My Advice is to Stop Working

Okay, you're a small business mogul and you want to be successful. That's awesome. Here's my advice: stop working.

And that's going to seem really antithetical to you. Stop working? Who in the Hell has time for that? I mean, it's all of your hard work and sweat equity that has brought you to where you are today. Won't it be the same for you tomorrow?

No, it shouldn't, and to explain why, I'm going to evoke two classic texts in business management: Gerber's The E-Myth Series and Ferriss' The Four-Hour Work Week. A great bunch of books, especially if you want to learn the secret about being successful. 

Here's their secrets, boiled down to a single idea: stop working.

No, I'm serious.

When it comes to Gerber, he's a big proponent of franchises.  Businesses in a box. You buy the box and you buy the systems, the solutions, the capabilities, to deliver a product that's all marketed for you by somebody else. Stop developing this crap on your own - stop working! You buy the box, you open it up, you learn a little about it yourself and hire good people to follow the instructions. What more revenue? Scale your franchise. It's like instant coffee. Add more hot water and coffee-crystals and you're ready to go.

When it comes to Ferriss, his big idea is to stop working, yes, by allowing the Internet (and its minions) to do work for you, to use automation and the reach of the Internet to reach tens of thousands of potential customers while you reap the benefits in a hammock beachside (if the cover art is anything to be believed).

Like anything, I like to think real life is somewhere between two extremes and I feel that Gerber and Ferriss' ideas represent two extremes on the same theme. One says "buy the box, manage it, and scale it" while the other says "set up a box that you forget about and churns out money". They both have great ideas that reflect what real success in business is all about.

Real success in business isn't money. It's time. It's even more precious than money.

Look at what you're doing. If you're slaving away 40, 50, 60 ... 80 hours a week on your small business, you're throwing a lot of your time at a problem; your returns are diminishing with every passing hour.

  • Your systems and processes may be too antiquated to allow for automation and you and your staff must do everything by hand;

  • You may be too labor dependent - more scale means more people - and it takes much more capital to hire human labor and maintain it than to purchase automation (which could be depreciated over time);

  • You may be too dependent on physical assets - electronic or data assets scale immediately with very small incremental costs, like, doing more business onground in a retail store vs doing more business across a website ... it's infinitely cheaper to scale a website or make an app to allow for more volume of sales than it is to lease another retail space for 15 years;

  • You may be poor at delegation and insist on doing everything yourself which prohibits your ability to scale; one person to do it all! That's your motto!

  • Your business may absolutely be a job. Hell, it may even be just a hobby and not a business. It couldn't survive if you weren't around. Take a look at your operation: if you weren't there, could anything get done? If you weren't there, would your product be made or your service delivered? If you answered no, you have a job, my friend, not a business, and if your job isn't profitable, you're doing it for funzies. It's just a hobby because it's not anything you could sell to somebody else - you have no exit strategy.

So if real success in business is time then the advice I must give you is to stop working. What? Wait ... you can't? Hey, I get it, but that's what technology is for, silly. This is what tech is really good at. Automating.

Applying technology attempts to reduce the impact of labor on a business model and to allow a firm to scale without additional incremental investment. It's about working smarter than harder. 

So how about if you create a new metric for yourself? Hours Spent Working. That number should go down while your Quarterly Gross Revenue numbers should go up. Right? Because that's what businesses do? They make money while you're not there. 

Stop working!