The 7-Hour Workweek

I haven’t posted as much as I’d have liked to in the past month or so. The truth is I’ve been super busy. I was in Arkansas for three weeks helping my son rehab a new rental. I’m invested with him in some Airbnb rentals there. As anyone who’s ever rehabbed a house knows, it’s a lot of work. And the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing some minor, but time-consuming, updates to software that I designed. When I work on a project, I generally go “all in” and commit full resources to it. Not just to get it done quicker, but I believe good (great) work requires complete focus. If you’re working on something business-related, I don’t believe you can do it half-hearted (at least not in the early years). So I generally work 10-12 hours per day until something is done. That means I’ve been working 70+ hour weeks the last 6-8 weeks. I don’t have a moderate switch.

The truth is, though, when I’m not going all out on a house rehab, or making a minor update to my software, I don’t have to work that much per week anymore to maintain my software company. A “small” software company that has recurring/subscription revenue of ~$700,000/year.

My 7 Hour Workweek

A $700,000+ per year company isn’t THAT big, but when you understand it’s a recurring revenue software company, that it’s just my wife and I running it, out of our home, and my son even works part-time in another state (and the other time he’s busting it with the Airbnb’s), it’s quite the personal money-maker. We are able to pay ourselves ~$600,000 per year, and at this point it only takes about an hour of work per day to maintain it. That breaks down to about $1700/hour. Not bad.

That’s literally all I’m required to work to maintain my business. On a daily basis I reply to a few help desk tickets, reply to a few emails, and that’s it. That enables me to work on only what I want to work on going forward. Of course it wasn’t always this easy, and it took me almost 30 years of really hard work to get here (20 years specifically on this company).

How I Got Here

Getting to this pace/workweek was no accident. And you could argue I front-loaded hours by working 84+ hour workweeks for many years. And for those wondering if all the work was worth it… yes, it was. I would do it all over again. The freedom I have now was well-worth the lack of freedom I kept from myself for many years.

I had a big decision to make 2-3 years ago. Did I want to keep going at this pace? I realized I could keep busting it to grow bigger, but did I really want to. I stopped and asked myself why. Why keep working so many hours? I could keep working 70 hours per week and probably add 100K of revenue per year (of which after taxes and expenses I’d probably only get to save 50% of it). I looked at other non-software business owners who have multi-million dollar, multi-employee companies, but “only” get to pay themselves $100,000-$200,000 per year. I was already paying myself as much as three to four multi-million dollar business owners were making. Did I really need more? Especially if I could “do nothing” and keep making what I’ve got. I told my wife we’ve already got enough money to have a nice house with a nice view in Hawaii if we want it. Unless you want a large house literally on the beach in Hawaii (probably need 25M+ to do that comfortably), we’ve made enough money. We both decided “we have enough”, and we’d rather work on other things than getting richer.

Side note: Just prior to deciding to wind down a bit, I was introduced to the book “The Magic of Thinking Big”. This book got me to thinking “what if” I did want to build a software company that did say $5,000,000/year? What would it take to make that happen? I figured out the easiest way would be to acquire a bunch of smaller software companies like mine that kind of run themselves. Even if it were 10 companies that generated $100,000/year  each. I could easily acquire 1-2 of these per year with cash. I obviously decided against it, but that book introduced a new concept of “what if I *had* to do X… how would I achieve it?”. A very interesting concept… it makes you come up with ideas you didn’t even know were in you.

How I Slowed Down

So I purposely chose to reduce advertising (new leads/prospects/customers take a lot more work) and just focus on maintaining what I/we had (“we” being my wife and I). I focused on stability of doing business with us. Whether that was locking in prices/costs for a while, and most importantly, making sure the software products were ultra-stable. Let me talk more about software stability for a moment.

This point of software stability is an important one. And one that I simply don’t understand more companies focusing on. Over the past 20 years of selling software, I have always focused on fixing bugs *immediately*. Some companies ignore bugs or delay fixing them for months or even years. That’s insane! The more bugs you fix, the fewer phone calls and help desk tickets you have. Why wouldn’t you want to reduce negative experiences with customers? Apple has a bug in iOS where the Notes field in Contacts doesn’t scroll or allow you edit properly. Somehow, it occasionally works, but most of the time not. I’ve been aware of this iOS bug myself for at least 2 years. It appears that it’s always been a bug since the release of iPhone. It’s still not fixed. If you have an iPhone, go into your Contacts and edit a contact. Go to the notes and type a few sentences. Save it, now go back in and try to edit it (change words and add lines). You’ll probably find tapping doesn’t work quite right. This has been going on for years!

