by Anton Dybal May 05, 2021 8 min read
Especially if you're new to entrepreneurship, one of the biggest things we struggle with is simply figuring out what is—and is not—the best use of your time. In the course of running this company Next-Level Artwork, it's definitely been one of the most challenging things for me—and it's also arguably the single most important thing that will determine whether you succeed or fail in business.
How your spend your time is *everything* in business. Time is limited, there are only so many hours in the day, and you absolutely have to get this right in order to be able to turn a profit. Here I'm going to walk through some of the struggles I've experienced in this area while running Next-Level Artwork, and I'm also going to offer some guidelines, thinking tools and resources that have been incredibly helpful for helping me to decide how to spend my time as a business owner.
Brian Tracy often says that thinking is the most valuable work we do in business—and he's absolutely spot-on about this. The thoughts we have determine the priorities we set and the actions we take to bring our goals to life. How you do or don't think about your business will 100% determine whether you succeed or fail.
Me personally? I am a fucking tornado of activity. Especially now that I've made the leap recently to running Next-Level Artwork full-time, it's just all-day everyday stepping on the gas pedal, testing a bunch of things out & constantly re-calibrating as I go. To the outside observer, I might look like the most gigantic moron on the planet. Depending on the day I might be inclined to agree with them.
If you look past the flurry of activity, though, you'll see that what I'm really doing is keeping an open mind, and being willing to test out a bunch of different ideas and approaches to see what gets me the best results per unit time invested. Persistence, consistency and commitment for the long-term is important in business—but so is being adaptable and willing to re-calibrate and change your approach based upon changing circumstances and new opportunities that may arise. Let me give some examples of how I've been experiencing this personally lately.
Just recently, I got the idea to create an affiliate marketing program for our company, and worked on attempting to recruit a bunch of relevant influencers to help us sell our products. This means manually reaching out to influencers on Instagram, bloggers on the internet, and creators on YouTube to see if they'd be interested in working out some sort of affiliate arrangement, to where they'd shout out the company and our products, and any time their affiliate link generated traffic that led to sales, they would get a cut.
In theory it's a pretty brilliant business idea, and it's no wonder why so many companies have affiliate marketing programs: These people completely take it upon themselves to work super hard to sell your products. Using whatever existing platforms and audiences they might have, as well as whatever sales skills they possess, they use their time & energy to sell your products for you—and the best part is, you don't pay anything up front for this. All you do is forego a percentage of the profit that you otherwise wouldn't have made, so it's really just all upside here for the business. Plus if you build up a large network of affiliates, you can be leveraging the efforts of hundreds, maybe thousands of people—to where all of these independent actors are using their own time and energy to sell your products for you in exchange for a cut.
While literally just a few days ago, affiliate marketing seemed like the next big opportunity in my business, no more than 48 hours later another huge opportunity dropped into my lap: The revenue-split model for licensing artwork.
As moronic as it might sound, up to this point, in order to license artwork to use in sales of our posters & canvas art, my company had been paying up-front, one-time licensing fees to artists. This makes it very costly on the front-end, and it limits your pool of potential artwork to license, because many artists understandably would prefer some sort of recurring revenue from their artwork that scales with the amount of sales it generates. The reason my company hadn't done it this way up to this point is simply because the accounting can very quickly become a complicated nightmare: Keeping track of what percent this vs. that person is owed for this vs. that pieces of artwork, once you're dealing with dozens if not hundreds of artists and hundreds of different art pieces, it very quickly becomes a good amount of work to keep track of all of this and handle all the payouts.
The thing is, in the course of a really heavy brainstorming session the other day, I realized that there's gotta be some way to keep track of this accounting and also simply the payouts inside of our website (as opposed to us doing this manually.) Lo and behold, with a surprisingly small amount of work, I figured out how to make it work—and it absolutely opened up the door to endless opportunities for our company.
Not only does the pool of artists willing to license their artwork dramatically open up, but it simultaneously offers the benefit of no up-front costs. Because it's a revenue split model, we don't pay anything up-front under this model; we only give the artists a cut of whatever sales are generated from their artwork. So instead of limiting ourself to licensing whatever artwork we can afford based upon negotiated up-front licensing fees, now the world is our oyster, and we can just completely flood our website with the most outstanding artwork, far as the eye can see! Needless to say, this is a development that I'm incredibly excited about.
