One of the biggest myths about being an entrepreneur is how we’re supposed to grind it out. But isn’t it one of the reasons we left our 9 to 5 jobs is to have more control of our time? International bestselling author of the How to Hire series, Dr. Sabrina Starling, is here to share another amazing work that will help entrepreneurs fulfill their dream of stepping away from business for four full weeks without having to plug back in. She takes us into her book, The 4 Week Vacation, where she reveals the secrets to make your time worth $10,000 per hour, so you don’t have to grind from day to night. Work supports life, not the other way around. Join Dr. Starling as she helps us make business our source of life and energy and not drain it.
Make Your Time Worth $10,000 Per Hour With Dr. Sabrina Starling
I met our guest and I feel like we have already hit it off. We have so much in common because we are both so passionate about entrepreneurs and helping them build the business of their dreams so that they can have the life they have always wanted. Our is guest is an international bestselling author of the How To Hire series. She has a book which we are going to learn a lot called The 4 Week Vacation. Every entrepreneur’s dream is stepping away from the business for four full weeks and not even plugging in. How amazing would that be? I’m excited to get some tips on how we can move towards that and learn about the new book.
Dr. Sabrina, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you, Ryan. I’m so excited. You and I have such a passion for helping small business owners hire A-players and really succeed. It’s very fun to think about what happens in the business once you have those A-players on board. It’s going to be a great conversation.
What is the biggest myth about being an entrepreneur?
That we are supposed to grind it out and that’s part of entrepreneurship. We should be celebrating the grind, fist-bumping each other, and high-fiving like, “I don’t sleep more than four hours a night. I’m working constantly. I’m so busy. It’s great.” It’s a very destructive mentality and it doesn’t need to be that way. This whole idea that we need to be a slave to our business and pour our whole selves into keeping our business afloat, sacrificing our health and our time with our loved ones is very destructive.
It’s not sustainable to do that long-term. There is a healthier way to do entrepreneurship. I have been doing it. I have led clients through it. Our The 4 Week Vacation trailblazers are living it. It’s coming from that perspective of work supports life, not the other way around and how do we build our businesses to support not just our lives but the lives of our team, family and our team’s family. Our business is our source of life and giving energy to people, including ourselves, and not draining energy.
Someone told me one time that workaholism is a well-respected addiction in America. I was on the phone with a friend who happens to be a vendor of mine as well and I was asking him. He just moved. He’s living in his dream location near the beach and something about his life, “How are things going?” He goes, “I’m not working a whole lot. It feels weird to tell you this but I might clock fifteen hours a week. I’m spending time raising my kids with my wife and enjoying the beach.” We had this conversation and it’s almost like he felt bad to tell me that he built a business and he only works fifteen hours a week and has the lifestyle he wants.The biggest myth about being an entrepreneur is how we’re supposed to grind it out. Click To Tweet
There’s guilt around that. When I started my business, I made a decision that I wanted to work no more than 25 hours a week because I had my young daughter at home. I didn’t want to send her to daycare for more than 25 hours a week. I built to tap potential on 25 hours a week. Here we are, many years later, and the business has grown by at least 30% year-over-year.
I kept that a secret for the longest time. I didn’t want to tell my clients, many of whom are business owners in landscape construction, guys who were working 70 or 80 hours a week, who’s grinding it out. I didn’t want to say, “I’m running my business on 25 hours a week,” because I felt like they would look at me and think, “You don’t have a real business.”
It wasn’t until a colleague of mine said to me, “Sabrina, not only do you have a real business, you have a really cool business because you have figured out how to do this on 25 hours a week.” That made me aware and it took the shame out of those conversations but that is so much a part of our culture in the United States that we are supposed to work hard and we go around feeling guilty if we are not working hard. We are on a mission to change and tap the potential is that work should support life, not the other way around, and entrepreneurs can take their lives back from their businesses.
There’s probably a lot of them but what do you think are the top 1 or 2 things that are holding entrepreneurs back from being able to achieve that?
