Put Your Nose to the Grindstone to Set Yourself Apart

You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to be the best in your field. But you do have to work hard.

Under-promise and over-deliver. Do a little more than is expected, and you can easily set yourself apart. This does not require you working an insane amount of hours, just a few more than your competition. This does not mean you have to do busy work, just focus on providing slightly more. Mark Cuban once said, “Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is.”

Why is this important? Because not everyone is willing to put their nose to the grindstone. Some people have perfected the art of leaving at exactly 5 o’clock to the point that scientists are looking to set the atomic clock to their exit from the office. I’m not saying that staying past closing time is the key to success, but the underlying attitude of “how soon can I get out of here” is the opposite of working hard. Yes, working smart matters, but sometimes the sheer volume of what you do is key to producing success.

My dad taught me an important lesson early in life. He said that the more you put in the top of the funnel, the more you will get out of the bottom. Seems simplistic, but it is pure, unadulterated truth.

Let’s apply this principle to three key areas: business development, client work, and communication.

Make more calls and contacts to increase business development
While it is awesome to receive calls from prospects because they “heard of you,” the majority of your new business will come from your sweat equity. Do you have weekly prospecting call, email, and meeting goals for yourself? If not, time to start. Consider these activities the things that fill the top of your funnel. Write them down, and track them on a daily basis. Non-written goals (and tracking) are not goals at all – they’re just a pipedream.

Write down a plan for client work
I will be the first to admit that this is not my strong suit. Most of the time I keep up with everything in my head. This is detrimental for two reasons – it’s difficult to delegate, and no one can duplicate what you do otherwise. That is on top of the fact that your client will not know what to expect (and not to expect) from you. A written client plan – whether that is an annual, quarterly, or monthly plan – will give you guidance and help you plan for better allocation of your time when it comes to client deliverables. It is also a measure of accountability for yourself, within your company, and with your client. The application of the “nose to the grindstone” metaphor comes into play when you realize these plans need to be updated regularly to realign with your bandwidth and your client’s goals.

Be intentional about and consistent with all your communications
Think about how often you have great intentions of being better about updating Facebook or writing blog posts or sending handwritten notes. It sometimes ends up being like a New Years resolution – good for a few weeks then it fizzles out. I have found that creating tasks or calendar events for writing is the best way to force yourself into the habit. For example, our firm just started mandating weekly blog posts. Even though I own the company, I hold myself to that same standard to ensure everyone on the team is helping contribute quality content. Is it fun all the time? No. Do we hit creative writing blocks? Yes. But do we maintain discipline and work hard to execute? Definitely.

These are only three examples, but you get the jist – just work hard. Put in those extra few hours. If you are not great at a task, take the time to work on it and learn it. Too many people are unwilling to “go the extra mile” because it is hard or they would rather do something else. Let me tell you, as a business owner with multiple clients to manage, I appreciate my team members’ effort and so do my clients.

Steve Jobs summed it up well: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

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