How To Work Smarter, Not Harder (written December, 2011)

I believe every business owner has options. I also believe that one can easily – as that famous cliché goes – work smarter, instead of harder.

Yet the challenge that most marketers encounter is the feeling that their success is not coming as fast as it should. Most people jump into business with the hope (and often the erroneous or naïve assumption) that their marketing efforts will lead to virtually instant results. I can certainly appreciate how entrepreneurs, home business owners and internet marketers feel since in my life it took me years (and many of them) to finally learn the so-called “secrets,” and enjoy the fruits of my success. It certainly was not an instantaneous overnight process.

In fact, I was once asked: “you seem to be an overnight success; how did you do it? My wife loves that question. With a huge grin on her face, she answers my critics with a simple comment: “Indeed, it took him many ‘overnights,’ alright.”

Experience as priceless education – I learned from my mistakes. After falling flat on my face, I quickly picked myself up, dusted myself off, rolled up my sleeves, shifted gears and moved on. In short, I didn’t look at it as failing, but as educating myself & gathering priceless feedback along the way. The truth of it all is this: Failure is feedback. It is probably the most common denominator among the successful with proper education coming in as a close second. “If the man is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up – what he needs is education to turn him around.”

You need tools in order to build – in other words, there is no such thing as “get rich quick.” But with the right tools, the right education and the right attitude, one can definitely get rich quicker. There are many resources and websites filled with information that can certainly help. I encourage you to seek them out and investigate them. In essence, and I’ve said this many times: learned experience is far better than learning from experience. And you have the ability to learn from other people’s failures, setbacks, bounce-backs and successes, which are, in my opinion, the most powerful weapons you can ever include in your arsenal.

Be a sponge – what’s the moral? Learn. Keep learning. Use books, tapes and the internet to learn as much as you can. Attend seminars. Take courses. Turn your car into a “university on wheels” by listening to tapes as you drive. For tax purposes, remember that you can chalk it up to research and education. Personally I have a library literally filled with thousands of books, videotapes and audiocassette programs. These range from motivational to marketing. And most important, don’t expect an instantly gratifying solution. It takes a little work. Like building a house, your success still needs to be built somehow – it can’t be built all by itself. But it doesn’t always have to be the result of hard work. You can certainly work smarter: With the right tools, your “brick house” can be built much faster, stronger and straighter. Don’t kid yourself. There is no magic wand out there that will do this for you. And trust me, there are a lot of “get rich quick schemes” out there on the internet. I’ve been a victim too many times. But I don’t despair after the first setback. Turn your setback into feedback and you will simply add more tools to your toolbox.

Above all, learn from people – in my life, I was lucky to have several mentors assist me in my beginnings. Online, potential mentors (let alone partners, associates, colleagues, strategic alliances and friends) exist by the thousands. One should vigorously seek out alliances – there are as many different forms of strategic alliances out there as there are businesses. I also firmly believe that the web is an incredibly fertile ground for such arrangements.

Why? It’s because the only thing that separates us are the computer screens. Cyberspace is indeed a cold world. And not only customers, but also business owners, are constantly looking for ways of humanizing their online activities. It makes perfect sense to finally add a voice, if not a face, to those plain text messages we receive in our email inbox’s on a daily basis. Secondly if the business world doesn’t know you exist, then essentially you don’t. Period. But through such alliances you have the ability to leverage your visibility, your sales and eventually your success – and quite effectively too, I might add. I guess you can say that it all boils down to the famous “mastermind group principle” originally taught by Napoleon Hill. Let me explain.

The driving force behind all businesses – Mr. Hill, the grandfather of success principles, wrote that successful people are those who develop relationships with like-minded people. Though written over a century ago, those principles still ring true today. Today’s billionaires – including Bill Gates, now the richest man in the world do not really own anything. Unlike the rich people of yesteryear, these billionaires do not own oil refineries, gold, manufacturing plants or real estate. They own soft goods: information. Not only that, what they own only exists with the help of some unseen force (ie, electricity). In short, they don’t really own anything.  With today’s knowledge-based economy, more people will become rich than ever before. Whether your business sells a tangible or an intangible product, selling it is still a process that’s really based on nothing. The key is to create alliances with the entities behind those nothings: real people – because they can help turn those nothings into something.

It’s a small world after all – This certainly applies to customers and customer service. But it also includes developing solid relationships with other marketers and business owners to help build one’s business. Being alone in a world of nothingness is indeed a cold prospect. You don’t have to be. In fact, if you take a look at the most successful marketer out there you will always find that there are some kinds of partnerships, alliances or joint ventures somewhere in the mix. In essence, look at ways of building relationships not only with your customers but also with others who can help you. Networking is not a concept strictly limited to network marketing, affiliate programs and re-sellers. They also include suppliers, associates, webmasters, non-competing business owners, brick-and-mortar businesses, publications editors and so on.

In the end, realize that success is not an instant process. Most importantly it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. The most powerful tool that you can ever use to build your “house” is OPE (which stands for two things, namely “other people’s experiences” and “other people’s efforts.”

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.