When I mentioned that I might be involved in an outsourcing project, a friend suggested that I read Tim Ferriss’ 2007 best seller, “The 4-Hour Workweek” which contains descriptions of the multiple ways Ferriss outsourced both his business and his personal work so he could learn to salsa dance and to speak German. Ferriss, in case you have not heard of him despite this self-promoter’s best efforts, started a brain-stimulating supplement called BrainQUICKEN supposedly endorsed by celebrities (who are not named) and guaranteed to work with 60 minutes. Margins on the product were 80%.
Ferriss worked hard to build his business and then decided he’s rather be traveling the world. So he outsourced most of the operations to a fulfillment house, authorized his staff to make decisions up to $400, and told them that he would check his email regularly, but on a very limited schedule.
He also outsourced personal tasks to the point of having his personal assistant send an apology to his wife for forgetting to pick up cash at the ATM (it worked!). He also advocates limiting reading news to the headlines you can see in the newspaper dispensers. He called it “…putting yourself on a low-information diet.”
Fortunately for him, he sold his BrainQUICKEN business in 2010 because the book does not contain the word “competitor.” Profitable products and marketplaces attract competitors like honey attracts flies. Ferriss assumed he can outsource his life and ignore the potential impact of economic swings, new technology, and changes in consumer behavior on his business. To be honest, he did said that he was approached by two potential buyers of BrainQUICKEN, but both deals fell through. Both companies created their own products which, he said, failed.
He also advocated that employees start “working from home” so they too, can use his advice to increase their productivity and travel the world in the newly discovered spare time, having fun instead of hating their jobs. This advice assumes that their bosses do not discover that they are working from Bora Bora.
Of course, Ferriss’ basic business is self-promotion which will never be eclipsed by changes in the economy, consumers, and technology. He’s laughing all the way to the bank.
I’m still working hard, but I love what I do. I find satisfaction in putting the pieces of a competitive puzzle together to understand first, what the competitor is doing, and secondly, why the company has adopted the strategy and tactics that it has.
Plus, I traveled when I was his age – although not as extensively – so the thought of a low information diet and working only four hours a week does not appeal to me at all.
How about you?