“If I have eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six of them sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
Being an entrepreneur is challenging even in the best of times. Quite often it is lonely and not many people around you (especially family and friends) will understand or appreciate the level of everything required to be successful.
I’m what many would call a purebred entrepreneur. I’ve left many “good jobs” (sometimes not at my own discretion) in the corporate world either for my unconventional methods or unfiltered opinions expressed. It’s a long story over several Scotches and Dark Rums which I will save for another day but the short of it is I was not the ideal employee for many. Recently I was a guest speaker at an event and someone in the audience asked me about what investments I recommended in these unprecedented times? To the audience’s surprise I didn’t recommend a stock, an ETF, house-flipping or bit-coin, nor did I suggest any mutual funds, credit swaps, or rental properties. I learned early in life that the best thing I can invest in is myself and the investments I make will allow me to always bet on myself, hands down every time double down on me! Each of these points listed below deserves its own article. Here are my top 10 tips to sharpen your axe.
1. Physical Health and Home Gym
I’m not doing this for the 6 pack abs but to keep my physical energy and testosterone levels high. I’m an early bird (5am gym session) and this gives me a sense of accomplishment that kicks off momentum to other wins in the day. I took it a step further and invested in my home gym (squat rack, bench, treadmill, bars, weights and bands). The investment was about 5k and here’s how the math worked out. It takes me 15 minutes (on the low end) to drive to the gym (still have to drive back home) over the course of 5 days that’s 2.5 hours a week equating to 130 hours a year. My time is valuable so this was an easy investment to make not to mention I gained at least 2 weeks of time for work. Imagine if you were given one car to drive the rest of your life. Would you not wash it, change the oil regularly, respect it, and take care of it? You only get one body so…….
2. Superior Mattress and Bedding
A great mattress will put you into a deep uninterrupted state of sleep with so many benefits ranging from a stronger immune system, sharp mental cognition, healthy blood pressure, and great mood to name a few. I like a pretty firm mattress with independent coils so that my wife doesn’t disturb me. Both mattress and bedding are premium breathable material that feel cool for regulating body temperature in addition to being wrapped in something luxurious. I change my bedding and every 2-3 days to feel clean, fresh, cool, rid the allergens and undesired microbes from breeding in my bed. A mattress should last you at least 7 years. Let’s say its 3k difference between one that will give you mediocre sleeps vs one that you can really lay into. Over the course of 7 years that’s $1.18 a day to invest in a place you spend a quarter of your life……..
3. Custom Tailored Suits
It’s better to have a cheap suit that is tailored to your body than an expensive name brand suit straight off the rack. You only have one time to make a first impression and I won’t go through the psychology and numbers on why. Nowadays with online shopping you can get beautiful bespoke custom tailored suits for roughly the same price as an Instore off-the rack designer brand. The fit is the most important and asides the customization options that are endless (buttons, lapels, cut, fabric etc.) the way a suit makes you feel and look can not be underestimated. It is said that a fine fitting suit on a man is like sexy lingerie on a woman. To sum it up in business: dress like your President or Prime Minister (unless you’re from a country that has traditional wear in government) and you won’t go wrong.
I’m going to assume that you know the benefits of keeping a good home space, work
space, personal space from a feel good, knowing where things are, hygienic and branding standpoint. I’ve been described as anal retentive (on the nice end) to “serial killer” clean (on the complimentary end?) but I realized some time ago I was spending too much time cleaning my space. My time is valuable so the cost of hiring a housekeeper once a week was an easy investment in my time and sanity. Just think even if you have a crappy day at work you’ve got a clean house to come home. Your space also extends to your car so a good old detailing every so often is a must. A mentor of mine once said “A man’s car tells a lot about his life as much as the inside of a woman’s purse tells her life”.
5. Food Boxes and Smoothies
I’ve been subscribing to food boxes for a few years now, before it was adopted by many people. This is a huge time saver in cutting out trips to the market. The meals I get take about 20 minutes to prepare, produce little waste, and are healthy. I get a good variety without having to think too much and if you’re like me, you eat to live (not live to eat) and its fuel for the body. The bonus is the fuel is high quality and 95% of the time tastes pretty good. My freezer is loaded with frozen spinach, and frozen fruit. I always have a blender packed and ready to fill with almond milk, a scoop of my seed medley (flax, hemp, chia) and hit it in the morning to get my greens and vitamins for the day.
