So, let’s face it, this is the age of the entrepreneur. We are going to look at the essential characteristics to help you succeed and reach your goals:
- Effectiveness and Efficiency
Want to succeed at any vocation? Be humble. This goes hand in hand with all the other traits and forms a kind of feedback loop that allows you to gauge where you are, honestly, and where course correction needs to occur.
Humility is a frame of mind which governs how we conduct ourselves, how we respond to criticism, and how we criticize others. It allows us to see our own weakness and then take steps towards growth.
How do you improve humility? One way is to become a beginner at something, where you rely on others to teach you, and where you place yourself in a position to receive criticism. Humility is always hungry to learn.
- Volunteer with a charity
- Take music lessons
- Take a martial arts class
- Ask your kids to teach you something (huge for them and you!)
Humility and humor share the same root. Being able to laugh at yourself is the key to humility. Don’t be so serious that you can’t see the humor in your foibles. See them, laugh at them, and move on!
Effective and Efficient
These two are so interconnected that I will discuss them together. Tim Ferriss has a useful definition that I’ve adopted. Being effective is doing the right things, being efficient is doing those things right.
To succeed at remote truss design, we need to determine the right things to do, then we need to determine the most efficient ways to accomplish them. Doing the wrong things efficiently does not provide value. It’s still doing the wrong things.
This kind of approach is essential as a freelancer because you aren’t paid by the hour, but rather on a job by job basis. A job that I bill out at $200.00 will be that regardless if I spent 2 or 20 hours doing it. Succeeding at remote design then is directly related to being as effective and efficient as possible.
Whenever I hear someone complaining about not having enough time I wonder if they really don’t have enough time, or if they are doing the wrong things with their time. If time is a currency, then what you spend it on is more important than how much you have.
How can you become more effective?
- Make a list of your top priorities
- Make a list of things that you do in a day/week/month/year. Determine if those things are aligned with your priorities.
- Ruthlessly deal with the non-priority things that you find yourself doing. Schedule them out of your time, or schedule them in where they don’t interfere with your work (e.g. check social media at lunchtime or at the end of the day, don’t allow that to enter into your designated work-time).
How can you become more efficient?
- Stay up on developments in your field and the tools you use. Keep educating yourself.
- Find ways to reduce “clicks” of the mouse, or taps on the keyboard. E.g. shortcuts to eliminate using the ribbon and drop down menus.
- Automate as much as you can. E.g. set up a labeling scheme so that you have very minimal manual labeling to do.
- Is there a menu default that doesn’t match up with what you need 90% of the time? Look into settings to change the defaults. Now you only change it for the 10% of the outlier situations.
- Give yourself time limits and goals for completing a job. This can add a sense of urgency and focus on the task at hand. E.g. aim to have a job done by 3 pm so you can spend time with your kids when they get home from school.
- Don’t switch tools too frequently. Often times we hunt around for the next best tool when in reality, the one we have is good enough. We just need to have the discipline to stick with it… speaking of which:
Like we talked about, freelancing is the dream. You have leeway in setting your schedule, the frequency of work, what work you accept, etc. But, is it the freedom that everyone craves?
Not without discipline. Without discipline, being a freelancer will be torturous. Deadlines won’t be met, money will be tight, everyone at your house will hate you because you are stressed out.
Discipline is that inner voice, yours (I hope!), telling you what to do and then obeying it.
How do you improve your discipline?
- Start the day with a simple goal and follow through with it. E.g. set your alarm and get up when it goes off!
- Make your bed. Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) and Jordan B. Peterson have spoken about the benefit of this. In a nutshell, discipline starts in the smallest areas of our lives under our control. Too often we stress about the things not in our control. Your bed? Under your control.
- Continue through the day with goals that you set ahead of yourself and execute.
- Decision fatigue will give way to discipline. Discipline in one area begets discipline in other areas. I find if I get up and run, the choices I make the rest of the day follow in a disciplined and focused direction. It still takes effort, but I’m proceeding down a groove, rather than creating a new one.
- Don’t put it off! Take little steps now!
Is it possible to “own” something that you don’t truly own? Absolutely. When you take on the mindset of treating a company or a job as if your own interests are at stake you will enter into an ownership mindset.
Personally, I have been both an employee and an employer. I know what it is like on both sides and so whatever “hat” I happen to be wearing the “flip side” has informed how I operate.
Whether as an owner, employee, or freelancer it is important to view the success or failure of your employer or clients as your own. Taking ownership means owning the failures and owning the solutions to the problems that you encounter and not putting them off on others.
What does this mindset look like? Here are some examples:
- Bill your client as if you were paying the bill. That changes things, doesn’t it? Adding in padding that shouldn’t be there only hurts your client and could even end your work relationship. Think about how you would respond to an invoice that was higher than expected.
- Treat omissions as opportunities. When you realize that you missed something in your work, don’t ignore or hide it. Take it to your client. Say, “Hey, I did this work and in reviewing it later I see I missed X, Y, Z. What can I do to make this right?” They may not be happy, but this would at least give them the opportunity to correct the issues. Ultimately, I think they would respect you more and it would increase rather than detract from your credibility.
- If a project fails don’t blame others. Blame yourself and learn from your mistakes. If someone under you fails, don’t blame them, blame yourself for not giving them the direction they need. Then take it upon yourself to train them up to avoid those mistakes in the future.
- Ownership is all-encompassing. It is saying “the buck stops here” even if your title doesn’t say “CEO” or “President”. That doesn’t mean you park in the CEO’s parking spot. If you do, you didn’t get that advice from me!
Let me answer one objection. It would run along the lines of, “But, if I take ownership of mine and other people’s mistakes, I’m going to be sacked” or “I’m going to lose clients!”
If you lose your job because you took responsibility, then the company wasn’t worth working for and you are better off. No. What happens when people take responsibility for mistakes and who work to grow and learn from them all the while creating solutions? They are given more responsibility. What is responsibility? You guessed it: “Ownership”.
Take ownership of your education as well. Read, learn, grow. For more on “Ownership” check out the book Extreme Ownership by Jock Willink and Leif Babin.
We have had many good blog articles on communication that you can find here and here and here that I will refer you to for review if you want to go into greater depth on this topic. Here are the basics.
It is important to remember that our communication is with people, not robots. People have thoughts, feelings, stresses, and tensions in their life… all of which affect their communication.
Working remotely requires the right balance of communication, but it is better to err on too much to start, and dial it down, rather than not enough.
Here are some ways to improve communication:
- Determine how to communicate on a person by person basis. What method (phone, email, texting, or another messaging tool) and what style (personal, formal, chatty, to the point, etc.).
- Follow up vital information provided over the phone with an email summarizing that information. Get your client to confirm.
- Ask questions. If you think they will make you look stupid, just think about how stupid you will look if you provide a product that is wrong… all because you didn’t ask. Ask questions!
Remember that communication is relational. It is more than just gathering information.
We hope this gets you thinking about what it will take to succeed at remote truss design or whatever it is you have set as a goal. What thoughts do you have on what it takes to succeed? Let us know in the comments below!
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Tim Hoke – General Manager
Gould Design, INC
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