Three years ago, Anthony and I attended a conference. It was a 5-day ‘live at a resort’ affair and when we arrived we were both so burnt out we could barely speak to each other much less anyone else.
Our business was doing well, but we were working insane hours to stay on top of everything. There was very little downtime in our lives and our kids weren’t getting quality time with us because we were constantly tag-teaming in the evenings and on weekends. One person was always on their laptop while the other would be looking after the kids.
So, while the presentations at this conference were awesome and filled with brilliant ideas for growing our business, they also depressed us. We were already so strung out. Where would we find the time to do the things we were learning?
Then a guy called James Schramko got up on stage.
And he flipped the script.
He pointed out we were all working ridiculously hard now; intending to do our actual living later. He said this needed to stop.
But … how?
From there, he proceeded to share ideas for reducing our workloads while not affecting our incomes.
Then he pointed out that those same ideas wouldn’t just help us make the same money while working fewer hours. They could help us make more money while working fewer hours.
We were all captivated. And, while I can’t speak for anyone else, I know the changes Ant and I made to our business and life thanks to James’ presentation were hugely impactful. So much so, I suggested James write a book about them.
Fast forward to now and I’ve just spent 18 months working with James on that book – one that neatly packages up all his thoughts on this topic in a practical and actionable way.
The book is available for pre-order here and if you order it today, he’ll send you a pdf copy so you don’t have to wait for the book’s official release date to read it.
In the meantime, here’s a brief summary of the things covered in the book.
9 steps towards working less and making more
Step 1: Increase your personal effectiveness
Too many of us focus heavily on productivity. But it doesn’t matter how productive you are if you’re productively doing the wrong things. That just leads to the whole hamster-on-a-wheel situation – one where you’re running your heart out but not getting anywhere.
Many of us are also sacrificing sleep, exercise and good nutrition in favour of working more hours. The irony being that sacrificing those things makes us less productive, and necessitates us working more hours to ‘catch up’. It’s a vicious cycle to get caught in.
Step 2: Employ sound planning and goalsetting processes
Too many of us set goals and give ourselves a whole year to achieve them. Then we coast for 10 months and cram all the work of that goal into two months.
James suggests setting goals in 12-week blocks instead. The shorter blocks keep you more focused and then, at the end of the year, you’ve achieved four major goals instead of one.
Step 3: Understand the power of focus
We’ve all heard the 80/20 rule where 20% of our actions result in 80% of our outcomes. When you 80/20 that 80/20, however, you find out that 4% of actions result in 64% of outcomes. This is amazing for focus. If you put the bulk of your energy into the 4% actions of your business … you’re maximising not just time and energy, but profits too.
I remind myself of this every time I write up a website scope or quote. As a creative person, I’d rather be designing. Sitting down and detailing a job so I can provide a client with a quote is pretty much my least favourite thing to do. But it’s one of those 4% tasks in our business. Whenever I find myself tossing up whether to write a quote or, say, make our website prettier … it’s pretty clear what I should be doing.
Step 4: Build a team
Many people go into business for themselves because they only want to worry about one person – themselves. The problem with this is, the number of hours one person can work is finite. It’s also folly to spend time doing $50/hour tasks like your own bookkeeping when you charge $500/hour for consulting.
Having a team allows you to leverage your time better to ensure you’re always doing the highest charging work only you can do. It also allows you to step away from the coalface without affecting your business profits.
Today, James judges the success of his businesses on whether he can go on holidays without taking his laptop. He can … and it’s his team that allows him to do this.
Step 5: Ensure you have an offer that converts
When you say to someone: ‘Hey, I can come to your house and mow your lawn for $30,’ and they say, ‘Sounds great, see you tomorrow,’ you have an ‘offer that converts’.
In short – it’s a product or service that people are willing to give you money for.
Sounds simple. Sounds obvious. But, it’s amazing how often people will start a business before ensuring they have one. If you don’t have an offer that converts, your business has no income. If you have no income, you don’t have a business!
Step 6: Leverage the Profit Formula
I’ve broken down the Profit Formula in more detail in a previous post but here it is in a nutshell:
Prospects x conversions = Customers
Customers x $ amount x frequency x % margin = Profit
Here’s the powerful thing about this formula: you only need to increase one of those numbers to increase your bottom line (profit). Which means you can focus on doing just one of the following:
- Creating a better lead magnet for your website (which will increase prospects)
- Fine-tuning your sales process (increases conversions)
- Putting up your prices (increases the $ amount)
- Offering complimentary products/services or a monthly recurring service (increases frequency)
- Reducing your costs (which increases the % margin)
As you can see, like many of the things James teaches, the Profit Formula is a powerful tool for focus. And focusing on the right things is a key driver of being able to work less and make more.
Step 7: Create customers for life
It’s much easier to sell to people who’ve already bought from us than it is to sell to a brand new each person each time. We all know this, but some industries lend themselves to repeat sales better than others. If your industry doesn’t lend itself to repeat sales, you need to get creative.
This is why so many web design businesses lock clients into an ongoing maintenance plan after their website is built. We don’t currently do this, and our clients appreciate this as a point of difference. But it’s a point of difference that comes at a cost (to us).
Is your business in the same situation? If so, it might need to …
Step 8: Rationalise your business model
James favourite business model is the recurring income business model – one where clients pay a monthly or yearly fee to access a service or product. Recurring income not only smooths out cash flow and reduces stress by providing certainty around income, it makes your business a saleable asset.
Step 9: Reduce compromise
Are all your leads currently coming from one major source? Do you have one client who is responsible for more than 25% of your income? Have you built your business entirely on someone else’s platform (like Facebook or Shopify)?
Then you are making compromises that put your business at serious risk. In Work Less, Make More, James shares some solid tips for reducing compromises in your business including:
- Doing the hard thing (like spending more upfront to reduce risk later down the track)
- Mitigating risk
- Questioning all assumptions
That last tip – question all assumptions – is probably one of the most powerful things James’ book will force you to do.
The most important assumption worth testing? The one that says all business owners have to sacrifice life now to have a life in the future.
We gave that one a good shake. And found it to be patently untrue 🙂