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Complete Work, Don’t Create It

One of the things I’ve done as part of running a bone broth company in a city full of tech people is pull together a weekly non-tech mastermind group.

In the group, we all take turns sharing things going well in our respective businesses, share 1 thing we’re struggling with, and mention a tip or trick we learned since the last meeting. It’s pretty awesome.

As part of talking through issues we face as a group, I uncovered a principle I haven’t heard anyone state, but one I feel very strongly about.

That is: Complete work, don’t create it.

An example. Someone in the group mentioned he needs help making sure fulfillment happens correctly for his on-demand food delivery company. One member’s advice was to try and find an intern or college student that could work cheap (or free) doing the low-level fulfillment tasks required.

On the surface, this sounds great! Who doesn’t want free work?!

In reality, this creates more work down the line. I’ll explain why.

Jeff’s business won’t ever win because they put food in a car better than the next guy. It creates no competitive advantage, but it does need to be done right consistently.

This is why hiring someone — even for free — is such a poor idea. It’s work that has to be done, but it’s just plugging holes: not creating value. As a business owner, you want to fill this role and never think about it again. 

Hiring an intern or someone who will work for free won’t achieve this. You’ll constantly wonder if their output is good enough and — in the best case scenario — they’ll eventually leave. Then, you have to go through the painful, protracted hiring process again, which just creates more work for you… all to plug a hole that’s not business critical.

The better move (by far) is to hire someone. Pay money to remove this non-essential task from your plate completely — and then stop thinking about it.

I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve tried to hire cheap social media interns on Upwork, and had to continually manage and oversee said interns. I’ve tried hiring cheap accountants and bookkeepers, and had to suffer from subpar work. I’m now (finally) paying a real firm to do it right… 3 people, countless emails and much wasted time later.

So far in life, I have not done a great job of this. It’s something I plan to change.