Why I Work

“I’m sorry!  I have to pull an all-nighter again,” I shamefully told my wife as I slunk into the chair in my kitchen after dinner, 3-month-old baby crying in the background.

It was May 2011, and I was miserable.

I was thankful for my wife and infant daughter, but my business was continually dropping Collie-sized piles of poop in my lap – all of my own causing.

I would wake up early to respond to pissed off customer emails and stay up late completing work I stupidly promised on too tight of a deadline.

My business’ problems were diverse and many.

I had the best of intentions and cared deeply about both my customers and my work, but I was somehow making everyone around me miserable.

Why why why?!  Why would I continually promise things that I couldn’t deliver?!

I now know why.

I hadn’t thought to ask why I work.

And I guess, more specifically, whylive.

Why I Live Is The Same As Why I Work

The 2018 edition of my biz, The Mighty Mo!, is vastly different from the pre-2013 version.

The Mighty Mo! now exists to serve a single purpose:
To enable me to be present at home with my wife and kids.

For the record: The reason why The Mighty Mo! existed pre-2013 was a lot more jumbled: a creative outlet, a way to pay the bills, a challenge, because I couldn’t think of a better way to make money, because I wanted to build something.

(Think about writing down why you work.”

I hired a CEO in 2015 and gave him a singular mission: Free up my time.

That was it.

If I worked less this week than last week, he was doing his job.  If not, we had an issue.

To be clear, the goal was for me to work a reasonable amount of hours, shifting from 80-100 hours/week down to something way less than that.

Effective + Efficient

We innovated around my intentional time limitation and later came to embrace it’s simple premise of effective + efficient as a driving principle of my biz. 

For example:

  • We implemented pre-paid billing for hours, which eliminated time I was spending sending invoices.
  • We built a billing/time-tracking/project-tracking software from the ground-up to eliminate offload many of the time-intensive & unbillable tasks to someone other than me (teammates & customers). 
  • As we examined every task with a microscope, we put it one of two categories: 1) “This is important.  Keep it in-house.” or 2) “Why the fuck are we doing this?!”
  • As we got rid of pointless business processes, we saw our value more clearly.
  • When we saw our value more clearly, we were able to deliver quicker & better, racking up wins (which I’ve learned is the most valuable thing to my business).
  • All of this product focus led to more customer happiness as well as offloading some customers who weren’t a good fit.
  • I got rid of my laptop and started using a tablet, which further forced me to offload complex tasks to teammates while forcing me to focus on business-building tasks (sales pipelines, networking, etc.).  i.e. I used my time more effectively.
  • We built an in-house development team (documented in-depth on the now-defunct CrushTheDev blog).  An in-house dev team gave me peace-of-mind and also gave our non-techie CEO the tools and expertise he needed to get the work done and further free up my time.
  • We introduced our first recurring-monthly billable product, which built some stability and consistency into the business AND had the pleasant side-effect of creating lasting relationships with our customers.
  • We stopped making code beautiful, and instead focused on delivering valuable stuff more quickly.  (We learned from experience that quick wins and momentum are more valuable to our customers than beautiful code that nobody will ever see.  Blech!)
FWIW, there’s a time and place for beautiful code.  But ~100% of  small businesses shouldn’t care about beautiful code.

How My Why Has Changed My Business & Life

Since 2011, my business has changed drastically for the better.

I’m making less money today, but I’m able to:

  • Volunteer once per week in my daughter’s 1st-grade classroom.
  • Attend one community education class per week (I’m taking Music Theater Dance right now!)
  • Raise my kids with no day-care.  I wake up with the kids, get them ready for school, get them to school, pick them up from school, manage their social calendars, etc.
  • Help out at home by tidying and cleaning the shit out of my home daily, which greatly pleases my wife for some reason.
  • Invest 5 hours per week writing a musical (it’s on my bucket list).

Sure I could make more money by working more hours etc. etc.  But what would be the point?

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for WPTavern.com.