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Lately there has been a great movement towards the idea of work-life balance. We are often told that people can just as effectively work less time and that 50-70 hours a week is toxic, unsustainable, and unnecessary.
While maintaining a work-life balance sounds wise, my experience shows that a business normally wouldn't get off the ground if a business owner didn't invest the time.
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I started my first company in 2002 and, like most entrepreneurs, worked an incredibly long time. A typical day was about 12 hours and a typical month with a weekend off. I worked an average of 60 hours a week for four years as the company grew from over $ 1 million in revenue to over $ 10 million.
I started another company in 2006 and again found that a 50-60 hour week was the time it took to keep track of everything that needed to be done. The same thing happened when I started another company in 2010 and it lasted another five years.
There's a reason for that. Businesses make money primarily from the assets they control and the work that sweats those assets. A startup has neither assets nor a workforce.
The trick to getting a business off the ground is to create valuable assets (products, systems, brands, intellectual property, etc.) while recruiting a team and running day-to-day operations. If that sounds like a difficult task, you're right – it is. There is a constant balance between working on the company and recruiting people to join the company. You have to achieve all of these without running out of money.
Everyone who works in an established company is using existing assets. When they mention the company brand, refer to their operations manual, log into the IT system, share a customer success story, or sell a proven product, the assets do most of the work.
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Working with an established team creates efficiency and dynamism that you normally only notice when they are missing. A company with a team of 40 employees, who all have training and experience, constantly benefits from this team dynamic. Even if you were to hire and train one new person per month, it would take about 4 years to get you to a working team of 40 people.
Creating assets is a full-time job. Hiring and training employees is a full-time job. Managing the day-to-day business of a company is a full-time occupation. It's easy to see why business owners have no problem filling more than 12 hours a day with work to do.
It is important to know this before starting a business. If you have the expectation that a business will come about with a minimal investment of time and effort, you will experience a lot of frustrations in the course of reality.
On the other hand, if you expect to spend long days and work on your weekends, you'll keep going and still have a smile on your face. Work is not really work for entrepreneurs. Starting your own business with something you are passionate about will leave you feeling energized most of the time.
Mixing your time between the three key roles is crucial when working long hours. You can't just work in business or at some point you will burn yourself off and have nothing to show.
I recommend a mix of:
– 50% of your time work in business operations: sales, marketing, administration, creating value for customers.
– 25% of your time creating assets: creating software, systems, intellectual property, media, and documenting best practices.
– 25% of your time hiring and training your team: start with a management assistant, then get a salesperson and someone to assist customers. This time could be used first for fundraising and then, when funds are secured, for recruitment and training.
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With this formula, you can work 30 hours a week in the company, 15 hours creating assets and 15 hours developing your team. This may sound like an unbearable workload to some, but most successful entrepreneurs I know have invested those long hours getting to the point where they are making it look easy now. More specifically, they have the resources and the team to make it easy.