Don’t believe what you read about entrepreneurs working only a few hours a week. That’s not realistic, but it does sell books. The vast majority of entrepreneurs work a lot of hours in a week. I sure do.
However, I do have one guilty pleasure. It may surprise you to know that I like to play a video game. Notice I didn’t say “games?” There’s really just the one. It’s called Civilization Revolution.
This game isn’t a role play or a first person shooter. It’s a strategy game. You start with one settlement and you grow it into a vast global civilization. Every decision you make can have dramatic long term consequences.
When I first started playing the game, I couldn’t figure out how to win at the highest difficulty level. My cities were protected by archer armies, but they didn’t stand a chance against the enemy tanks rolling up to them. Whether real or virtual, archers can’t beat tanks.
After playing (and losing) for quite some time, I decided to go online in search of help. Someone had to know how to beat this game on the hardest level.
Sure enough, someone did, but the trick had much broader implications. The key to winning the game is also the key to launching a successful business.
Very early in the game, as soon as you have enough money, the key is to invest all of your money in a library. Building a library helps you maintain a technology advantage over your opponents. Tech advantages come with perks, including the ability to sell those techs to your opponents for money.
I’m frugal by nature and I like to minimize my risks. That’s why it didn’t occur to me to invest all of my money in a library. Instead, I invested in archers to protect my cities from enemy invasion. I played it safe, which is why I lost the game and the reason why many of my business ventures failed.
When you’re starting a new business and your expenses are greater than your income, it’s easy to slip into protection mode. Rather than invest in your business, you cut back on everything to conserve your money. You may also decide to invest more of your time to save money. Both of these approaches are fraught with danger.
In business, your most important investment is marketing. It’s the business equivalent of the library in the video game. Marketing is also one of the largest expenses and, not surprisingly, it’s often the first to go when your back is against the wall. But what happens when you cut your marketing expenses? You competitors start stealing your business. In other words, their tanks roll over your archers.
If you decide to invest more of your time to save money, that’s also a problem. It means you’re doing something that could be done by someone else, and probably more effectively. If the work you’re taking on can be outsourced, the person you hire to do it will most likely be much better at it than you since that’s their area of expertise.
As a business owner, your purpose is to grow your business. You may also be responsible for producing the products or services that you’re selling. Those activities take a lot of time already so if you take on even more workload, everything suffers.
My philosophy has always been, “I’d rather spend money to save time, than spend time to save money.” Time is your most precious commodity. You only have 16 to 18 waking hours a day. No matter what you do, you can’t make more time, but money is just the opposite. You can always make more money.
If you’ve just launched your business or you’re still in the early stages of it, you have to invest in whatever your “library” is. If you’re not sure what that is, invest in education to figure it out. The worst thing you can do is slowly bleed yourself dry by under-investing and by playing it safe.