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Work Life Balance

Work 10 Hours Less Each Week

Learn how to work less and make more in three easy steps.

Harry Welby-Cooke

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Stressed entrepreneur

John D Rockefeller, a man who commanded incredible amounts of money, once said:  “Those who have leisure time to spend pursuing their passions and dreams experience the real wealth in life.”

Knowing how to spend time is a more valuable skill than knowing how to make, manage, invest and spend money. It is wise for entrepreneurs, who want to be truly successful, to master the use of their precious and irreplaceable time. What I have found most interesting is those who know how to manage, budget and save time – rather than letting it manage them – will always find it easier to make money.

Learning how to lop 10 hours off a typical work week without sacrificing any income may take practice, but it’s easier and faster to accomplish than most people think with these three steps.

Step One: Fire Extraneous Customers

The first rule of any time management system is to utilise the time we are allotted most wisely. As the saying goes; Time is money.  The thief to be most wary of is the one who steals our time.

So the rather controversial first step is to eliminate wasted time on customers who tie up sales representatives with inconsequential sales, steal your valuable time with constant complaining and waste your accountant’s time chasing them for payment.  You need to either get rid of them or transform them into customers who proactively feed the bottom line. While this approach may sound radical, it makes practical sense to only focus on customers who respond with profitable transactions.

Firing customers may involve deleting dead-end leads from the client database. Or it may mean sending customers or clients to a business that more appropriately matches their price demands. Or you could adjust the magnets that are attracting those unwanted customers in the first place. Examples of this are discounts, freebies or products in the business that are not related to the core business model. Concentrate solely on products and services that produce the most profit and cull the dead weight ones that don’t contribute their share to the bottom line. You could spin those lines off as stand-alone businesses and sell them to another entrepreneur or upgrade to premium versions that offer higher profit margins. Profit is always the goal and is the most important barometer of success.

Step Two: Double the Conversion Rates of Transactions

Money is a fabulous timesaver and those who know how to make money more efficiently can leverage it to carve out more time for themselves. The key to increasing profits is to convert unprofitable interactions into profitable ones. This is a foolproof formula for saving more hours each day without compromising productivity or earnings.

It does not have to take slow years to make the money needed to free up an extra 10 hours a week. Bear in mind that the road may be long, but those with a faster stride arrive at the desired destination much quicker. Most people crawl toward retirement. Innovative entrepreneurs sprint there in record time.

If you invest in a mutual fund or pension plan and it may take decades to get enough of a nest egg to make it possible to semi-retire and take 10 hours off each week to play golf or spend time with family. However, increasing profits in a business can be done in a matter of days or weeks.

To prepare for your profit-boosting initiative, gather accounting data and metrics to get a clear picture of where your profits come from, how many contacts are made with customers each month and how many customers make actual purchases. An easy way to harvest such information is by using software connected to point-of-sale terminals or cash registers.

Next, launch a marketing and advertising push to generate new customer leads, to encourage existing customers to buy more and to promote the most profitable products or services.

Part of this effort should involve a new way of looking at the business model. Most entrepreneurs see the future of their companies in terms of products and services that fill a particular market need or niche. Find the right merchandise and the customers will come. Build the best resort and it will be booked a year in advance. Invent a better mousetrap and make millions. Another way to view the marketplace of opportunity is to reverse that point of view. Instead of looking for the ideal items to sell, invest in purchasing the loyalty of the perfect customer. Rather than chasing market share, chase “wallet share” or more profitable customer-based transactions. No matter what a business sells, it’s ultimately the customers and how many times they spend money that generates the profits.

Invest in attracting and retaining good customers and the rest will take care of itself automatically. Instead of reinventing the wheel, find out who is buying wheels and make them your steady customers. Then sell them a premium wheel with a wider profit margin. Finally, ask clients to bring in their friends so that you can sell them a set of wheels too.

Once an expanding customer base is established, use incentives such as superior customer service, in-house financing, exclusive product lines and preferential customer perks to inspire clients to double the number of their monthly transactions.

