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Incblog for enterpreneurs

Covering entrepreneurship and business start up questions for non-residents and US citizens.

 

Aug 29 2013

the founder’s challenge: can you work by yourself?

by John Gordon | 23:08 GMT

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Very early stage startup and small business founders face a key challenge: ability to work by yourself. For people working in the corporate world, it seems like to heaven to have the ability to work without someone monitoring your performance, to be able to choose your own hours and to come and go as you please. In reality, it can quickly lead the new company into chaos.

The downside of this freedom is that many people have not built up self-discipline to keep working even when there is no one else to monitor you. When you are  your own manager, you can be as strict or loose as you can stand. Quite often, this means that you accept your own excuses to slack off, and allow yourself to fall behind your own productivity goals.

How can you fight back against this tendency? Manesh Sethi came up with a novel solution: he used Craigslist to hire an assistant to slap his face when he used Facebook instead of working productively. The silly experiment brought his measurable productivity from 38% to 98%. How did having a face slapper increase his productivity so drastically?

Accountabilty. By hiring someone to monitor his activity while they did their own work, he created an environment where slacking off was punished. Oddly this didn’t mean that he was enslaved or bullied by his assistant; instead, he was “incentivized” to remain productive and stay focused on the task at hand. He also used his assistant as a sounding board for his ideas. Furthermore, knowing that his work would be criticized by his “monitor” forced him to produce higher quality work. The instant feedback created a desire to ensure his wording was clear and concise.

Sociability: Working alone is unnatural. Humans are social by nature, so the lack of companionship can be distracting. Having interaction with someone who had an incentive to check up on what he was doing brought up his standards very quickly.

If you are starting a solo business, you will encounter the perils of unsupervised work. One way to reduce the peril is to find someone with whom you can interact, and who can hold you accountable to yourself. Join a business networking group, or local chamber of commerce. Create a Mastermind group to interact with other business owners.

As a small business owner, the key thing is to make sure that you are diligent about the formalities of maintaining a corporation or LLC. Especially make sure to keep business and personal finances separate, and to show that you take your company seriously.

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John Gordon John Gordon

Founder, President & CEO of USA Corporate Services Inc., a New York City-based incorporation and company management firm. He is a graduate of the Global Executive MBA program from Columbia University and London Business.


 

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