The Virtue of Laziness

Speed Up Your Career by Indulging Your Lazy Gene

The unpaid bills are stacked next to the unwashed dishes. You’ve been short about $1,200 per month since the divorce.

You need something to fill that now-a-memory, two-income cash flow gap. Something that’s not a pipedream. Something that’s feasible, flexible, and powerful. Something capable of producing more dollars per hour than you’ve ever made in your life.

It can’t be a financial investment, because you’ve don’t have enough in the market to make a big difference. So what can you do?

Before shutting down your computer for the night, you check your email. You see an advertisement. But before you delete it, you notice something in the message about extra income. “What the hell,” you think.

You click on the link and it takes you to a landing page titled “The Extra Income Project.” It’s a promotion for a collection of two dozen lessons, each one a different way to make extra money by working part-time from home. The author is someone named Mark Ford, said to be a best-selling author and a self-made multimillionaire. You’ve never heard of him. Still…

You order the EIP program. It arrives immediately, and you spend the rest of the evening looking through the lessons. One of them – “Service Businesses” – is particularly interesting. “Compared to other side businesses, a service business has the lowest barrier of entry,” this Mark Ford character writes. “It can be started with the simplest marketing methods, requires little to no start-up capital, and is likely to put you into business faster than any other sort of enterprise. The one requirement: You must be capable of doing high quality work.”

“I can do that,” you think.

Ford then lists several dozen service businesses, each with a short but helpful description of its benefits and drawbacks and income potential. Under “Landscaping Business,” you read: “This is a great business for people that don’t mind waking up early, enjoy working outdoors, and don’t mind getting their hands dirty… at least for a while. The income potential begins at about $25 an hour and can increase to $100 or more once you have a customer list of a few dozen people. If you are good at managing schedules and workers and do great work, this can easily become a business that makes you six figures.”

“I can definitely do that!” you think.

The next day, you spend $23 to print 500 colorful flyers advertising your new business. You use a variation of one of the pitches suggested by Ford:

Landscaping With Love

I’ll Make Your Lawn the Best

In Your Neighborhood, Guaranteed

First Service Only $10!

The $10 offer is an advertising trick – a “loss leader,” to prove what you can do.

It works. You get six responses in week one and land two Saturday gigs. By week four, you have $380 worth of weekly contracts. Your Saturday is now a workday, but you’re making an extra $1,520 per month.

You do good work, so you start getting referrals. You can, if you want, make even more money by working Sundays. That’s money you could use to lease a new car and maybe buy some new clothes. You’d have some left over for saving.

But do you want to work seven days per week? Hell no. You’re 52, not 22. You want the money but not the work.

There is a “Recommended Reading” section of the EIP program that lists several books that promise to “take you to the next level.” One is called Ready, Fire, Aim. It’s by the same author. Mark Ford. You order the book.

 To Hire or Not to Hire, That Is the Question

After reading the book, you think about your situation. You’re making an extra $1,520 per month by running your own part-time landscaping business on Saturdays. You’re tempted to expand it, but you aren’t willing to work seven days per week. The book has given you the obvious solution: Hire help.

But is it worth the cost and hassle?

Following the book’s guidelines on “analyzing growth opportunities,” you sit down with a pen and a sheet of paper and make two lists, one marked “plus” and one marked “minus.”

On the minus side, you include things like “the trouble of finding someone” and “managing people” and “figuring out the right compensation,” and so on.

The more you think about it, the longer the “minus” list grows. And yet you can’t think of anything to add to the “plus” list aside from “do less work” and “maybe make more money.”

You think, “This is exactly why I never wanted to have my own business. It’s just one long list of worries and concerns. Maybe this Ford guy is more smoke than fire.”

So you decide against hiring help. Instead, you accept a few jobs to do on Sunday mornings. You’ll make another couple hundred per week, and still have Sunday afternoon to relax.

A month later, you realize that you didn’t take into account rainy days and the occasional “Can you come back tomorrow?” You are making more money but working every sunlit hour of every weekend. It is wearing you down. It’s even affecting your performance at your weekday job.

You do the math. Doing everything yourself, you’re making about $50 per hour. You can hire someone to do the grunt work and pay him/her maybe $15 per hour. The difference, $35, would be your gross profit.

There would be some additional costs involved in growing your business, too. Taxes, for example. And you’d probably have to hire an accountant. But on an hourly basis, that couldn’t be more than, say, $5. That leaves you with a gross profit of $30 for each hour’s work.

That’s $20 less than you are making now. But overall, you’d be making about $1,800 per month instead of $1,500 while personally working the same number of hours.

It makes sense. But how do you make it happen? Where can you find a good worker?

Enter Alberto, the Kid With the Smile

You skim Ready, Fire, Aim again. In your landscaping side business, you’ve moved beyond what Mark Ford calls the “self-employment business” stage. You are ready to make more money by working less. In other words, you are ready to hire, train, and manage employees.

