Working Hard to Work Smart

Yoo-hoo,  wake up!  Labor Day is behind us and it’s time to get serious about business.  Our Summer reverie is over until next year.  As inspiration,  I will speak with you about  “working smart”  vs. “working hard”.  That dichotomy has roamed through the popular press for quite some time,  but experience tells me that it is a straw man argument.  In reality,  if you want to be successful and realize your dreams and ambitions,  you are going to work both hard and  smart.  It has never been either or.  It’s both.

Working smart means prioritizing and devoting scarce time and resources to people and projects that deliver results.  Some ideas and activities are very appealing at first glance,  but either they do not have the potential to pan out in the way you would like or you lack the resources to bring about the desired outcome.  Research and analysis shows that time and money would be wasted there,  so you move on.

Effective hard work requires one to work smart.  There are 24 hours in a day and we do need time to sleep and eat,  as well as attend to responsibilities other than work.  Not everything can be outsourced.  The willingness and discipline to roll out of bed at 5:00 AM and work productively until 10:00 PM or even later may be the sweat equity one needs to invest to make the concept viable and sustainable.

Founder of the hardware and software integration company MicroSolutions and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team Mark Cuban knows all about working hard and making sacrifices.  Those behaviors supported him as he built MicroSolutions into a $30 million business.  In his role on the ABC-TV reality show Shark Tank,  the billionaire angel investor has found that aspiring entrepreneurs who have the discipline to learn more about their product,  their business model,  prospective customers,  the marketplace and the competition have the greatest chance for creating a successful enterprise.  He claims that money and connections are not as important as one might think  (I beg to differ on that point).   Cuban goes on to say that if you fail,  decipher what went wrong,  re-group and re-launch.

Cuban also cautions against constantly designing your products and services to give the customer what they say they want.  He advises business owners to solicit customer opinions about what could be made to function better and make doing business with you easier,  but to avoid relying on customer opinions to create future offerings.  Cuban points out that creating the road map to the future is the business owner’s job.  One stays in business by offering products and services to the customer that they don’t know they want until you give it to them.

But understand that hard work,  smart work and study won’t guarantee that you’ll create a successful business,  either.   Contrary to Cuban’s assertions,  connections count  (especially in the  intangible services arena,  where word-of-mouth is powerful);  money counts  (especially when funding the development of a product);  and good luck and timing count  (he may agree with these last factors).  Vision,  ingenuity and risk calculation also matter and these will impact your luck and timing.   Also,  let us not underestimate the momentum-building power of your absolute belief in your product or service and your ability to communicate that passion and enthusiasm to prospective customers and investors.

I leave you with a quote about working hard from Alexis Ohanian,  co-founder of the social news website reddit  and author of Without Their Permission  (2013) “I was willing to burn the candle at both ends.”

Thanks for reading,


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