As long term readers of this blog know, my initial goal as an entrepreneur was not specifically to get crazy-rich. It was to get free to choose how I spent my time and have enough money to have options.
In essence, I wanted the 4-Hour Workweek lifestyle long before Tim Ferriss coined this phrase with his popular book (you can listen in to my first ever interview with Tim about his first book here from back in 2007).
As all entrepreneurs do when they start with nothing, I turned my focus to making enough money to survive as my first big goal. Ideally, I wanted to never require a full-time job, but I also didn’t want to live with my parents for the rest of my life either, so my income had to increase.
I managed to achieve my goal, but at first it required two side business projects and two part-time jobs — I had quite the patchwork income!
My part-time jobs were not terrible, but I still had to be somewhere on someone else’s schedule and earned a capped income, getting paid by the hour.
This was not freedom, so my next goal was to increase my business profits to cover what I was making from my jobs.
It required two more years of juggling jobs and business, but eventually I was earning enough from my online projects that I could leave my part-time jobs.
Working ON The Business, Not IN The Business
At this point in my story I had achieved a major goal — I’d generated enough money to survive independently, with no need to live with my parents or keep any kind of job.
Yet I still found myself missing one piece of the freedom pie — I was controlled by my business.
I performed critical roles in the machine that generated my income. In particular, if I wasn’t there to handle the emails coming in, the business would not work.
I remember around this period of my life reading Michael Gerber’s E-Myth book for the first time. The E-Myth preached about the difference between working ‘IN’ your business versus working ‘ON’ your business.
The book described different roles you can perform in your business, from the technician (working to service customers, keep the business doing what it does) to the manager (coordinating other people, resources) to entrepreneur (guiding strategy, owning the business but not running it day-to-day).
At the time I sat somewhere between technician and manager, still performing some of the operational tasks and all the customer support roles myself, and managing a team of people who delivered the service we offered.
There was very little ‘Entrepreneur’ in my role in my company. Sure I was keeping profits the business made for myself, but even this could have been considered a salary for work performed — I was basically getting paid by the hour still!
In order to grow my business I hired help. I’d already realized it was important to outsource some of the tech work to a tech specialist. I also hired more contractors to work as we had more customer jobs coming in.
Now you’d think that by hiring more people everything was heading in the right direction. We had more revenue coming in from more jobs, and I was growing a team that delivered services.
As good as that sounds, I still hadn’t really become an ‘Entrepreneur’. I was working mostly IN the business, not ON the business, handling many of the day-to-day tasks, in particular, all the emails that came in every day to coordinate all the people working for me.
I was certainly not living a 4-Hour Workweek.
Have You Been In This Situation?
If you’re in charge of a growing a business you’ve probably enjoyed the excitement of more customer orders coming in and thus hiring more people to deliver products or services to keep up with demand.
When this occurs, despite your revenue numbers jumping up nicely, that money doesn’t turn into more freedom for you. In fact, the opposite occurs. Your spare time disappears, your stress levels increase, and life gets a whole lot busier.
This was the situation I was in with my business. I was finally earning a full-time income from it, but I was also trapped to it.
The E-Myth book certainly triggered thoughts in my mind about how to free myself from my business, but it wasn’t until I went on a trip to attend a tournament in Sydney that it finally dawned on me what I needed to do.
For some reason, it was this experience trying to run my business while traveling, and feeling like I was trapped to my email to process all the jobs and coordinate my team, that I realized I needed to make one change.
The change was so simple in principle… I could have someone else handle my email.
It’s weird to think about it today, but back then I just didn’t see email as something someone else could do for me. I just did that role as I had always done it, feeling that it was my job.
The E-Myth forced me to look at everything in my business as a process. Then, when I asked myself how I could get out of ‘technician’ and ‘manager’ roles in my company, I realized the last step to make this happen was having someone take over all the email processes.
It turned out that email was the big barrier from me living a literal 4-Hour Workweek.
I Hired Someone To Handle My Email
I won’t go into how exactly I hired someone to handle my email since I’ve already covered this subject in detail in this podcast here. I suggest you listen to it if you are looking to do the same.
After I hired and trained someone to handle my email, and gave them a few weeks to fully take over the role, I experienced a strange moment…
I logged into my work email account and it was empty.
I then checked the various folders, including the sent folder to see what emails were sent, and fully came to grasp that my job as the email person had been taken over by someone else.
Based on the history folders in our business email account, we had new jobs come in that day, including some payment notification emails. I excitedly logged into PayPal and saw the money for the jobs sitting there.
This was the first time that my company had made money without me being a part of any of the processes.
The jobs came in, payments came in, the jobs were processed by my email person, completed by my contractors, and then returned to the clients. All of this happened over email and best of all, I was not involved.
Going forward from that day I only had to make a few key decisions now and then to keep my business running. It literally became a 4-hour per week job for me.
As I noted earlier, this was before Tim released his book, so I wasn’t specifically looking to match this goal, but it was a goal I was excited to achieve.
Several years later I sold that business. It was A LOT easier to find a buyer because I had hired someone to handle emails.
I could tell prospective new owners that they were essentially buying a money-making machine. I offered them a company that they don’t have to actually do anything to keep working, they just needed to step in and be the owner-entrepreneur, not the manager and not the technician.
This was very appealing as you can imagine, and it didn’t take long to find a buyer.
Is It Time For You To Step Away From Email Too?
The strange thing for me looking back over this time in my business history was how unaware I was of the potential to outsource my email.
I’d always handled email myself from day one. No matter what projects I worked on, email was my job. Even as I began to hire people to do all the other jobs, I still never saw email as something to hand over to someone else.
Today I’m a cofounder of InboxDone.com, a business that provides professionally trained email managers for other entrepreneurs and busy professionals. We step in and take over email inboxes so people can break free, just as I did all those years ago from my business when I hired my first inbox manager.
It’s not surprising, as we have grown this business, that it’s been necessary to teach people that it is possible for them to not do their own email.
Inbox addiction is real, and entrepreneurs seem especially prone to it. Possibly because we get used to the adrenaline rush of getting a new sale, or the mad dash of fixing problems, or just that feeling of seeing new messages — email is a huge part of lives.
Letting go of this key function in your business — and your life! — is hard. Frequently I have to first wake people up to the concept of ‘not doing your email’ and then once I’ve got them on board with the idea, we have to push through and train them how to let go.
However, once they realize other people can do their email, or at the very least take over 80% to 90% of it and in fact do a better job than they do, then they get to experience that first day waking up to an empty inbox. They get the joyful realization that they don’t have to spend several hours a day responding to emails anymore, which is a real breakthrough. It’s literally life-changing.
If this sounds like something you need to experience in your life and business, then I encourage you to book a discovery call with me to talk about how my team can take over your email too.
If your busy enough to justify needing the help, or you know your business really needs someone in the email role, including providing administrative and/or customer service support over email, that’s what we specialize in.
Here’s the link to book a discovery call:
You can also read more about what an Inbox Manager can do for you on the InboxDone.com website.
Good luck reaching your own 4-Hour Workweek goals.