One other note on software stability. I also analyzed all the tickets coming in for repeat questions/issues and fixed that, too. Whether it was making a feature more obvious, or explaining a feature better on the screen, or changing an error message to ALSO provide the solution, etc… I focused on fixing as many issues from help desk tickets as I could. This has all paid off over time as well. We now go days without a help desk ticket. Oh… and I should mention we include 24x7x365 support for our software (I get paged/texted only if there’s a critical problem). I average less than one of these critical alerts per month.

What A 7 Hour Workweek Has Given Me

Time, freedom, and a focus on health. It has enabled me to do real estate with my son. It has enabled me to work with my wife producing children’s books. My wife writes and lays out the illustrations, and I produce them from there. As for health, while I’ve exercised more on-and-than-off for more than 35 years, all that sitting and coding has affected my flexibility, and I have a little bit of long term damage to my lower back. The free time I have now has allowed me to start taking better care of myself, including a daily afternoon stretch/meditation/yoga practice… and by “practice” I mean I’m trying to do it daily. It’s getting better, and I find not working 12+ hour days and really having time to stop and smell the roses is nice. I’m, without a doubt, living more pain-free due to these new practices.

Tim Ferriss and “The 4-Hour Workweek”

This blog post obviously owes a “tip of the hat” to Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek”. While I had heard about it, I did not read Tim’s book until a few months ago (so it technically had no affect on my life choices). But I do have an appreciation for it. Honestly, when I was working all those hours, I thought it was ridiculous for someone to insinuate you could accomplish ANYTHING working four hours per week. To be fair to me, he purposely created a click-bait title. To be fair to him, he’s not really preaching working four hours per week. His book is about optimization. He took a sports nutrition company he started and eventually reduced his hours from 80 to 4.

Work Hard To Build Something Of Value First, Then Optimize

I believe most people need to hustle and work hard 80 hours per week, and THEN optimize. Too many people try to only work 4 hours extra per week and then wonder why they can’t be successful. Sure, a few outliers, will tell you a story of how on just 4 hours a week built X. That’s just not going to happen for the large majority of people. Big change requires big effort. And the bigger the change, the bigger the problems to solve.

If accomplishing big ideas were easy, everyone would do it. Don’t have that mindset. Know going in you will work hard, dare I say suffer, for many years, to accomplish your goal. Draw energy to keep going from your small wins over time.

Sorry, I’m getting a bit side-tracked talking about effort and hard work. I can’t help it. I’m passionate about changing one’s life requiring effort. Now back to optimization…

Once you’ve built something of value, try to optimize it. I do believe it would be foolish for me to keep going, pushing myself for a few extra bucks. Especially at the cost of my health.

I’m Optimizing To “Work” On Other Things

I haven’t optimized to do nothing. I’ve optimized to work on what I want. Getting to work on a business with my son is a deep joy (most of the time – haha). I never got to do that with my own father. I would have loved that. The children’s books I mentioned that my wife and I are creating… they are used to teach children about wildlife and nature, and to raise money for animal rehabbers (people you can take injured wildlife to for help). Animal rehabbers exist on donations only. They are not businesses. We get to work on finding ways to help them raise money, and of course we are able to donate directly to the cause, too. But we’re building a children’s book publishing company where 90%+ of profit goes to animal rehabbers, with the goal of 100% at some point in the future. It’s a joy to be able to work on a company that exists solely to help others. Optimization has allowed that.

You Don’t Have To Build A Company To Reach Financial Independence And Optimize

There are lots of ways to build wealth and optimize. You can do it working normal jobs and saving 50% of your income. It will take about 17 years if you’re good with 50% of your income being your standard of living. This still takes great effort. Working for someone else for 17 years takes effort. Saving half your income take effort. And of course, once you’ve made saved enough money, you can optimize and work part-time or work on other passions.

Don’t just make money, make a difference.

Grant Cordone

Help others. Work hard. Save hard. Optimize. Repeat.

Mr. Hobo Millionaire

 

 

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Written by Mr. Hobo Millionaire
I blog about money, financial independence (FIRE), life, and entrepreneurship. I got rich slowly (over 20+ years) with a niche software business. I also failed at a number of other things (and mild success with a few others). I share what I did right along the way, and a lot of what I did wrong, with a goal to encourage you think differently about life and money.