6. Face and Skin Care
Your face is your brand. Your face is what people remember. You only get one (just like your body) so why not take care of it. Women have an easier time understanding this and many men still think it’s a metrosexual or homosexual thing to have a skin care regimen. I’ve worked with “manly” dudes over the years, some pretty smart hardworking gentlemen who will not put certain types of waxes on their car because of the abrasion. Many take the time to blow out their tools to ensure it stays clean and in working order. Some of these guys can discern between a 1952 ford truck red and a 1976 chevy truck red but can’t connect the dots to taking care of their one and only calling card. Take a visit to your drug store or department store and meet with a skin care specialist to start your regimen. You only have one calling card so invest in taking care of it.
7. Clothing Valet
The actual valet is a modest investment (unless you want fancy solid mahogany wood) and brings a classy look to your bedroom. For me its become a ritual each evening after I fill out my day planner and check on the forecast. I select my attire including the socks, underwear, and accessories suitable for my day. This way in the morning I just wake up and go. Go to the gym, go to the shower, go to the clothes and not waste time thinking, rummaging in the dark; and disturbing my wife and kids. It’s a time saver but also puts me in a good state of mind going to bed knowing that the details of my attire are ready the next day so my mental capacity can be allocated elsewhere. My kids also follow this ritual and as an added bonus, I keep a spare suit in a garment bag in my car at all times just incase an accident happens on my clothes (usually in the form of an infant) or opportunity presents itself.
8. Top Advisors
I’m sure many of us know a “CPA ” or bookkeeper that passes themselves off as an Accountant (without having to write exams or articles). The same can be said about Lawyers and it would seem everyone knows a lawyer (go see Kelly she’s a divorce lawyer and she’ll look after corporate finance). Liken it to an extreme example of servicing your car at a dealership vs bringing it to a guy your cousin knows who fixes cars in his yard on the weekend. I know there are great boutique firms out there with smart people but a National or Multinational Law Firm and Big 4 Accounting firm will have specialists who intimately know their area of practice. There are tax accountants and there are transaction accountants. There are intellectual property lawyers and there are litigation lawyers. A small 3 man shop by definition will not be able to service your needs (if you plan on growing). As added benefits there are contacts, resources and introductions that these firms can make
for your as relationships grow in parallel to your business. Now this is a bit of a trump exaggeration but think of Harvey Specter from suits vs. Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons….
9. Presentation and Communication
I’m a quiet person with a loud mind and this has allowed me to build a sophisticated world view. Extroverts tend to have more courage to share their insights (whether they are right or wrong) and this is an advantage in business. Recognizing this and being able to speak strategically I’ve invested time in honing my presentation skills. I would recommend joining Toastmasters, Rotary Club, Freemasonry as arenas to practice and get feedback about presentation and speech. Every opportunity I take to speak whether it is to youth going through rehab, or pitching investment firms I will take it up to continue testing myself on how well I present my idea and a temperature gauge of how well I know my subject matter. Rather than watching movies and TV for entertainment value, look at it from the performance lens of how a great actor can deliver passion, emotion, enthusiasm and sell his message. Warren Buffett puts presentation and communication skills at the top of his list for being successful.
10. Mentors and Coaches
At various stages in my life I’ve had people guide me and show me the way. When I was a young Olympic Wrestler my coach was a former Olympian. When I got into golfing I hired a pro to help me swing less like Gretzky and more like Tiger woods (when he was 5 of course). Obviously I’m no pro golfer but I did improve my game by having someone give me objective feedback, guidance and accountability. I’m a strong believer in having life coaches and business coaches. The caveat is that they must have been where I want to be and achieved noteworthy success in the desired arena. There are endless people that are giving others life advice when their world is in shambles or the guy that’s never owned, started, or sold a business and touting his MBA falsely guiding you. Oftentimes these people don’t even realize they’re a scam. Would you take fitness advice from an obese trainer or would you take cooking lessons from a Burger King employee (no offence I do love a good whopper time to time). It’s about finding someone who can take you to the next level and these relationships need to be more than just businesses in order for you to maximize. Proverbs 27:17 “Iron Sharpens Iron as One Man Sharpens Another”
Amin Tran is the CEO and Chairman of Great Western Developments, an Investment Consortium focused on building materials and specialty construction companies. His entrepreneurship journey has led him into starting and acquiring several businesses: Spa and Salons, Tire Import Export, Cosmetics wholesale & distribution, Automotive Repair, Construction, and Social Media Marketing Agency. Amin also takes a select few consulting projects primarily in the form of Mentorship of Young Executives Entrepreneurs who want to grow in life and business.