most important lessons taught by Richard Branson, the man who founded The Virgin Group, which is comprised of more than 300 companies!
One of my first computer instructors told me to work smarter, not harder. Building a team around you is working smarter, and ultimately means working less.
Don't get me wrong though, I'm not telling you not to work. What I'm saying is to do less of the actual production work.
Be More Productive
A friend of mine suggested an excellent book which I will recommend to you now – Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You. In “Built To Sell” there is an 8-step process for transforming a services business into a sellable product business. The points I wish to focus on are the first 4:
- Isolate a product or service with the potential to scale
- Create a positive cash flow cycle
- Hire a sales team
- Stop selling everything else
We took this to heart here at Dempsey Marketing and are focusing in on 3 Trifecta Marketing offerings:
- Building websites that generate leads and sales
- Product launches
- Marketing campaigns
The main idea is to create, document, implement and continuously refine a standard process. This ensures that you, as the business owner, can train other people to do the work. As new people join the business, they can be trained on the process, and it can scale. Productivity goes through the roof!
It also makes what you do much easier to sell. After 8 years of selling custom software development services, I will tell you that standardization and specialization will be your saving grace.
In order to be more productive, you must create repeatable, measurable processes, that you continually refine with your team.
Make More Money
When I joined AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) more than 14 years ago, I learned what a paradox was. By definition, it means:
A statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which (if true) defies logic or reason, similar to circular reasoning. – Wikipedia
A few paradoxes are:
- We give it away to keep it
- From darkness comes light
- From dependence we found independence
Life is full of paradoxes that challenge our way of thinking. One such paradox is that by working less you make more money. Why is this? Because you're working smarter not harder. You have to become more productive with the time you have, and you become more innovative because you have more mental cycles available for innovation.
The Key To It All
There is one thing you must have in order for this to work – belief. For me, belief is stronger than faith. Faith says “I think” whereas belief says “I know.” You must know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are working less, being more productive and making more money. Note that I didn't say “think” you are – you must know it to be presently true!
Look for the clues and write them down as you come across them. For instance, I have two accountability partners. Each day I outline 5 major goals for the day. On day 1 I didn't get all 5 complete. On day 2, after analyzing what happened on day 1, I achieved all 5 of my goals. Both days I had a lot to do, however I was much more productive the second day.
Know this: action strengthened by unwavering belief will help you manifest what you want in life. Does that sound woo woo to you? Perhaps. However I know it to be true. It's happened for me and I am sure it will happen for you if you believe and act accordingly.
Refuse All Labels And Limitations
Do not allow the labels that others place on you, or the ones you place on yourself, to limit you and your success. Vast amounts of knowledge can be found both without and within.
Determine what you want, believe it's already been accomplished, and act to make it a reality.
You will succeed, and I look forward to seeing your success.