Since I was a little kid perfecting my door-to-door cheese- and sausage-selling skills, I've had the mentality that the harder you work, the more money you'll make. As I've gotten older, though, I've realized that's just not the case. It's more about how smart you work. And by exploring areas that can help you make better decisions, save money, and decrease your overall workload, you can substantially increase your profits.
Here are seven tips for working smarter that I live by:
1. Take Innovation Vacations
This is something I heard about a while ago from our investor, and I honestly haven't done that great at it myself. My co-founder and I took a trip together to get out of the office and relax, and I think we had almost forgotten what it was like to be away from work and not focused on operations. Taking a break eases your mind, keeps you from getting too caught up in work, and allows you to just think. I'd recommend looking at an event to pair your innovation vacation with. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Gala is coming up, so you might want to plan a mini-retreat to Orlando, Fla.
2. Leverage Your Buying Power
Group purchasing organizations have been around for a long time, but they've existed mostly in the healthcare field. Recently, we started working with UNA Purchasing Solutions, a fast-growing GPO focused on small- and medium-sized businesses, hospitality groups, associations, and nonprofits. In today's marketplace, it makes sense to consider working with GPOs or other buying groups to lower your direct and indirect costs.
3. Turn Down Business
When we started Influence & Co., I would take on pretty much anyone who could write a check. Now that we've grown, however, taking on the wrong client could be one of our biggest mistakes. It could create a major distraction, produce negative brand advocates, and decrease employee happiness. Instead, take a look at your most profitable clients, and do what you can to duplicate them.
The same goes for publishing content. Don't just focus on pitching mainstream websites or sharing content on every social media platform out there. Niche publications prevail, and the platforms that work best for your target audience and your business goals should be your focus. In fact, our team created a content maximization checklist that can help in leveraging your content marketing efforts.
4. Practice Proactive Hiring
This is an easy mistake to make in an effort to save money. Why hire until you have to? However, this can easily turn into hiring the wrong person in a panic or in a rush to find someone to fill a needed position, and hiring the wrong person can increase training time and turnover. Don't open applications only when you have an urgent need. Try adopting the philosophy that you're always hiring because you never know when a talented unicorn will fall in your lap. You can always nurture these relationships and develop a good bench.
5. Accept That It's OK to Outsource
I'm probably one of the most frugal entrepreneurs around. I'm still the one changing the toilets on my rentals that I bought in college. Lately, I've realized that the time it saves me to not do this is much more valuable than the cost of having someone else do it. It's a no-brainer, and I feel like an idiot for having done it for years.
This is something I see all the time in content marketing. People say, "Well, I'll try it myself first." Trust me--developing a strong content marketing campaign is so much more complicated than changing a toilet. Look at what you're doing internally, and see whether it makes sense to keep doing it yourself. My co-founder just wrote a post on this very subject, and she delved into the pros and cons of both outsourcing content creation and hiring internally.
6. Join Organizations That Can Help You Vet
There have been instances when I've spent time checking something out, researching online, or vetting when I could have easily just asked someone in my network. I could have asked another member of the Young Entrepreneur Council or asked my co-founder to reach out to her Entrepreneurs' Organization group. Many of these kinds of organizations really don't demand that much of your time--in fact, they'll probably save you from wasting it.
7. Don't Hesitate to Ask for Help
I don't know whether people avoid asking for help out of pride, the fear of owing someone, or the desire to not be an imposition. But I've learned there's nothing wrong with asking someone for help in most cases, especially when it's just for a recommendation or thoughts on an idea.
There have been weeks when I've spent time working on a business idea and then asked a contact for his thoughts, only to hear, "Yeah, nice try, but Uber already exists." If I'd just asked before spending all that time on an idea that was going nowhere, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. Never be scared to ask.
You've invested countless hours and dollars in your business, but you don't need to burn the midnight oil every night to keep it profitable. Use these seven tips to work smarter, and you'll reap the rewards for years to come.