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Charles Gaudet: Hustling Harder Isn’t the Answer to a Down Economy

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a heavy toll on small businesses and entrepreneurs, it’s understandable that many of us respond by working even harder to make ends meet when the economy is tough. Especially now when we live in a time where “hustle” has become the mantra of millennial entrepreneurs, those who are struggling often assume they simply must not be hustling hard enough. But a top business coach points out that as a human being, there is a physical limit on just how much any one person can hustle. In other words, if you were already “hustling” before the economy declined, you likely don’t have enough capacity available to hustle any harder now. The answer isn’t in how much action you take each day, but rather the strategic decisions you are making as a business owner. We interviewed Charles Gaudet on how businesses and entrepreneurs can grow without compromising mental health by overworking.

Hustle Does Not Equal Success

Charles Gaudet, the CEO of Predictable Profits, is regarded in entrepreneurial circles as one of the top coaches for helping entrepreneurs surpass the seven and eight figure mark. He’s often brought in by entrepreneurs who are hustling as hard as they can and have reached the limits of what that can accomplish. They are seeking a strategy that’s scalable— simply working more hours is not scalable. Gaudet’s team builds systems around functions like sales and marketing so that companies grow sustainably and ultimately require less time invested from the founder.

The lessons Gaudet teaches were hard won from his own experiences as an entrepreneur who has built multiple multi-dollar companies. Along the way, he experienced some spectacular burnout of his own, including when the limits of his own ability to hustle landed him in the emergency room. Now one of the most important parts of his job is helping business owners break the mental correlation between overwork and success in order to reach their next level of growth. GritDaily sat down with him for his take on why especially right now, founders need to become more strategic in the actions they take in order to continue to thrive in what is a very uncertain economy.

GritDaily: Do you think there’s a misconception among founders about the correlation between hustle and success?

Charles Gaudet, CEO of Predictable Profits

Charles Gaudet: Growing up as a kid, I was told “the secret to success is hard work.” As I got older, I took that literally. I’d set my alarm for 3:30am so I wouldn’t “oversleep,” and I’d work every waking hour of the day – seven days a week.

I struggled to understand how I seemingly worked longer hours than my competition, yet many of them made substantially more money. It wasn’t until the lack of sleep (and stress) sent me to the emergency room that I was forced to reassess my approach. 

It was then that I realized that working hard is a mindset, but not a strategy for financial success. Working more hours doesn’t correlate to making more money.

GD: What are the downsides?

Charles Gaudet: When it comes to your competition, the great equalizer is time. We all have the same amount of time in the day, but it’s what you do with that time that defines you.

Working hard doesn’t mean you’re productive. Many entrepreneurs will work twelve hours a day and still feel like they got nothing accomplished. That’s because they got stuck reacting to the day’s events with busywork instead of asking themselves: “What’s the most important thing I need to do today in order to move the needle forward in my business?”

GD: When it comes to scaling a business, what role does hustle play versus strategy?

CG: Hustle is the fuel, but your strategy is the horsepower.

In other words, the hustle is required to make progress. It’s the internal fire that drives you to want to do better, make more money, succeed, and conquer… But strategy is what gets you there more efficiently. It’s the planned, tested pathways that accelerate you to where you want to go. So, when scaling a business, use that hustle to drive the strategies that will grow your business efficiently.

GD: Is there a certain point in a startup’s journey when founders should take a step back from the hustle and look at the big picture strategy?

We often go about our days chipping away at to-do lists – without measuring the value of our work or our “return on time” (how much money we are making for every hour we are working).

To increase our return on time, we can not only better manage our time through prioritization and delegation – we can also increase our output through automation, systems, and technology.

The goal shouldn’t be: “How many hours can I work this week?” but rather: “How can I improve my productivity to get more done in less time?” 

And also, “How can I systemize my time effectively to maximize my output?” 

There’s no specific time frame to take a step back from the hustle. Instead, the big picture strategy should be a daily evaluation of how you’re spending your time. That’s how to scale and grow a company.

GD: What are some of the key decisions a business needs to make to continue growing once a founder has maxed out their personal capacity?

CG: From our experience, we’ve found that many business owners can take their companies to around $1M – $3M a year using hard work as a primary strategy. However, hard work doesn’t scale…  

To get beyond that level, entrepreneurs need to start thinking about creating scalable marketing and sales strategies. Growth beyond the founder comes from scaling marketing and sales, increasing automation, and adopting proper strategies that minimize time requirements and increase efficiencies. The key is finding the right direction and strategies for each business.

GD: What does smart scaling look like?

CG: Smart scaling doesn’t require more hustle… Rather, it’s an approach that allows you to increase your revenue without working any harder.

Smart scaling is having a selection of marketing strategies that generate qualified leads to your business consistently and predictably.  

It also means having marketing systems that automatically attract, nurture, and convert interested prospects into buyers – and then having the right processes in place to keep your buyers coming back to buy more from you.

Whether you’re a small business owner on main street, the founder of a tech startup or a solo-preneur hustling from your laptop, the main takeaway from our time with Charles was that the earlier you become strategic about your business’ growth, the less you feel like you’re paddling upstream when headwinds come along.