You know from one of Ford’s lessons in the EIP program that the quality of the people you hire is one of the most important factors in making your growing business successful. But since you’re landscaping, not curing cancer, you don’t need someone with fancy academic credentials. You need a hard worker, someone willing to do manual labor 8-10 hours per day. You also need someone who will be pleasant to work with and treat your clients respectfully.

You ask around at your 9-5 job. Sally in HR has a younger brother. You try him out, but he lasts three Saturdays before he begins calling in with excuses. You try another guy, Lou, the brother-in-law of the receptionist. Someone honest. He sounds great on the phone but shows up an hour late the first day, reeking of booze.

You’ve run out of options at the office. On an early morning trip to Home Depot, you notice a dozen Latino-looking young men standing in the far corner. You take a chance. Your Spanish is terrible, but one of them, Alberto, a kid with a wide smile, speaks decent English. He tells you that the going rate is $10 per hour. You offer him $12, and he works hard all day and never loses that smile.

A month later, your little weekend landscaping business is grossing nearly $5,000 per month. You get $3,000, and $2,000 goes to Alberto and expenses.

You have that new car. You’ve moved into a nicer apartment and you’re banking money for the future. But you are still too busy. Between doing your own work and managing Alberto, you have no time on the weekends for enjoyment.

Looking at your tired reflection in the mirror, you make a pledge: “Come hell or high water, I will find a way to work no more than eight hours next weekend.”

The next morning you wake up excited. You think you know just what to do…

Crunching Numbers, Hiring Brothers

You put pencil to napkin to crunch some numbers. Starting your own landscaping business and working for yourself was lucrative. By “hiring” affluent customers and being efficient, you were making nearly $50 per hour.

Employing Alberto was a great idea. You’re netting $30 extra for every hour he works.

Your new idea is simple: Instead of working alongside Alberto, you will hire a second employee to do your work. Instead of netting $3,000, you’d be making $2,000 – but you’d have the weekend mostly free!

And what if you hired two more people?

You could start accepting the new clients you’ve been turning down, covering more ground in the same span of hours. You realize that there would be some additional work on your part at first: posting more fliers, making appointments, etc. But the numbers in your calculation start going up instead of down…

You call Alberto and ask him if he knows two people who are good and reliable workers. “Two people like you,” you say.

“Yes,” he answers. “Pedro and Alex. My brothers.”

Nine months later, your weekend business is much more than a weekend business.

You have three two-man crews, each working five days per week. Your gross revenue is now approaching $45,000 per month. Expenses are up. You’ve had to lease two trucks, three large mowers, and you’re renting a small warehouse outside of town to store all the equipment. Alberto is now making $20 per hour and his brothers $15.

And you… you… are personally netting over $100,000, which means you are living well and banking serious dollars. You can see how, if this continues, you are going to be “sort of rich.”

However, running a growing business is more complicated than you ever imagined. There are bills to process, forms to file, legal and tax issues to deal with. Then there are the people problems: problem employees and difficult customers.

Once again, you are working too hard. But by now you are no longer daunted by obstacles and setbacks. You see them as Mark Ford described them: “places in time where you jump a little higher and leave your competition behind.”

You come up with a solution…

Something You’ve Been Dying to Do for a Long Time

You go into the 9-5 job you’ve kept this whole time and step into your boss’s office. You give him the good news. “I’m firing you,” you say.

“Huh?” he replies.

You leave the office with a big smile on your face, as big as Alberto’s smile was when you increased his compensation to $20 per hour. You won’t have to work weekends anymore. In fact, you can’t imagine having to work past noon during the week either.

Yes, you are giving up the $52,000 that your cranky old boss used to pay you. But you are still making more than twice that with your landscaping business, which is still growing!

A year later, the business is considerably larger.

You now have six three-man crews and the gross billings are approaching a million dollars per year. You hired an assistant at $40,000 to do most of the office work and your niece on a part-time basis to help with the sales. (She’s thrilled to be making $500 for each new customer she signs.) Other expenses – legal and accounting, mostly – have also grown. And you have some new expenses now that you’re giving benefits to your employees.

Still, your net profit is nearly a quarter-million dollars per year. Plus, you are working only four hours per day, five days per week, with your weekends free and clear.

Sipping champagne on the veranda of the Ritz in Paris one pristine summer evening, you can hardly believe it’s been less than four years since you ordered the Extra Income Project program and decided to spend $23 on those flyers.

Your success, you realize, came not so much from the courage to take a risk. (And as it turned out, you never risked anything more than $23 and some extra time.) Your success came from persistently figuring out how to do less work than you were doing!

You think back to that statement Ford made that you never quite understood: “The desire to work less is not a vice but a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence. When combined with commitment, persistence, and common sense, it creates economic efficiency, an essential component of building great wealth.”

The only thing left to do, then, is decide what you want to do with the wealth you’re earning.