One of the challenges is what got us here won’t get us there. When we start our businesses, we have to do everything in our power to bring in sales and keep the business afloat. A lot of times, we do things on our own to save money because resources are tight when you start a business. That mentality in the startup base is great and it’s important but it does not serve us beyond the startup base. If we don’t shift our mindset, there are critical junctures in the business. If we don’t shift our mindset at those critical junctures, we continue to operate our business from that mindset, and it keeps us stuck. It actually caps the growth of the business and keeps the entrepreneur working in the business.
How do you do that, “Shift your mindset?” It sounds so easy.
First off, let’s tackle the, “I want to save money, so I’m going to do it myself. It’s easier for me to do it myself than to train someone else.”
I hear that one all the time. “I can do it so much faster. Why train someone to do it?”
You can’t take more than a few days away from your business without things falling apart. When I say a few days away, I mean it’s unplugged. What happens in your business if you unplug? If you can’t totally unplug from your business for a few days or a couple of weeks, you are doing activities in your business that are capping the growth of your business. When you let go of running payroll and doing basic bookkeeping activities in your business, you free yourself up to do the $10,000 an hour activities in your business.
The $10,000 an hour activities are putting systems in place, hiring A-players, and training those A-players to take things off your plate. They should be taking the $10, $50, $100, even $1,000 hour activities off your plate so that you can focus on the higher-level strategy for the business. It’s not about, “I’m saving $500 a month by doing my own bookkeeping.” You are costing yourself an opportunity because you are not doing the $10,000 an hour activities. When you are spending 10 hours a week, however many or 30 hours a month on bookkeeping, that’s not saving you money. It’s costing you growth and the opportunity.
I hear some of that. We can outsource. We can find good strategic partners and vendors that can support us but also have that system to hire A-players. I know from the work I do that hiring A-players is what it’s going to free you up to move towards that four-week vacation.
We have been surveying entrepreneurs with our Better Business Better Life Assessment for a couple of years. We have data from over 200 entrepreneurs during 2020 in the height of COVID. Eighty-nine percent have no system for attracting and hiring A-players. This is the biggest gap that exists in small businesses. I firmly believe that entrepreneurs get stuck in their business and have a poor quality of life because they never learn how to hire A-players and put a system in place so that it happens easily.
It’s not just a system so that it happens easily but you are constantly attracting a steady stream of people who want to work in your business, who are highly qualified, and there’s great word on the street about your business. Once you get that going in your business, and this is why the work that you do is so important why I wrote the How To Hire The Best series, it’s to solve. This is the biggest problem that exists in small businesses and keeps business owners stuck in their businesses.
This is going to be hard for some people to know but I hear entrepreneurs all the time. Nobody wants to work anymore. The truth is nobody wants to work for you because they either don’t know you exist, which is most likely or they do know that you exist and they don’t like what they know about you.Work supports life, not the other way around. Click To Tweet
Thinking about what is the word on the street about your business? If there is no word on the street, they don’t know you exist. If the word on the street about your business is not good, if you have warm bodies in your business and they talk bad about your business, which happens because we don’t want to hire, it feels like it’s such a burden and time suck to go through the hiring process. We tolerate poor employee behavior. That’s like spraying A-player repellent all over our businesses because those warm bodies are talking negatively about their boss out there and it creates bad PR.
Here’s the thing. If we consider that about 10% of the population are A-players and of that 10%, some of them are retired. They are living the dream. Some of them are still in elementary school. We can’t hire them and the rest are not out there looking for work. They are employed elsewhere. Our job is to attract them to our businesses.
They need to know about our businesses and we need to work on becoming great places to work for the A-players we want on our team. A-players love to work and they are out there but they are working elsewhere. The question is, how do you, as an employer, become so attractive that those A-players you want on your team are finding you, hearing about you, and approaching you?
For the readers, I don’t want to digress onto this topic but it’s not more money. Just to be clear, raising wages and offering more than the competitor is not the way to get those people. Would you agree?
