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2080: a magic number for thriving

Ann Lazarus

More than 2,000 new business books are published each year in just the United States.

And despite much discourse on figures, formulas and financials, each one blew off serious pondering of the number essential to thriving: 2080.

So although this number impacts everything about business and work life, it’s not surprising to find few people recognized it at first glace.

Two-thousand-and-eighty comes from multiplying 40 hours by 52 weeks to arrive at the total standard work hours in a year.

Ignore 2080 and you’ll find yourself sweating it out day after day, overworked and underpaid.

Embrace 2080 and you have leverage for improving customer service, pricing, profits and even vacation relaxation.

Cast off the conventional The key challenge in making 2080 work for entrepreneurs is the unquestioned belief that business equals long hours.While working hard is one of the best ways to generate momentum in the face of limited resources, beware the old maxim:Work expands to fill the available time.

If you always work long hours then that’s your plan.

If you never have time for vacations, then it is certain time-off is a mere wish instead of a commitment.

This first step toward mastering 2080 may be the toughest because it requires nothing less than looking into your heart:Will you be a lemming or a leader? Will you draw a line that keeps work from consuming your life? Will you be bound by conventional thinking or will you break free of limiting beliefs? Ponder the basics In my workshop,”Writing a Business Plan That Makes a Difference,”we start by subtracting the total number of hours you might take off per year (e.g., vacation, sick leave, etc).At a minimum this should be 80 hours two weeks.

This leaves you with 2,000 work hours.

My life plan includes abundant time for family and hiking, so I deducted 320 hours.

Has eight weeks away from work been attainable for me? Not yet.

But when my dad was in the hospital three times in the same year such early 2080 planning proved invaluable in moving forward without getting (unduly) overwhelmed.

The next rule of thumb for small business management of 2080 is: Half your time is spent in business development and administration, and the other half in doing whatever it is that actually generates your revenue.

If you are a furniture refinisher that means you have just 1,000 hours to refinish furniture (2080 minus 80, divided by two),with the remainder spent in sales, marketing, invoicing, customer service and such.

Most people will consider 1,000 hours a year (25 weeks) to be a ridiculously small period for making money.

The bad news: Indeed it is.

The good news: Once you wake up to this reality you can put your brain to work finding real solutions for sustainable and fun success.

Embrace the math Most business owners set prices, decide on how many widgets to make and such without once considering the impact to 2080.However, business planning should be based on a maniacal insistence that the math fit a vision for thriving.

Instead,we default to what we assume, guess or believe to be “right” and “normal.”Don’t! Normal in small business is that 80 percent of companies will flounder and close.

Instead, crunch numbers as long as it takes to find that rock-solid setting for success.

For example, a single mom with the dream of becoming a full-time artist was told by mentors (from a respected artist association) that the most she could charge was $200 per painting.

On the other hand, in my business plan workshop she calculated a completely different rate of $2,000 per painting.

The first number fits conventional wisdom.

The latter reflects the truth her income goal of $50,000, the number of paintings she might comfortably complete within 1,000 hours and a close ratio of 30 percent.

Did the empirical number scare her? Indeed.

But consider the other option.

The advice of art peers would limit her to just $5,000 a year with no hope of giving up her day job.No wonder the ubiquitous phrase, starving artist.

Enjoy the puzzle Embracing realistic math will lead to a puzzle.Unfortunately, the mind draws a very fine line between puzzle and problem, leading many people to conjure words like dilemma, impasse or crisis before retreating to familiar ground.

This artist had two options: Following the conventional wisdom or treading the road less traveled to invent answers serving her unique vision.

(By the way, every industry has its own version of “starving artist”wisdom to validate just getting by.) She took on the puzzle, daring to live with questions without pat answers: Where would one sell paintings for $2,000? To whom? This commitment led her to crafting the persona of a $2,000 painter and to sending her message to galleries and the media.

One year later much to the dismay of her peers her first solo show included the sale of a painting for $2,500.

Enjoying a puzzle requires a kind of fearlessness, a commitment to an end while accepting ambiguity about the means.Yet once faithful to the math for thriving, a mind is opened to a new landscape of challenges and options, and the puzzle finds resolution.

Expect good things to happen It sounds so simple, yet many people presenting themselves as optimists are actually engaged in Pollyanna thinking.However, to really expect good things to happen requires growing beyond blind, illogical and unrealistic thinking.

In business, real positive thinking requires clarity forged by leadership, fortitude, creativity, courage and grit.

The average person accepts as fact that it is impossible to fit success into 2080 hours, and then takes a head in the sand stance to ignore it.However, extraordinary business owners take 2080 head on and control its impact.

They find sustainable solutions, because they have as their rallying cry Impossible only means that you haven’t found the solution yet.

Fitting business life into a box the size of 2080 may be elusive, but such striving leads to thriving.

Anne Lazarus is a Reno-based business coach and speaker.

Reach her at anne@mindstep.biz or 775-852-4973.