I'm willing to bet that more than a few of you have heard that oft-repeated phrase "keeping the saw sharp" or some version of it. In sum, the idea is that continual training allows you to retain and grow and become a better operator, owner, and entrepreneur.

But what about that equally important idea of "hard work"?

After all, it's instilled in us from our earliest years in cliché after cliché - hard work yields a payoff in the long run, right? You can't avoid it so you should honor it and appreciate the opportunity, right?

Wrong. You have to work - and that may be defined as "hard" but that meaning is subjective, so while long division may be hard for a child in school, the physical act of doing math homework is not "hard" - the concept is.

So that leads me to this point - if success is predicated on hard work, who is the judge of what is hard or difficult? To put it another way, let's look at how you might handle a landscaping problem at your house and which path required the hardest work - and which result made the most sense.

John, Jim, and Jack each have a tree fall down in their front yard in a storm.

John decides to cut the tree up with an ax, stack it neatly in the backyard, and use it for firewood.

Jim uses a chainsaw and loads it up on a trailer to haul to the landfill.

Jack calls a landscaping company to come out and handle the whole affair, then simply writes a check.

Who worked hardest?

Your answer, most likely, is John, since he labored for what is likely hours to get the work done. In terms of calories expended, you're likely correct, but John lost something else that day - time with his family or working on his business. Jim lost a few hours, too, but was able to be more efficient in his absence.

In this scenario, though, Jack really might have worked harder than John or Jim, because he had options available to him. He certainly could have done it himself, but, knowing that he isn't an expert in tree removal and it was never going to be a core part of his life or business, he opted to utilize an expert and concentrate on what he knew how to do. He applied some logic to the problem at hand and arrived at a solution that was aligned with his personal and business goals.

Now that I've got you thinking, change that fallen tree to a cavity in your child's teeth. Are you going to fix it yourself or call an expert?

From there, it's a short step over to envisioning your business practices, isn't it? How about keeping the books for your company? Sure, you can do it yourself, but are you any good at it? Does it further the development of your business, create more clients, or truthfully save you any money?

Of course it doesn't! Why, in the name of all that "hard work" do we allow ourselves as entrepreneurs to be distracted by problems that can be effectively solved by professionals far more skilled than us? In our tree example above, by staying at work instead of playing lumberjack, Jack is able to concentrate on creating sales and income that can more than pay for the cost of his tree removal problem. Or his kid's cavity. Or his bookkeeping.

The challenge of any business owner is not only to keep the saw sharp, but also to know if you even have a need for such a tool. It is one thing to seek out new ways to grow your company and new potential streams of income from new services or products, but it is quite another to take on responsibilities that are far from your primary job as Entrepreneur.

Published on: Sep 23, 2017