I totally agree. If you can pay an appropriate wage or salary for the role that you are hiring for and then you do the work on your business to make it attractive to the A-players you want, they will come, stay, and will be so appreciative. It’s some of the most basic things that you can do to create a great workplace but you have to stop and think about it from the perspective of team members and what they are looking for. I worked with a lot of contractors and landscapers. When I’ve got to talk to the A-players who are on their teams and ask them what do they appreciate most about where they work, there are a couple of just basic things. One of them is a respectful work environment.
If you are not yelling, screaming, and cussing out your team members, you are miles ahead of your competitors. That’s a sad thing to say but when you work on creating a family environment and everyone feels good and excited to come to work, when you focus on putting people in roles where they work from their strengths, A-players exist at every level. They exist on our crews and entry-level positions. They are intrinsically motivated, so it’s not about the money. They just do a good job because it feels good to do a good job.
Another myth about A-players that I want to share because it’s super relevant and I’m dealing with this is not all A-players want to climb the corporate ladder.
They want opportunities for advancement but it’s not necessarily about moving up and becoming a manager. There are a lot of A-players who want to be really super good at what they do and they don’t want to deal with and manage other people. When can you look in the role that they are in and figure out, “How can I give them more training? What’s important to them? What do they like to learn about?” A-players like to learn, improve their skills and be better.
What training can you provide and can you create levels within the role so they can move up from level 1, apprentice 1 to apprentice 4 or something like that? There’s an acknowledgment of their experience and their longevity with you but they don’t necessarily have to move into higher levels in the organization.
Another thing too on investing in them, it doesn’t always have to be professional development. Sometimes investing in their personal development can pay huge dividends. We worked with a client years ago that used to send the employee and their spouse to communications training. Not because they needed it, but it’s like, “We believe that if you communicate better at home, you’re going to bring better home life to work.”
One of the fun programs that we do is Tap the Potentials Leadership Bootcamp. That’s where our business owners send the A-players on their team to learn about how to be valuable team members in the business. We do people map training. That’s where they learn what their preferred communication style is and what their strengths are. They take that home to their families and share it.
Their team members love talking about these things at home with their families. One of the tools that we teach is something called the Choice Map, which helps you get out of that judger pit and feel like, “What’s wrong with those people around me? What’s wrong with me? Why is everyone so stupid?” That negative mindset. We give them tools for that. They take that home and teach that in their families.
What’s so nice about this is they are not necessarily learning how to manage people. They are learning how to be that person on the team that sets a good example for everyone else to follow. It starts to create that feeling on the team of, “We are all in this together and that business owner is not the only one who’s trying to raise the standard in the business but the A-players are coming on board, too.” It’s like the business owner is saying, “I’m up to something cool. I want you 2 or 3 to come over here and help me because we are going to make a great place to work. Let’s get to work on it.” Those A-players start to show the others in the business, “This is how we do things.”
There’s so much to that mindset shift. I love what you said there because I think, for the entrepreneurs that need this, those that are on 80 hours a week, you can almost learn something from your employees. They don’t want to grind it out and live to work. They work to live. They are creating a lifestyle for their family and those things that are important to them.If there is no word on the street about your business, people don't know you exist. Click To Tweet
I hear a lot of times entrepreneurs will tell me, “I will never find anybody that cares about the business as much as I do.” That’s such a big lie we tell ourselves. They might not care about everything because they don’t know everything but I can promise you they are going to care about the 1 or 2 things they do more than you do.
When we help them to take ownership of their role, that’s when that comes about. We have to think about we teach people how to treat us. If we are the one in the business that works 70 hours a week, and we are the one who fixes everything when it gets messed up, and all the decisions have to run through us, we are training our team that they can count on us to take care of everything.
When we stop, we identify expectations for the role, “Here are the results we are looking for,” then we allow the team members to do that. We support them in delivering those results and we ask them, “What support do you need to achieve this?” They will tell us when they own that result, “That’s what you want because then you don’t have to own the result.”