Try up-selling customers to premium products. Cross-sell them to accessories or add-on features. Even down-sell to them by offering a more economical version of the product they can’t yet afford so that they don’t take their business to a competitor. At the same time, continually make a choreographed effort to generate fresh leads for potential new customers.

Here’s an example based on a goal of wanting to work 10 hours less without sacrificing productivity or profits. For the purpose of our example, we will assume that the business is open 40 hours per week or approximately 160 hours per month.

To gain 10 hours off each week without losing money, it is necessary to reap 40 hour’s worth of extra profits per month.  One week is 25 percent of a 4-week month. So to gain 10 hours per week it is necessary to increase conversion rates – in other words sales and profits – by 25 percent.

Do it by attracting more customers, by making an extra quarter of profit margin on each rand or by lowering overheads by 25 percent.  Get rid of customers who are wasting 25 percent of employee time.  Cut out discount coupons and unnecessary giveaways and institute in-house financing to capture extra sales and interest rate revenues. There are numerous ways to gain that extra 25 percent and to free up an extra 10 hours per week.

Step Three: Run Your Businesses on Auto-Pilot

Now the business owner has enviable options. One possibility is to close down the business for 10 hours each week, take time off and settle for making the same amount of money per month that was generated before boosting profits by 25 percent.

Another alternative is to leverage that newfound success for progressive changes and forward momentum. You can maintain the same hours of operation, capture the extra 25 percent in profits and then wisely reinvest those profits in greater timesaving initiatives.

By working smarter – not harder – through organized systems, cutting edge technology, innovative advertising and dynamic employee training, you can prepare to put the business into the hands of capable others – which is the next step toward personal freedom. If somebody else is running the store – without any loss of productivity – it is possible for you to literally play golf all day without loss of income.

Harry Welby-Cooke is the Master Licensee for ActionCOACH South Africa. He is also the President of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors Association of South Africa). ActionCOACH is the world’s largest executive and business coaching company with operations in 39 countries. It is also on the list of the top 100 franchises globally. As a highly successful Business and Executive coach, Harry is a master of teaching business owners how to turn their businesses around and accelerate their growth. Email him at harrywelbycooke@actioncoach.com or call 0861 226 224

Work Life Balance

How To Tell When It’s Time To Quit And Move On

Owning your own business is always a wonderful dream. The reality isn’t always so wonderful.

John Boitnott

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Becoming an entrepreneur, owning your own business, setting your own hours, being the boss … for many of us, it’s a dream come true. At the same time, though, many business owners wake up one day and wonder, “How did I get here? And how can I get out?”

People strongly attracted to the idea of creating and growing a small business of their own one day probably can’t imagine feeling a pervasive need to flee from that business. Some balk at the mere suggestion that sometimes quitting a business might be the right thing to do.

It’s wise to have an exit strategy in place, and you also must know when it’s time to implement it. While the right answer in any individual case will vary, there are some common circumstances in which leaving or shutting down a business you’ve built might be the prudent course of action.

1. You’re so busy that if you take time off things start to fall apart

Starting a business of your own requires a lot of hard work and long, gruelling hours. However, if you’re still pulling all-nighters and working straight through the weekend five years later, that’s not a good thing.

Before you throw in the towel, explore ways to get your life back in balance. Delegate responsibilities to trustworthy employees, and train them well. However, if you’ve tried this approach without success, it might be time to consider selling the business and moving on to the next dream.

Related: 9 Reasons To Quit Your Job As Soon As You Can

2. You’re experiencing more frequent health issues and stress

For all our strength and adaptability, human beings can be fragile. Our bodies tend to suffer for our persistence and drive. Additionally, stress makes entrepreneurs even more susceptible to mental illnesses such as depression.

If you’re constantly feeling run down, exhausted or ill on a regular basis, it could be your body’s way of signalling to you that it’s time to lighten that load, or drop it altogether.

Make an appointment with your doctor first to take care of your mind and body. Then, give some serious thought to cutting back on your duties, phasing yourself out of the CEO position, or selling the business altogether.

