opinion

Core Values

Stephen Yagielowicz

They say that time is the one thing that everyone wants more of, but no one can buy. Although hiring employees or outsourcing tasks can help you make better use of the time you do have, you simply can’t buy any more; and trying to squeeze more from your time can leave you wrung out like an old dish cloth…

I once had a client, a jeweler in a highly competitive market, who worked from early in the morning, to late at night, every single day. He was older and he likely should have been retired by then, but was still at it. I asked him why he worked so hard when he could have let others carry the load.

“I am the engine that drives my company,” he replied, providing a perspective which has guided my own work ethic in the two intervening decades since that encounter; but this stalwart jeweler spent a lot of his day performing tasks others could have done better, and had he been able to “let go,” he would have enjoyed his life more than he did.

Working for yourself requires a different mindset than working for someone else; with self-motivation and time management key factors to your success. You can’t just sit around waiting to be told what to do next — you have to know what is required and do it. This takes self-discipline and sacrifice — which are two commodities that are not usually associated with today’s youth.

When you’re a solo operator or a key player in a small shop, the hours spent working add up quickly. When you are young and the ground is rich, those long hours seemingly melt away. For example, the first wave of “Gold Rush” placer miners labored tirelessly, partly because their diggings were so profitable — picking up chunks of gold just lying there on the ground — stopping seemed stupid: get it while you can, or the next guy will!

Likewise, the early days of the adult Internet rained cash on those willing to put in the time required to profit from porn-seeking punters — with the more hours you worked the more money you made.

These days, that is not always the case.

While gold can still be recovered in previously worked placers, just as porn profits remain both on- and offline, the time, money and energy invested in the pursuit can leave the holdout solo or smaller operator to determine that “this just isn’t worth it anymore.”

While more money and energy (staff) can be applied to the problem, time is the issue; and taking a temporal tack when analyzing your productivity can be most illuminating.

For instance, a recent discussion about “where does the time go?” led me to analyze the small handful of current, pending and potential projects on my plate — comparing the total amount of time and money spent on each project, with the profit it actually delivers.

Sadly, some of the projects I spend the most time and money on actually make the least money. It’s not that they are “bad” projects, but perhaps now past their shelf life — or are in need of so much attention that they would exclude everything else on my plate — with no clear promise of profitability for 2013 and beyond.

For example, post-Penguin, a site that once relied exclusively on Google for its traffic now sees literally zero visitors from the search giant. The amount of my time and money, let alone the energy that it would take to revitalize this site and boost its traffic, could be ultimately wasted, however, given the realities of the current marketplace.

It’s another nail in the coffin of the lone Webmaster, but not necessarily a fatal one.

Growing bigger is one option. Spend the money to use someone else’s time to help leverage your own by doing necessary tasks that fall outside of your primary skill set — and hope the return justifies the investment.

Abandoning the past is another, final option.

Like a banana that has gone too brown to eat, some once-tasty projects simply need to be tossed on to the compost heap of history. The fact that things change does not have to equate to “failure.” It’s just a matter of adapting to evolving circumstances rather than blindly following past practices: like a caged hamster racing along in his little wheel — expending boundless energy, but getting nowhere.

Making tough choices is even tougher when you realize a project is still valid but that you will either never get to it — or that you may not be the one who can make it succeed. Watching the number of domain portfolios going up for grabs, it’s clear that this process is reaching into even the largest of companies.

The Manwin machine, among others, might be able to squeeze gold bars out of these projects, but for one guy, it’s just too much work for too little reward and an irreplaceable waste of time — no matter how “cool” a domain name sounded when you bought it.

The best you can do today is literally “what you do best.”

By focusing on your core competencies and basic values, you could get better results, even if you are no longer doing what you expected to be doing. For example, I’m certain that readers who have labored through my clumsier concoctions believe I would benefit more from extra writing classes than from studying the latest jQuery usage techniques — and coding not being my core competency, I tend to agree.

It’s not just “adapt or die” it’s also “streamline and prosper,” with those who are able to closely focus on their core competencies and values positioned for a better tomorrow.

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