You just coach them to deliver the result. Business owners are amazed that their role shifts from doing everything in the business to being that leader and that coach in the business that pulls out the best performance from the team members. We talked earlier about the mindset shift. We have to shift from being the one who does it all to, “How do I become the very best coach who helps tap the potential of my team members?” That’s where the business owner’s quality of life starts to improve and the business has the opportunity to grow with them.
I love what you said there about stopping enabling your people. We have an exercise that we do with some of our more in-control entrepreneurs. The one that has to make all the decisions, where anytime something shows up in their inbox, they have to wait 24 hours to respond to it if it’s a decision that their team should be making. It’s amazing how often they will finally reply. They are like, “I took care of it,” when he didn’t hear from you.
They are like, “How did you take care of it?” “That’s what I would have done.” They eventually learn that the team is going to go take care of it when you are not there to help them. It makes it so much easier to step away. Many of our clients are probably very similar to your experience. I want to talk more about the book because I know a lot of people need a four-week vacation. They don’t just want one.
They start realizing, “I don’t have to work as hard and people will stop coming to me after they understand that I’m okay with them making decisions and I don’t have to make them all.” Your team wants to be autonomous. One of the things that motivate the modern workforce is being able to make decisions without permission.
They crave this. When we decide, “I want to have a different relationship when we decide we want to write our relationship with our business so that work support our life and not the other way around.” That mindset shift changes everything. When we have these thoughts in our head of, “I can’t trust my team to get things done if I’m not around,” change that to a powerful question and ask yourself, “How do I train my team to handle decision-making in my absence?” One of the things that you and I come together around is the importance of hiring people based on core values and making sure that they have the right values at tap potential. We call them the Immutable Laws for the business.
When you hire people who have common values with you, you can trust them to make decisions in your absence because they may handle something differently than you would handle it. If their values are aligned with yours, you’re going to feel good about how they handled it. That’s the key. We can create all these systems in our businesses but there will always be things that happen while we are away that are unexpected, that are outside the systems, processes, and our team members will need to think on their own. That constant training that goes on in the business for team members to think on their own is critical.
We keep going back to the mindset and A-players like you’ve got to have great people and mindset about this. It does require a shift. I think I can’t walk away for a week from my business. How on Earth do we get to four weeks? We don’t just rip the band aid off like, “See you.”
It’s about baby steps. You create four-week vacation tests in your business. Ryan, I’m going to put you on the spot here. What’s the longest you have been able to be away from your business fully?
Your next vacation test would be that you would plan to go away for maybe 8 business days or in 2 weeks. You could probably double it and then you need to think about, “What would not get done if I’m fully unplugged for two weeks?” Whatever comes to mind is what you need to go to work on creating a system around and making sure there’s a team member or more than one team member who knows how to work that system essentially. All you do is you say, “The longest I have been able to be away unplugged is five days, so I’m going to stretch it. I’m going to double that next time. What would not happen?”
When you go away for that time and come back, you ask your team, “What fell through the cracks, what went wrong or what did we not anticipate?” You work on that thing, and then schedule your next vacation test, which in your case, Ryan, would be three weeks. Just imagine, you didn’t realize coming to this show that you were a few steps away from three weeks off from your business fully unplugged but you are. After you do those three weeks, then you schedule a four-week vacation. Most businesses that have steady lead generation in place and solid conversion are less than twelve months away from the owner being able to take a four-week vacation.A-players love to work, and they're out there, but they're working elsewhere. Click To Tweet
I think that would be most of your readers. The reason I say it with confidence is most of your readers are reading because they need the hire. They need to hire because you have a steady lead conversion, lead generation and solid conversion. That’s the point when you need to hire. You are really in that place, where it’s time to solve the problem that you have, which is how you hire consistently and get great team members, and then get them to be able to run the systems in your business.
I once heard a leader at a workshop challenge the audience and he said, “Imagine what your business would look like a year from now if you put one system in place in your business per week, so at the end of the year, you would have 52 more systems than you have now.” That’s mind-blowing. I bring this up because one of the interesting points in our research is that entrepreneurs who have a high quality of life and are not experiencing burnout have almost doubled the number of systems in place than those who are burnt out. It boils down to hiring great people, getting the systems in place, and teaching them how to make decisions.
