Even now at the age of 41, I can still remember my parents reminding me in grade school, high school and college to work hard. While I wasn’t so thankful at the time, I am now that they instilled the value of hard work in me at a young age. And I saw it first-hand: my father woke up early and came home late from his job at the local factory, and he worked very hard for over 25 years before being forced into retirement.
Working through a few of my college jobs also gave me a fresh perspective of hard work. There’s nothing like coming home at midnight – sweaty and exhausted – making minimum wage to help build character! However, what I didn’t learn until later in life was how to perceive hard work and what it means in the context of building a business.
Here is the one fact that I think is the most misunderstood about hard work:
Hard work owes you nothing
Just because you put in twelve hour days running your own business or at your place of employment does not entitle you to more pay, more benefits, or even more respect.
The main difference between someone making $200,000 working 80 hours/week and someone making $200,000 working 30 hours/week is 50 hours. That’s it. You can shift the blame on the type of industry you work in, your location, place of business, etc., because in the end, you control your own career and the hours you work and the income you receive are the result.
Working less and making more isn’t a badge of shame. You don’t need to work 80 hours a week to say you’ve “earned” your income. CPAs are some of the worst offenders of this mentality, and we see it every day in other professionals as well.
Work smart, and hard
As a business owner, there should be an understanding of a balance between working hard and working smart. Yes! You will have to work extremely hard as an entrepreneur. If you were working 8 hours as an employee you will likely need to work thirteen hours as an entrepreneur. However, there are only so many hours in the day and working smart helps ensure that you are spending your time in the most logical and productive way.
Here are a few tips to help you work smart and hard in building your business:
1. Outsource small tasks
If you are performing work that could easily be done by an employee at a lower rate, make the hire. If your goal is to bring home a good income, you won’t have the time to get in front of prospective clients if you are sorting the mail and installing the latest virus scanner update.
Drop the excuse that no one else can do these tasks!
2. Learn how to use leverage
You are building a business, not a job for yourself. There is a big difference between the two. The former requires leverage because, once again, there are only so many hours during the day and you can’t do everything.
A large part of your time should be creating leverage so that your business can keep on running profitably even if you aren’t overseeing the day-to-day operations.
3. Get out of the details
Part of creating leverage is developing a team that you can count on and rely on to complete the work successfully. If you are too far in the details of each project, you can’t focus on building your business.
Set the tone and expectations for the work to be done and then let the employees complete the work. Getting too far into the details will not help your employees in developing their skills, and it can lead to a work environment where a decision can’t be made without your input. This results in long hours, frustrated employees and sub-standard work product.
My parents weren’t wrong when they told me that hard work would get me far. What they didn’t tell me – and what I’m telling you – is smart work combined with hard work will get you further.