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How much time should I spend building my business?

20 September 2022
Mark Friend
Digital & Tech, Building & Construction, Payroll, People, Building a Business

How much time should I spend building my business, or if I want to build a career in a company how many hours must I spend at work?  I love this question because for most of us it is very uncomfortable to answer and leads to great internal conflicts about work life balance.

Tim Ferriss wrote the bestselling “4 hours work week”. A great book sold on the premise that you don’t have to be a millionaire to live the lifestyle of a millionaire. Basically you can live the retired millionaire lifestyle by building your own business, automating it, and then collecting the income while you go off to live your dreams.  In the books Tim tells a story:

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while”. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Thought provoking? Knowing what we really want out of life is so important and need not necessarily cost a lot.

Here however is the kicker. How many hours a week do you think Tim Ferriss works? According to Scott Dinsmore, Tim Ferriss, works a minimum of 60 hours a week.

The reality is that for most of us having a simple life isn’t enough. We either want more or become addicted to the journey to build a great business.

At the extreme is Elon Musk who claims he regularly works 80-to-100-hour work weeks, with most of his skillset being focused on design and engineering work.

Musk goes on to say that a founder should work at least 80 hour weeks, especially in the early years of building a business. Whilst this may make very uncomfortable reading for most business owners the 80-hour week comes up time and time again.

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos all worked 80+ hour weeks whilst establishing their businesses. If you follow Patrick Bet David on YouTube he describes individuals who work 40 hour weeks as part-timers, 60 hours weeks as full timers and 80 hours weeks as all the timers. For Patrick you need to be an all the timer to get financial success.

So what do I see with the small businesses I deal with and from my own personal experience? 80-hour weeks come at a price but are highly likely to increase your chances of success. 60-hour weeks are extremely doable and in my opinion if you are establishing a business this is the minimum you will need to work to give your business a more than fair share chance of success. From my successful clients almost without exception the common factor is long hours.

Of course long hours is not the only factor in success and doesn’t on its own guarantee success. How you spend that time is critical and is something I work with clients on. Below are some of the attributes you will need and most involve working on the business rather than in the business:

  • A positive mindset,
  • Family support,
  • Clear goals and a business plan,
  • Developing a great service or product,
  • Uniqueness,
  • Building a great team around you,
  • Marketing,
  • Building strong foundations through systems and financial reserves,
  • Being bold, thinking big,
  • Ability to reflect, adapt and change,
  • Possessing a thirst for knowledge,
  • Being relentless,
  • Being disciplined,
  • Ability to overcome setbacks and above all to take strong decisive action.

The simple truth is how you spend your time is important but the more time you devote to your business the more you increase the odds of success.

But what is success to you? Maybe like the Mexican fisherman the simple things in life are enough. We are all different but be realistic – if you want the luxury house, the fancy car and financial wealth then a 40-hour week probably won’t cut the mustard!

The content in this blog is correct as at 5 September 2022. See terms and conditions.

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