By Aaron Nasseh
For as long as I can remember, I have been told that the secret to success is simply hard work. We still hear it daily on TV or quoted on social media. It's everywhere. For most of my life, I subscribed to this philosophy. I believed that if I worked harder, I would succeed.
Indeed, like many other entrepreneurs, I took pride in my work ethic, my 12- to 14-hour days in the office away from my family, sacrificing my health and precious time working on building a successful company. However, when I started my own ISO several years ago, I never thought it would someday reshape that philosophy.
This bold venture proved to be the best decision I have made in my professional career. I have learned many invaluable lessons as a result of starting my own ISO, and I would like to share one of those lessons with you in this article.
As an entrepreneur, you expect to wear several hats when starting a new project. You are simultaneously the CEO and the mailroom clerk and everything in between. While my company was immediately successful and kept growing, after a couple of years I found myself working harder and longer just to keep up with the daily demands. I also felt that something was missing. I never seemed to have enough time to implement new sales initiatives, and I was becoming a prisoner of my own creation.
After some deep thinking, I realized that I had stretched myself too thin and that by working 14 hours a day, I wasn't doing the most important job an entrepreneur should be doing: innovating, planning and executing new strategies. Sadly, I was so caught up in the day-to-day operations of the company that there was no time left for me to do anything else.
I know some believe that hiring additional help could have solved this, but we had no shortage of good help. If headcount were the answer, we wouldn't have companies in our industry generating over $600 million in annual revenue, yet reporting millions of dollars in losses.
The problem was deeper, and it resided within me. The reality was that in the midst of the bustle, I had lost touch with what I called my entrepreneur's mind. What is the entrepreneur's mind, you may ask? It's simply the ability to innovate, inspire, visualize, create, stay one step ahead of the competition, execute new initiatives and, above all, stay hungry. In short, it's the mentality everyone has the day before embarking upon a new business venture.
So I took a step back and started working fewer hours, mainly because I was burned out. And something magical happened when I did this. My mind started operating like the ambitious entrepreneur that I was prior to starting my ISO, and my energy was restored. So instead of just operating more as an operations manager who is only concerned with getting through all of the daily applications, calls, deployments, emails, etc., I decided to go back to being not just the Chief Executive Officer, but also the Chief Visionary Officer.
The first step I took was to conduct an analysis of areas affected most by my lack of involvement. I recognized that we could operate more efficiently by restructuring certain departments and reducing headcount. I also learned that I needed to be directly involved in business development and marketing. Next, I drafted a new vision statement and set new goals for the company.
Once those tasks were completed, I immediately began outsourcing many of the less than critical tasks that were previously being done in-house. I know "outsourcing" may sound like a bad word to many, but it's a fact of business today, and if you are working with a good team, it will drastically increase your productivity, not to mention save your company a ton of money on payroll. And with the margin compression our industry has been experiencing, a dollar saved is truly a dollar earned.
Next, I renegotiated our pricing with our processing partners to improve our margins, which would enable us to have a more attractive offering compared to our competitors. We also ventured out and began offering other services such as merchant cash advance and consumer financing – all of this being done with a lower headcount.
I became far more efficient in my workday, and at this point I had cut down my workday to an average of six to seven hours per day, and focused primarily on business development. Business immediately began growing as I implemented these new sales initiatives. Within a matter of 7 months, our production had more than tripled, with fewer employees in the office, and a bottom line that was looking better each day.
In the following months I secured a seven-figure line of credit, commenced negotiations in some strategic acquisitions, signed some larger ISOs and surpassed our 24-month plan in only nine months. Needless to say, I was very happy.
Today, on average, I work no more than five to six hours per day. I am able to spend much more time with my family and friends, and I am able to take part in other activities that I enjoy – all while the company is setting record numbers.
All of this is to say that as an entrepreneur, you simply cannot afford to lose your entrepreneur's mind, which is all too easy to do so when you are caught up in the day-to-day operations of a business.
Allow yourself the freedom to take more time for yourself; it's an investment that pays very high dividends.
The days of reaching high levels of success through sheer hard work seem to be behind us. We live in a digital age in which we're not rewarded for how hard we work, but for how efficient we are in our productivity. I realize also that working hard is too generic a concept to be useful advice. And, after all, repeating the same mistake 1,000 times does not get us any closer to our goals.
Today, I continuously remind myself that instead of working hard, I should focus on working smart. This means that I try to assess all business decisions for their potential to get me closer to my goals, as well as for their alignment with my broader vision. This saves me valuable time to be both productive and responsible to my loved ones. I hope telling the story of this chapter of my life has helped you understand that you sometimes have to take a step back before you can take a huge leap forward.
Aaron Nasseh is the founder and Chief Executive Officer at Finical Inc. His extensive sales and management experience includes having previously served as the General Manager of CardPayment Solutions and Vice President of Sales at iPayment Inc. He may be reached at email@example.com or at 818-330-4055.
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