3. You constantly need new customers and it’s hard to hang on to existing ones

If your business is constantly engaged in a hunt to convert more first-time buyers, and simultaneously failing to keep past and current ones satisfied, your business is in danger. Paying more attention to marketing and customer service departments can alleviate these issues.

However, if you’ve tried these approaches without success, it may be time to call it a day altogether. The worst response is to throw good money after bad in a futile effort to plug the leak. With the experience you’ve gained, you may now be in a much better position to make a new venture a long-term success.

Related: 10 Things You Must Do Before Quitting Your Job To Start Your Company

4. You have to force yourself out of bed in the mornings

Everyone has those mornings where nothing sounds better than spending the day on the couch with Netflix and a pint of ice cream. That’s a sign that you’re human and maybe you need a break.

If you’re experiencing a string of those kinds of days, though, that’s a sign that something much bigger is at stake. It’s time to examine why you’re continuing to pursue something that no longer makes you happy or fulfils you.

Bad days will come and go, but when that’s all you seem to have, it could be time to move on.

5. Your business runs fine in your absence – and you actually prefer time off

When your business runs like clockwork, whether you’re there or not, you know you’ve done your job well. You’ve built a sustainable business. However, just because you succeeded at something, that doesn’t mean you absolutely must continue to keep doing it indefinitely.

If your business gets along just fine without you, and you find yourself looking outside your company for new challenges and opportunities, it might be a good time to start thinking about exiting altogether. In doing so, you’re following the time-honoured path of successful entrepreneurs everywhere.

Related: Branson: Know When To Quit Your Day Job

Takeaways

Obviously you don’t want to take the decision to exit your business lightly. It’s as serious a decision as starting a business in the first place. However, by the same token, don’t dismiss the idea altogether if you’re experiencing one or more of the above circumstances.

Create a workable exit plan that takes into consideration not just your own interests but also your business and its employees. Then you can start thinking about what’s next.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

Crushing It? More Like Crushing Me. How One Missed Flight Stopped Me From Burning Out

Constant travel, trade shows, 5 a.m. starts, 16-hour days and late-night drinks with partners had left me spent.

Dave Carruthers

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flight

Tech start-ups have a storied culture of breakneck-paced work and personal sacrifices. The industry is led by individuals who have proudly made their work their life, whatever the cost. The frantic energy of this lifestyle is exciting, and the image of it is alluring. But, make no mistake, it’s also unrealistic and dangerous.

In 2013, I launched a video feedback technology company, Voxpopme. We’ve quickly scaled to employ 50 people across three continents, raising millions from angel investors and VCs. We’ve also accumulated a client list including many Fortune 500 brands. On the exterior, everything looked great. But, in July, after over 45 solid days on the road, the happy accident of a missed flight reminded me of just how much I was missing by keeping this schedule.

The day before I needed to be in Nashville, Tenn., for a client meeting, followed immediately by two weeks of travel in the U.K., I missed my flight to London. Looking at my laptop to re-book, I felt overwhelmed and was overcome with a need to stop, to take a break, to escape. I had already worked through the majority of a family vacation just a few weeks earlier. Constant travel, trade shows, 5 a.m. starts, 16-hour days and late-night drinks with partners had left me spent. After thriving on the adrenaline of constant work for months, something had changed. I was absolutely dreading it. I just wanted to be at home. I missed my wife, my kids, even just sleeping in my own bed.

I canceled the rest of my trip and, after returning home, I had a period of intense reflection where I learned a lot about myself, and about the unforgiving pressure that entrepreneurship can cause. Fortunately, this learning experience only came at the cost of a plane ticket. But, I’d like to share the lessons learned. Others in my shoes have pushed themselves past where they should and paid a higher price.

ceo-superheroes

Lesson 1: There are no CEO superheroes

I’ve come to realise the impossibility of becoming one of those romanticised, non-sleeping startup CEO geniuses. This class of person did not exist in the first place.

The myth of the superhero-CEO is common because it serves a potent marketing goal. As the Wall Street Journal noted in June, “Powerful founder-CEOs who were once lauded for flouting convention are facing a new reality: They aren’t superheroes, after all. Treating them as if they were has been bad for their companies and investors alike.”