Why am I telling you this, and what relevance does it have to my earlier points—and to entrepreneurship and personal productivity generally? Here's the point: Like I said, things change in business. So long as you're constantly brainstorming about better ways to do things, different approaches you can take, sometimes competing ideas will end up clashing with one another.
What, just a few days ago (affiliate marketing) sounded like a fantastic idea, actually clashes with this new revenue-split licensing model—because profit margins are only so thick, and there's only so much to go around. Simply put, the affiliate marketing commission we had previously decided to use in our affiliate marketing recruitment efforts, is now unworkable when combined with a revenue-split model for licensing. So it puts me in the position to where: Basically, something has to give.
Maybe I could reduce the affiliate marketing commission, while still trying to recruit affiliates. Maybe we could just completely forego affiliate marketing and instead have those extra margins available to use in licensing artwork under the revenue-split model. Maybe we could raise all of our prices to make both work?
The point here is: In the course of testing a bunch of stuff out, and brainstorming newer and better ways to do things, sometimes and idea that 3 days ago sounded brilliant now is just completely unworkable and needs to be abandoned. It's one of those situations where, an outside observer might look at it and say: "Anton, you're just bouncing around too much. You need to just pick a lane and stick to it. You're too indecisive!"
It may look like that, and I totally understand the sentiment, but as business owners, we understand that oftentimes there are things behind the scenes that others just don't see. They may not be privy to the exact numbers that you see behind the scenes. They may not realize that a new, even bigger opportunity plopped down right in front of your face.
I often say that, in business, you should seek not to be a cannonball that gets shot out and moves in a straight line—but instead, aim to be a heat-seeking missile that's constantly recalibrating in order to get the best possible chance of hitting its target while it's moving forward.
Yes, decisiveness and persistence are critically important—but so is being adaptable and having the courage to say: "That thing I said the other day? I was wrong about that." A lot of people—entrepreneurs, especially—have so much ego invested in their ideas, in their reputation, that they're not willing to change their approach up for fear of looking bad in the eyes of others.
I say: Be willing to change your mind and change your approach based upon the available opportunities and information you have before you. I don't care if somebody thinks I'm stupid for changing my mind about something, because ultimately I more than anybody else am tasked with making the best decisions for the company—and I have the most at stake here. So I trust myself to make the best decisions here when compared against some insecure, egotistical impulse to save face and refuse to waver from a course of action.
Returning to my earlier point, it's also critically important to slow down and brainstorm to determine what the best course of action is. This new business strategy? To where we'll be able to license way more artwork now while also not having any up-front costs? It is an absolute game-changer for the business—yet I wouldn't have had the idea if I hadn't stopped to brainstorm about how to make improvements the other day.
It's very easy, as business owners, to stay busy all day, in a flurry of activity—but we need to make sure we're spending our time on the right things. Jim Rohn had a funny line on this point where he was like: "You say, 'Oh I'm going, going, going all day', Yeah, but where?!"
Stopping to do nothing else except think things through and brainstorm the next, best action steps, is in my view, the single most important thing we can do as business owners. This is a point that Dan Lok echoes in a great video of his called "How Hustling Only Makes You Tired—Not Rich." The basic point he makes there is: When he was making $100,000/year, he was working TONS of hours. We're talking, 18 hour days, all-day everyday. If his goal is to become a millionaire from that level, what is the solution, to simply work 10x harder? Obviously that's impossible, because the day is only 24 hours—so nobody can increase their workload to 180 hours per day to become a millionaire that way.
The point he makes is: He doesn't work 10x harder; he THINKS 10x harder. He STRATEGIZES 10x harder. He BRAINSTORMS 10x harder. This is an absolutely critical thing to do as an entrepreneur, and for me personally running Next-Level Artwork, this is the one thing that has opened up the most promising doors to new, amazing opportunities. I can give you tons of other examples of how just stopping to think and brainstorm has helped me to manage my time better, re-prioritize certain activities, gain more productive hours in the day, and so forth, but this recent example of the revenue-split licensing model is just a recent one that's fresh in my mind. I am super excited about it, because it'll allow us to radically expand our selection of posters & canvas art—and it's just one example of the importance of stopping to think and brainstorm, while also being willing to change course as new opportunities arise in front of you.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this valuable!
Anton Dybal is the Founder of Next-Level Artwork, a company dedicated to selling outstanding posters & canvas wall art. When he's not working on the business, he can be found reading, exercising, or plotting world domination.
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