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8 Alternatives to Working Harder
 

It's remarkable to me how badly "working harder" works. I know hundreds of business owners, many through the membership of Chief Executive Boards International. The more I get to know these people, the more it becomes obvious that those who are successful "work" less than those who are just doing OK. By "work" I mean the less successful are working every day, rarely take time off, and spend most of that time working "in" their businesses. They seem to believe that the harder they work the more successful they'll be -- and it turns out that the reverse is actually true. 

Working hard is an ethic and a value. Working harder isn't a strategy.

I'm engaged on occasion as a business coach, and one of the first questions I ask a client is, "What will it take to run this business at 2x or 3x its current revenue?" Why? Because if I ask, "What will it take to grow this business at 15% to 20% per year?", I almost always get a "work harder" strategy. Many people, faced with a question of incremental proportions give an incremental answer. "We'll just sell 20% more, deliver 20% more, and I'll just work 20% harder." If executed, that would double the business in 3 1/2 years. And absent a different plan, the owner will be running his wheels off. 

That's why companies with a "work harder" strategy rarely grow at 20% a year for any sustained time. Everyone runs out of gas, including the owner. 

The alternative? Working less. Yes, working less -- particularly working less "in" the business. Selling, managing, following up, solving problems etc. Being the "go to" guy. That's a bottomless pit of effort that will consume you and return very little -- in fact the return diminishes as you burn out. There's no residual effect. Like lions and gazelles, you have to wake up and kill something every day or outrun someone else who's trying to kill you. 

Some people think "If I can work harder in my business, it will become more successful and I can take more time away from it." They have the cause and effect backwards. Working harder is a sinkhole you can't get out of. If that's the whole plan, you'll NEVER get time away from your business, either to work ON it and actually make it better or to just enjoy the money you're making doing something pleasurable. I talk to a lot of people in this mental trap, and they just can't extricate themselves. 

There are 250 days a year when you can go to the office, call on customers, and do the things you regularly do in your business. If you really want it to be better, here are 8 alternatives to working harder "in" your business. Try some time working "on" your business: 
  1. Find a volunteer organization about whose mission you're passionate -- Put in some meaningful time on a project. You'll be amazed at the ideas and different perspectives you'll get working on something with other volunteers. You'll also be surprised at the value of expanding your business network.
      
  2. Find a Peer Advisory Group of business owners and CEOs -- This is, by definition, time working "on" your business -- getting ideas, insights and knowledge of how to do things differently, in order to get a different result. Be sure it's a group who will be honest and direct with you.
      
  3. Hire a Business Coach or outside Advisor -- Get someone who can help you visualize the business at 2x-3x its current size and can then help you surround yourself with the people you'll need to get there. Find out what's getting in the way of your further success. The time spent on these activities count as working "on" your business.
      
  4. Form an Advisory Council for your company -- A standing group of people who are resources, not friends, and who will be honest with you.
      
  5. Start building a Management Team -- Imagine the business without yourself. You're totally disabled and still need the income but can't go to work. What kinds of people would it take to run it for you? Can't afford them? How can you afford not to have them?
     
  6. Read -- If you've made it this far in this article, you're on the right track. There's a wealth of subscribable content on the web, not to mention those old-fashioned things like books and magazines.
      
  7. Attend (not exhibit at) Seminars, Workshops, Shows and Conferences -- Take off your "exhibitor" hat and put on your "attendee" hat. It's rare that you can spend 2-3 days at a workshop, show or conference and not get several ideas, any of which are worth the price and time of attending. Especially if you're not entangled in manning a booth.
      
  8. Keep Track -- If this is a brand-new behavior, keep track of the time you spend working "on" your business. Set a goal, and then set another. 
How will you know when you've "arrived" with this strategy? When someone comes up with an unexpected trip, project or event you'd like to do that takes 3-4 days - or maybe a week, and you say, "Sure, I can rearrange things for that." Now you own a business -- not a job that owns you. 

Finally, here's a video that explains how all this works -- how you get "slow hunches" from each of these sources, and how those eventually culminate into your next "big idea". The likelihood of finding your next big idea heads-down in your business is almost zero. 

Remember, "Chance Favors the Connected Mind"


It's little wonder CEBI members are more successful than their non-member peers. They've chosen to put themselves regularly in a place where business owners can connect as each other's catalysts -- providing the missing piece -- so that, in Steven Johnson's words, "Chance Favors the Connected Mind."

Thanks,

Terry Weaver
CEO
Chief Executive Boards International
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