The myth’s danger, as the Journal article states, is because it is the root of the misplaced confidence in companies like Theranos, where Elizabeth Holmes’s purported genius was used to silence the company’s critics. This myth gave former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick too much leeway for malfeasance, encouraged by the idea that he was somehow irreplaceable.

For upstart CEOs like myself, this is an unhealthy example to follow. Rejecting needs like sleep and family time left me burnt out. I didn’t see it coming because I had on blinders, in pursuit of this unattainable image.

Lesson 2: When you are your business, your health is your business’s

Re-grouping in Utah, I sat down with one of my mentors, Lonnie Mayne. He had seen this coming. He said I had been maintaining a schedule that was bad for relationships, my family and – yes – bad for business. Having one person as the lynchpin of an entire company is unhealthy for all involved.

Ariana Huffington has recently expanded her career to study this phenomenon, promoting a restful-but-successful lifestyle in the wake of personal tolls that came with running The Huffington Post. After seeing Elon Musk humblebrag on TV about his lifestyle of 100-plus hour workdays, she wrote him an open letter asking him to see the error of his ways.

Quoting a critical passage: “After 17-19 hours without sleep, we begin to experience levels of cognitive impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .05 percent, just under the threshold for being legally drunk. No business leader would hire people who came to work drunk, so don’t model that behaviour for your employees.”

The start-up world is one where one bad decision can undo thousands of man-hours of hard work. Burning the candle at both ends drastically increases the odds of this happening.

writing

Lesson 3: Take what you love and write it down

In the midst of this regroup, I told my mentor Mayne about the guilt I felt when I wasn’t working. Often, I’d sit down to watch a football match but internally beat myself up for not focusing on my enormous to-do list. If I wasn’t working, I wasn’t happy.

In response to my company’s to-do list, Mayne suggested developing one of my own. We started by writing a list of everything that mattered to me: Friends, family, fitness, health, watching sports, snowboarding. To ensure balance, we broke them down into my primary focus for that month and things that were important and needed attention but were not a top priority. I shared this with my wife and our executive team so they understood where my focus was.

Finally, I weighed my personal list against my company’s and made some real concessions to ensure I would be able to prioritise both. I completely restructured my schedule for the rest of the year, switching from 80:20 travel to 20:80, and committing to being more present with my family and using my time more effectively to lead the business.

This ties back to Lesson 2, as a part of this involved delegating some areas of the business to my team. Rather than worry about keeping up with everything as the company grows, I’m proud knowing that I’ve put together a team that is capable of stepping in to share the burden.

There comes a point in a company’s growth where it’s no longer possible to maintain the “start-up grind” that was once necessary for survival. This isn’t a negative! This is a sign things are moving in the right direction.

Lesson 4: You’re not alone

Finally, I decided to write about this experience on LinkedIn. Initially, I was worried: What would my team think, how would existing and prospective investors react … would people think I was weak?

I couldn’t have been further from the mark.

My inbox was flooded with messages of support. I even had a VC email me to share that he had realised this lesson too late at his startup and had paid a heavy personal price as a result. Two months on, I’m more productive than ever before. I have more energy and a much clearer vision for the company. All while working fewer hours, focusing my time in the right place and not neglecting the people most important to me. Ultimately, I’ve managed to find a balance and make sure that I’m winning without losing.

If my story feels like yours, take a moment to evaluate your next three months and focus on the things that really matter. Odds are, you’ve already surrounded yourself with people who have the ability and know-how to deliver the things you thought too important to let go. Trust them to help your company achieve sustainable growth and watch yourself grow as a result.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

3 Ways To Balance Your Business, Family And Everything Else

You can do it all (or at least make it easier to do everything you enjoy) with these smart tips from a successful entrepreneur.

Manny Khoshbin

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The following excerpt is from Manny Khoshbin’s book Driven: The Never-Give-Up Roadmap to Massive Success.

Balancing your life is like one of those acrobatic acts where people are standing on top of one another balancing themselves — each person represents an important part of your life. You want to keep them all up there without anyone falling. Not so easy, is it?

