Day 29: Cutting The Fat

Here’s a story. I recall a meal I had with family members where a relative was getting slightly defensive over the discussion of eating healthy (regardless of the fact that the conversation wasn’t about that particular person). People were exchanging ideas of what foods were bad and what foods were good, one of which included a remarkable account of mixing large amounts of butter in breakfast cereal because it tasted creamy. Eventually, the topic of “How much fat should you eat?” cropped up. While the obvious answer was ‘as little as possible’ this relative thought it important to point out that animal fat was ok to eat because it was better than the fats you could find in certain diary foods and cooking products. Think about that and I’ll finish the story at the end of the post.

Now then…

Who would have thought the six year old who used to draw Ariel while watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid, with dreams of being a classical animator, would grow to become the 23 year old 3D animator based in Shanghai eventually drawn back home to be the 25 year old father of two (with one on the way) aspiring Internet entrepreneur. Now, put that in a book and read it to me when I was five years old! As Jim Rohn would say, “That’s a hard sell!”

The hint of a smile creeps up on me when I reflect on the turn of events I’ve enjoyed over the last four years. A wider smile appears as I think of how blessed I’ve been to discover the tools which so many great businessmen have used to succeed in the past. Now that I know though, it’s time for application, so let us proceed:

One of the things I’ve been proactively avoiding over the past month is staying on top of my finances, both personal and professional. Although I haven’t dug myself into a hole, so to speak, I have shirked my responsibilities to a certain extent when it’s come to monitoring expenditure within the home and maintaining an ordered file system and paperwork for my company.

Although I know that investing time in these two areas is a fundamental key to being financially independent, I’ve approached it as a chore I hate worse than…well, worse than doing even more accounting and book-keeping I guess. Regardless, I am fully aware that this is so vital a habit to master, that I am a little embarrassed to be mentioning it at all. It only took me reading three books and listening to a further three audiobooks to finally snap out of the avoid-boring-accounting-at-all-costs phase I’d been caught up in for the last six weeks. The reason I took to task tonight was because I’d made a list of things I felt were harming me as an effective person and successful entrepreneur. May seem less important than planning out an upcoming project launch (these are the exact words I was repeating to myself again and again as I crunched numbers on my excel spreadsheet) but being at the top of my list, I wanted to be able to go to bed tonight knowing that I’d taken one step towards addressing this issue. This of course was preferable to simply chalking it up for another list on yet another night which would eventually come far later than  acceptable, costing me precious time and money.

One thing I decided once I’d finished was that I need to offload most of the work back onto my accountant. Sound surprised? That’s right, I have an accountant and yet I’d chosen to do the equivalent of 52 hours of annual bookkeeping myself. Crazy right?! I know, I know. Once I did the math, things just got ridiculous. If I work out the cost, even at $25 per hour, I would be losing $1300 in lost productivity for what I could otherwise have paid my accountant to do for an extra $500 at the end of the financial year.

With this in mind, I began to widen my net to every menial task I’d do during a given day that could easily be farmed out to someone else i.e. a personal assistant. Once I started writing the list, it was hard to stop and I had to balance it in my own mind by writing another list of the important things I did just to make sure my life by definition hadn’t become menial as well. Reassured, I proceeded to (and this is the point of today’s post) ‘cut the fat’. By that, I mean I took all the items on my menial and unimportant list and whittled them down through elimination.

I got this idea from reading Timothy Ferriss’ book, titled The 4-Hour Workweek where he promotes creating a business you own and not run. This is done through a two step process of elimination and delegation.

Once I’d finished the elimination step I proceeded to contemplate the delegation part. The biggest question was how a guy with little to no capital affords a PA to free up his time for the important aspects of the business? Being realistic, the answer actually became another question, how does the guy get more capital to afford the PA he needs? He leverages it through his finances. You could hear the blood-curdling screams from a block away. As I was caught in a Catch 22, I decided to look at my finances to see if I couldn’t get more money out of my business through better management. The answer was a resounding yes so with this I estimated the amount I had to budget and thought, ‘This is not going to be enough.’

Enter the VA, or virtual assistant. The virtual assistant is ‘hired help’ located remotely, be it in the U.S.A., Canada, India or China. Working with a VA firm offers the added benefit of leveraging its wider services at a comparatively lower price, which, when done successfully, frees you (the business owner) to get on with more important stuff like working on your businesses scalability model or enjoying the afternoon with your kids (both a lot of fun!). I can sense the growing FAQ’s right now so let me say that my preliminary research is promising and I know people who actively use VA’s and swear by them. I’ve also had a little experience with VAs in the last week so I‘ll gladly keep everyone informed on how things go.

VAs aside, I want to exit on the story I told you guys at the beginning. Recall that I mentioned a relative who felt it important to mention it was okay, if not beneficial, to eat animal fat because it ‘was better’?. Now, some of you may agree and others may disagree but my answer is this: Just Cut the Fat. I’ll explain.

If you are the CEO of a company or even the director of a small business and are adamant that you can answer important calls at any time, return e-mails as you receive them or have meetings that could be addressed within e-mails, you are not cutting the fat. Sure, it’s great you can do all these things but the point of any business is to own it so you don’t have to run it.

There are some people who will undoubtedly read this and think, ’He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! I’ve owned my business for [enter length of time] and I love being able to work for myself!’ My response is that’s fantastic. Some people love the idea of being able to work for themselves. I myself had the preconception that working for myself was the number one priority. It wasn’t until years later that I worked out that the devil is in the detail and the detail is who is working for who. I personally would prefer not to work for myself and instead have a business that worked for me instead.

How do I do that? I create a product that I can set and forget. This way when others see it, they will see the value in having a product that works for them with maximum results for minimum effort. Forecast it, draw up a contract and sign me the cheque before I say thank you on the way out the door (smiling).

Once I’m on the street, cheque in hand, I’ll think to myself ‘One down, and as-many-as-I-want to go!’

Am I telling the story of what will happen to me? I certainly believe so but what if I’m actually telling you the story of what will happen to you. Maybe then you’ll dare to believe and as the saying goes, inevitably achieve. Maybe once you’ve done it, once your settled in your beautiful home surrounded by loved ones, you’ll reflect on how investing in your own Personal Success and Self Development created this wealth of life you now experience. As your dinner is brought to you, you’ll see the bit of fat hanging off your marinated slice of ham and remember this story about Cutting The Fat. You’ll take your knife, separate the fat from the meat and take a tentative bite as you relish in the moment thinking, ‘I’ve cut the fat to get to this point. Tonight though, I’m going to enjoy it simply because I can.’

Thus the moral of the story is to Cut The Fat but enjoy a little from time to time just to keep things interesting!

Looking back on this post, it is clearly waaaay too long so if you’ve made it to the bottom, I thank you and profusely apologise. I will endeavour, in future, to keep my posts to a maximum of 800 words though I’m grateful to know others are benefiting from my therapy. Too awesome!