It’s hitting home with me. I had to take a week off for surgery and I was completely unplugged for that week. I have 100 other things I would have rather been doing than recovering. It occurred to me that I’m the only person in my company that can send a client agreement. That’s a marketing and sales issue right there. My people are like, “He will be back in four weeks. You can get started,” then they are like, “No. We’ve got to fix this.”
Something I have been working on is how do I get out of being the only one that can do it. I’m looking to automate things because I have learned that when we automate things, they happen. The more we can automate, the better and a lot of the stuff that we can automate is that $20 an hour work. I want to hire people that are doing $500 an hour work, not the $20 hour or let a computer do that. Let people be creative, think, create new things, and create great relationships with our clients and let them focus on that. The administrative tasks we automate as much as possible.
The other thing is to hire people who like to create systems because it doesn’t need to be us that creates these systems. One of the most freeing moments I had in my business was when I brought on our integrator. She already existed in our business and I was not tapping that potential in her. It allowed me to step into the visionary role. She’s the one who creates the systems. I will have the idea that, “We need this or that.” She coordinates across the business and creates the system so that if there are three people involved touching a certain action or project, that’s all coordinated through her. This idea is that we, the business owner, have to create all the systems as a limiting belief. It’s not true. We can get ourselves out of that role.
That’s how we make our time worth $10,000 an hour when we have people on our team who can implement and execute. Absolutely, we are having this conversation on our tap potential team because we have people who have incredible amounts of insight and talent. They are doing $20 an hour tasks. That’s a waste. We are looking at how do we delegate and elevate. Automation is one of the very first places to look like, “How can things be streamlined?” Once you, the entrepreneur, are thinking about, “How do I get myself into the $10,000 hour activities?” You need to also be looking at, “How do I get my team members doing these more valuable activities and not getting stuck in the weeds?”
I have one more question for you before we wrap up because it’s something that I see happen a lot and I will admit, I have even struggled with this myself. I truly love the work that I do. For me, it’s playing. I hear this, “Take four weeks off.” The first thing that goes to mind is, “I would be bored if I’m not creating something or doing something.” I’m sure that’s a lie we tell ourselves.
We have these unhealthy relationships with our businesses. When we think that we love our businesses and we don’t know what we would do if we weren’t working in our businesses, that’s a sign of codependency. A codependent relationship is not a healthy relationship. There are people in our lives who are probably jealous of the business, like spouses, kids, friends. I know you have a huge guy audience.
I’m going to speak to the guys directly. Your male friends miss you. They want to go hunting, watch football game, and do things with you, and you are too busy. It is time to break up with your business so you have time for other people in your life and you also get to explore who are you away from the business? What hobbies did you used to have many years ago that you haven’t had time for? When you have four weeks off, you are going to be bored and that’s okay because you are on the cusp of discovering who you are away from your business. We have to work through that boredom and accept it as part of it but there’s something great on the other side.
One of the things I have had to do is that we plan fun vacations. When I take a week off, we are fishing or hiking. I used to only vacation in one spot in Arizona that did not have a cell tower. That was my trap. I love being that rural, that remote and my whole family does. We enjoyed just being out in nature then they built a cell tower on top of a mountain. I’m like, “We’ve got to find a new place to go now.”
The things that I learned and just want to recap things. Number one, I think this one is the harder of the three things that I wrote down, is shifting your mindset. That’s way harder than hiring A-players but that’s what I do all the time. I might be a little biased. Shift your mindset. Start thinking that your business is here to provide for your life and your family. It’s not to drain, exhaust and burn you out. The other thing is to hire A-players, which I’m all about. Let’s do that. Finally, the third one is how do we get through this? We test. I thought that was great. Go take a week and see how it happens. Most businesses aren’t going to burn down in a week.
You may come back and a few balls may have gotten dropped but that’s your opportunity to figure out what to work on in your business. I do also want to share that it’s not about having the luxury to take a four-week vacation. It’s really about risk management in your business because you could be out for surgery. You could have a family member who’s ill that you want to take care of. Something could happen to you, so how does your business run without you? That’s something that we typically don’t think about.