To really appreciate and enjoy what you have, balancing the many aspects of your life is essential, but many people aren’t very good at it. I was one of those people in my first marriage. I was wrapped up in my business and not spending enough time and energy on my marriage. In the end, the marriage blew up.

I admit, it’s hard to say no to business when it comes knocking at your door, especially when you’re selling real estate and a qualified buyer comes along. However, if you don’t know when to put the brakes on and slow down, you may find yourself out of control and missing out on a lot of your life.

Many people get a taste of success and they want to scale it, so they just dive into it 24/7. The next thing they know, 10 years have gone by and they’ve built a huge empire but lost sight of everything else. They realise that their spouse is now their ex, their kids are now teenagers, other family members, as well as friends, have moved on, and they’ve missed so much of their personal life that not even money can buy it back.

So, how do you balance work, family and everything else? For one thing, you need to accept that you have to make many compromises, have a positive attitude and know that it can be done.

Balancing businesses

business-balance

Besides running my own business, Leyla and I are partners in her business. Warning: This type of arrangement will not work for all couples, but it can work well, provided you clarify your positions and respect each other’s roles.

The trick is knowing how to combine, and then separate, business and marriage. For example, Leyla and I sometimes have to go to Los Angeles for meetings or to an expo or a beauty show in Las Vegas. We take the opportunity to make a full weekend out of it, working at the event and then going out on the town.

At home, we have date nights at least once a week, even if all we do is grab a quick dinner and then come back home. It’s important to break the routine and put business aside. On weekends, Leyla’s business is closed and I don’t work, and we spend time with our kids. We try to make time for each of our top priorities: our family, each other and our work.

Unfortunately, when you’re working together and discussing, or sometimes arguing, about business during the day, it’s difficult to switch gears when you get home and shift into husband-and-wife mode. We try to be careful to stop ourselves without letting the day spill over into our personal life together.

I’ll admit, however, that it does take some practice, learning how to turn the switch off before you leave the office to go home. But in time it gets easier. You need to set some rules together, then make sure you’re both on board with those rules.

Related: 6 Secrets Smart Leaders Employ To Achieve Work-Life Balance

Hobbies and passions: cars and cigars

You also need time for your hobbies. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve loved exotic cars. I bought my first exotic car in 1992, a Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo. Fast-forward 10 years, and I had started falling in love with Ferraris as well as Porsches. I have continued collecting cars, and I now have 15 cars.

Even though they’re a hobby, I have an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to my passion for cars. In fact, I view them in a similar way that I do great pieces of property, though I’d prefer to keep them than sell to the highest bidder. To me, they’re like works of art that I view as investments, knowing that they’re of great value.

Cars aren’t my only passion, though. It’s important to have some passions that you can enjoy away from work, from family and from everything else. You also want some alone time. For example, I also own a cigar lounge (www.CubanoRoom.com) where I can go to relax by myself or meet another successful member while smoking a fine cigar.

I treat my passions like a business because that’s who I am — I enjoy them and also make money – but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you enjoy bicycling, you don’t have to go and open a bicycle store. You can simply find a group of riders, do some travelling and have fun.

It’s important to fit some alone time into your busy balancing act. We all need some moments when we escape from everyone and everything. The best thing to do is figure out what makes you happy and balance the hustle of your busy life with your own passion.

Related: How To Work 10 Hours Less Each Week

Extended family

Family time is so important to me, both as a father and as a member of an extended family. Besides spending time with Leyla and my children, I see my parents often. I bought them a ranch about 90 miles away from Newport Beach back in 2004. Now they visit us every Friday or Saturday – we have a barbecue and play backgammon or cards.

We also see Leyla’s mom and sister often. Her mom still works as a registered nurse and lives in Beverly Hills. Leyla’s sister is nearby in San Diego where she works for a company called Houzz, an online community for home construction, landscape design, home improvement, repairs and so forth.

Leyla and I both recognise the importance of having our extended family nearby and making time to spend together. Otherwise, time goes by quickly, and you suddenly realise that it’s been years since you spent some quality time together.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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