“Care more, work hard.”
-Strategy Lab Marketing, 2013
Since the beginning of Strategy Lab “Care More, Work Hard” has been a part of our existence. We’ve always wanted to put a dint in the Universe, that has always been the vision, eventually we’ll change the world in our own little way. To do that, our mission was care more, work hard. They were the life blood of a startup that was growing into a company. During tough times the reminder that if we care a little more or work a little harder, would get us through whatever problem we had encountered.
When we first began, our community was always a big deal to us. Whether it was coaching volleyball, volunteering on a board of directors or just shooting a video for a non-profit that couldn’t afford it, we cared a whole hell of a lot. But it wasn’t just for the community, we cared about the work we did.
One of the first quotes that was written on the whiteboard of the very first StratLab office above the old Coda store:
“We’d rather hit a home-run for free than get paid to hit a single.”
Meaning we’d rather work on things that matter, that actually make a difference rather than work on things people were simply paying us for. Just doing what people want seems so transactional, plus, people don’t really know what they want. We tend to agree with Mr. Jobs on this one in that the customer doesn’t always know what she wants. Or Mr. Ford’s quote of “If we listened to the customer we would have built a faster horse.”
Caring more was always a part of everything we did. We knew we weren’t the biggest, the smartest, the ones with the most experience, but we knew that we could be more passionate about the work we do. We still know that it’s an attitude, a persistence to show up and over-deliver, a culture created around caring dearly about how our work is impacting the world.
When starting a company no matter what industry, you’re going to have to put in the work. At least 12 hour days, you’ll have sleepless nights, you’ll work yourself to exhaustion and at times you’ll have no idea why. No matter what you want to do in life it’s going to be incredibly hard. The harder the journey the greater the reward in the end, at least that’s the only way you can convince yourself to keep going, especially when you’re at your worst. A strong work ethic is an extremely valuable skill to have, few people actually possess it. But there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to hard work.
Just working hard isn’t the answer. If you’re a blacksmith and you work really hard to build your wares in your Forge you may never grow as fast as the person who’s willing to adopt technology to build things faster. Working smart is much more easy to scale over time. Each and every task you take on can be done smarter, only if you’re willing to take the feedback. Alas, maybe working hard isn’t the be all and end all, otherwise we’d still have blacksmiths around!
It wasn’t until a recent conversation (thanks Howie and Ben) that I changed my mind on the second part of our mission. “Working hard” after all isn’t technically difficult. As humans, we routinize whatever daily tasks we’re given. We naturally try to figure out an easier way. Working “hard” over time will leave a person doing a monotonous job and will most likely be doing it in a very inefficient way.
Work Hard, Work Smart
The argument that was presented was that “working hard” is easy. Anyone at any organization can work hard and it may not necessarily benefit the company, just because you’re working hard doesn’t mean you’re working smart. Like the blacksmith who doesn’t want to change, sometimes working “smart” means changing how you do your job. Much easier said than done. But something we can guarantee in the future, your job is going to change.
I was convinced that working hard isn’t the goal but rather working smart. Getting a weeks worth of work done in a day. Finishing multiple projects each week while start other projects. Not just simply “doing your work” each day but asking ourselves regularly, what’s the most important thing that I should be doing right now? (hat tip to the book The One Thing). Prioritizing what to do for work and knowing what not to do when working. That’s when your strategy has really taken off, when you know what you’re not good at.
So after a heated conversation about the growth strategy of our company I conceded to change my mind on “working hard”, “working smart” is much more scalable, attainable, and measurable in the long run.