I used to be a member of an entrepreneurial group that included Ron LeGrand, one of the world’s top real estate gurus. Ron is an enormously successful entrepreneur. The most important thing he ever told me was, “The less I do, the more I make.” That sounds like the lazy man’s way to riches, doesn’t it? When most people hear that, they envision someone lying around on the couch stuffing potato chips into their face.
But Ron actually works quite hard. What he meant by that statement was that the fewer types of things he does, the more money he makes. He focuses on a very few high-value activities only he can do for his business, like marketing, and delegates the rest. He still works long days, but only at a few things. I’m talking total focus here.
The other option is to do it all yourself, which in fact you can — but you’ll wear yourself to a frazzle doing so. I’ve known small business people who did everything in their businesses, and they often worked 14-18 hours a day. One couple who were good friends of mine kept doing this well their 60s. They never hired any employees, which I consider a big mistake.
I used to wear all the hats in my business too, so I know what I’m talking about. These days, I’m working smarter and harder on fewer things, and making more money. So despite what the “work less, make more” philosophy may sound like on the surface, it’s not about just sitting back and doing nothing. You’re simply focused on the fewer things that bring you the most money, or have the potential to do so. Stop trying to wear all the hats. Put all your focus on marketing and on new product/service development. As Peter Drucker famously pointed out, marketing and innovation are the only two things in your business that aren’t expenses (though I would humbly submit that assembling a top-notch team to offset your weaknesses is a third).
Start thinking about better products and services you can create for your very best customers, as well as the people you want to attract. Start building and maintaining effective marketing systems. Hire people who are smarter and more talented than you are in the areas you’re weakest in — and even in some that you do fine in. That’s the sign of an intelligent, effectual leader. That way you can focus on the fewer things, like the marketing. Never delegate your marketing.
Focus on thinking bigger, and spend some time every day strategizing. Get up early every morning, if you’re a morning person; 4:30 or 5:00 is about right. If you’re a night owl, then stay awake late and do it then. Whenever you do it, the important thing is that you’re focused, you’re trying to think bigger, you’re developing multimillion-dollar ideas, you’re working on your business, but not in it.
My mentor likes to tell a story about one of the more successful gentlemen he knows, who was constantly looking to hire people who were smarter than him. At one point, he told Russ that his chief desire was to do fun things, so he needed people surrounding him who were better at everything in his multinational business than he was. Practical business owners often surround themselves with extremely intelligent people on purpose; that’s a form of business smarts in and of itself.
The thing about entrepreneurs is that we tend to want to do everything ourselves. But the gift of recognizing very sharp people who can help you in your business — the ability to build a great team — can work wonders. I think that’s a pretty exciting thought to consider, frankly. If you do that (and most of us don’t!) you’ll free up an enormous amount of time to pursue what you want to pursue. Some of the richest and most powerful people in business have found ways to make this work. The key is to find people to help you do the things you can’t do yourself. It’s just another form of strategic leverage.
Consider the millionaire athletes you hear about on TV and the radio. Some of these guys make tens of millions, sometimes even more, for a brief contract — and their careers tend to be short. (There’s a joke that “NFL” is short for “Not For Long.” How many times have you heard of a former pro athlete who’s now broke, a guy who once made more than the GNPs of some small countries? They blew everything in a few short years. The ones you don’t hear so much about are the ones who hired someone to help them invest their money. They end up with enough revenue after their playing days are over to do what they want to with their lives… while some of their colleagues end up as cooks and janitors.
They find people to help them do things they can’t do themselves — or can’t do economically. You should do that as much as you can. Again, the only exceptions should be advertising and innovation, the most creative, promotional of your duties. Your top priorities should be attracting new customers and making more money from your existing customers, period. If you have time left over, you can handle a few other tasks. But don’t keep doing your own books when someone else can do them cheaper and better than you.
It’s important to recognize that you don’t have to do everything. In fact, people who try to handle everything on their own usually end up stumbling. As business writer John Maxwell points out, “The smartest thing that you can do is work through other people.”