Working Smarter – by the sweat of thy brow…

I remember, as a very young man (many centuries ago!) reading an article about Pierre Cardin, who at the time was one of the premiere fashion designers in the world and one of the first to leverage his brand name to diversify into a wide range of other non-fashion products. In the article he touched on his attitudes to life and, when asked about the reasons for his success, he stated that he tried to live his life and run his business by a simple philosophy, based on a motto he had learned in his youth:

If a man has talent and works hard, he can be a king

If a man has no talent, but works, he can still be a prince

But if a man has only talent, he will always be a pauper

This motto impressed me so much that I typed it out, framed it and kept it with me for many years.

It’s always struck me as a very simple, but extremely powerful philosophy, which you can apply to any area of your life, including your business; you don’t have to be the most talented businessperson in the world, but if you are prepared to work hard at it, your chances of success are much improved.

In the 1970s a humble hod carrier called Max Quarterman became a tabloid favourite and a minor national hero because of his capacity for hard work, during a period when British industry was characterised by constant strikes and endless tea-breaks.  Nicknamed “Superhod,” Max was able to live a millionaire lifestyle because he and his plastering gang could complete – in a day and a half – the same amount of work that other gangs took 2 weeks to finish.  By sheer hard work, he and his team became very rich.

One of the areas of your business where the philosophy of hard work bringing success is most pertinent is in the sales and marketing function.  All sales people know that selling is mainly a numbers game; talk to enough people and one of them will eventually say “Yes.”  That’s why the capacity for hard work is usually more valued within a sales environment than a natural sales talent.

Working harder, or working smarter, which is better?

If you have a business selling a product or service, one essential requirement for success is generating enough leads or enquiries to be able to sell enough to make a profit.   This applies equally if you own a shop or you are a plumber or an accountant selling your time and expertise.  So it’s simple – grow your business by working harder to generate more potential customers and then working harder to turn the potential into actual sales.

But there’s something missing here.  Working harder isn’t enough; Superhod’s success arose because – as well as working at a much faster pace than others – he also created a custom-built hod that could carry much more plaster than normal, enabling him to keep his plasterers fully supplied and preventing hold-ups on the job.

Superhod had discovered the missing ingredient – working smarter! Any business success that can be gained from working harder will be amplified by working more intelligently and efficiently.  Potential improvements that will accrue from working harder in your business will be limited by the capacity within the business – the hours available to work, opening hours, time period required to deliver the service, etc.  Working smarter helps you and your business to overcome these restrictions and achieve even greater success by selling more stuff, reducing your costs and speeding up your operations.

The answer – working smarter AND harder

Working smarter can be as simple as changing your delivery routes to reduce your fuel costs and journey times, or changing your shop opening hours to capture a heavier flow of customers. The point is that you don’t have to make major changes – if you keep making small tweaks over a period of time, you will achieve significant improvements.

So the secret to real success is to work hard AND have a little bit of talent – the talent to be able to keep identifying ways of working smarter.

About Matrixmam

Michael Barrows is the principal consultant at Matrix Marketing & Management, a business improvement consultancy and training organisation.
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