I also want to share that in terms of the mindset shift because that is the most challenging piece for us. I have a cool chart in The 4 Week Vacation book that gives you all the objections that you are coming up with within your head to taking a four-week vacation. I have heard them all and listed them all out. On the other side are the powerful questions that help you move in the direction of a business that supports your life.
This is great. Our readers want to know how do they get more information. How do they contact you? I think you’ve even got a special offer.A codependent relationship is not a healthy relationship. Click To Tweet
Go to The4WeekVacation.com. That’s where you can find out how to get the book. The book is $0.99 on Kindle. Get a copy of the book. I do regularly four-week vacation, Better Business Better Life jumpstart. That is a two-week closed-door training with me, no charge. This is your opportunity. If you are reading this and you are thinking, “I want to get my business on that trajectory where I have freedom and I can choose, whether or not I’m going to work.” Do our jumpstart and all the details for that are on the website.
I am so excited that people are getting this message because not only will it help you with so many other things in your life but it’s going to help your business, too. The number one issue we run into is the bottleneck in the business is almost always the entrepreneur or the owner. Dr. Sabrina, thank you so much for being here. I have enjoyed our conversation. I know there’s a ton of value packed into it.
Ryan, thank you so much. I want to give a shout-out to your readers. If you have been getting value from this show, be sure to leave a review because it helps others find the show. Ryan is doing a great job of bringing you critical business information.
Thanks for being here. I enjoyed it.
- The 4 Week Vacation
- Better Business Better Life Assessment
- Kindle – The 4 Week Vacation: The Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Taking Your Life Back from Your Business
- How To Hire The Best
- Sabrina Starling
- Leadership Bootcamp
About Dr. Sabrina Starling
Dr. Sabrina Starling, The Business Psychologist® and international best-selling author of the How to Hire the Best series and the 4 Week Vacation®, is the founder of Tap the Potential and co-host of the Profit by Design Podcast. At Tap the Potential, we work to free business owners from the constant demands of a growing business. We believe work supports life, not the other way around. Clients in our Better Business, Better LifeTM coaching program have more time and more money than they’ve ever had. Next, we send them off on a 4 Week Vacation® to celebrate their hard-earned journey to take their life back!
Dr. Sabrina and her team at Tap the Potential are on a mission to change the story of entrepreneurship from one of long hours, grinding it out, to that of sustainably profitable businesses that support and enhance life. The Tap the Potential SolutionTM and our Tap the Potential Family of Business Owners are disrupting small business as usual. We are on our way to making the Tap the Potential Solution the mainstream model for growing business. In many entrepreneurial circles, it is becoming more and more common for one entrepreneur to ask another, “Have you taken a 4 Week Vacation®?” (as opposed to asking “How many employees do you have? What is your annual revenue?). Taking a 4 Week Vacation® is rapidly becoming the recognized symbol of entrepreneurial success.
Never one to accept the status quo or back down from a challenge, Dr. Sabrina’s How to Hire the Best series grew from her desire to solve the toughest hiring challenges interfering with her clients’ growth and profitability. What sprang from her experience working with entrepreneurs in rural areas catapulted her into becoming the world’s leading expert in attracting top talent in small businesses—no matter what hiring challenges those businesses are facing—and earned Tap the Potential’s reputation as the go-to resource for entrepreneurs committed to creating Great Places to Work with thriving coaching cultures and highly engaged team members working from strengths.
As The Business Psychologist® and with her years of driving profit in small businesses, Dr. Sabrina knows what it takes to find, keep, and motivate exceptional performance out of your biggest investment— team members.
FUN FACT: Dr. Sabrina was the first Profit First Professional and Pumpkin Plan Your Biz Strategist. Tap the Potential is a Profit First Mastery Firm. At Tap the Potential, we are Pumpkin Plan Your Biz certified, and we are Founding Fixers for Fix This Next.
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