Free Time: The New Status Symbol for Founders of Professional Service Firms

Brothers and sisters in professional service firm leadership, we’ve worn the badge of busyness for far too long. We’ve operated under the guise that a cluttered calendar equates to prominence. Let’s debunk this myth, right here, right now. We must usher in a paradigm shift where idle time isn’t an extravagance, but an imperative. It’s the new status symbol, more impressive than a big house, fancy car, or expensive watch.

Let’s face it; we’ve been filling our days with the trivial, losing sight of the consequential. The Pareto principle holds that a mere 20% of our sweat yields a whopping 80% of the output. The challenge lies in discerning that critical 20% from the whirlwind of day-to-day operations. Founders, we need to comprehend that being “super busy” doesn’t mean being super successful. 

Carving Out Crucial Thinking Time

Rather than being bogged down by busyness, we must pare down and ponder more. We need to create pockets of time to ruminate, blueprint, and strategize. Saying, “I don’t have time for that,” isn’t an act of leadership—it’s an admission of mismanaged time. It might make you feel good, but it shouldn’t because it makes you look inexperienced. 

Our top performers in Collective 54 grasp the essence of trade-offs. They recognize their limitations and make informed choices, be it in delivering client work, nurturing business development, or steering the firm’s long-term vision. They don’t just value everything—they value the most valuable.

For example, when was the last time you thought about alternative revenue streams. Most professional service firms sell their time either by the hour or in the form of a retainer. However, did you know there are nine sources of revenue to choose from?

Here is a video explaining the 9 sources of revenue used by professional service firms. 

If you had time to think, heck if you had time to breathe, you could grow your firm by developing some of these. What is more important than revenue? Look at your calendar for the answer. My bet is you have several non-revenue generating entries on today’s calendar.

Fast Framing: The Founder Hack

Fast framing is a tool you can use to sharpen your focus. It’s a swift yet systematic approach to sizing up a situation, gauging its relevance, and charting the next steps. Deploy this tool, and you’ll quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.

Let’s provide a tangible tool for your use right here. Think of it as a four-step process:

    1. Identify: What’s the situation, challenge, or opportunity? Clearly state the issue you’re facing in a single, succinct sentence.

    2. Assess: What’s the importance or potential impact of this situation? Could it significantly move your business forward, or is it a minor hiccup that won’t affect the big picture?

    3. Decide: What’s your course of action? Would you proceed, delegate, or drop it? Make a decision based on the importance and potential impact.

    4. Act: Now that you’ve decided on your course, get into action. Implement your decision with efficiency.

Try applying this Fast-Framing Tool today. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can cut through the noise and focus on what truly matters.

The Achievement Junkie Dilemma

Yet, many of us morph into ‘achievement junkies,’ always chasing the next big triumph. But remember, this pursuit often results in busy work, not productivity. We must check this impulse to take on everything and instead zero in on tasks that align with our firm’s mission and vision.

In our world brimming with endless options, subtraction often trumps addition for us, the founders. Remember, “done is better than perfect”—it’s progress, not perfection, that counts.

Scaling a professional service firm isn’t a cakewalk, with competitors contending for the same clients. We can’t afford unforced errors born out of stress or fatigue. Making room to breathe and think can stave off such mistakes—less, indeed, is often more.

In wrapping up, let’s reframe our understanding of importance. Rather than being shackled to endless busyness, let’s appreciate the value of free time, deep thought, strategic decision-making, and the wisdom of subtraction. The secret to thriving as a founder in a professional service firm? Do less, ponder more, and focus relentlessly on what matters most.

How Are You Maximizing Your Time as a Founder?

Check the options that resonate with your experiences the most. Your answers will provide insights into how founders are navigating these challenges and can foster a rich dialogue around effective strategies.

Poll: How Are You Maximizing Your Time as a Founder?